Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Be the hero of your own life story

img_6740I feel honoured to have interviewed MICHAEL HAUGE on the Cassandra Gaisford show. Michael is a top Hollywood story expert, author and lecturer who consults with writers, filmmakers, marketers, attorneys and public speakers throughout the world.

He is also the best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read. Both of which I highly recommend.

Michael lives in Los Angeles with his wife and has worked in the film and television industries for more than 35 years. He loves movies! And he loves figuring out what makes them work. And he loves helping people tell their best stories too – people like actors Will Smith and Morgan Freeman, or Devon Franklin, Vice President of Production, Columbia Pictures (to name-drop just a few)

We’ve become great friends after I purchased Michael’s books and had the great fortune to attend his seminars when he was in Auckland recently speaking at The Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in August.

You can learn more about Michael here:

If you visit his site you’ll find lots of information on story, plus information on his one-on-one coaching session. I’ve had a session with him and got so much value! And if you sign up for his newsletter, you’ll get a list of key story questions for whichever discipline interests you.

I’ll share the link to the interview when it goes live. In the meantime you can learn more about many of the critical skills you need to master to become the hero of your own story in many of my books—below are just a few which will help.

3D_bookThe Art of Success: How Extraordinary Artists Can Help You Succeed in Business and Life (Book One: Leonardo da Vinci)


3d_book-6Boost Your Self-Esteem and Confidence: Six Easy Steps to Increase Self-Confidence, Self-esteem, Self-Value and Love Yourself More

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Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

how do you define success?

“Imagine how our culture, how our lives, will change when we begin valuing go-givers as much as we value go-getters.” (1)Many people have asked me how to I define success?

The important question is, ‘How do you define success?’

Below is a range of responses from my The Art of Success Questionnaire.

Do you notice any key themes? Are any success triggers for you?

  • Fulfilment from my own endeavours
  • You can be “in the moment” all the time
  • Living creatively, i.e. making a living off of my creativity, always learning and growing, new experiences and opportunities. Love of family and friends.
  • Validation, self worth
  • Free-will
  • Self contentment
  • Continuous learning
  • Pure happiness and contentment
  • Doing what you love and being good at it
  • Happiness, freedom, security
  • Contentment, respect, lasting, responsibility, ingenuity, purposeful
  • Happiness, joy, flow, money and fire
  • Freedom to live as I please
  • Everything in my life is balanced work, self, mind
  • Freedom
  • It means being happy in what I’m doing, fulfilling my life’s purpose, and being financially stable
  • Happy and fulfilled
  • Doing what you want, when you want with who you want
  • Living a heart centred life, doing what you love, being content
  • A feeling of fulfilment and contentment in all areas of my life
  • Realisation of a worthwhile goal
  • Being happy and living the life you’ve dreamed to live while helping others
  • Success means living a lifestyle that aligns with my values and being true to myself
  • Achieving even my smallest dreams
  • Success is finding your joy in life
  • Being true to myself, happy with where I’m at
  • Continuous growth and making a significant positive impact on people’s lives
  • Being happy to go to work and financially independent
  • Having done pretty much everything I wanted to do by the time I die

How do I define success? Success is finished books! Living a creative, soulful life with the freedom to live my life as I choose, doing something that inspires myself and others. And success is also living a life of no regrets.

“I thought I was learning to live: I was only learning to die,” Leonardo da Vinci once said. He valued wisdom, understanding and freedom of thought, through the pursuit of knowledge gained from his own experience.

Leonardo worked and lived with passion and purpose—following his own curiosities to serving and benefit humanity and to share his knowledge with others. And to live, and die, knowing he had lead a significant life.

“I want to create miracles,” he once wrote. And what a miraculous life of significance he led. Leonardo pursued his visionary principles unto his death, documenting all that he learned to benefit the lives of others. In the process he failed, and failed again. He faced the wrath, scorn and jealously of others. He faced poverty, grief and loss. And at times suffered extreme self-doubt and despair. But he never departed from his course.

Be inspired by Leonardo. Challenge conventional definitions of success and live a life on your own terms. Take the Art of Success Questionnaire here >>

I’ve found the insights people have shared super helpful as I wrote my book The Art of Success. It’s nearly ready to send out to my advance readers, before going to the editor and then to print.

How Extraordinary Artists Can Help You Succeed in Business and Life

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Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Podcasts to listen to

The Cassandra Gaisford Show*** The Cassandra Gaisford Show ***
I’m so excited to be re-introducing the podcasts I started 8 or so years ago. Technology has moved on – and I’m moving on with it. Thank you to Olivia Gamber, a career expert in the US for giving me some great tips – and interviewing me for her own show. I’ll let you know when this goes live.
The Cassandra Gaisford Show is where I interview inspiring men and women from around the world and tell you THEIR story of finding, launching, and growing their own passion-driven life and career. I call these people – Passionpreneurs Now let the journey begin…
I’m super excited to be interviewing Vesna Hrsto tomorrow. Vesna is a Melbourne-based naturopath and life coach who specialises in helping women have it all without burning out! Many of you will remember Vesna from that amazing sumitt she interviewed me for, “The Woman Reinvention Project: Fire Up Your Energy, Work With Passion & Enjoy More Freedom Now, By Doing Less.”
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You can re-listen to this interview here
But before the show goes live here’s your chance: If you could ask Vesna anything what would it be?
Post your replies below in the comments section and I’ll do my best to weave them in to my interview or have them answered later.
To out find more about Vesna navigate to her site here To listen to some of my earlier (pre-historic but still inspiring) podcasts navigate to here:
Some of my favourite podcasts currently include The Creative Penn Podcast, by Joanna Penn; The Self Publishing Formula, co-hosted by Mark Dawson and The Tim Ferris Show, hosted by the author of the 4-Hour Work week (and other amazing feats).

I love listening to passionate people share amazingly interesting things with others all around the world. And listening to a podcast is a great way to maximum limited time. I often listen to them while driving, doing shopping and many otherwise mind-numbing tasks.

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Sunday, January 17th, 2016

To fulfil your potential you have to step out of the comfort zone

shoot for the stars by Kimberly Gordon ReelandWhilst it’s commonly stated that we should do what comes naturally, this may not be the best advice!

To fulfil your potential you have to step out of the comfort zone of doing what you do well and embrace the uncertain world of trying something new.

In doing this you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing whether you swim on a new current of fulfilment and success – something others refer to as ‘flow”.

Just as Jilly did, the wonderful lady in her 70’s who has become a photographer, and whose story I shared in Mid-Life Career Rescue: (What Make You Happy).

Listening to Jilly’s stories of reinvention, it’s clear to me that variety, learning and new challenges are some of her most important values. “‘I’ve always followed my dream – I wasn’t a mid-lifer who found what I wanted to do. I always took chances and jumped in with both feet!” She said. 

Read her inspiring story in Mid-Life Career Rescue: (What Make You Happy), or check out her website – her work is really, really special. Her natural affinity for dogs, and the skills she’s developed with the camera, creates something truly magical. She has now had several exhibitions with two more coming up next year. Also she has been invited to join Getty Images.



But what if you  don’t swim? What if you sink? At least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you tried, and the great fortune of implementing your lessons learned in your next attempt!


Refresh Your Life With Change

Sticking with what you do well can be the worst thing to do if you want to live a meaningful life. To develop new skills, new ways of being to become someone other than who you believe yourself to be takes a willingness to change.

As astrologer Sarah Varcas shares, “It takes courage and fortitude, a willingness to be a new-born again, discovering life from scratch, adopting a new perspective and fresh guidelines. Of course we can take our strengths and abilities with us on the journey. They’ll come in more than handy! But to see them as the be-all and end-all, the extent of our ‘tool kit’, is to live a half-baked life in the shadow of who we could actually be if we allowed ourselves to grow.”

Here’s a few questions to ponder, the answers may prove liberating:

  • What would you be willing to try if you were 10 times bolder?
  • What would you try if you knew success was guaranteed?
  • How could trying out new ways of being or working enrich your life?


Finding My Passion and Purpose

I put into motion my own advice late last year and published my first two books in the Mid-Life Career Rescue series on Amazon. What fun! I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.

Since embarking on change I’ve published a book a month and recently penned my third book: How To Find Your Passion And Purpose: Four Easy Steps to Discover A Job You Want and Live The Life You Love, is more of guide, than a book – a nice short, easy to implement tool kit to help you live and work with passion and purpose.

The Amazon details and link are here:

A new thing I did for the first time was creating my own cover – using my own art work too. The feedback I’ve received about both the book and the cover has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have perceived. I gain from the satisfaction and fulfilment of being fully autonomous in all aspects of publishing and gaining from the immediacy and intimacy of the feedback from readers.

“Simply delightful, witty quick read, packed with excellent information. I’m actually believing now, I could change my career after 18 years!” Wrote one Amazon reviewer.

“I feel I want to read this book now! The red energy swirl suggests an invitation to enter a journey of discovering ones passion,” shared another person when she first saw the cover.

Of course, sometimes when you try new things, even successful new things you can attract criticism. I did when I wrote my second book. A reviewer said,  “I loved the inspiration, content, and message. There book rambles a lot though.”

Ok, I thought. I won’t ramble in my next book – I’ll be more concise!

How To Find Your Passion And Purpose: Four Easy Steps to Discover A Job You Want and Live The Life You Love is available through Amazon at the special introductory price of $.99 for a limited time.


P.S. Sometimes losing is actually winning. As Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D wrote in the Biology Of Belief, “I sincerely want to thank the New York publishers who turned down the book proposal. Without you, I was able to create my own book – just as I wanted to do.”


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Friday, December 4th, 2015

Faith in the Stars – Astrology For Career Change and Self-Awareness

Marianne ohagan“I liked the idea that astrology believes we all are special and have unique gifts. It was at that moment that my love of astrology was born.” ~ Marianne O’Hagan, Astrologer

So many people put their faith in psychometric tests, many of which are resounding failures in predicting job satisfaction, happiness or superior performance. Why not put your faith in the stars?

Whether you’re a believer or a non-believer, taking a peek at your astrological profile can boost awareness, confirm areas of potential strength, fuel belief and instil confidence.

Many years ago, bogged down by family dramas and workplace stress I sought the help of Marianne O’Hagan, a very accomplished, but also very science based astrologer. I was blown away by how much she knew about me. I later wrote, what became a very popular, article for the business and careers section of the New Zealand Herald,“An astrologist uses mathematics to predict success.”

For convenience, and inspiration, I’ve included it below. If you’re a skeptic. Great. So was I. Are you open-minded? Good, then give it a try

Despite having endured more than her fair share of suffering, Marianne O’Hagan is a woman who exudes warmth, compassion and a zest for life. Her traumatic childhood experiences, deep love of humanity and multiple job losses have guided Marianne to her true purpose in life, where she has carved out an impressive niche for herself as an astrologist.

“My twin sister and I were born into poverty during an air raid in south London at the time of the Second World War. Unlike my sister, I was born with clubfeet. My mother’s first words, ‘Oh what a shame’, plagued me for years where I felt constantly ashamed for not being a ‘normal’ child,” she says.

Lengthy, frequent and painful trips to the specialist to correct her feet meant she missed much of her schooling, and this along with an accident that left her deaf in one ear meant for most of her childhood she was told she was stupid. Naturally left-handed, raps on the hand designed to “encourage” her to use her right hand further hindered her ability to communicate.

Born under the sign of Taurus, Marianne dug her heels in and fought her way to success. She caught up on her schooling and mastered the ability to walk. But the trauma of her childhood scarred her self-esteem.

Marianne clearly remembers the day, during a period of deep questioning, that astrology became her life’s purpose. “Mother was reading her daily horoscope.

I asked her what it meant, and she told me that everyone had a star sign and that mine was Taurus the Bull. I suddenly realised that I was the same as everyone else – we all had star signs and we all belonged. I felt a deep sense of knowing. I liked the idea that astrology believes we all are special and have unique gifts. It was at that moment that my love of astrology was born.”

Marianne read voraciously on the subject; she coupled her reading with her love of mathematics and natural ability with numbers, and soon began drawing up astrology charts for her friends. She had an uncanny ability to predict people’s behaviour and forecast how their patterns and planetary activity influenced their lives.

Marianne’s passion for astrology remained a hobby for many years while she pursued more traditional careers. Initially she started her career as a hairdresser. Although she loved it she couldn’t stand on her feet all day and after six months reluctantly had to give it up.

“At that time I thought, what do I want to do with my life? I knew I loved maths so I set my sights on being a comptometer operator (the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator). In those days it was a pretty prestigious job. I targeted a company who used these things, started at the bottom and was offered the opportunity to train. At first I was shocked. All my life I’d been told I was stupid and wouldn’t amount to anything and then my boss offered me the chance to train in an area I’d dreamed of. I cried.”

Later she up skilled as an accountant. She was good at the work but missed contact with people. While doing a stint as a recruitment agent she met a New Zealander, who she later married. They moved to New Zealand where she secured a top job working in a chartered accountancy. Two years later the company folded. She soon found another role but several years later she was made redundant again. As the economy worsened, work became less secure and Marianne faced six redundancies over a 15-year period. “I decided God was telling me it was time to start my own business,” she recalls.

Instead of taking the easy option and setting up her on her own as an accountant she decided to choose the path with heart and follow her passion for astrology.

“I changed my name, changed my vocation and my life changed. I made more money then I ever did working for someone else and I’ve helped so many people,” she says.

Doors quickly opened. She was asked to run seminars, which were hugely successful, and was then approached by Radio 2ZB. During the following three years she popularised astrology through radio talk back and became Wellington’s leading astrological consultant. With over 34 years’ experience, she now attracts clients from all over the world.

Several years ago, a near-death experience following a cerebral haemorrhage gave Marianne a new lease on life and she focused her efforts on writing her first astrology book, Lunar Astrology from the Horses Mouth, which she says will revolutionise the way people look at astrology.

“We all know how the moon affects the tides. Drawing the water in or releasing it out. If we are 90 per cent fluid it makes sense that humans are affected by the planets too,” Marianne says.

“I began by applying the phases of the moon to people and characterising people born under the various phrases. After seven years’ research and hundreds of interviews I saw how accurate lunar astrology was. People really did respond to that phase.”

So just how can astrology help?

“Most clients come with financial problems or relationship problems,” Marianne says. “They come looking for the hope of happiness in the future.”

According to Marianne, predicting success in others is all based on mathematics. “It’s the mathematical positions of the planets that actually create events – as simple as the tides going out at high tide, twice a day, and it’s predictable.”

She asks people for the time and place of birth prior to meeting them and draws up their astrological chart so she can understand, and in turn help them to understand, the aspects influencing them. As a result of their personalised astrological consultation, clients who have come to Marianne under extremely difficult circumstances leave with a deeper understanding of themselves, their problems and how to solve them.

“All my life I prayed to God, ‘God please make me a normal child like all the other kids’. But I see now that all this time I was being groomed for my life purpose. I have tremendous empathy for people and a deep compassion. People come to me for readings but what I am really doing is counselling them. I love helping people.”

Now in her 70’s Marianne is still living and working with passion.

Lunar Astrology from the Horses Mouth is available from Marianne O’Hagan’s website, You’ll also find her contact details there if you wish to book an astrology session in person, via phone or Skype.


This is an excerpt from career expert Cassandra Gaisford’s Amazon #1 best-selling book, Mid-Life Career Rescue: How to confidently leave a job you hate, and start living a life you love, before it’s too late.

Visit and get her free eBook, “Find Your Passion.”

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Monday, August 17th, 2015

Your turning point: Career Rescue for Mid-lifers: Break free of the job trap

the choice is yoursSeveral years ago my good friend and artist Max Gimblett wrote a foreword for my book, Happy At Work for Mid-lifers. As I prepare to re-release an updated version of this book, to be available on Kindle late September, I thought his sage advice was a timely reminder. So many people think age is against them as they move through their 40’s and 50’s and beyond.

And it’s true – to a certain extent. As one of my mid-life clients told me. Yes, there is ageism. Yes, employers do seem to favour employees in their 20’s and 30’s.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. What’s needed, I told her, is a mindset shift. You have to be the change you want to see. You have to go forth and show the world what experience, passion and purpose can achieve. And you have to do this consciously.

As Max Gimblett wrote: “Mid-life is a crucial point in the life cycle. Childhood, the warrior and power decades are past. Mid-life is an invitation to resolve the complexes not yet made conscious and move forward into the so happy years of creativity and health, of full abundance…Persevere with your mid-life, bring into consciousness your childhood dreams, as they will become your living realities”

I love the sentiments Max shares and the hope and encouragement there for you as you persevere with aspirations to live your best life, marching bravely toward and beyond your mid years.

If it’s time to reawaken and recommit to your childhood dreams I hope this blog helps.

“Guides are necessary throughout mid-life, this book is a guide. Teachers to face and touch are guides. Mid-life will not be rushed. Everybody experiences mid-life. It is a sacred journey, a sacred path, the Way. I know Cassandra as a fellow spirit and friend. She was with me on the island of Maui participating in my sumi ink workshops. I have experienced with her some of her mid-life passages. I trust her, respect her, and understand that her book is invaluable.” ~ Max Gimblett


Your childhood dreams

When I was a child I always dreamed of being a writer. No, more than that – I actually was a writer. From as young as 9 I was submitting short stories and poems to the children’s section of the Sunday Star Times and being published. Like you, as I became older, I was ‘encouraged’ to do something more practical. I began training as an accountant and for a time even worked in a bank. Now, nearing 50, I’ve made a conscious decision to re-embrace my childhood dreams.

The take home point – it’s never too late to be yourself.

New Zealand fiction author Barbara Anderson, Lady Anderson,  became internationally recognized in her 60’s despite only starting her writing career in her late fifties. She once said, “I often wondered why did I leave it so late?”

“I’d love to follow my passion if my mortgage would let me,” one of my clients said.

Ever wondered what childhood dream jobs pay? Forbes magazine recently wondered the same thing – click here to find out the surprising results.

You may be heartened to see your pick on the list.

What makes you sparkle?

What makes you spark? What inspires you? What gives you so much satisfaction that you would do it for free? What are you passionate about and how can you translate this into a rewarding career?

These are questions many people changing careers never ask. The answers lie at the heart of the cure.

Many mid-lifers have had years of conditioning during which they were told that work was something to be endured not enjoyed. During The Great Depression of the 1930s people considered themselves lucky to have a job. School reinforced this scarcity mentality by channelling people into a limited range of gender specific roles.

But times have changed. Social, demographic, technological and economic changes have lead to greater opportunities for people. Many mid-lifers are working from the comfort of their own homes courtesy of the Internet, for example. Others have ‘brought themselves a job’ by starting their own businesses.

Gone are the days of a ‘job for life’ and the times when men and women were steered into a narrow range of career paths. People’s expectations about the role work should play in their life has changed too. Now more than ever increasing numbers of people are seeking satisfaction and fulfilment from their work. Even the word ‘career’ is going through a process of reinvention.

What does the word career mean to you?

‘Vocation, calling, heart’s desire, who I am, life purpose’ are words many happy people use to describe their careers.

Doing what you love and doing it well is also a cure during economic downturns. There will always be a demand for people who are good at what they do and who do it well.  The key to recession proofing your career and surviving and thriving in the face of uncertainty is knowing how to do what you love and still pay the bills. If you’re unsure how to do this – ask your way to success and look to others who are living and working with passion in their mid-life years.


The power of passion – something just for you

If you haven’t checked out our Facebook page yet, come on over. I’ve got a special video reading just for you!

If anything resonated with you in this blog I’d love to hear.

Until then,

Wishing you every happiness and success


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Friday, February 14th, 2014

Love thy self this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is a day of love. Whether you are with a partner or on your own it matters not. What matters is love. Love of self. So many people struggle with this – looking for love in all the wrong places; looking for love in all the wrong faces. If you are with someone who loves and accepts you for who you are – warts and all – wonderful. That person is a keeper. If not…leave. As Richard Bach, author of ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, and ‘Bridge Across Forever’ once wrote, “So often half of a couple is trying to go up, the other half is dragging down. One walks forward, the other makes sure that for every two steps ahead they take three steps back. Better to learn happiness alone, I thought, love my friends and my cat, better wait for a soul mate who never comes than to make that dull compromise.”

I can’t think of a better love affair than to have a love affair with your self – your passions, your talents, your unique essence.

Sounds easy? No – so many people struggle to love themselves. So much seems to tear them down. People find it easier to hurl a criticism than to flourish a compliment. But we can take control back. We can do this for ourselves. Here are a few ways to cultivate self-love this Valentine’s day and beyond:

 1. Do what you are good at
It doesn’t matter where your talent may lie, whether it’s in chess, drama, or butterfly collecting, when you do something you like doing and have talent for it’s exhilarating. It’s a form of self-expression and it boosts self-esteem.’ ~ The Principal, Mackenzie College, NZ

 What activities and/or special talents do you have that give you the most satisfaction?


2. Write down 10 things you are most proud of

 Celebrate the goals you have already achieved. You are probably so busy focusing on the thing you have to achieve next that you can forget to give yourself an encouraging pat on the back for the things you have already accomplished:


3. Define life success

One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to define your criteria for life success. This requires reflecting on what the key elements are and the experiences you wish to have. What is success to you? For me success is being truly happy, authentic, free.


4. Choose to be happy

 ‘Are you happy? Are you doing, this moment, exactly what you most want to do in the world?’

Happiness is a state of mind. The Dalai Lama says that the very purpose of life is to seek happiness. He believes that if you train the mind to be happy, you will be. Likewise, you can train yourself for higher self-esteem. Some people affirm for what they want by writing in a journal how they want to feel for the day. Others work out the things that lead them to feel sad and find ways to remove these things – such as not watching the news. Others make a conscious effort to do something everyday that makes them feel happy.

List at least 10 things that make you feel happy. What are some steps you can help yourself to feel happier?

‘A human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to be happy.’ ~Viktor Frankl, Psychologist


5. Set challenging goals

How much you like yourself is often reflected in the level of goals you will set for yourself. Generally, people who like themselves and feel valuable set higher and more challenging life goals. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? How could you make this goal a reality? If this feels daunting try setting mini-goals.


6. Honour your core values

When you live by a clear set of values, it is easier to align your life with what is most important to you. When you honour your core values, (those things you would fight for), you honour your true self.

What are you doing now that is not congruent with your values? What steps could you take to “live” and “be” your values?


7. Enhance your energy

People with high self-esteem seem to have a reservoir of energy, and seldom get sick or let life’s set-backs keep them down. Their energy and enthusiasm for life encourages them to take care of their body, mind, and spirit.

What five things could you do this week that would make a positive difference to your energy levels? I know if I go for a walk, turn off technology, meditate, read something inspiring and eat healthily my energy soars – more so if I do something I am passionate about. Staying away from negative media and people also boosts my energy!


8. Maintain a positive attitude

Attitude determines your altitude. The more positive your thinking, the more positive your feelings, the more positive the outcome. There is nothing more powerful and creative than your thoughts, so you may as well make them positive and uplifting.

How can you stay positive?


9. Be passionate

Passion takes hold of you and feels like “fire in the belly”. It is a source of power that enables you to get fired about life and make a difference. The more passion and zest you feel, the more alive and brightly lit you are. Enjoy a daily tonic and make passion a regular event.  Do you regularly spend time doing things you enjoy? Can you do something every day to help keep your passion alive?  Only 15 or 30 minutes a day devoted to activities you love and that move you closer to your dreams can make a big difference to your health and happiness. If finding time or lacking energy is preventing you from doing more of the things you are passionate about develop a strategy to restore the balance.
What things can you do to experience more passion in your life?


10. Live by vision and work with purpose

When you know your life vision and purpose, life has more meaning and direction. Vision and purpose provide a sense that you matter, that you have a part to play, and that you truly belong here. What is your life purpose?


11. Take action

Underlying every procrastinator is a thought that they can’t handle or manage the task in front of them. Fear, laziness or self-doubt – all the hallmarks of low self-esteem – are often present. Whip procrastination into shape by listing all the things you are putting off and developing an action plan to take them off your “to do” list:


12. Reward success

Set yourself up for success by breaking big goals into daily action steps and take time to acknowledge and celebrate the small successes. This will feed your need for recognition and provides the extra push to keep you moving forward.

What are some ways you can reward yourself?


13. Make smart life decisions

When you care about yourself, you make smarter decisions. You take care to choose the right mate, occupation, and lifestyle that support you.

In the space below, or in your passion journal, list your decision-making criteria. What are all the things that are truly important to you given who you are, who you choose to be, and what you want to achieve and contribute to the world? Rank you list in order of priority. This list is your life map – keep it visible to help guide your decisions:


14. Break free of the comfort zone!

Humans are pre-wired to grow and develop. From the moment we are born we are set on an irreversible path of growth and exploration. Our fingernails keep growing, our skin heals when it is damaged – yet somewhere along the way some people tell themselves it is not okay to try new things. Trying to stifle this growth is a sure-fire way to limit your potential. How do you know what you are capable of until you try.

How could you break free of the comfort rut?


15. Recognise and celebrate your positive qualities

Circle 10 (or more) of your strongest positive qualities, or write in your own at the bottom! Post this in a prominent place where you live. Begin each day by reading your list and affirming all of your positive attributes. You may want to get a photo of yourself and write down all the things that are good about you beside it.

Able Accepting Accurate Adaptable
Adventurous Affectionate Alert Ambitious
Artistic Assertive Broad-minded Calm
Capable Candid Careful Caring
Cautious Charming Cheerful Childlike
Clear-thinking Clever Compassionate Competent
Confident Conscientious Considerate Cooperative
Courageous Creative Curious Dependable
Determined Dynamic Eager Easy-going
Efficient Empathic Energetic Enterprising
Enthusiastic Fair-minded Faithful Fit
Free Friendly Fulfilled Funny
Generous Gentle Glad Good-natured
Growing Happy Healthy Helpful
Honest Hopeful Humorous Idealistic
Imaginative Independent Individualistic Industrious
Informal Ingenious Intelligent Inventive
Kind Learning Leisurely Light-hearted
Likable Logical Lovable Loving
Mature Merry Mild Moderate
Modest Natural Neat Non-judgmental
Nurturing Open-minded Optimistic Organized
Original Outgoing Patient Peaceful
Persevering Persistent Pleasant Polite
Positive Practical Precise Progressive
Punctual Quiet Rational Realistic
Reasonable Reflective Relaxed Reliable
Reserved Resourceful Responsible Robust
Sexy Sincere Sociable Special
Spontaneous Spunky Stable Strong
Tactful Talented Tenacious Thankful
Thorough Tolerant Trusting Trustworthy
Understanding Uninhibited Unique Versatile
Warm Whole Witty Zany


16.  Embrace your flaws

Healing, growth and self-love come from embracing our flaws – those parts of our personalities that we may be told by others are our weakest links. The truth (sometimes) is that our greatest weakness can be our greatest strength (and vice versa).

Growing up I was told my sensitivity made me weak – now my empathy and intuitiveness are valued by others as amongst my greatest strengths. Similarly I have been told my creativity is one of my greatest assets. During most of my childhood I was actively steered away from this. Go figure!

What are you weaknesses? How could your weakness be a strength? How can you embrace it, cultivate it, own it – do something to help others with it? What is your Achilles heel – your spot of vulnerability that if you were to strengthen it could make you greater still?

Positive Self-Talk

Everyone has had negative experiences that cause self-doubt.  But faith in our ability to accomplish our goals can be re-enforced through affirmations.  Repeating affirming statements is simply an acknowledgement of what you may already believe but may have come to doubt because of a bad experience.

Think about a situation that might make you feel uncomfortable, hesitant, or even fearful.  Maybe it’s making a phone call to a prospective employer to see if they have any vacancies or going for an interview.  Whatever it might be, imagine yourself experiencing that same difficult situation in a way that you never have before – as your ideal self – confident, self-assured, at ease, etc.

How do look in this fantasy?  Describe yourself as you might look and feel.


The greatest thing you will ever learn, is to love and to be loved in return.

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Thursday, December 19th, 2013

following the signs to career nirvana

Hoping for a sign or something to put you on the right career path? Follow your heart and your intuition – listen to life’s whispers and notice what gives you joy.

Ask for a sign, by popping the Universe a question such as, “what is the right career for me?” Then start paying attention, noticing tiny GO-incidences that occur. A book that falls open at exactly the right place, a person you bump into, an opportunity that presents itself…or some other seemingly random event.

I remember one of my best opportunities presented itself when I bumped into a recruitment consultant at the lipstick counter at Mac – took me on a three year contract and a huge transformational journey working for the Department of Corrections in NZ prisons.

When writing this piece I recalled a wonderful story I wrote for the Dominion Post about Carlucci (Carl Gifford) a man who listened to what excited him and followed the signs. People thought he was mad but he persevered anyway – and now…well…read my updated version 🙂


Inspiration used to carve out an opportunity

A Wellington man has turned his passion into the rock that he has built a career on.

Sometimes the work you were born to do can come from the most unexpected things and places.

When Carl Gifford left school he became a motor mechanic mainly because his father wanted him get a job and told him he had to choose before he was 10 what he was going to do for a living.

Being a motor mechanic did not really give him much satisfaction, so he switched to car wrecking, because it was a bit more lucrative. However, after trying that for a while he decided that wasn’t really him either.

Then one day what turned out to be his true calling leapt out at him.

“One day, I was driving around and I was inspired by some stone work I saw.  I thought “that’s what I want to do. Before you know it, I was off to a quarry. I started putting rocks together and thought ‘Hey! I’m good at this’ Before you knew it I had someone ringing me up, saying “come and do this.”

 Mr Gifford’s first stone sculpture can be seen at the Massey University campus in Wellington. It symbolises the struggle at Parihaka.

“It was quite a buzz for me that my very first sculpture was a very important sculpture.”

A stone mason by trade but no one sees the potential in rock like he does.  “You stare at them all day and you start seeing faces in rocks and you say “ooh I can’t sell that one- that’s a Rottweiler .Oh that’s the Virgin Mary”

“I see faces in rocks everywhere…all the time, even in the simplest of rocks…noses, faces…how weird is that?”


But as Placido Domingo once said, “When it becomes clear that no one else shares your level of passion, you are where you belong.”

And Mr Gifford certainly has carved out a special place for himself – inspiring and exciting all those who come across his works. His stone walls are in high demand and many are built for the rich and famous.

He has performed numerous jobs for the Wellington City Council beautifying the coastline, designed the baboon and tiger enclosure at Wellington Zoo, worked at Vogel house and is currently working on a big project for Peter Jackson.

However, what really seems to drive Mr Gifford is the passion and zest he has to make a world of pleasure for others.

The drive down Happy Valley road, between Owhiro Bay and Brooklyn, was anything but happy till his works of art started to appear along the roadside.

Several years ago, when I first interviewed him,  he had bought 25 hectares near the rubbish tip and started putting sculptures on it. “I’ve got big dreams for this place, but nobody believes them,” he said.

Not then anyway. With his passion and determination it wasn’t long until he realised his dream of expanding his empire. His happy place is called Carlucci Land – a fun park for adults and children, where everyone regardless of age, can recapture the joy of child-like play.

Not surprisingly, his main office is inspired by the Flintstones and he once owned a business he called Bedrock.
Too often people are afraid to stand out from the crowd. Often the innovative path is the path less followed but, as actress Drew Barrymore says “Originality is believing in your individuality, believing in yourself, and being willing to take risks, even though people might think you’re weird for doing it.”

Not only has Carlucci (Mr Gifford)  found a way to earn a living from his passion and create work that allows him to be true to himself, he has recaptured his youth in the process.

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Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Career metamorphosis – transitions are a time of renewal



“Dreaming is easy. Acting on those dreams – saying to yourself, Hey, wait a minute, I want this – is another kettle of fish. It takes conviction and faith, even audacity.” ~ Martha Beck, Author

 Are you still feeling frustrated, miserable, under-valued, uninspired or trapped in your current job? Or do you just have a very real sense that soon you are going to make some changes? Perhaps you have already started to move toward your preferred future, but it feels like an uphill crawl?

The term transition describes the process we go through when we are managing change in our lives. It may be heartening to know that there are three stages to this – endings, neutrality and new beginnings.

The neutral zone is a time you may stay in the longest. It can involve pain and suffering, or at the very least it can be uncomfortable. This is a time when you can feel, all of a sudden, that what you knew and were certain of before, you no longer know now. It can be a time of incredible self-doubt. Experiencing many emotions – including hurt, sadness and anger – are often common.

You may be thinking a lot about the past and have serious questions about the future. It can be a time where nothing much seems to be happening. Don’t be fooled. In the neutral zone, there is much happening – you are letting go of what used to be so that you can make room for what is yet to come. And in seeking a resolution of the discomfort, there is great potential for creativity, regeneration and renewal.

Change, even when it’s something you’re actively seeking, isn’t easy. Sometimes the easiest thing can be sitting back and doing nothing at all, coasting down the same old path, sitting in the same old rut, doing the same old things and feeling that same old gnawing feeling that you could be doing something more with your life.

 Where Are You at?

Where do you feel you are in the change process? Has life, as you knew it, ended suddenly – perhaps as a result of restructuring? Do you still feel a sense of loss? Or are you feeling more in control of your career but still unsure and anxious about your future? Perhaps you are feeling excited and optimistic about your future? Are you in the mood to take a calculated, life affirming risk? Do you feel an increasing sense of purpose? Are you feeling motivated, inspired and enthusiastic? Are you actively planning to make your dreams a reality or are you still caught up in the excitement – your head in the clouds but, as yet, no firm foundations under your feet?

 A Window of Opportunity

Whatever forces are at work on you, know that they are providing a window of opportunity for a new vision for the present and the future, and for creativity and growth in life and career. Take heart, never lose sight of your preferred future and patiently but persistently work toward realising the life of your dreams.

Life Cycle Transitions and Callings

It can help to know that life planning experts believe a natural desire for change occurs as you approach the mid-years. In the first half of life, what you may feel ‘called to do’ typically links inner self-hood to major outer commitments, such as careers, interpersonal bonds, leadership functions and community roles.

In the second half of life, ‘callings’ are more often about inner values and concerns. They tend to be transformations within the self itself, downsizing your ego needs and increasing your concerns for life beyond yourself. At this stage in life many people say they are more concerned about finding meaning and purpose from their work activities. They are often drawn to: mentoring roles; servant leadership; advocacy of projects, organisations and causes; grand parenting; guardianship of human and natural resources; wise advisor; consulting with non-profits; and leisure-related activities.

Other experts believe the true profession of a person has always been to find their way to their authentic, true self. In mid-life we are often free-er to do that.

Despite knowing this, sometimes when you are about to change you can begin to worry excessively. Excess worry can increase feelings of anxiety, fear and self-doubt. It’s important to kick the worry habit the moment it takes hold. The exercise on the next page will help.

 From Despair to Joy

Carla Coulson left behind a corporate job in Sydney to move to Florence and become a photographer. She has since published several gorgeous books, including: ‘Paris Tango; and ‘Italian Joy.

“Ten years ago, I gave up the unthinkable, a comfortable life, a cushy job and all the financial perks that go along with it, on a whim, to chase a life and a way of living that would ignite my soul. I gave up a secure future, an eventual superannuation fund and a possible golden handshake on retirement. I swapped all of this for an old camera, uncertainty and hope. In the past ten years my passion for my new way of living hasn’t dimmed.

My reward has been great. I have been rewarded with love. Love for this thing called photography and the relationships, people, places and pure pleasure that it has brought me. My camera has led me down a path of its own, propelled me to do things I would never have done if it wasn’t by my side, propelled me into places and situations that would have otherwise passed me by. My camera has opened doors and worlds by simply existing and it has allowed me to communicate with people even when we don’t share the same language. My camera has opened up a whole new life for me on the other side of the world, in Florence and Paris, one I still can’t believe is true.

That woman who was dying inside is alive and well, living a rich tapestry of moments and emotions she always expected and hoped life would be.”

Carla’s words of advice for people who are considering a career change are:

Go for it but try and prepare yourself first. Try and understand what it is exactly you want to do and where you would like to establish yourself. Go about preparing yourself for the change. Take as many courses as you can, prepare yourself financially and start building up contacts. Try and meet other people who are doing what you would like to do and ask them how they achieved it.”

 Visit Carla’s blog and continue to be inspired by her:

Preparing for and managing change successfully

Reflect upon the questions and exercises below jot down your responses in an inspiring journal:

1)    What in your life is changing or about to change?

2)    What is there about your life or world that has remained constant or will remain constant?

3)    Recall a time in the past when you were preparing to make some big changes. What did you do back then to help you stay focused, confident and positive? What other strategies would be helpful to adopt now?

4)    Strengthen your desire. What are all the reasons you are making changes? What are you choosing to leave behind and why? List all the benefits that will flow when you have achieved your changes.

5)    Who supports and encourages you? Surround yourself with your fans. Get together regularly with other like- minded people, especially those who believe in the beauty of your dreams.

6)    ‘Act as if’ and picture yourself as having already successfully achieved your preferred future.

7) Heed the warning signs. Loosing sleep and feelings of depression or increased irritability are some classic signs to be on the lookout for.

8.) Kick the worry habit and manage your stress. Making a move, even toward something you are looking forward to can be stressful. Some helpful ways to kick the worry habit include:

1. Notice your worry. Jot them down in a worry journal. Pay close attention to common worry- filled thoughts. Noticing the thoughts that rob you of peace of mind is the first step in preparing for change successfully.

2. Change your thinking. Instead of thinking about all the things that could go wrong, think about all the things that could go right.

3. Distract yourself. Set a time for worrying. Perhaps it could be for 20 minutes each afternoon. The rest of the time keep yourself busy. Force yourself to keep your mind off your worries. Get out. Call a friend. Go for a drive. See a funny movie or read an inspirational book.

4. Talk about it. Talk to other people who have felt the same and ask them how they got through it. What techniques helped them manage change successfully?

5. Move! Exercise promotes the generation of feel good hormones, promoting feelings of well-being, calm and confidence. Go for a run, take a brisk walk, swim in the sea, cycle through the bush or shake your booty at the local dance club.

6. Take action. Most of the things we worry about never happen. Procrastination only increases feeling of worry and stops the change process. Nothing cures worry more than taking action. Feel the fear and take baby steps toward your dreams anyway.

7. Catastrophise. Lay all your worries out in the open. Imagine all the things that could go wrong, and then double them! Now challenge them. Is this realistic? What would you need to do to minimise this happening?

8. Remind yourself of your progress. List all the positive step and obstacles you have overcome to reach this point already. Start an achievement section in your passion journal if you haven’t started one already. Update and review it regularly.

9. Remind yourself of your coping and success skills. When you are feeling stressed or anxious it can be difficult to remember all the things you do well. Refer to your feedback journal and remind yourself about all the strengths and positive qualities you possess. Focus on what is going well and how you have managed stress successfully in the past.

10. Don’t fear failing. What’s the worst that could happen? Minimise its hold on you by developing a back-up plan.

11. Go for it! Visualise the end goal. What will it feel like when you achieve your dream? What will people say? What will you experience? Spend time every day experiencing your dream now. Take a deep breath and act with courage. If all else fails take a leaf from French artist Henri Matisse’s book and be stubborn and bloody-minded in pursuit of your preferred future. Keep your eye on the end goal and forging forward with your intent.


Change is inevitable and if you manage it well you can create a huge window of opportunity and personal growth.


This was an excerpt from “Happy at Work: job hunting for mid-lifers – A practical and inspirational guide for job-hunters and career-changers”

Aim Higher. Reach Farther. Dream Bigger.
A better career is out there. Happy at Work: job hunting for mid-lifers – your first step to becoming everything you want to be.

Order your own personally signed copy here 


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Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Living and working with purpose


People who have a sense of purpose and who follow their passion are rewarded with joy and energy and are fueled by inspiration. It’s as if they are dancing with life and the Universe rewards the dancers with abundance in all forms. It’s time to put on your dancing shoes, have fun and kick up your heels! ~ Lynn Robinson

Best-selling author Deepax Chopra agrees – following your purpose leads to bliss: “Everyone has a purpose in life…a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our spirit, which is the ultimate goal of the gods.”

He writes in his best-selling book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: “Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means, ‘purpose in life.’ The Law of Dharma, says that we have taken manifestation in physical form to fulfil a purpose. According to this law, you have a unique talent and a unique way of expressing it. There is something that you can do better than anyone in the whole world – and for every unique talent and unique expression of that talent, there are also unique needs. When these needs are matched with the creative expression of your talent, that is the spark that creates affluence. Expressing your talents to fulfil needs creates unlimited wealth and abundance and gives your life purpose.”

Finding your purpose

Reflecting on the following questions and activities may provide clues to the things that provide your life with a sense of meaning and purpose:

1. What are the finest qualities, talents and skills you feel you have to contribute to the world?

2. List all the things you love to do while expressing your unique talents. Some hints may be to notice times when you lose all track of time or feel an incredible sense of bliss or just a lovely sense of lightness in your body.

3. What are some possible ways that expressing your qualities, talents and skills may fulfil individual and/or societies unique needs?


“My mother said to me, “If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general; if you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.” Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” ~ Pablo Picasso, Artist

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