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Life Success

The Midlife Playbook – Setting the Stage to Play a Bigger Game

By Joel Wilkinson

timeFor many of us, the first half of our life is spent creating a sense of legitimacy or credibility as a capable human being. We set goals and work hard to set ourselves up to be able to demonstrate to ourselves, our parents, friends and colleague that we are “capable” and “good enough”. In many ways we are making a statement that “I have the ability to obtain an education, hold down a respectable job, build a successful career, develop relationships, and perhaps, raise a family.” During this stage, there is also the tendency to live under the illusion that we will live forever. Then we get to our half-time – or the halfway point in our lives where we begin to realize that time is not infinite, that time waits for no one, and that our time on this earth is limited. Many of us feel a pull to stop and think about what we want the second half to look like, what we want our legacy to be, and what impact we want to have in this world. We really have two choices at this crossroads – continue to stick to the game plan we used in the first half of our lives, or carve out time to reflect on who we are, what we have become and who we truly want to be. If we make the choice to take a time-out for reflection, we can then become more intentional about creating the future we truly desire and playing the game that will bring a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment.

Studies have been done with people on their deathbed in which they were asked to identify their biggest regrets. For most people, they did not say: “I regret not working more hours, making more money, having a bigger house, a nicer car, boat, or vacation property.” Instead, people said of their biggest regrets: “I wish I had spent more time creating deeper relationships with friends and family, I wish I had been more loving and giving, I wish I had taken more risks, and I wish I had been more reflective at an earlier time in my life.”

Reflecting on our mortality can feel depressing for some, as we reflect on the limited amount of time and the limited footsteps each of us has on this planet. But, reflecting on our mortality can also be life-giving, empowering and inspiring in that it can alert us to the importance of becoming more intentional and purposeful about the choices we make for the time we have left. We all know that many people make significant life changes in the face of great illness. How authentically are we living if it takes a terminal illness for us to wake up and ask ourselves the important questions concerning the life we want to live? Instead of saying to ourselves, “Next year I’ll do what I have always wanted to do with my career or my life, next year I’ll take the family on a really great adventure, next year I’ll spend more time and effort on my relationship,” this reflection on our mortality can provide an urgency to define a desired future which enables us to focus more fully and intentionally on the present in service of creating the future and the legacy we desire.

The following questions are provided as tools to inspire greater reflection on the future you want to create, setting the stage for playing a bigger game. Taking time to sit quietly, reflect, and write out your answers to these questions can provide greater levels of awareness, leading to the possibility of new choices, new actions, and ultimately enabling you to create the future your truly desire.

Question 1: What are your top ten excuses?

Each and every one of us has excuses which we use to justify not doing things. These may sound like: “I just don’t have time to think about my future right now, I don’t have time to focus on my health and fitness, I can’t think about what I really want to do because I have to pay the bills, I’d like to have a more fulfilling relationship but, when I try, my partner doesn’t seem to want to reciprocate, I’d like to have a closer connection with my kids but we are all too busy, etc.”

Behind every excuse is a fear which we disguise as an excuse in order to avoid addressing the underlying fear. If your excuse is “I don’t have time”, behind that is more than likely a fear of failure or of not being good enough, which may be playing out as a subconscious belief that tells you “If I were to try to do what I really want, I might fail at it.”, or “If I work carve time out of my 60 hr work week to focus on what I want to do, I won’t be successful at my current job.” Similarly, behind the excuse of “having to pay the bills” is usually a fear of not having enough. Yes, we all have real financial commitments that we must attend to in order to live in this world. However, the key point is to reflect on these excuses, bring the underlying fears into your awareness and then ask yourself how these fears may be limiting you by running your choices. You can then ask yourself what solutions or alternatives may be possible that you have so far not considered. This process is not easy, it does take courage – and a great life is really built through making courageous choices on a daily basis.

Question 2: What are the 5 big, or most important things you need to do in your life before it is over?

Getting clear on the fundamental things we wish to do, see, and accomplish between now and the end of your life in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled is critical to ensure we do not end up with regrets. The next step is to formulate a strategy and to begin to make choices and take small actions that will enable you to bring these 5 key things to fruition.

Question 3: Fast-forward to the end of your life. If you were asked, “What did you do with your life, and what did you stand or as a human being, what would you want to say?”

When we have the courage to ask ourselves these difficult questions, we begin the process of creating greater awareness of what is truly meaningful and a clearer understanding of the life we want to lead. Each and every one of us wants to feel as though our life has meaning. In order to have a meaningful life, the first step is to define for ourselves what we feel is purposeful, what we truly care about at the core, and how important it is for us to live a life aligned with this meaning, and a life without regrets. In doing so, we set the stage for a second half that will see us playing a much bigger game, and making a bigger impact while creating the legacy we were meant to leave.

Joel Wilkinson


Maximizing Energy and Capacity for Success in Career, Sport and Life

By Joel Wilkinson

The FutureMost of us believe we live in the present, yet for many people, a great deal of our thinking is focused on the past and the future. Take a moment to consider how much time you think thoughts of the future, and how many of these thoughts are focused on the “what ifs” such as: “What if I don’t get the job”, “What if things don’t work out between us”, and “What if I am unable to attain my goals?” Similarly, how much of your thinking is focused on the past, and how much of this thinking is focused on replaying mistakes from the past, thinking about resentments or things you feel guilty about?

Studies have demonstrated that, for the average person ~80% of our thinking is focused on the mistakes from the past, the guilt we feel and our ”what ifs” and fears of what the future will bring. For most people, this equates to some 45,000 negative thoughts each day – a staggering number of negative thoughts when we consider that every thought leads to an emotional response, and our emotions determine the possibilities we have to take action, or inaction, in the service of creating the future we do want. In other words, every thought we think has an emotional and an energy consequence – either positive or negative.

These ~45,000 negative thoughts each day are a large part of what leads neuropsychologists to estimate that the average person uses only 10% of their full human potential. The keys to maximizing our ability to use much more of our potential is in managing our energy and our capacity thought actively managing our thoughts and emotions.

Strategies to manage our energy and capacity can be broken down into the temporal phases of past, present and future thinking as follows:

Future Focus:

  • To maximize energy in the present in order to create inspiration for action, get clear on your vision for your life 1, 2, or 5 years in the future by writing out your vision for your success on a piece of paper.
  • Similarly, create a vision of the ideal version of yourself – the person you ideally want to be, and write this down on piece of clean white paper. How does this person show up every day? What kind of language do they use? How do they interact with other people, with the partners, children etc.?
  • Connect to these visions of your ideal future daily in order to keep them top of mind. Then, each day you have the opportunity to make choices to be more like the person you re becoming or more like the person you were. The more your choose the former, the more you become your ideal version of yourself


Past Focus:

  • While many of us spend a lot of time focusing on our mistakes, things we feel guilty about and our regrets, we neglect to spend time focusing on our accomplishments and all of the positive actions and experiences we have created in our lives. Spending more time thinking of the positives from the past reinforces what we have done well – and creates positive emotional energy enabling us to take actions to create our desired future.
  • Similarly, when we talk to others who make mistakes, it is easy to tell people the important thing is to learn from each mistake. However, many of us have a difficult time applying this lesson to our own lives. Instead we tend to replay our mistakes over and over, reinforcing the mistakes in our stored memories. We have all seen a bad movie, but how many of us would want to go see the same bad movie several hundred times over? A key to better managing our energy and capacity is to take our own advice and view mistakes as opportunities for learning thereby extracting the wisdom from our lives which can provide valuable insights and energy for creating our desired future.


Present Focus:

  • Rather than a focus on what frustrates, irritates or annoys us, we can focus on what we have to be grateful for in our lives in the present moment. When we think a thought of gratitude or appreciation, we cannot think a negative thought or feel a negative emotion. Thoughts of gratitude energize us in the present.
  • When we clarify our future vision and what is important to us, in terms of the values we hold as important and meaningful, we can then focus on taking actions in the present which are alignment with these values and our vision. Taking actions aligned with our vision and core values each day builds confidence and generates positive energy – thereby increasing our capacity to take more actions aligned with our desired future.

When we create greater awareness of what we are thinking and how this affects our emotion and our energy levels, we can become more intentional about choosing thoughts and actions which better serve us in terms of the emotional energy they generate. In making these better choices, we generate positive energy which results in greater capacity to take actions and create the results in our life which we desire.

Joel Wilkinson


Career Planning and Recareering Tips for Individuals Considering Retirement

The following are typical comments from clients who are approaching retirement age who express a desire to keep working:

  • “At this point in my life I want to have a career that I enjoy for a change – something that gives me a good reason to get up in the morning”
  • “I want to keep working, but not at the pace I have been going at for so many years”
  • “I need to continue having some source of income.”
  •  “I am worried that, if I stop working, I’ll become bored”
  • “I am looking for ideas on careers and jobs that will enable me to spend more time doing the other things I enjoy”
  •  “I have finally decided I want to find out what I am going to be when I grow up!”

How do you know what will be the best career choices to consider at this point in your life? Taking some time to carefully consider the following tips, ideas and questions can help you lay the foundation for greater fulfillment in the next stage of your life:

1. Consider Part-time or Contract Work

Approximately one-third of companies hire contract, temporary or part-time employees since it is a relatively easy way for employers to obtain experienced staff while saving money at the same time. Part-time or contract work provides a sense of purpose and income while keeping your skills sharp, along with opportunities to build your professional network, leading to other possible future opportunities.

2. Consider What You Are Naturally Good At Doing

  • Consider your strengths:
    • What things can you, or do you do that, when you do them, you feel good about yourself?
    • What are you naturally good at?
    • What kinds of careers ad organizations might enable you to use these strengths?

3. Consider What is Purposeful

  • Consider your values and what is meaningful:
    • What are your core values and how can you express these through your next career?
    • What kind of work do you feel will be meaningful and purposeful?
    • What organizations can you work for that are aligned with what feels meaningful to you?

4. Consider Who You Like to Work With

  • Consider the kinds of people you like to work with:
    • What kinds of people do you enjoy being around and working with?
    • How do you feel when you are around these people?
    • In what kinds of organizations might you find such people?

 5. Consider what you most enjoy doing

      • What activities do you do that you fully enjoy? How might these be transferable to a possible career?
      • What would you do even if you were not being paid?
      • How can you translate these passions into potential paid employment opportunities

6. Consider engaging the assistance of a trusted advisor

These questions are not the typical questions we tend to ask ourselves when it comes to planning the next stages of our careers – and they can be difficult questions to ponder on our own. For this reason, engaging a counsellor, coach or trusted advisor can be a huge benefit by providing professional expertise in helping you navigate these important decisions.

Joel Wilkinson

Energy Management vs. Time Management: Inspiration vs. Motivation

By Joel Wilkinson

As human beings we have limits on the amount of time and energy we are able to focus on our daily activities. While managing our time effectively is critical to maximizing our productivity, a focus on time management alone is not enough to create the success we desire. As Peter Drucker the management guru one said, “There is nothing more useless than doing something efficiently which should not be done at all.” The key to ensuring time management is effective is to be crystal clear on our priorities and fully intentionally on how we spend the limited time we have. This means taking action on detecting our personal values, defining the principles which will guide our life, discovering our purpose, creating our vision, and articulating our goals. Only when we have embarked on the process of developing a greater awareness of what our purpose is in life can we make better choices about how we can best use the time we have available. By making these better choices, we will begin to see better results in the form of greater happiness, fulfillment and the realization of purposeful goals we have set for ourselves.

When we focus our time and attention on purposeful goals aligned with our values and our deepest convictions, we also find we are able to tap into a deep reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. For this reason it is far more empowering to speak of managing our energy vs. managing our time. In other words, success in life essentially comes down to managing our energy – and the energy we need to power our greatest lives comes from our ability to inspire ourselves to take action toward realizing our highest potential.

There is a great deal written on the topic of motivation, including techniques and strategies for motivating ourselves and motivating others. However, when we speak of energy management we need to shift the paradigm from motivation to inspiration. Inspiration comes from the Latin inspīrāre – which means “to breathe life into something influence, and to impel to action”. Whereas motivation implies an external force, inspiration comes from within. If someone needs to motivate you or you need to motivate yourself, then you are requiring willpower to accomplish the defined objective(s). The root of the word motivation is “motive” which implies you need someone to give you a good reason, or a good argument, in order to move you to action. The energy to act comes from an external source.

The language of inspiration provides a more empowering paradigm. If we break the word inspiration apart we have “in” which means that the vision, and the energy to act on that vision, comes from within you, and “spire”. The spire is always the highest point of a building, and spire defined means “the highest point or summit.” So, in many ways, inspiration refers to creating a vision that impels us to action by connecting to an internal source of energy directed at living and realizing our highest potential.

The following exercises are designed to help you connect to inspiration and to enable you to begin the process of managing your energy in the service of living your greatest life.

Action Exercises:

  1. Identify your 5 core values you wish to live your life by.
  2. Craft your organizing principles by creating each principle from your core values as follows: If I truly value _______(insert one of your values) then I will do________ (actions/behaviours) on a daily basis.
  3. Define your purpose, your personal philosophy and your vision.
  4. Each morning connect to your inspiration by reviewing your values, principles, purpose, philosophy and vision.
  5. Then create a daily energy management plan by setting 5 small daily goals aligned with your values and your vision which will enable you focus your time and energy on the highest value activities.
  6. Each week, craft an energy management plan which ensures you schedule time for inspired and focused action, time for renewal and recovery, time for important relationships, time for adventure and fun, time for exercise and good nutrition, and time for learning.

Joel Wilkinson


Employee Engagement and Career Success

By Joel Wilkinson

Employee Engagement

Research has consistently demonstrated that employee satisfaction and productivity is not related to salary or pay incentives, as long as employees feel they are being paid fairly for their expertise and experience. Instead, studies demonstrate that employees are most motivated when they feel they are included and valued, when they feel they can make a contribution, when they feel they have opportunities to grow, and when they are acknowledged by their supervisor(s) for a job well done.

Strategies for Facilitating Employee Engagement and Career Success include:

  • Creating a rewards and recognition process. Develop processes (formal or informal) to ensure employees are acknowledged for their work and are recognized for exceptional effort.
  • Creating a culture of transparency and communicating vision. Employees will only be engaged if the vision for the organization or the department is communicated in a clear and inspiring manner, and if they understand that their involvement in realizing the vision is valued. In order for people to truly invest, they need to know they matter.
  • Committing to the career and professional development of employees. A genuine commitment to supporting the development and growth of each employee creates an environment of trust, loyalty and greater employee satisfaction. Take the time to ask employees about their career goals, skills they wish to develop, and work-related interests they would like to pursue. Creating opportunities for employees to learn about and engage in activities that fit with their career and professional development goals empowers employees to invest greater energy into the organization.
  • Helping employees develop self-awareness and personal leadership skills. Engage employees in exploring their top strengths and values and how these important qualities can be demonstrated and better utilized to further the goals of the organization. Facilitate effective goal setting, performance improvement targets, action plans and evaluation criteria to enable employees to take more responsibility for their own development and improvement within the organization.
  • Building genuine relationships. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Everyone has a magic button on their lapel that says ”Make me feel special”. People feel valued when they know the people they work with everyday care about them and who they are, and people who feel valued will be more engaged. Take the time to make people feel special, whether by giving a compliment, being interested, or simply giving a genuine smile. Such acts take just a small effort and make others feel great -and the added benefit is, of course, that in making others feel special, we also end up feeling good about ourselves.

Joel Wilkinson


Sport Psychology Tips for Creating Success in Sport and in Life

By Joel Wilkinson

In the sports world, the term “coach” or “trainer” is generally assumed to refer to those experienced gurus in each particular sport discipline who provide the physical conditioning and technical skills training to aspiring athletes.

In the realm of sport psychology, coaching is directed more fully on developing the self-management, personal leadership, and self-coaching skills of each individual athlete so that they are able to develop an understanding of how to prepare themselves to play at their peak levels during their most important competitions. These skills can also be directly applied to each of us in our personal and professional lives, enabling us to perform at much higher levels, and thereby realizing our greatest potential in all areas of our lives.

What is the focus of  Sport Psychology?

In a nutshell, mental training strategies in sport are focused on the skill of developing awareness of what you say to yourself, changing any negative and self-defeating thoughts to positive affirmations, and creating success visualizations and preparatory rituals to ensure you are able to perform at your very best. Too often sports organizations and coaches emphasize the physical conditioning and technical training skills required for athletic success while spending very little time focusing on the mental aspects of the performance.

As important as it is for athletes to have good coaches and trainers, and to listen to the wisdom such people can provide, what is even more important is how athletes and human beings of all walks of life talk to themselves, and in doing so, how they effectively “coach” themselves. Truly successful athletes and truly successful people have mastered the art of managing their mental outlook, including managing their thoughts and emotions. As a result of developing these abilities, they are able to ensure all of their physical and emotional energies are channeled towards achieving their desired objectives.

Self-Talk and Performance

Most people don’t realize how much their inner voice affects them. In fact, many people aren’t aware of the extent to which conversations are taking place within their heads on a daily basis. Human beings think approximately 60,000 thoughts per day. How many of us can recount all of the 60,000 thoughts we think per day? Scientists have estimated that approximately 80% of our daily thoughts are negative, which means each of us will think in excess of 45,000 negative thoughts each and every day. Psychologists have also estimated that about 90% of our self-concept, and therefore our confidence in ourselves, is comprised of our daily habitual thoughts. Unless we take the necessary steps to change our thoughts, we are predisposed to thinking mostly negative thoughts on a daily basis and, in doing so, developing a negative self-concept. As an athlete and as a human being, without a true sense of confidence in yourself, the road to achieving your dreams becomes significantly more challenging. The good news is that we have the power to change these negative thoughts, and by making these changes, we can greatly increase our confidence and our ability to succeed.

Our thoughts have a much greater impact on our emotions, actions and outcomes than many of us like to believe. Every thought we think is powerful. Many people tend to think that thoughts are simply nebulous concepts that float around in our heads and do not affect us. The reality is that this is simply not true. Every thought we think sends an electrical impulse through our brain and triggers emotional and physical reactions throughout our body. When we think negative thoughts, we trigger the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which have can have undesirable affects on our emotions, our energy levels, our motivation, our ability to think clearly, and our ability to perform at our highest level.

Self-Talk Strategies

The first step is to identify negative self-talk to increase awareness. Awareness is key since you can’t improve or change something you don’t even know you are doing. When you develop better awareness of the thoughts you are thinking, you are then able to make better choices such as replacing these negative thoughts with more positive, confidence building thoughts. Through following this process and making better choices of what you think, you will begin to see better results in your life and in your performance.

Begin to pay closer attention to the thoughts you are having throughout the day, in your interactions with others, and during your workday. Each evening make a list of any negative thoughts you are having about yourself in each specific situation. Once you become aware of these negative self-statements, write down positive self-statements you can use to replace the negative thoughts whenever you notice them coming into your mind. Very often we are our biggest critic and worst enemy. Realize you have the ability to change the way you orient toward yourself in order to become your biggest ally and your most inspiring supporter. In doing so, you can create a much stronger self-concept, build your confidence and achieve a great deal more using an overall more positive outlook and attitude.

Visualization Strategies

In much the same way as changing our self-talk prepares us for performing better, so too does actively visualizing success. As human beings, we have the unique capacity to visualize and to “envision”, which literally means “to create a vision of our future”. Highly successful athletes and people who are successful in life spend a significant amount of time visualizing in detail what success looks and feels like. Our ability to visualize our future is the first step to creating what we want to achieve. If we can see in our minds what we wish to create, then we can recreate this vision in the outer world and in our lives. The truth is that everything we create as human beings is first created in our minds, whether it be a bridge, a new building, developing a successful business or achieving our athletic goals. A large part of the visioning process is creating a clear picture of the goals we wish to achieve and the actual process of achieving these goals. You can’t reach a goal you have not defined or envisioned. If you don’t know where you are going then any road will get you there. In fact, when you focus on the things you wish to create, or you wish to see, you activate the reticular cortex in your brain, and you begin to see more clearly in your environment what it is you are focused on. For example, if you are considering buying a new car and you went out to test drive a black Toyota Rav4, you will likely find that in the subsequent days you begin to notice black Rav4′s everywhere you go. It is not as if they were not there before, but instead, you notice them because you have focused your attention on a specific goal.

To develop you ability to perform at your best level, take regular time to relax, close your eyes and visualize yourself in the situations where you wish to be successful. Allow yourself to experience the fears and anxiety you may initially feel, and then visualize yourself thinking positive, affirming thoughts, being in control and having positive experiences. Feel the emotions you experience when you move through the anxiety producing experiences confidently and competently. Visualize how you are feeling and what your various senses are experiencing when you see yourself being successful and accomplishing your goals. Practice reciting your positive, affirming thoughts when you visualize success.

Sport Psychology and Performance

Developing your mental training skills is like building a muscle – the more you work at it, the stronger and more resilient you will be. Everyone has an inner dialogue or mental chatter. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all talk to ourselves consistently. This is a conversation where we have the luxury, and the ability, to control what we say to ourselves and how we receive these messages. If you make a commitment to work diligently on your inner dialogue, the return on your investment will pay off in significant dividends, just as it has paid off for so many highly successful athletes and human beings. Through this process of developing self-coaching and personal leadership skills, you will create more positive interactions and opportunities for yourself and the people around you.

Remember, when you need to perform at your best, whether on the playing field, in your professional life or in you relationships with others, you can be your best ally or your strongest critic. The choice is up to you. Life really is about choice – and this means making good, intentional choices on a daily basis. By injecting strategies to develop better awareness so that you can make better choices, you are choosing the more positive and empowering path which will ultimately lead to better results in your life. The more you choose this path, the more inspired and energized you will be, and the more you will create the environment for realizing your highest goals.

Joel Wilkinson


Career Planning for Life Success

by Joel Wilkinson

While people typically think of their career as referring to the job or the work they do, the word career was originally meant to describe “the course of one’s life”. Taking this broader interpretation, a person’s career can be understood to represent the combination of roles, including work, family, community and other responsibilities, which a person engages in throughout their lifetime and which give meaning and purpose to one’s life. In this sense your “career” is essentially how you choose to spend your time and energy in order to create a meaningful life. This understanding of career makes it clear that career planning is actually a process of life planning and is critical to creating a fulfilling life. Career is tied to what it means to be self sufficient, to feel confident, to provide, to meet basic needs, and to achieve higher self-actualizing needs. We wrap a great deal of our identity around our careers, our feelings of competence, development of relationships, friendships, teams, and other important life dimensions. Career planning is critical to creating a life that is aligned with personal values, principles, purpose and passion.

For many of us, the amount of time we spend working consumes a significant portion of our days, our weeks and our lives. If you work a 40 (or more) hour week with a 30 minute commute each way, and you typically sleep 7-8 hours per night, time for yourself and your family each day is less than the time you spend working and getting to and from work. In most cases, the quality of our free time for family, friends and leisure activities and the amount of energy we have to give to these important components of our lives will be directly affected by the satisfaction we derive from our work life. Yet, despite this, many of us do not take the time to think deeply about the work we ultimately want to do, the impact we want to make and the role our career plays in creating a meaningful and fulfilling life.

It has been said that “you either manage your career or your career manages you.” In other words, it is very easy to allow opportunities that present themselves to define your career path. When considering career options many people will say, “Yes, I can do that”, while rarely do people consider the extent to which they truly want to do what their job or career option asks of them.

Our work life occupies such a significant and important portion of our lives, and through our work we have the ability to have an impact on our world. Therefore, it is essential to make it a priority to consider whether, in fact, we are being the authors of our own lives by being truly intentional about our career choices.

In this newsletter you will find a number of strategies and exercises designed to enable you to think more deeply about the career and life you truly want to be living.

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