WHY Successful People Work with A Career Coach

WHY Successful People Work with A Career Coach

Whether you need to optimize your resume, get help with your job search, re-enter the job market or plan a career pivot this article will help you to understand how to be your own coach, while showing you what a modern career and resume coach can do for you. 

Google and many of your friends and professional contacts can potentially advise you on what to put on your resume. You may receive contradictory advice and or find unhelpful folks that will tell you that you are already doing everything right. And some that will assure you that everything you are doing is wrong! 

The challenge with a good amount of this advice is that it tends to focus on how to format your resume or it’s based on what one person did once with success. 

In the case of traditional career counselors or resume writers, you may get folks who rely too heavily on beliefs that put you the client in a box. Or who write resumes based on a formula that may have worked in 1990, but is not relevant in the current market or workplace. 

You know you best.

The most important part of writing a resume actually has nothing to do with writing [or formatting] the document. It has to do with putting YOU onto the paper.

What this means, is that before you write your resume, your best time investment will be spent in clarifying your career goals and putting together a compelling professional narrative that tells who you are as a professional. 

These goals and your narrative will set the foundation for an effective job search process from the time you submit your resume through to your interview. 

Why? Because inconsistency and humility are the kiss of death on the job search. 

What your resume NEEDs

Don’t let others confuse your humility for mediocrity. 

You can have the most beautiful, formatted and tightly written resume in the city, but if it reads like a robot, boring, bland, and or totally lacking your unique motivations and personality, what is the point? 

To get hired you need a resume (and a LinkedIn profile) that demonstrates what you can do with confidence and joy. This document also needs to highlight your unique combination of strengths, interests, experiences, while showing what motivates and inspires you. 

This includes owning your story, flipping negatives to be positives with authenticity, and the ability to show what you’ve learned and how you approach problems. Together this information will go above and beyond your classic robotic resume that merely hints at your capacity for performing in the future. 

A robotic-sounding resume that might very well be a copy and paste of your various job descriptions. With a little color at the very end under “activities.” Blah. Nope. No. 

A unique document that clearly demonstrates throughout the document your hunger to work, your interests and your unique capacity. Plus a very important insight into your work personality.

Coaching Outcomes

Resume Reboot + Job Search Success:

A woman in her mid-thirties completes a master’s degree in a big city, due to some extenuating circumstances, following her degree she moves back to her small rural home town. She takes the first job she can get and ends up working primarily in sales. Five years later she wakes up one day and says “enough, I want to use my degree. I need to reconnect to my purpose!”

First, we seek out ideal jobs available in her region (not many, but we find a few). 

Next, we look at all her experiences, do her values and strengths assessments and build a resume that leverages her not only her experience and education but also her natural strengths and passions. 

Then we build out her resume and work up a networking strategy. 

Three months from start to finish, she is in her dream job and using her degree! 



Coaching Outcomes

Career + Life Coaching:


A woman in her early thirties has taken the last few years off from work as a new mom. The first decade or so of her career saw rapid and powerful growth, but overseas. Upon the birth of her kids (her husband can work from anywhere) they moved to be close to her parents. Three years in she is bored and hungry to reclaim her career. 

When she came to me she’d been working, but it was unsatisfying work that took up too much time and she felt stifled. 

First, we reviewed her past and determined what she loved about her past work. 

Next, we clarified her dream job and what she and her family wanted (this took a few sessions). 

After we did our values, strengths, needs and goals assessments we set out to find ideal jobs and she reached out to her network. 

Six months after our initial work + a summer vacation and move she got an offer from a dream job, moved across the country and hit the road running! 



Coaching Outcomes

Job Search Success + Resume:

A software engineer in his mid-twenties on the autistic spectrum has recently finished his bachelor’s; almost all of his work experience in customer service or behind the scenes manual process improvement, such as in a warehouse. He can show problem-solving and career progression but has zero experience in his chosen field. 

First, we get really clear on his goals and how his values and strengths are interwoven with his goals. 

Second, we identify target employers and specific job descriptions. 

Third, we write the resume and LinkedIn profile, we start to network. 

Within 4 months he goes from 8 to 85 LinkedIn connections, has several interviews and gets hired at his first choice. 



Before you start a job search:

Values, Strengths, Needs, Goals


Why values? This is what keeps you happy at work and assures that you’ve found work and a company culture that is aligned with your worldview. 

Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. When you look at what you’ve done, what you enjoy and what you’d like to do, you’ll likely find an overlap with your natural talents. Don’t be humble. Talk about what you do well — this is what an employer NEEDS to know to hire you. 

Why needs? Unless you are independently wealthy, the main reason you work is to get a paycheck. You’ve got needs and to be happy you need to own them and keep them at the forefront during your job search. Needs might be your salary and benefits or they might be your work schedule, location, flextime versus remote. Your needs might also be your social relationships and the possibility of growth or upward movement. What do you *need* at work to be happy? Your work life is a relationship that needs to be workable. 

Why goals? Obviously you’ve got the goal to “get hired.” However, to get hired you need to be more specific. This is where the quality of the job search comes into play. If you apply to 100 jobs a week there is no way that you’ve got the time or clarity to connect yourself to the goal of each specific employer. If you want to get hired and get a job that meets your values, strengths, and needs, you need a clear goal or target job.


Where to go to find clarity?

To clarify your values and strengths you can think about what motivates you to achieve. You can recall times in your life that you’ve been lost in your work — when you’ve hit those moments of flow — what were you doing? How were you doing it? 

You can also take a handful of surveys that can reflect back to you what makes you unique.  Sometimes people take these surveys as just fun things to do, without recognizing their importance to our life. 

This happens because it’s easy to assume that everyone thinks and works like us. We may incorrectly assume that what you value is important to others. Or we may assume that certain skills that come to us naturally are easy for everyone. In fact, when we make these assumptions we often undercut ourselves and at the same time get ourselves into situations that are not a good fit for us.


The following are the go-to surveys that I leverage to support my clients to clarify their values and strengths:

VIA Character Strengths (Values in Action —  link to free survey)

If you want to get out of a toxic work environment or are looking to pivot this survey can help you to understand how you work and the type of people who want to work with. 

Core Values (Link to free PDF list of core values)

If you are a manager or in a position of responsibility, in a role where you want to make an impact I recommend also identifying your top 5 to 7 motivating core values. (When working with clients one-on-one we discuss this in more detail.)

Clifton: Your Talents & Strengths (This is an affiliate link for the book (or Kindle) on Amazon – make sure you buy a new copy to get the code for the online test.)

Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. The StrengthsFinder is extremely useful to help you own your natural talents while giving you the framework to talk about it and tie these strengths back into what you’ve already done, as well as, what you hope to accomplish. 

Now what?

Use the self-awareness, list of values and your strengths from these surveys to build out your work history.  Go back as far as 15 to 20 years, taking the time to focus on jobs that are the most relevant or that have given you the most learning. Use these findings from your previous exercise to write out short accomplishment stories. 

Ideas for what you might put in an accomplishment story:

  • Actual achievements. Describe what it was like, what motivated you, what you loved. 
  • Describe failures as learnings. How did what happened to motivate you to work or learn differently in the future?
  • Stories of how you did something outside of your defined job description. 
  • Assessments of things you solved or achieved (the metrics everyone talks about) tied to your values, natural strengths and or learnings. 

Use these stories to build a master resume that covers all the things that you’ve done with the most emphasis on the last 10 years and anything over your career that specifically relates to the work you currently seek. 

When I work with clients I leverage a career questionnaire and work history forms for each specific past role, which I then compare to 3 to 5 live (active) ideal job descriptions. 

I use these live job descriptions to identify the key accomplishments from a client’s past to really make sure the most relevant and appropriate skills, experiences and capacities rise to the top. 

I don’t really believe in “failures” and my experience has shown me that anything from being fired to a three-year job gap can be leveraged as a strength, as long as, your resume authentically represents you and effectively targets the work you seek.


Hire Me to Write Your Resume

Formatting a Memorable Resume.

Once you’ve organized the content that should go into your final resume, your priority should be creating a document that is accessible and readable by both humans and applicant tracking software (ATS).  Why? 

You won’t get hired for having a stylish resume; you’ll get hired for having engaging and memorable content IN a readable and relevant resume. Formatting is important, but it’s not the most important.


Your name, phone, professional email, LinkedIn URL (personalized) and geographic area (your city will suffice, as does “remote” and open to relocation). If you’ve got a portfolio or professional website that is relevant to your job search list that too. 


Alison Rakotonirina

000-000-0000 | alison@yourname.com | www.alisonrakoto.com

linkedin.com/in/alisonrakoto | Remote | Boulder, CO


Professional Summary + Job Title That You Seek

Note I did not write OBJECTIVE. The summary speaks to what you can do, what you enjoy doing, what you want to do, what you do well and how you do it. It should be 3 to 5 lines long for someone who is early to mid-career and can be two paragraphs for a more experienced employee. 

Your summary is better described as a performance profile that tells potential employers your capacity to perform, how you work, why you work and so on. This paragraph should be the same or similar to the content you’d put in an elevator pitch or a networking message. It sets the tone for your resume and your job search. 

Core Skills & Experiences

You may wish to include a table after your Summary section that lists your core technical skills or core experiences. If you are in software or mechanical engineering you might list one table upfront that covers core skills & experiences for your job at hand, and then add additional tables at the end of your resume that address your diverse experiences. 

These tables are best created in alphabetical order because it makes it easy to adapt them to specific job descriptions and update them over time. 

Core Experiences - Sample 1

Core Experiences - Sample 2

Core Experiences - Sample 3


Work Experience: 

The first best practice for work experience is to list in chronological order with your most recent job first. Occasionally you will have a functional resume, but after six years of professional resume writing, I’ve used a semi-functional resume ONCE. If you think you need one, I’d talk to a resume writer first. 

The second best practice is to make sure that you do not write more than five lines of text without breaking up the formatting. So you could have a three-line paragraph followed by bullet points. Bullet points should be maxed at three lines per bullet, ideally one line.  

The third best practice is to call out and highlight promotions with titles and dates. If a job in your work history is not at all relevant you should spend less time on it. Maybe two or three lines of text that say what you learned or took away from the role. 


If you’ve got more than 5 years of work experience, put your education at the end. 


You don’t need to list hobbies or interests. If you’ve written an effective resume the reader will know your personality without needing these reminders at the end that you are a cool human.  

You should list relevant volunteer work. You should list work with associations and certifications. If deciding whether to include it or not — ask if it is relevant to the job at hand — if there is no connection then leave it off. Even certifications. 


Final Checks

Keywords & Targeting

Once you’ve completed your resume you can run it through a free application that will check it for keywords. Several resume writing and job search sites offer these — I won’t name names — but don’t use these. My experience and my gut tell me that these sites are inaccurate. They will tell you what they want to get you to either (a) hire their service or (b) use their job search tool.  

Cvscan.uk, on the other hand, is independent (it has ads on it) but it does a lovely job of highlighting keywords in your resume and your ideal job description. If you get an 80 or 90% match your resume is on target. 

If you get 50% to 80% you need to take a look at your language and figure out how to mirror the language in job descriptions better.  

If you get less than 50% then you might need to consider whether it’s the writing of your resume or if you are targeting jobs that don’t fit your skillset. 

You should be applying to jobs that you can do about 2/3rds of the job description quite well. More than that you may be overqualified. Less than that it may be a bit of a stretch. 

Peer Review

Once you’ve got a solid resume put together, it is great to ask folks working in your field fi they can give constructive criticism. Did you leave something crucial out? Does something not make sense? What do they wish they’d seen in your resume? 


Print off your resume and read it backwards. Ask a friend. And double-check for silly typos. Do this EVERY TIME you apply for a job. I think this is a crucial reason people who apply for 20 jobs a day don’t get callbacks — it’s way to easy to make dumb typos when you over apply. Take the time to focus and customize. 

Why might you work with a career coach or resume writer? 

Reason number one? Reading this article made you want to take a nap. A resume writer can be a creative accountability partner. I don’t want to spend three years on your resume, so I will push you to get it done!

Another primary reason that folks hire a resume writer is that while you may know you best, it can be hard to talk about yourself. An excellent resume writer will use surveys such as the StrengthsFinder, as well as, detailed questionnaires about your work history and experiences to pull out your story and reflect it back at you.

Professional resume writing is in fact an art — it is ghostwriting and storytelling wrapped up into one continually changing package. As a resume writer, it is a thrill to connect with clients and learn their dreams, listen to their challenges and their accomplishments, to call out what they do well and help a client celebrate her unique value.  

As a resume writer, it makes me dance with joy when a client says “I’ve got to tell you, reading my resume is like looking in the mirror. Thank you.” 

Career Coach

A career or leadership development coach can be beneficial at various stages during your career. If you’ve been job seeking for a time without any luck, you are working in a toxic environment or you are launching a pivot, a career coach can help you talk and work through everything outlined above. 

She can help you set goals. She will also help you to identify ideal job postings, network and stay accountable. She can help you to see your past differently, to reframe bad experiences and to build your narrative and goals out so that you can be your best self. 

One of the crucial components of career coaching, life coaching, and longterm success or change is that they are all iterative processes, sometimes you will feel like you are moving in a circle, sometimes you will plateau, but overall the small steps you take today will suddenly add up to big leaps in the future! 

Best Books for Self-Coaching

These are affiliate links to Amazon and if you make a purchase I will earn a commission. 

Pivot Planning

Pivot: The Only Move that Matters is Your Next!

Audience: anyone who has 5 to 10 + years of career but feels they’ve headed the wrong direction and is ready to pivot. 

Comparable to: Strengths-Based coaching and human design — my coaching is heavily influenced by Jenny Blake. 

Time Frame: You can read it in a weekend but you’ll need a few months to trial your initial ideas and then 6 months to 2 years to carry out the plan you make!

Your First Job/career

What Color is My Parachute

Audience: Anyone really, often recommended to new grads and veterans

Comparable to: Traditional career coaching that guides you to identify a traditional career. 

Outcome: Sefl-awareness — what do you like dislike, what color *is* your parachute? 

Time Frame: You can read it in a weekend.

Successful People Do Hire a Coach! 

In general, you hire a coach or a resume writer to get where you want to be faster and with more ease. The purpose of the coaching relationship is for your coach or your resume writer to help you shine, to help you highlight your best you so that you can get the work or job you desire. 

Working with a coach or resume writer is not easy — it does require a time commitment from you and the willingness to listen and to answer powerful questions. Be open to seeing your won limiting beliefs and maybe trying some new things. Leverage the opportunity for extra accountability and the rare opportunity to have a non-judgemental champion on your sidelines! 

Most importantly, a coach provides you a safe space to work through your thoughts and ideas in a nonjudgmental way. We will listen to your job search concerns and help you to discern what you should put in your resume or LinkedIn profile, how you should address an interview or salary negotiation, and build the confidence to network effectively. 

You Are Enough: How To Stop Feeling Less Than The Masterpiece You Are

You Are Enough: How To Stop Feeling Less Than The Masterpiece You Are

You are enough. 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you’ve heard this expression used in the last few years, but did you believe it? Do you believe it? 

Shakespeare got the idea as evidenced in his line, “To thine own self be true.” And, then in the late 1800s, Oscar Wilde coined the term “Be yourself everyone else is taken.” 

These famed poets got it, but clearly it’s an idea we’ve been fighting for centuries. 

And so the question remains, how do you and I overcome the limiting belief that thine own self is not enough?

From Perfection to Scarcity 

As an infant, despite being the cute button that you were, you probably didn’t showcase any star-quality abilities. For months, your roster of extraordinary talents consisted of crying, pooping, sleeping, and making your momma laugh. Yet, passersby awed over your angelic bundle of pudgy flesh and you were your parents’ pride and joy. You’d not done anything yet, you were celebrated simply for existing. You were perfect just because you were born.

Babies are delightfully perfect examples of a human being, we love them for being fat. For crying. For being angry. For voicing what they want and need. We are born knowing what we need…and being appreciated for that intuition.

So what exactly happens to chip away at our self-worth? Do you remember the day that you officially decided that you weren’t affluent enough, tall enough, plump-lipped enough, light-skinned enough, dark-skinned enough, pointy-nosed enough, funny enough, or intellectual enough or clever enough to be worthy of a joy-FULL human experience?

I don’t remember that day, but I do remember some painful moments along the path. My guess is you do too…

The Subliminal Scale Of Self-Worth 

It’s something everyone does, but you’re probably unaware of how often you do it. You’ve been pressing the figurative record button since childhood. Messages or your interpretations of circumstances that have occurred in your life are used to determine your level of worthiness.

Broken hearts, failed exams, supermodels, missed promotions, and the number of likes on your latest post all takes their toll. One day you feel like you’ve made it, and can live on your mountaintop forever. The next day, one comment or one misstep hurls you back down to the base. Your mind is a constant battlefield – one minute you are enough and the next your insecurities get the best of you.

Each failure you’ve encountered, each accomplishment you’ve achieved is used as ammunition to affirm your self-worth or knock it back. It’s a constant back-and-forth from the You Are Enough column to Something Is Wrong with Me columns. 

Just stepping out of the shower and facing a mirror every day, you are confronted by that nagging voice of judgment. It’s as though a sly, little troll lurks behind the toilet, eager to analyze your reflection. With his clipboard and checklist, he notes the tone of your arms and belly. He pulls a magnifying glass out of his trousers’ pocket to check for new wrinkles and stray grey hairs.

Once the thorough scan is complete, you are declared fit, or (on most days, ugggh) not fit. Outcomes the red stamp of disapproval –  NOT ENOUGH. You vow to make better choices around the sweets in the office lunchroom and to stop by the drug store to pick up an anti-wrinkle serum (or a bottle of hair dye) on the way home

Or maybe you scroll the internet and talk to your boss to see if maybe you should get another certificate, an MBP or a Ph.D., because, despite 20 years of experience, you just don’t know enough. Or do you?

Comparisons: The Root of Self-Doubt and The Enemy of Self-Worth

A substantial list of outside circumstances may have culminated to form your negative self-worth image. However, it’s important to recognize the dominating role your own ego plays in determining how you feel about yourself. 

Your ego, a.k.a. “The Queen of Comparisons” is continually on the lookout for opportunities to make you feel inferior or superior to others. Either way, you’ll want to learn how to silence this beast. She serves no positive purpose. Moreover, each time you fall prey to the need to judge yourself or others, you are drawn farther away from your ability to share peace and joy with not only yourself but with those you love.

Conducting Appraisals Has Consequences

In today’s world, society has created so many parameters by which to measure our importance. Women feel a massive amount of pressure to conform to a certain profile in order to worthy and accepted. You are successful and enough only when you can afford a Louis Vuitton before thirty, be married to the perfect partner who does his share of the housework, all while raising exceptionally gifted kids (who sleep through the night) by your forties and working a job, and be fit like Jennifer Aniston in your fifties.

Sizing yourself and others up to the world’s standards does not leave much room for being human. Basing your values on idealisms meant for romance novels and Hollywood movies, stunts our personal, spiritual, and even professional growth. The consequences of assessing your own value or the significance of others based upon society’s appraisal system are toxic.

You may not realize it, but every time you judge yourself it gets worse: 

  • You come off in a negative light, whether your feelings are of superiority or inferiority
  • You resent others and jealousy surfaces
  • Conversations revolve around gossip
  • You crawl out of bed unmotivated which only reinforces feelings of not being good enough
  • You become the prosecutor and judge of random innocent strangers (and even your real-life Facebook friends) based on exterior qualities or material possessions without knowing the real story behind the person

The ego gains more power and influence each time you let these thoughts and judgments compete for your attention on a daily basis. The signs of an ego in total control may not be obvious. Sometimes they show up as the tendency to shift the responsibility or blame on others, other times to carryout excessive acts to gain notoriety and recognition. The ego can also resort to bitter jealousy when others succeed, a voracious hunger for more or even a resigned form of depression — I should have, could have, if only I’d ______ fill in the blanks. 

As an Amazon affiliate, I make a small commission from any purchases made through affiliate links as found in this blog post.

How to Conquer the Ego’s Urge to Compare

First focus on your own journey. There is always someone smarter and someone less smart that you. Every person has her own unique path, but in the end, all roads lead to the same place.To be blunt we all die.

To be kind, each fellow earthling, no matter how flawless his or her persona appears to be, experiences insecurity, fear, and criticism as you do. Peace comes from letting go of expectations, appreciating others’ talents, nurturing yourself, and living on your terms. 

Elaine Welteroth describes in her New York Times Bestseller, More Than Enough, her arduous pursuit in overcoming self-doubt and breaking traditional barriers. Her inspiring story of an ambitious bi-racial woman climbing the corporate ladder demonstrates how important it is to give yourself space and permission to chart your own course. An example of remaining true to oneself, the author discovers her best life by standing firm on what is right.

Accept imperfections.  As Brene Brown teaches us in the Gifts of Imperfection, seeking out perfection, in fact, holds us back. In spite of our vices, shortcomings, chin whiskers and all (I pulled mine out just last week), you are enough. You have an important gift to offer the world. Don’t let the things you cannot do distract you from the one thing you were born to do. Direct your attention to your strengths and ask for help, or hire a team to compensate in the areas you may be lacking.

Reacquaint yourself with your core values. Regularly reviewing what you value most is a good strategy to keep you centered and on track. This process helps you to recognize and serves as a reminder that all you need, you already have. Remembering this smothers the insatiable desire for more.

Practice being grateful and gracious – avoid gossip. Finding one thing to praise another for cancels the impulse to gossip. Building others up rather than tearing them down triggers a wonderful sense of wellbeing within the soul. Plus, you are a magnet and will always receive back what you’re sending out into the world.

Leave the past in the past. What good comes from holding onto the shame of failed relationships, embarrassing moments, or deferred dreams? Every event and outcome is a chance to learn – a refinement. The situations and conditions that you endure and believe to be setbacks, actually set you up and prepare you for a whole new level. At each stage, you become stronger, wiser, and more of your authentic character emerges. 

What It Means To Be Enough

There is no magical formula for achieving enoughness. You don’t have to lose twenty more pounds or learn to ice a Frozen-themed cake like Suzie’s mom. It’s not about being the founder of a successful business, or the post-nominal initials you grinded for years to earn. The titles, size six jeans, and thriving business are valid goals if they are YOUR goals. However, they do not give you more value as a human being. You are enough simply because you are.

That being said, knowing this truth does not mean you should exempt yourself from ever setting another goal. You do not have to resign from your quest for success, whatever your dream entails. Your journey will continue to shape you and cause you to evolve as a person. But you are now set free from the need to prove to yourself or others that you are worthy. 

Goals are important, but what is most important is what you learn about yourself on the journey.

You can make a mistake, be wounded by someone, or become the wealthiest woman on the planet. Yet not one of these circumstances can reduce or expand your self-worth. Take a moment to let these words sink in – nothing you do or that is done to you can increase or decrease your self-worth. You are enough now and nothing will change that fact.

You ARE enough.

Breathe, Trust, and Most Importantly, Be Kind

As sure as you are alive at this moment, sitting, breathing, and reading this, you are enough. From the moment you were conceived, an intricately crafted seed within your mother’s womb, you were a masterpiece. You are a one-of-a-kind specimen, created with distinctive features, talents, and attributes only you can offer this world. If this is hard to believe, start by understanding that the universe does not make mistakes. 

Just as the law of attraction and the law of gravity are irrefutable, your reason for existence is undeniable. You are a crucial part of the universal equation. Hence, if you believe gravity exists, you must also believe that the universe created you with precision and purpose. 

Next time you hear the familiar soul-sucking voice of condemnation, take a breath, choose to be kind to yourself, and trust the absolute truth that you are enough

You will feel freer, lighter, happier, and when the shit hits the fan, you will bounce back faster and brighter, because you are enough. 

And if you are ready to change careers, go back to work or start your own business, don’t hesitate, because you are enough. Indeed as this article at Power to Fly highlights, you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to, even change your career at any age!

How A Happiness Planner can be Your Key to Unlocking More Joy

How A Happiness Planner can be Your Key to Unlocking More Joy

Life happens, which means that to find more joy, to experience greater happiness, we need to be intentional.  Whether you are a seasoned goal-setter or are new to the arena of setting targets and objectives for your life, a Happiness Planner is an essential tool for getting the most out of every day. By utilizing the inspirational journal and time management planner for just a few minutes a day, you will begin to notice significant enhancements in all areas of your life.

This article includes Amazon affiliate links. When you buy I make a small commission!

What Is A Happiness Planner and How Is It Different?

A Happiness Planner is more than your average journal or day-planner, it is a guidebook to the soul that encourages you to engage and grow your self-awareness. You likely feel like you are always chasing time, whether it’s an eighty-hour workweek, two kids in soccer, piano lessons, and dance OR all this and more. It’s likely you rarely find the time to stop and reflect. 

If you feel stuck, unfilled or wonder what you could be doing to find more joy, you are not alone.

In the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, a Happiness Journal will guide you to plan your day and set yourself up to live with more intention and experience the success you crave. Motivational quotes beautifully inscribed on each page act as cheerleaders, reminding you that you are worthy and already have what it takes to achieve your dreams.

In addition, a precise system of checkpoints and self-awareness building questions can help you clarify your core values so you can keep in alignment with the path you choose to walk. As well, you’ll gain a better understanding of your weaknesses and learn to recognize and leverage your talents.

Gratitude exercises help to cultivate an appreciation for the past and focus on the present moment; revealing the positive, even in many challenging situations. With a daily task calendar built-in, the planner will enable you to finally find the balance you seek, making sure you can comfortably keep tabs on each piece of your life’s pie, while also facilitating the creation of life-changing habits. 

From struggling to heal past hurts to feeling overwhelmed by a financial mess or a crossroads in your life, a Happiness Planner incites answers from deep within, treasures that will cultivate self-awareness and dispel old fears that up until now, may be responsible for stunting your personal growth or your satisfaction with your life.

This thought-provoking agenda ‘formula’ will unveil insights, which you can use to face and overcome your demons and achieve your heart’s desires. There is something magical about a daily journal that ties your goals, tasks, gratitude, and hope into one little bundle.

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

Another added perk that is unique to a Happiness Planner versus a regular agenda is the element of reflection at the end of the day. This journaling process encourages you to take stock of all of the things that went well throughout your day, along with those that didn’t have a positive outcome. 

As you take a moment to analyze each situation (the good, the bad, and the ugly) you are able to see what role you played in the end result. In this way, recurring themes or repetitive behaviors and patterns become clear. From this point, you can see what habits lead to your overall happiness and those that cause suffering. Over time you start to notice even the small things you accomplish each day that you previously took for granted.

Take Responsibility, Take Back Your Power

One of the most imperative habits to observe in the reflection process is your reaction to circumstances. Often we think “responsibility” is just another obligation, but in reality, it is the key to resuming personal power.

People experience a diverse range of experiences from small and annoying up to devastating things every day around the world. There is not always a clear answer or explanation that justifies these painful occurrences or actions, even the fact that what to one person may be small, may have a huge impact on a different person. 

It’s not uncommon to experience an underlying turmoil, which rages through your being for years, due to fruitless attempts to make sense of it all. We all to easily hold on pain, anger or regret, but when we do so, we become victims who feel stuck or like failures. 

If you allow it, these defining events can drain your hope and your passion. To escape this trap we need to see that we indeed have a choice. Although in the midst of despair or frustration over life’s injustices, it may seem preposterous, I ask you to consider the possibility that various events do not happen to you, but for you. Reframing your circumstances can be immensely freeing. 

By seeing things from a new or different viewpoint, your entire life to shift. A Happiness Planner (or gratitude journal) actively support us in seeing life events differently. 

If this concept is curious to you, you might enjoy the book, Change Your Mind And Your Life Will Follow: 12 Simple Principles, by best-selling author Karen Casey. In this book, she offers some of the best practical tools available for managing your responses to obstacles. Her pragmatic advice will open your mind and affirm that you can thrive, no matter what your environment. 

Where Your Mind Goes, Your Energy Flows

Indeed, something magical and transformative happens when you actively build self-awareness of your life journey within the pages of a Happiness Planner. As you consciously direct your concentration towards the silver linings in the clouds and to the celebration of small victories, you’ll realize that there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your best life. 

That which once seemed a distant dream or totally unrealistic becomes possible.  

As you learn how to own and manage the idea that everything happens for you, you acquire freedom. No longer in bondage or a victim of your circumstances, you will experience more peace, seeing that instead of obstacles, your life is now filled with opportunities that deliver a greater sense of satisfaction to your life experience. 

Your Road To Happiness Begins With a Journal

Journaling and reflection exercises help you pinpoint what thoughts, actions, and habits serve you and which ones you need to let go of. What fills you up and gives you a zest for life is unique to you. You may not experience the same exhilarating sensation from a dripping hot and sweaty yoga class that I do. You may find yourself crawling through the steam to the door two minutes in, and that is okay. Each of us is unique and your experience of joy will be different than mine, or than that of your best friend, your mom or even your daughter. 

Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages journals and practice have been used for over 20 years and are still a best seller on Amazon, precisely because journaling is so important, not only to artists but for all of us. 

Selfcare is not about dedicating hours a week to facials and massages. It’s about taking notice of the little things that make YOU tick. You may feel energized by baking a batch of [healthy or unhealthy] breakfast muffins or listening to a classical playlist at the office. You may feel fully recharged after a chat with your mom, or a wine night out with the girls. If you don’t know what brings you joy, then experiment with the new; join a book club, take a photography class, or travel somewhere you’ve never been.

Adding varied activities into your planner will prove highly beneficial when it comes to outlining your happiness roadmap. If you encounter a twinge of joy, make a note, and before you know it, you will start to understand why and how you are wonderfully unique. This process of reflection can take time, so don’t give up if you don’t have answers overnight, but rest assured that it is through self-awareness that self-compassion and real, solid, self-care develop. 

As you continue on the journey with your journal or day planner in hand, one almost perfect day rolls into an awesome week, which merges into your best year yet. Be patient with yourself and celebrate you, celebrate the journey, and celebrate even the tiniest hint of progress.

Core Values, Beliefs, and Goals  

Even if you’ve never set a goal in your life or your good intentions typically remain in the idea phase, setting goals is an imperative part of your happiness journey. Whether you realize or not, you’ve already accomplished things to be proud of. Have you quit smoking, or switched from sugary soda to bubbly water? Did you finally muster up the courage to say ‘No’ when you were asked to volunteer for the fifth consecutive year as Treasurer of the Board? Those decisions honor self and develop integrity. You learn to trust that guiding voice within.

Before you contemplate your goals, it is crucial that you decide what is important to you. Take the time to identify your core values and definition of success. Would you like to be heart-healthy for your family, or would you like a six-pack? Does making three million dollars in profits next year stir your excitement, or does the idea of publishing a short story light you up? 

Forget society’s ideals and the ‘I shoulds’. Those standards are not always in alignment with what you seek and you will set yourself up for failure. Determine your own vision of happiness and compose your list from this point.

Are Goals Really Necessary?

You’ve got this far in life without goals, so why bother with the list? The wide range of benefits that accompany the process of goal setting will surprise you. 

Regularly reviewing taking daily action towards your goals focuses your attention on what you are passionate about. When your thoughts are on the things that ignite your soul, you tend to be a happier person. With each milestone that is achieved, your confidence receives a boost. As you encounter setbacks and hardships, but continue to strive for success, you stay motivated and positive during the trials that will undoubtedly arise. This creates the assurance that you have what it takes to push through. 

Goals help you to hone your inner compass and to achieve what matters most to you. In a world that is inundated with distractions, dazzling opportunities in the form of a new position or project can take your eye off the prize. When you have a concrete goal on paper, you can ask yourself, ‘Is this opportunity going to take me closer or farther away from goal?’

Most importantly, having a purpose in life, a burning desire within your heart, gives you the inspiration to live purposefully, ultimately leading to your best life. Research has shown that a brain that is continually stimulated and challenged results in a more enlivened, dynamic lifestyle.

Setting SMART+ Goals

When sitting down to write what your aspirations for each area of your life, the acronym SMART offers a helpful guideline to follow. 

S – Specific. If the goal is too general – I want to be healthy – it will not be clear enough to motivate you to continue. Add defined actions and even a picture of your ideal outcome. For example, you might write down, I will work out three times a week for forty-five minutes and drink eight glasses of water a day for ninety days. Your mind has conceived a clear plan and you know exactly what you have to do to work towards your health objectives. 

M – Measurable. By including a definite target, you give yourself measurable steps so that you can celebrate milestones and small achievements along the way. If your goal is to open a wellness center, start with your business plan. Then come the location and interior design. Next, you would hire staff and finally your inauguration date. It is a timeline of tangible deliverables. 

A – Attainable. Are you truly willing to do what it takes to achieve your goal? If running a marathon is on your list, decide and commit to a training schedule that is required to be able to complete it.

R – Relevant. Take into account an appropriate timeline and consider if the goal is realistic. You may have to analyze and reshape your goal along the way based on the resources and the experience you have. You may have miscalculated a reasonable timeline because of a misstep or a problem you could not foresee. Adjust, but don’t give up!

T – Time-bound. Goals are not meant to be comfortable but push the boundaries of your comfort zone. They test and refine your true character. Be realistic, but put a date on your goal that will require you to rise up. If you recall, diamonds are created under pressure. The longer you wait, the less chance you have at succeeding. There is never a perfect time to start. Take time to map it out, but don’t be afraid to dive in. Your future self will thank you for it!

+ Accountable. What is your accountability plan? A friend? Your partner? A bullet-journal? A life coach? An accountability partner? Personally, I use a mix of all three. In fact, my accountability partner and I just celebrated our 2 year anniversary! We’ve never even met in person, but we message nearly every day via Whatsapp and this relationship has certainly helped me stay accountable to myself. I also leverage a personal coach and my planner.

These are real life pictures of my 2019 and 2020 planners. The pre-made one didn’t suit me perfectly as it restricted my creativity. I love the freedom of the dotted bullet journals. Whatever fits your style, use it! 

Choosing The Right Happiness Planner

With dozens of attractive Happiness Planners on Amazon alone, how do you know which one is right for you? Some are simple happiness diaries, while others are all-encompassing workbook-type agendas. In addition to happiness journals, there are 100-day planners, which aim to establish positive habits and lifestyles. Perhaps you would like to begin with the basics and work your way up to an immersive experience. 

For 2019 I used a premade planner called the Day Designer

For 2020 I’ve decided to design my own with a simple dotted bullet journal. 

Like any other product, it is important to read the happiness planner reviews to evaluate which features and added bonuses you think will generate the best results for you. If you are totally new to the idea, you might best go for a premade happiness and task planner like a Panda Planner (even the name makes you happy). 

Of course, you can create your own happiness journal. Simply getting your words on paper, setting goals and reflecting on your day is a healthy step towards becoming better acquainted with your highest self. However, if you want to take this journey one step further, each page of a Happiness Planner has been carefully curated to propel you beyond your limiting beliefs and your emotional safe zones. 

Think of it as using a personal trainer versus going to a gym and working out on your own. Most of us won’t push through an extra five reps when our arms are on fire, without someone nudging us on. Plus, a personal trainer is an expert at mixing up the workouts, which keeps things fresh and interesting. Unlike the mundane gym regimes, we fall into when we endeavor to get fit on our own. 

This is also one reason you might also want to hire a coach — we help you to stay accountable, build your self-awareness and get you to where you want to be faster. Curious to know more? Schedule a free “curiosity call” with me today. 

One thing is for certain, no matter which planner you choose, you are on the right track to unlocking the secrets to your potential and to your ultimate fulfillment. Change is never easy, but a Happiness Planner makes the process a joyful one. By planning your life one journal entry at a time, you plan for success and happiness. 

The life of your dreams may be just one-page turn and a colorful doodle away.

Can Knowing my Strengths Really Help me to live a better life?

Can Knowing my Strengths Really Help me to live a better life?

Can Knowing my Strengths Really Help me to live a better life?

Knowing your strengths gives you insight into how you work and certain tasks come easy, while others rub you the wrong way.

From the perspective of a job search, career planning or even mapping out a career calling, the greatest gift strengths spotting gives you is self-awareness and the ability to craft a value proposition that is attractive to your ideal employer or client.

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Often times we think of our strengths only from the point of view of our concrete education, skills and experiences. However, our most powerful strengths tend to relate directly back to our natural talents; you may not need a significant amount of skill or training to excel at something that is a natural talent. [Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put in the effort!]

Your natural strengths illuminate why you end up enjoying certain tasks more than others or why a certain activity might be supper easy whereas it’s a real headache for other folks. Understanding your strengths allows you to leverage them to create a career you love. 

When I leverage my knowledge of strengths to write a resume or LinkedIn profile, my clients often tell me things like: “Reading this is like looking in the mirror!” or “I feel like a new person, confident in what I can do!” 

Insert Awareness Image

Building Awareness from Strengths

In general, knowledge of our natural talents or strengths creates three crucial areas of awareness critical to career success.


The first is the perspective. Sometimes we have a strength that someone around us sees as a weakness or that they simply don’t understand. From this person’s perspective, often a parent or teacher, you are weird or your “strength” is an anomaly that needs fixing. 

For example, I worked with a client on the autistic spectrum with a strengths in deliberation, analytical and intellection. He’d been underemployed from age 18 to 25 and some people in his past had perceived his ability to focus on solving a problem as extreme — however his dream job was in cybersecurity and he turned out to be the perfect candidate. 

When he got the job, I as the coach got a lot of praise, but the reality is that the client was the perfect fit for his ideal job. What I did is provide him the opportunity to see his personality and interests as strengths and from a new perspective, which gave him the confidence to go after the job he wanted. He went from really feeling down on himself and his potential, to finding a dream career, simply by seeing his talents in a new light. 

Another common mistake that I see clients make is to assume that because a particular strength comes to them so easily — they assume is meaningless or not important. For example, a software engineer that excels at understanding abstract concepts and connecting the dots to create a new solution might not appreciate her skill; however, her peers may have to take multiple steps to grasp an idea she grasped instantaneously. Just because YOU think something is easy, doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. And if it is easy for you and you enjoy it — then you need to make this known to your ideal employer! 

Once you know your strengths you can appreciate your uniques combination of talents as a gift, which empowers you to intentionally leverage these to create a life and a career you love!


The ultimate result of seeing our natural talents in a new perspective is the gift of confidence. 

Say you have a strength in strategy. You always see the big picture and come up with solutions, but you doubt your abilities because you think you don’t have enough “experience” or “education” or something else. 

When you read the profile for “strategic” you suddenly see that you’ve got something other people don’t have; this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on becoming an expert in your field, but it can give you the confidence to speak up for the patterns and the solutions that you see today. 

Recognizing that you are good at something and that you enjoy it is crucial to finding work you love — if you can demonstrate both confidence and joy in what you do — your ideal employer or clients will be knocking down your door to get you. 

Sharing your talents with the world is generous. Keeping it hidden is stingy. 


Yes. I believe you should enjoy your work. Perspective and confidence work together to deliver you work that you enjoy. And when you enjoy your work you feel joy. Why? Because when you find work that is both appealing to you and that you are good at you can find work that gives you the right mix of “challenge + skill” and this leads to experiencing flow. 

Think about times in your life that you’ve gotten lost in your work or another activity. When you get so engrossed in an activity (not sleep, or Netflix, mind you) that you forget time — this is called flow. And periodic experiences of flow lead to higher rates of satisfaction at work. 

Which brings us back to perspective — sometimes when we have a skilled at a particular line of work it results in promotion after promotion until one day you find yourself in a leadership-seat. 

For some people, this is great, because although they are good engineers or teachers or whatever, they also love to lead, to manage communication and to look at the big picture. 

But for others, it’s awful. 

Earlier this year I worked with a mechanical engineer who’d spent the last three years in management. He was drained and bored. He wanted his old job back and yet every time he applied for a job, he’d get told by the recruiters and hiring managers kept telling him he was “overqualified.” 

My solution? Together we went over his strengths and his goals and we constructed a new professional narrative. His new resume emphasized that he understands how to communicate with and support management, but that he is an engineer at heart. He got a successful bite on his first application with this new resume and in a few months found himself able to move back into a hands-on engineering position that brings him JOY and the opportunity to experience flow. 

He also understands himself better now and so the next time a management position comes knocking, he won’t necessarily feel obliged to take it. He will be prepared to negotiate for a position that fits his strengths and needs. 


There are a few different ways to uncover your strengths. I like to use a few different methods with my clients. 

  • Strengths Spotting
  • Strengths Story
  • GallupStrengths 2.0

When used together these three exercises provide a 360 vision of what you are naturally good at, what you enjoy, and what your peers and managers see as your strengths. Together they give you a platform to cultivate the perspective, confidence, and joy discussed in the previous section. 

Strengths 2.0

On the Gallups Strengths Center website they say this: 

“Each CliftonStrengths theme sorts into one of four domains. These domains describe how people and teams use their talents to work with information, make things happen, influence others and build relationships.”

If you’ve taken the [Gallup] CliftonStrengths test before, there is a good chance that you did it at work, because knowing an employee’s strengths has shown to lead to increased workplace engagement.

As an employee, if you know and understand your strengths, you can direct yourself to work in which you readily engage, maintain your motivation, and grow. If your boss or co-workers know your strengths (and their own) you can work together to optimize everyone’s contributions, increase engagement, collaboration and teamwork.

Why is this important:

Positive self-awareness through focusing on our strengths — what we do well — is a huge boost for our self-confidence. We naturally tend to focus on our weaknesses as a guide to what we cannot do or what we should do better. Knowing our natural talents gives us the vocabulary to describe what we do and the inner strength to embrace it.

Let’s use a sailboat analogy: If your professional self as a sailboat, your weaknesses might be compared to small leaks. You need to be aware of fill the leak(s), but if you put all your focus on the leaks, if you forget to put up your sail (your strengths) you’ll never get anywhere!

As is true with our character strengths, needs, and values, skill strengths and values also often overlap. If we value the skill of judgment and consideration, we may very well have strengths in intellection, analytical or strategic. You can think of your Strengths as your way of “doing” and your values as reflective of your way of “being.”

The best way to find our way of “Doing” is to take the Gallup Strengths Finder.

If you can find a hard copy (new) locally, I recommend doing so, as it’s fun and informative to flip through and read the book now and in the future.

You can also order a hard copy or Kindle* edition of Strengths 2.0 on Amazon or at your local book store; don’t buy a used copy as you will want the one-time ACCESS code include in the book to access the test. 

*If you order the Kindle version they will email your access code to the email associated with your Kindle. Make sure to watch your email and request a refund if you don’t receive it in 24-hours or less — it should be sent within a few minutes of your purchase! 

The standard report that comes with your book purchase is all you need to learn from your results. I do not recommend purchasing the more expensive reports as they can be a challenge to interpret without a full coaching session dedicated to the Strengths-Finder. For your purpose and mine, the standard results provide exactly the insight and information we need to tell your story! 

Disclaimer: The above Amazon link is an affiliate link, which means that I will get a portion of the sale. I do not have any other affiliation with Gallup. I use this test because it is informative and highly useful.  

Finding Your Purpose

My Story

My strengths combine together to create an entrepreneurial profile and a mentor or coach profile (surprise!). I am strong on strategy and easily connect the dots, find solutions and understand how to make things better. I am an individualizer and a maximizer. I naturally see what is right and what might be done better. I am strong in communication and discovering a clear understanding of how each individual works. 

In my twenties, I tended to “hop” jobs every 9 to 18 months as I got bored quickly. I’d start out loving a job, but once I’d learned all there was to know, improved a few systems, hired new and better employees, updated training manuals and had everything running smoothly I found myself bored and ready for a new challenge. 

I thought there was something wrong with me. My parents thought I was wishy-washy. 

My parents just wanted me to get a job and stick with it, so they could be confident that I was financially safe and secure. And then I did the Strengths Finder and I realized I needed a job that continued to present me with challenges. I went back to school to work on a master’s degree and got a job as the Executive Director of an International Nonprofit. 


That job was amazing. From the day I walked in the door, there were problems to solve, relationships to cultivate and nurture. Every day was new and different. I could have stayed in that job for years, had I not had to make a value-based decision to follow my husband to Europe (I couldn’t take my job with me). 


Knowing my strengths and understanding my values has been incredibly powerful because together they give me purpose. Whether it’s working with an NGO or as a career coach, I thrive when I get to help others succeed. Connecting the dots, asking powerful questions, supporting people to find confidence and joy in what they do thrills me. 

In the end, combining my strengths and my values, I am purpose-driven. 

How Can Strengths Help You Tell YOUR Story?


Whether you find your life purpose on your own or with the help of a career coach — you will find a deeper meaning in your work. You will feel empowered to choose your path and you will find that many responsibilities in your life now bring you either a greater sense of joy or you find it easier to say “no” to things that do not serve your purpose. 


The US Department of Labor has been tracking employee engagement for nearly 20 years and for the last 5 or so, LinkedIn has gotten involved. I won’t bore you with the precise numbers, but what they’ve found is that a good 60 to 80% of employees are not engaged at work. Worldwide Gallup makes the claim that only 13% of employees are engaged — as in 87% might jump ship at any moment for a better opportunity. 


And they are not particularly happy — they live for the weekends — and for their life outside work. As someone who has connected my life purpose to my work as a career coach, these results make me sad. However, they also inspire me to help people like you understand how to find and negotiate for a work situation that you love. 


Indeed, I find hope in their findings that employers who support employees in leveraging their strengths and job seekers who seek jobs aligned with their strengths fall into the category of ENGAGED and HAPPY employees. 


And so, the biggest gift you can give yourself in learning and understanding your strengths is that it can help you turn your job into a career you love and possibly even a calling. If we spend most of our waking hours at work, then we should enjoy and even love our work. 

Life Purpose and Career Coach


The connection between knowing our values (read this) and leveraging them alongside our strengths, is a foundational part of why I am a career coach. If you’d asked me at age 20 if I’d be a Career Coach at age 40, I would have laughed. This is because old school career counseling tried to put people in boxes. 


For example, it’s possible that towards the end of high school someone asked you to take a career survey that gave you report about possible fields fo work that you might enjoy. 


 RIASEC codes or Holland codes were created by a psychologist named John Holland. Supposedly these codes use your personality or psychological profile to tell you what type of job you might enjoy. What they fail to do is to address your values or your strengths. They try to put people in boxes and as a teen, they confused me terribly.


My RIASEC is Social Enterprising Investigative (SEI) and I’ve got my old tests in which they said I’d be a good Forest Ranger, Nurse or Attorney.  What? Sure, I love camping and nature, I like to help people and I love a good argument, but every time I tried to throw myself into one of these careers, I came up short. I had ZERO desire.


I was also confused by these tests, because the careers that did drive me, didn’t show up on my test (anthropologist, aerospace engineer or urban planner). I ended up studying anthropology and urban planning remains a hobby (in my dream world). 


Long story short — if you went to university to study one subject, but ended up in a totally different career or ended up bored, frustrated or un-engaged, don’t give up on career coaching. It’s just likely that you got a career coach who tried to label you. 


What I do as a career coach is to help you to understand what makes you tick, so that you can align your goals and career with work that inspires you and then I give you the skills to ask for the salary and benefits you need. 

Career of Life


Many career coaches, such as myself, say that we do ‘purpose coaching’ or ‘strengths-coaching.” As you can likely guess by now, this means we use surveys of values, strengths, needs, and interests to help you answer your own career goals. We won’t put you in a box. Frankly, each profession can have a wide variety of psychological profiles, and in fact, it is your strengths profile that dictates your success sometimes more than your “social” profile. 


Extroverts and introverts can excel in the same jobs for totally different reasons. The crucial component of your success at work is that what you do brings you personally a sense of meaning and purpose. We are happy at work when we feel useful. When we see that we accomplished something. When we get the opportunity to get lost in the “flow” of the moment. 


So, don’t let an old test like the MBTI or the Strong Inventory or your Holland Codes, put you in a BOX. Your life work potential is in your hands and knowing your strengths and your values, what you want and need from your work and your life, is what can bring you confidence and feelings of success. 


And so, if you are ready to ditch your fear of failure at work. Or overcome a fear of success (yes, that is a thing) then I invite you to find out about your values and your strengths. To even create a vision board for your ideal life and career. 


Insert becoming ou image

BECOMING YOU: Frame it and Claim It


As a purpose coach, as a life coach, as a career coach, I invite you to BECOME YOU. Liz Ryan, one of my mentors in the career coaching world says of your work history and your professional narrative “Frame it and claim it.” 


What she means is that you are uniquely you and that is what makes you an awesome employee. If you know your strengths and you are confident in your skills, then you can do whatever it is you believe you can do. And when we do things with confidence and joy, when our values are aligned with those of our company or our clients we feel alive. 


When we feel alive at work, we do good work. When we love our work, we are motivated to set goals, to achieve, to do more, and to recognize our own success. When this happens we’ve mastered the art of self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-care. We know what we need, what we want and what we can do. 


When we make a mistake or fail, we know that at least we tried, and we treat it as a learning experience. All this is part of becoming you. And you are the only person that YOU need to be!


Did this article you answers or did it raise questions?


Perhaps you are now wondering if you should quit your job or find a new career? 


If that’s the case you can take this quiz on Power to Fly. Should I quit my Job? 


Or you might read the book “What Color is My Parachute.”


Additional Recommended Reading


If this article has raised questions that you cannot answer simply by knowing your strengths you may wish to engage a career and human potential coach. Or you might benefit from doing some self-guided coaching and exploration. 

The classic book What Color is Your Parachute is useful for folks at the start of their career and those doing career pivots. It’s recommended reading from many retired military veterans and to those who simply feel “blah” about their current work situation. If you’ve done the work on clarifying your values and your strengths, but you are still unsure what career is right for you, check out this book.

Do you understand the magic in knowing and living your values?

Do you understand the magic in knowing and living your values?

If you cringe or wonder what’s up when you hear phrases like “value-driven”  or “live your values” you are not alone. 

For many years I ran away from the term “values” because I associated it with a political group from my childhood. That group used values to judge and condemn. They attempted to use their proclaimed values to disempower individuals with a different worldview. 

Today my skin still crawls a bit when I *ask* people about their values because I am afraid they might think I am going to judge. But I ask anyway because as I career coach I know that understanding and living our values is a highly personal endeavor that gives individuals agency and helps them to live a life they love. 

Knowing your values means that instead of forcing your worldview on anyone else you live your own values. Knowing your values means that instead of living someone else’s values, you live your own. 

Why is this important? Because when we let outside influences dictate our values we get stuck. We feel yucky, we lose our motivation and most of all, we lose our power to act according to our own internal compass. This increases feelings of discontent, stress, and anxiety. Values hit us at our core. This is why they are often called CORE values. And knowing them makes it easier to live our lives and make choices that work for us.

Values guide us and diminish our fear of deciding what needs to be done.

The Importance of Core Values

Core values drive our decision making and are intrinsically tied to the so-called “gut feeling.” When take an action or make a choice that is not aligned with our values, we get that dreaded sinking feeling, which over time can build into stress and anxiety. 

Working against our core values leads to problems at home and at work. Finding clarity about our values is so important because when we understand what we value and why it suddenly empowers our decision-making process. 

Values-based decisions are choices that empower us to do what we believe is best. The greatest personal achievements, the most wonderful feelings of accomplishment, and the best intrinsic motivation come from intrinsically motivated actions. 

Sometimes making values-based choices, even if they are not our “first” choice so to say, makes it totally possible to embrace the choice, because we understand why we are doing it. Values-based choices take us from feeling like we are “sacrificing” or being a “martyr” to understanding that we are in control and falling our chosen path because we value the outcome.

Core values drive our decision making. If we know what we value making a decision becomes a choice and we are empowered to do what we believe is best. The greatest personal achievements, the most wonderful feelings of accomplishment, and the best intrinsic motivation come from intrinsically motivated actions. 

The Oxford Online Dictionary gives the following definitions of intrinsic and extrinsic:


Belonging naturally; essential.


Not part of the essential nature of someone or something; coming or operating from outside.

Values for our purpose refers to principles and standards of behavior — what is important to you in your life. How you show up for others and how you hope they will show up for you. You can see with the definition of intrinsic and extrinsic, that if we want to feel and live authentically, our values should ideally be intrinsically motivated. 

As a career coach, I call these our CORE values. There are several exercises that we use in the coaching world to help people identify their core values. I like to use this Values PDF from Brene Brown’s Book Dare to Lead. If you’ve never done a values survey, I’d suggest setting aside 10 or 20 minutes to do so right now or when you finish this article.

Instructions: Complete your own Values Survey using Brene Brown’s PDF with this exercise. 

Stop “Shoulding” on yourself. 

Once you’ve completed the values exercise you can continue to use this process in your life. If you feel overcommitted and stuck or if you are having trouble with a particular decision or task try reframing it by switching up your language.

Which is more empowering?

I must bake a hundred cookies for the bake sale because as a good mom I should show that I care about the school. I have to bake these cookies tonight or I will look bad. I won’t get enough sleep, which stresses me out and I might wake up late and be rushed in the morning. I am already frazzled because when I wake up late I yell at the kids and we are all late.


I need to say no to baking a hundred cookies for the bake sale because as a good mom I value the time that I have and so I chose to go to bed early tonight so I can get a good night’s rest and wake-up on time to get my kids to school and me to work in the morning without being stressed, rushed or yelling at my kids.


I love to bake cookies and so I choose to stay up late tonight because I enjoy participating in my kids’ bake sale and I value making this kind of contribution. I know that this is my choice and so even though I may not get all the sleep I need, I will not be stressed in the morning, because I’ve already let my boss know that I’ll be 20 or 30 minutes late. This means that I can take the time I need to get the kids and cookies to school without being stressed or angry.

I must versus I need

I should versus I value

I have to versus I choose to 

Here is another example — I want to improve my health by exercising more. 

I must get up at 6 AM to exercise because my doctor told me I should. Remind me to set my alarm because I have to get up at 6 AM! And, then I feel like a sloth because I sleep in. 


I need to get up at 6 AM to exercise because my health is important to me. I value my health, therefore, I chose to get up at 6 AM to exercise. And, I do. 

 See the difference? Feel the difference? 

In positive psychology, we call this “stop shoulding” on yourself, because when you should all over you tend to end up feeling pretty shitty. When we feel shitty it tends to build and then we feel bad all around for not living up to our own expectations and also our perceived expectations of those around us. We think we let ourselves and everyone else down all the time when we “should on ourselves.”

Getting clear on your values and then using this to reframe the actions and activities that you take in your life allows you to be authentic to yourself and to the people that mean the most to you. Knowing your values alters your worldview and frees you up to love more and live better.


Humans are meaning-making machines. 

Wherever we grow up; however, we grow up, we attribute meaning to the language and actions of those around us. We grow with the rules and expectations of our local culture. Sometimes the culture and rules we experience at home are different from what we get when we leave the house; sometimes we move regions and have to adapt to new rules and ways of doing things. 

One of the things you will notice about most publicly successful people and even privately successful people is that as they grow up they tend to exude confidence. Where does that confidence come from?

A big part is having a clear values system backed up by an active and conscious worldview. Conscious is crucial, because you already live your life with a worldview, it’s the being intentional about it that empowers us to live a life aligned with our values.

Your worldviews is a mix of what you’ve learned and what your mind, heart, and gut tell you is right. It’s the foundation for how you make choices and what lets your mind play mental gymnastics without anxiety or guilt. 

A strong worldview will let you know when you need to do the right thing for the wrong reason; or when maybe you should actually do the wrong thing for the right reason. For example, sometimes the best thing we can do is to tell someone “no.” Saying no can be a gift, in the same way, that discipline is love. 

Your core values are the foundation of your worldview. But there is another important component that varies for each of us and that even changes over our life. These are our character strengths — what we value in ourselves and others. Things like gratitude and an appreciation of beauty, or spirituality or honesty. 

When I work with coaching clients one of the first things I ask them to do is to take the VIA Character Strengths survey. 

VIA Characters Strengths

The survey and the basic results are free, so this test is accessible to anyone reading this article online. You can pay for a more detailed report, but for our purposes today, I don’t find that to be necessary. 

Here is the link to the VIA Character Strengths Survey and my career coaching exercises.

Once you have your results you can put them to use two different ways. 

Your Unique Values

This is how you show up in the world. If you are someone who always notices and fights against the inequities in the world then “Fairness” may be a top strength for you. The VIA report will highlight your top 6 strengths, but give you a list of all 24 in descending order. 

The last strength on your list is not necessarily an indicator that you don’t value or are “bad” at this strength. What it indicates is that it is not as important to you in how you live your life as your top strength. 

For example, I admire and value spirituality, but I’ve not been raised with a strong spiritual practice and I have never made it a priority in my life. Spirituality is one of my “last” strengths. 

On the flip side, my life has been defined by a search for beauty and excellence. I’ve had to “recover” from perfectionism and I am truly bothered by ugly things and places. My number one top strength? “Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence.” This is why my office is my personal oasis, why I always keep houseplants and adore flowers. If I could live in a Japanese botanical garden, I would! 

What you look for in others and the world

Your VIA strengths are also useful for you in looking out for what you value in a place of work or in a company that you do business with. If your workplace is in conflict with what you value, you will always fill at a disadvantage. 

If our CORE values as discussed in part one are our principles and standards. Our Character Strengths reflect our ideals and requirements for the world in which we live. If we do not recognize the importance of both types of values in our life, if we do not own what is important to us by creating and defining our worldview, we will always be wondering why something doesn’t feel right. 

This right here is one of the reasons that journaling and meditation can be such powerful tools. 

When we write in a journal we are safe from the influence and judgment of others and we can work through things like our values. The following questions are things that you might wish to journal about or think of during a time of meditation or quiet reflection. 

I recommend journaling for two reasons. The first is the physical act of writing with a pen on paper activates areas of the brain that deal with healing and processing. Writing is more than thinking — it can actually help you work through ideas and formulate or reformulate your world view. 

Maybe we need to change the phrase “Laughter is the best medicine” to “Laughter and handwriting are the best medicine!” 

Journaling Prompts

Given my top 6 VIA strengths — am I surprised? How do they align with my current priorities in life? Do I want to change anything? If so, why or what?

What brings me feelings of peacefulness?

What causes me to feel joy? 

How do I feel right at this moment?

What is causing me stress right now?

What makes me feel alive?

If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing, what would it be?

What do I need to feel safe or secure?

Why do I worry about _________? What about this is important to me?

Over a single sitting or several weeks try journaling and meditating on your character strengths and core values. Write them down and think about how they show up in your life. 

Notice during your daily activities how and when you experience different emotions, such as anger, joy or guilt dependent on the interplay of your values and what happens in life. 

Notice if certain activities, people or places particularly energize you or drain you. Then take some time to think about the world view you’ve been living with and maybe how you’d like to adapt it to match your core values and strengths. Doing so should be intrinsically motivating and may even cause you to feel elated and or deep joy and gratitude. 

Notice how clarifying your worldview simplifies your life and makes taking choices easier. 

How Values Show up in our Work

In the workplace, real equality means valuing family just as much as work, and understanding that the two reinforce each other. As a leader and as a manager, I have always acted on the mantra, if family comes first, work does not come second — life comes together. If you work for me, and you have a family issue, I expect you to attend to it, and I am confident, and my confidence has always been borne out, that the work will get done, and done better.

Anne-Marie Slaughter

When looking for work we need to live our values. We also need companies that value what we value. When it comes to men and women in the workplace, equality doesn’t mean valuing women on male terms, it means valuing each person’s unique life choices.

Families are important. Parents are important. Partners are important. Life. Work. Purpose. Everything is interconnected.

Meaningful work is important. Demeaning and soulless workplaces literally kill us. They increase our stress and cortisone levels. They create apathy and reduce engagement.

If you are unhappy in your current job you can do two things. You can try to reframe your current work and position so that you enjoy it more. You might do this by talking openly with your manager about what is working and what is not. You might ask for a special project or a promotion, you might ask to move laterally or even go back to a previous position.

If that doesn’t work then you might need to create a plan to find a new job. Maybe you need to pivot. Maybe you need to completely switch gears. Maybe you want to upskill and go back to school or get a certificate.

Whatever you do, first get clear about your values, your strengths, and your interests. Make sure that if you invest the time in creating a new future that it’s a future aligned with the direction you want to go. Make your move a choice and you will be empowered to create your own success.

Once you are clear about your values, make sure the companies you target also have clear values. If you are going to walk your walk; the expect the same from your employer. This article on Power to Fly about Zapier’s company values is a great example of two companies that have clear values and that live their values.

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; it's choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
Be a SuperWoman: Live Your Values

Be a SuperWoman: Live your Values

See the difference? Knowing your values empowers you to live the life of your choosing. It simplifies your decision-making process and facilitates intrinsic motivation. Pushing your values on someone else is also likely to fail, so understanding the values of those around you is an important step to building empathy and direct communication.

I start nearly all my coaching relationships with a values survey because self-awareness is the foundation for building a life you love. 

If you can only do one thing today towards building yourself a more satisfying and resilient future — that thing should be thinking about and identifying your core values. 

You might even call your Core Values your personal Holy Grail. 

Recommended Reading

One of my first ventures into values and how they apply to our daily life is the book the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

The book discusses essentially “four agreements” we make with ourselves to live happier, fuller and more authentic lives.

In a nutshell, you might say that Ruiz teaches us to know ourselves and our values. This self-awareness facilitates action and clarity in regards to what you want. Speaking with authenticity and truth, not doing harm with your language, including avoiding gossip or making assumptions becomes easier.

The result is that you have more respect for yourself and for others — you engage in less argument for the sake of argument. And you find more success in all you do, more satisfaction and happiness in your life and your relationships. 

The Four Agreements. Read it. 

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