A study by Dr Gail Matthews, a Psychology Professor at Dominican University of California, demonstrated that writing down your goals increases the odds of success by 42%.

My first job after graduating was glorified tea maker to a chain-smoking boss whose favourite word when he spoke to me was, “error”. The job of “Consultant” had somewhat been mis-sold to me and I should have known having seen the smoke-filled room, the ashtray piled high and the confined space littered with used teabags. However, I took the job and should have left immediately but for various reasons, didn’t.

My boss, let’s call him Harry, would stand over my shoulder as he dictated his letters and shouted “error” every time I made a grammatical mistake. It was every other sentence and hugely soul-destroying as ironically, I harboured dreams of being a writer.

However, no job in my career history propelled me like this one. Weirdly, when I feel confined, there is space to dream and one day, when he was at a client meeting, I took out a piece of paper from the printer tray and wrote down my goals. It went something like this:

* I am a best-selling novelist

* My books are translated internationally

* I write films and plays

* I have my own consultancy where imagination and creativity are at the centre of what I do

And so it went on……

I folded the piece of paper and put it in the book that had inspired this process (Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People — the chapter on Beginning with the end in mind). Very recently, whilst moving house, I came across that list written over twenty years ago, I slowly unfolded it and read it. Pretty much everything had materialised.

Dr Gail in her study, suggests not just writing goals, but committing to goal-directed actions, and also, creating accountability for those actions.

I would add:

  • Describe them in full technicolour, detailing how it will make you feel.
  • Take Action. HUGE if possible (perhaps don’t create a double life). Huge action shows commitment and will get you to where you want to go faster.
  • Journal out your your fears and doubts. When you put them on the page, they are less scary and surmountable. Journaling also allows access to your subcounscious mind — your biggest ally.

 

I had lost my voice. By this, I mean the little voice that used to be my GPS, the one that would tell me to turn left instead of right. It had been my constant companion who had gotten me out of many a sticky situation. Then one day, like a neglected lover, it upped and left. No note, nothing.

To tell you the truth, at first I didn’t even notice. I was busy constructing a Fakebook narrative, looking good in the outer-world, seeking validation in the number of likes and generally losing myself in other voices.

Despite the noise, it all felt quite empty. I missed my voice, the one who did not follow, the one who would say, “This is the way, let’s go,” and then proceed to take me on all sorts of crazy adventures. So, I went in search of it.

Here’s what I learnt in the year of finding my voice:
Turn off the noise, even for a day. Whatever your method of distraction: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Insta…..turn it off.
Don’t seek validation from other people — even the “experts”. Your path is unique. No one else can possibly know the exquisite alchemy that makes you unique.
Still no voice? It is hiding — keeping score of the times you disregarded it, silenced it, betrayed it. Coax it back. How?

Sit and wait. Go for walks, write, tell it you are sorry and will do whatever it takes to listen.
Still no voice?

Be uncomfortable and wait some more.

Wait with a defiance that says you will not leave until it speaks to you.
And then, when it whispers: listen. Listen with fearless courage and go wherever it may want to take you….

startyourdream

I used to build rockets – metaphorical rockets. Some failed to launch, some exploded mid air, some lit up the sky and changed my whole world. Then, I stopped building them.

The reason was a series of events in a very short space of time: death, birth, marriage. I decided to keep myself safe. I no longer built rockets. I told myself that dreaming about the adventure was much better than the adventure itself. It was a lie. Safety kept me from taking risks, from disappointment, from failure.

If you are vested in your safety, you will have a heap of broken pieces with no universe to explore. Your world gets smaller and smaller and a part of you starts rusting. Eye rolling, a theatrical exhalation of breath and an inability to appreciate other rocket builders are some of the symptoms of rust.

You join the other side. You know, the ones who say it can’t be done. Nobody knows that you have joined the other side as it still all looks good on the outside.

The outside. Keeping the outside looking good requires a lot of work. Especially when you are not feeling like it. Keeping the outside looking good is done for other people.

I met a 62-year-old woman whose outside was pristine. Great family, friends, great life. For some reason, she invited me in. I mean really let me in and showed me the mess. She had hidden it from herself, from others. I sat there and listened to her tell the truth for the very first time.

The truth is amazing. It has the power to crack open any carefully constructed façade, to make you want to start again. This is what happened in our interaction. It made her want to change her life. It made me want to be braver in mine.

I wanted to share the part of her story that belongs to all of us, not just write it, or tell it, but book a theatre, perform it. No idea how to do the above.

Intention is hugely underrated. Intention is everything. I made an intention to build a rocket and explore the universe and that same universe began sending me parts to build to help complete it. I’m not sure how this works all I know is that you work diligently on building that rocket knowing that one day it will take off. It will.

If you build that rocket with conviction, the parts to needed to finish it come faster.

Now, what I’m not sure about is if the rocket will explode mid-air, or light up my world and help me see a bigger universe. It doesn’t matter. When I am 62, I want to be able to invite someone in and show them my dreams, the ones that have come to fruition and the broken ones that have made me stronger.

 

This is a story of not doing. Just playing. Not knowing where the road will lead, if anywhere….

The first thing you need to know about me is I am a doer. I make things happen. I gave up my job as a management consultant to publish my first book. It got rejected by every publisher so I set up a publishing company and PR company, gave myself various alter egos, hyped the novel under an alias, got it into the book charts and then signed a three book deal with HarperCollins. This was all whilst putting on a suit and pretending to go to work.

I then went on to set up a company that teaches leaders all over the world how to tell great stories. Seven years into it, I felt I had lost my edge.

I feared stopping. Just stopping. What would happen to the carefully constructed edifice that kept me so busy, kept everything so contained and controlled? Would it crumble and reveal someone who is not what they appeared to be.

So I stopped. I read, I walked. I had time to have lengthy conversations with people.

One day, I heard a story about a 62 year old woman who had created an extraordinary façade of happiness only to reveal that for her entire adult life she lived a parallel life in her imagination. Her story would not leave me so I began writing.

I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to buy a wig and glasses from ebay but one afternoon, I sat with them on and began to fictionalize her story and started to create a character just to see what it would feel like to play.

I’m not denying that there must have been some thought in my goal-oriented self that said, “I will put this play on.” However, at this point, this was not my intention. My intention was merely to give myself an opportunity to play and not feel guilty about it.

I signed up to an acting course which taught using the Meisner technique. It is all about being present and responding to what comes up honestly. After a few months, I asked the course Director if she thought I could play a 62 year old woman. She didn’t really answer the question but told me to just go away and learn the script. I thought, what a discipline to try and learn 50 pages.

Every day for three months I walked and learned lines. I would forget huge chunks and I thought that’s what we do with our lives, edit out the bits we don’t like and construct acceptable versions of ourselves. I would go over and over the lines I had forgotten and sometimes memories that I had long erased, came back to me. It was for me, an exercise in acceptance, presence and in simplicity. What are you doing these days?” People would ask.

“I am learning lines.”

“For what?”

“For learning lines.”

After I knew these lines backwards, I went back to the Director.

“Honestly, I didn’t think you would do it. Let’s put this show on.” She said.

It is an ongoing journey with the destination unknown. The carefully constructed edifice is exposed and I have found rooms in myself that I didn’t even know existed; some have been dark and scary. In others, I have found laughter. All I know is that windows have been opened and doors unlocked.

The show has been put in for festivals and has a life of its own and I have learnt that the places we fear exploring are perhaps the places that hold our greatest gifts.


Preethi Nair is performing her play, “Sari: The Whole Five Yards” at the Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden, London from 7–12th August.