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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.



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What is it that really stands between you and what you want for your life?

I recently had an epiphany. Life is short. Now before you roll your eyes and wonder how that overused phrase can move anyone, just stop for a moment and say that phrase three times. But don’t just say the words, each time emphasise a different word and each time really think about what you are saying.

Scary, isn’t it? So, now we all know that life is short. But what does that mean for you and for me, and what are we going to do about it?

For me, the epiphany was that it was the first time I really understood what those words mean - that if I don’t start right now, I don’t have much time to live the life I want.

What do You Want?

On the face of it, one of the toughest questions we must ask ourselves appears quite simple: what do you want?

I’ve always found it far easier to say what I don’t want than to articulate what I do - and therein lies the problem. If we are not clear about what we’re striving towards and what will give us satisfaction and contentment, we’ll probably succeed in not getting it.

But if, as we now accept after that little exercise, life is short, do we really have the luxury of wasting time in a fog of indecision and unclear thinking?

What do you dream about and what challenges you? These are two further questions we can use to help us determine what we want. Okay, I’ll go first. From when I was old enough to know what it meant, I knew I wanted to be a writer. What challenged me was the fear of trying and failing or of trying and not being good enough. Of course, those weren’t the excuses I put forward to myself; it was far easier to blame the demands of work, family life, and indeed any other ‘priority’ that I could dream up.

I know I’m not alone in this as I constantly meet people who tell me that they would like to write a book but find the idea fearful. Indeed, as Paul Coelho wrote in The Pilgrimage, “Have pity on those who are fearful of taking up a pen, or a paintbrush, or an instrument, or a tool because they are afraid that someone has already done so better than they could…”

So, I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to shift that roadblock and publish not one, but two novels. But being a writer doesn’t stop at that and my goal now is to continue writing and to publish the many stories I have swirling around my head.

What is it that really stands between you and what you want for your life?

Recognising Your Roadblocks

As an Executive Coach, my job is to help my clients clarify their goals and motivators, to identify the roadblocks between where they stand and where they want to be, and to use their strengths and navigate their weaknesses. It can also involve working with a client to identify the causes and triggers for their behaviour, often bringing to the surface a greater awareness of what they fear and giving them the courage to answer the questions ‘What do I want?’ and ‘What challenges me?’

What they often find out – as I did – is that what challenges us is quite often our own fear of failure. Many wise and successful people have spoken about overcoming this fear and what most resonates for me is what Steve Jobs said: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

Ironically, another roadblock that can be just as powerful is the fear of getting what you want. Think about the times you have sabotaged something just as it appears within your grasp; when your mind tells you that getting what you want might be more than you deserve or more than you can deal with?

Opportunity Knocks

But, life is short, and if you don’t take a chance on what you want, you will have squandered a precious opportunity. If you don’t remove the roadblock of yourself from your path to success, who will? If you don’t seize that opportunity to get what you want now, then when?

Keep in mind, however, that opportunity without preparation is wasted. You must put in the work and be ready to seize it with both hands.

As I read somewhere, ‘When your ship comes in, make sure you’re not at the airport!’

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Author of the novels ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’

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