Category Archives for "Creativity"

Woman with cluttered brain
Jan 23

Clear mental clutter to gain career clarity

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Creativity , Motivation

Many of us tackle some clutter clearing from time to time, and often this is about getting rid of unwanted physical “stuff”.

But what about mental clutter? This could include outdated assumptions or ideas that could that be getting in the way of making beneficial changes or stepping up a level in your career or business.

I’ve recently carried out a clutter clear before moving into a new home office space. Getting rid of redundant papers, sorting out my files and disposing of some old boxes (including baby slings last used in 2009!).

Clearing outdated physical clutter set me thinking about the internal clutter we also hang onto for too long. Are any of these things clogging up your mental shelf space?

Redundant qualifications

It can be difficult to let go of hard-won qualifications. If you took a law degree for example, does that mean you always need to work in the legal field? Of course not, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of a past achievement in order to follow a career path that is right for us now.


It’s so tempting to judge ourselves against our peers or even some external imagined standards. We may metaphorically beat ourselves up for not reaching a certain level in our career by a certain age. Or compare ourselves against other people. But everyone’s life path is different, and some of the most interesting and accomplished people didn’t find their vocation until quite late. The bestselling writer Mary Wesley published her first adult novel at the age of 71.

Too many ideas

Ideas flowing Making a clear decision about a career, or a business niche, can be scary, because it means letting go of all the other ideas of things we “could” do. It means closing down possibilities, at least for now. In career or business planning, there is a time for generating lots of ideas and possibilities, and this can be valuable. But to make things happen you have to take action. And to take action means making a decision. And making a positive decision to follow one path means letting go of another direction, at least for a while.

I say for a while, because it is perfectly possible to build a successful portfolio career with different strands and income streams. But there is a danger in trying to do everything all at once, and power in making a decision and staying focused on one thing for a while, to give it a chance.


Perfectionism can hold you back. Trying something new involves risk, whether that’s going for a promotion or starting a business. You will make mistakes, and that can be painful. If perfectionism is one of your traits, take some time to work out what it’s costing you. Wanting to do a great job, and putting in the graft is well worth it. But expecting perfect results when you do something for the fist time can set yourself up for disappointment and a sense of failure.

In his book The Chimp Paradox, Dr Steve Peters suggests that if you set your bar for success as “doing your best”, then this is always achievable. You may not do something brilliantly first time, but you can always gain satisfaction if you know that you gave it your best shot and did the best you could at the time.

Outdated dreams and visions

Creating a vision of where you want to go to in business or life is valuable and important. It can give you a sense of direction, a compass to navigate the choices and opportunities that come your way. But we change and what matters to us can change. If you made a decision some time ago to follow a certain direction, it may be time to check in and make some adjustments. And be mindful of differentiating between a setback along the way, and a true change of heart.

Find a listening ear

If your mind feels cluttered with ideas, concerns or judgements, then it can be invaluable to speak to someone. A chat with a friend can help clear the mental cobwebs. And do think seriously about working with a coach too. A few sessions with a good coach can help to shift outdated thinking, and clear space for fresh new ideas to come in.

And if you would like some help, email me to request a free telephone consultation.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Julie D'Arcy at work
Mar 30

One of a Kind – a career change story

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Creativity , Small Business

Have you ever thought about changing career completely? Julie D’Arcy changed her career dramatically, and not once, but twice within a few years.

After an early career in the armed services, Julie decided to follow a long held ambition to become a teacher. And this meant getting qualified from scratch.

The path to teaching

Julie’s first step was to take an NVQ in childcare. She then took a foundation degree, whilst working as a teaching assistant, having her first child and getting married.

Julie then went on to a full BA Honours Degree. During this period, she had her second child and faced the challenge of becoming a single mum after her marriage broke up.

Julie describes herself as stubborn: “if I’m told I can’t do something, I do it!” I think most people would use words such as determined, tenacious and incredibly hardworking to describe Julie’s academic journey.  She gives a lot of credit to her grandparents, who died whilst she was studying, and talks about how she was inspired by her grandad’s attitude: “He always said life doesn’t come to you if you sit and wait for it.”

But after working so hard to achieve a 2.1 degree and qualifying as a teacher, Julie realised she didn’t want to work in a school. She loved teaching and working with the children, but not the excessive paperwork. “The pressure on teachers is ridiculous. I have two young children, why would I be a teacher and not see my own children. Teachers are so stressed. They have no work-life balance. We’re not allowed to just teach”

The creative spark

So Julie left her hard-won second career, and not without some sadness: “I do miss the teaching – I’d wanted to do it for SO long. And when I got it, it wasn’t what I’d expected.”

Painted SideboardJulie is now on her third career, and has started her own business, restoring old furniture with beautiful and unique paint finishes.

“I painted a wardrobe. Then I starting picked up bits and bobs of furniture that were being thrown out. Julie cites her stubbornness again: “A friend said “you’re not going to ask for that! so I did! I’m now a skipologist. I took a mouldy old chair and transformed it.”

Like many mid-life career changes, this one has its roots in a childhood love.

“I’ve always been arty and creative… I remember painting my bedroom at the age of twelve. My mother said it would be lot of work and told me not to, so I did it! I used a sponge, and loved it so much.”

Julie ended up displaying some of her work at a school fair and met the local mayor. “He said ‘you should think about starting your own business – it’s beautiful’. He sent me through some websites and I applied for funding.” Julie has now set up her furniture studio in Gosport, called One of a Kind.

Her work primarily comes through word of mouth and commissions, and she is working on raising awareness of her business and getting her furniture out there where people can see it.


A family venture

Running her own creative business has transformed the balance of Julie’s life and her children love being at her studio. “They like the fact they can come with me. The children have their own projects. I’m role modeling for them – it’s their business as well.”

And Julie’s teaching and learning experience is not wasted. She runs creative workshops for adults and has started to help local students with work experience. Decorative finishes are part of the syllabus on painting and decorating courses and students like the fact that they are working on real projects. “They come in knowing that they’re going to be useful.” Julie said she cried recently after receiving some “wonderful” feedback from a mother: “She said that ‘in a week with you my daughter has grown and changed so much'”

Seize the moment

It must have taken courage to make a second change. Julie explained that if she was going to do it, she had to do it before she had become accustomed to a teacher’s salary: “I made a decision, a lifestyle choice.”  And her words of wisdom for others wondering about taking the plunge: “You only get one chance at life!”

You can find out more about Julie’s furniture and workshops at the One of a Kind website.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Rhian and her work
Jun 24

I’ve always wanted to paint, but…

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Creativity , Motivation

Is there an interest, calling or career that you’ve always wanted to explore or rediscover? Maybe a path not taken or a childhood interest neglected? Rhian John’s experience is one of an early passion for painting, revived in mid-life, and which has become a successful business.

Taking the sensible career option

Rhian loved art at school, but like many people, she took what seemed a “sensible” route into the world of work. She took a graphic design degree, and spent 25 years as a graphic designer before picking up a paintbrush again.

That was in 2014 and since then Rhian has attracted a growing interest in her paintings, with almost 8,000 Facebook followers and a recent exhibition at the Theatre Royal in Winchester.

Meeting Rhian at her lovely light and art-filled home near Winchester, she told me that she and her sister were both artistic as children.

After school she took an Art Foundation course, but didn’t think pursuing her love of Fine Art was a sensible career move. So she took a design degree and worked in graphic design for 25 years. “I wouldn’t have known then where to even start to market myself as a painter.”

The love of art never left her, “ I can’t walk past a gallery without going in to see what people do.” But it was only when her son did his A Level art, that Rhian reached a turning point.

Heeding a call

Watching her son, Rhian felt she couldn’t hold back any more, she felt an incredibly strong urge to get the paints out: “It truly just happened. I literally saw my son paint and said “I can’t stand it any more, I’ve got to paint”.

“March 2014 was the first time I picked up my paintbrush. I didn’t know if my paintings were any good, but I put a couple up on Facebook and people bought them. I think if you can do something, you sort of assume everyone is able to do it.”

She started off by digging out a photograph that she’d taken at Hillier Gardens, near Romsey, and painting from that. Initially she worked with acrylics on paper and then moved on as her confidence grew:  “I remember the first time I bought a canvas. I felt very grown up.”

Overcoming fear of failure

The reason why it took Rhian so long to start painting again is one that many of us will relate to. As she explains: “The fear of “what if I can’t do it any more” is part of why I didn’t do it properly. There’s always that fear – if you don’t give it a go, then you haven’t failed. And it’s such a silly reason. As with anything, you improve as you go along.”

Different forms of creativity

Rhian still runs her graphic design company. As she works from home, this offers the flexibility to run the two businesses side by side. And one effect of starting to paint is that she is now enjoying her design work more.

Juggling two business may sound daunting, but Rhian has found that she actually manages her time better now, so she can fit it all in. At the end of the day at her computer, she feels that if she can complete the job then that will free her up to paint the next day. “If I’m nearly at the end of a design job it spurs me on.”

Both design and painting are creative, but in a different way. Design is computer based and there are logical reasons why you would choose certain colours for certain brand values, whereas painting is a very personal thing: “from the heart”

Rhian’s uplifting paintings of nature, flowers and animals are bursting with vibrant shades. “I do just love colour. I take a lot of photographs. I love being outside, love the beach, flowers, colour. I paint what I like. I didn’t do it to make money, but I’ve been incredibly fortunate.”

“Just do it”

paint and brushesRhian receives many messages from people saying “I’d love to start painting again, but…” And her response: ” I would say “I was you. You don’t have to do it as a career.  But just do it!”

“It doesn’t matter what you produce. Art and craft is a great outlet for creativity, and relieves stress. Because you’re concentrating, other things go out of your head.”

So what next? “I don’t want to put massive pressure on myself.  What has happened in the last year has been absolutely fantastic. I will go with the flow, see where it takes me.”

Rhian is participating in Hampshire Open Studios at the end of August. And you can view and buy her paintings and prints online at

Have you rediscovered a passion in mid-life? If so please share your story in the comments box below, I’d love to hear from you.

Creative thinking for career change
Jul 28

“But I’m not creative” – think again!

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Creativity

Career change and development is a creative process. It draws on your ability to take your experience, skills, strengths, interests and achievements and use them to forge a new way forward.

You may already be comfortable with thinking of yourself as creative. Or you may be thinking “but I’m not a creative person”. In which case, my message would be “think again”. Imagination and innovation is our birthright, and is what has made us so successful as a species.

Sometimes we confuse being creative with being artistic. Artists use their skill in a particular art-form to express their original ideas, often in a very visible way, but creativity is found in many fields of work: science and business, to name but two.

Imagine yourself as creative

The very act of thinking of yourself as a creative person can help free you to come up with ideas. According to Jack Foster, author of How to Get Ideas: “You act like the kind of person you imagine yourself to be. It’s as simple as that.”

Once you accept that you have the potential for creativity, then it can be helpful to think of it as a three-stage process.  You may find that one part of process comes more easily to you than others, and by separating them out you can make sure to spend time on each stage.

But before you start, you need to know what you are trying to achieve. It may be to come up with some ideas for a new career path, or design a winning presentation for an interview. You may want to identify options for starting a business  or find ways to spend more time with your friends and family. You may want ideas for making money… or spending less money… or for housing yourself without a big mortgage…

Stage 1 Generate creative ideas

The first stage is come up with ideas. The trick here is to come up with as many ideas as you can and not to evaluate them too early on. There are many ways that you can solve a problem and ideas often come from cross fertilization, from applying knowledge in one sphere to a challenge in another. For example the University of Surrey is working on medical robots, drawing on ideas from nature. The way an octopus can squeeze its body through a tiny space is providing inspiration for robots that can access hard to reach parts of the human body and perform operations that would be difficult for a surgeon to do directly.

Idea generation works well if you do it in a focused way, generating as many ideas as you can, and then take a break – work on something else, go for a walk, or sleep on it.  This allows the subconscious mind to continue working.

Idea generation is great done with a partner or in a group and there are many techniques that can help, for example:

What would they do?

Put yourself into the shoes of another person, it may your hero or mentor, someone successful in a particular field, or someone with strong views and opinions, maybe even ones you disagree with.


Ask, “When my career (finances/family life etc.) is how I would like it to be, that’s  like what?” This question can help you to find a metaphor for what you want, and that in turn can help you generate ideas. If you would like your career to be like a pleasant river cruise, that will lead you to very different ideas than an exciting white water ride? If you can find a metaphor that fits, then this can spark a lot of associations and ideas, out of which you may find a nugget of gold.

Stage 2 Evaluate your creative ideas

The next stage is to analyse and evaluate your ideas.  Only a small number may be workable, and so you will need to be selective.  Creativity consists of a process of expanding and then contracting options. First you expand and come up with as many ideas as you can.  You then go through the pros and cons, narrowing them down, considering which ideas are feasible and which are likely to have the most impact.  As part of this process, you may need to undertake research to help you make informed decisions, or you may decide to loop back and generate more ideas at this point, building on the thinking that you have done before.

Then choose the best idea (s) to take forward.

Stage 3 Take action to move forward in your career and life

The third stage is implementation.  The most fantastic ideas in the world will come to nothing if you don’t do something with them.  Once you’ve made a decision you need to apply some solid planning techniques so that you can effect real change in your life and work. Decide what you want to achieve, by when, and plan the specific actions you need to take to get there. Then decide on your first action. Now DO IT.

What helps you to be creative?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments box below.

Need some help with moving your career forward? I can offer you a creative career coaching programme, and an initial conversation with me is always free of charge. Find out more about how I can help.