How Do I Decide What Is Right For Me? (3 Quick Journal Exercises to Try)

In pursuit of magic | How do I decide what is write for me

The stories we tell about ourselves are not often all that helpful. One story that we can all get tragically stuck in is the ‘not for me/for me’ dichotomy. Let me illustrate:

Example A

You see someone leaving a relationship and making a new start alone. You say, ‘I’m not built to be alone; the single life is not for me / the familiarity of coupledom is for me.’

Or, maybe:

Example B

You see someone releasing a creative project, or living a creative life. You say, ‘I’m not creative; creative projects are not for me / practical things are for me’.

Of course, these are all perfectly fine things to decide about oneself (and we are all the final experts on our own selves) IF (and it’s a big if) they are true. 

Problems arise when these scripts about who we are cease to work for us. Or if, tragically, we begin to see that they never worked at all.

Issues lurk if the foundation of the ‘not for me’ thoughts is low self-worth and a lack of self-belief and if the ‘for me’ scripts are simply borne out of habit or social pressure.

We can abandon ourselves when we stick with unhelpful, inaccurate scripts out of misguided beliefs or fear. We also make it nigh on impossible to make the right kinds of decisions for our lives – decisions that may not be the easiest or the most glamorous or the quickest to achieve, but that will be true for us. 

If you find you are often asking yourself the question How Do I Decide What Is Right For Me…

Try these three simple exercises in your journal to help you come to more aligned decisions.

  1. Write a list of things you may have consciously or unconsciously been saying are not for you. Keep an open mind – these aren’t ideas you have to give up, but it will be interesting to get the lay of the land.
  2. Next, write a list beside it of things that you have been consciously or unconsciously believing are for you.
  3. Finally, write a ‘what if’ list. Pick a few of the items from lists one and two (e.g. ‘City living is not for me, marriage is for me, being a writer is not for me, travelling is for me’) and flip each self-concept on its head. Write these as questions and then right a short response. For example:
What if marriage *is not* for me?

I’ve always held up marriage as my ultimate relationship goal, but if I put that down for a moment I can see that a relationship is so much more than a legal document or big ceremony. I see that I’d rather have fulfilling and nourishing encounters with others, where we both feel free as well as held, and that maybe marriage does not have to be a part of that.

What if a creative career *is* for me?

If being creative was for me I might have to arrange my life very differently – and that is scary but also exhilarating. I might have to prioritise different things and accept I might not earn as much. I might have to risk some embarrassment in admitting this to friends and family – but they also might surprise me by being supportive of my dreams (they love me, after all). I think I’d wake up each morning feeling full of possibility. I’ve always thought a creative career is a wacky goal, but maybe it’s much wackier to live life in half measure.

This isn’t to say you have to give up any of your self-concepts if you don’t want to. You may find that some of them are very robust and worthwhile; the point is simply to investigate a little deeper.

Deciding what is right for you is often simply a case of removing the word ‘right’ from the sentence:

What do you believe is for you? What do you believe is not for you?

Are these beliefs true? Are there truer beliefs available to you? What would life look like if you aligned with those truer, perhaps scarier, but also more exhilarating beliefs? 

Start there.

M x

A licence to live?


Recently, a couple of my close friends—and a new friend—have been having a particularly rough ride. Career choice troubles, romantic break down, family illnesses… And I’ve taken the role of consoler & kind ear, as we all do for friends in need.

I’ve also had a difficult year in many ways. And so, I’ve been pondering the fact that we—all of us—need a little help to live.

Where does help come from?

Some of us might get help in living without even having to ask. Some of us seek it out from trusted friends, mentors and loved ones. Yet, many of us may not even, for whatever reason, be aware that we need this help, that we can ask for it. Some of us are too ashamed to admit to needing help.

Most of us, in the western world, live outside of a religious system to help us understand our traumas. Therapy still has a stigma attached to it. We don’t always want to readily admit to reading so-called ‘self-help’ books. Even receiving life coaching, or journal writing, might be embarrassing for some to admit. I wonder why this is.

I wonder why, though in both the UK and US you need a licence to drive a motor vehicle, we are left unlicensed in life. No wonder we experience so many life ‘crashes’—pile-ups, even! We are—each of us—behind the wheel of a life we may or may not have been sufficiently instructed to operate (and usually not.)

What I suppose I’m saying is:

It’s okay to look into finally getting your proverbial licence.
It’s okay if you haven’t ‘got this’ just yet.
It’s okay to live in the world your questions create.

And it’s okay to ask for help, because we’re all on the same road.


On Wild Optimism, or the #1 Rule to Getting Everything You Want


I’ve suffered my fair share of angst.

When I was thirteen I wrote, “I hate everything” on my bedroom wall, in pencil. Yes, pencil. I was so apathetic, even my acts of delinquency were half-hearted.

There was a time when I truly, genuinely, truthfully thought that nothing good would ever happen to me.

Over time, my mind has changed substantially (the other day I actually said to a friend, in all seriousness, “enthusiasm is my religion.” It’s a wonder I have any friends.)

Over time, I began to expect that good things might actually happen. I began to act like good things might happen. And – lo and behold! – they did.

No, I’m not an advocate of The Secret (sorry, Rhonda.) I was merely cultivating optimism; wild optimism. Unrestrained enthusiasm. Wanton chance-taking. Disproportionate dedication.

I began to commit to possibility.

Of course, these good things weren’t always easy, or obvious, or how I expected them to be, but they were very definitely happening. I was just going for it, and in just going for it, I gave things – great things – the opportunity to occur.

Little by little, I began to think that wild optimism was the best chance I had at a life I enjoyed, that was purposeful, & that had meaning; wild optimism was the only way of cajoling myself into going for what I wanted, and of promising myself I’d be okay when things didn’t work out.

What is wild optimism?

Wild optimism is letting yourself believe in all those things you secretly want; and the things you don’t dare want because they’re simply too whimsical to admit to. It’s throwing your hat in the ring. Taking a punt. Placing your bets (and all those other clichés.)

It means you have to participate.

Martin Luther King did not become a trailblazer in the African-American Civil Rights Movement because he thought, what’s the point? Marie Curie didn’t become the first woman to win a Nobel prize because she said to herself, don’t get too big for your boots now, Marie. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t lead India to independence by thinking, meh. No. They took positive action; they were wild optimists. And optimism is empowerment. They came, they conquered.

Reality Check?

Wild optimism is not expecting that nothing bad will ever happen (contrary to a popularly held belief, ‘optimist’ is not a synonym of ‘stupid.’) It is not about devaluing the negative. We all know Marie Curie could have done with a healthy dose of caution. Yet, wild optimism is realising that, by the law of averages alone, eventually you’ll catch a break, and that expecting the best is just as valid as expecting the worst, neither is a more accurate version of “reality.”

We think of a “reality check” as a dose of cynicism; sometimes it can be a dose of wild optimism. [Tweet it!]

Of course, wild optimism is not a magic wand; the difficult stuff still happens. It continues to for me, and I imagine it will do for you, too. Yet, short of pencilling hate memos on our walls, it might be the best chance any of us have got.

You don’t get anything if you don’t participate, but there’s a chance – even if it’s a teeny tiny one – that you’ll get everything if you do.