This week I was able to do a speaking engagement at the Royal Wootton Bassett Rotary Club. The Rotarians are a not for profit organisation that help out with charitable donations and fundraising that support their local communities (for more information on their activities and joining the Rotarians, you can visit their website listed in the related links section).

The talk – entitled “change your words, change your life” looked at increasing awareness of ourselves, the words we use and the story this goes on to create about us. It also covered the 3 different types of goal setting phrases “shoulds, needs and wants”.

I enjoyed doing this talk for the Rotarians as it was a different audience to which I am used too, therefore was a little stretching for my comfort zone. I am used to giving talks to teams in organisations about improving performance, but to speak to a group of learned individuals, who have a lot of experience of life and success behind them, was new ground for me.

I opened the talk by suggesting we would answer the age old question “what is the meaning of life?” in less than half an hour! I wanted to tackle something ambitious and opened it up to the guests to see what they may have felt the meaning of life was. “42” came the initial tongue in cheek response, followed by some hushed giggles. No one could really articulate it at that point.

I then began to talk about how our words create our worlds by the story we tell about ourselves and the story we will create. It’s important that when we create our world we are conscious of the words we use to describe ourselves and what we want to do. For one example let’s look at the shoulds, needs and wants mentioned above when talking about things we want to get, or do.

To put it simply we are normally telling our selves that we “should” be doing something, like losing weight, quitting smoking or the like. Should goals are terribly disempowering as there is no real individual ownership of that “should” and we can end up just beating ourselves up about it – What’s one thing you keep telling yourself you “should be” doing?

How does that feel, and I mean really feel?

Not exactly motivating is it?

Then there’s the stuff we “need” e.g. “I need a new car”, “I need more money” – these are less harmful, but do also imply a lack of control or choice – again, what is one thing you tell yourself you “need”? We get used to telling our selves we “need” something as it then absolves us of the conscious guilt of taking responsibility for wanting it.

Then there are the things we want, now this is where people come alive! These are things they want to do, things they want to be, or things they want to have. It’s in here that we are truly motivated into action; the things we want drive us.

Unfortunately “wanting” something in our society can sometimes be a dirty word. It is almost as though just by wanting something, you expose yourself to risk, risk of derision from your peers and the risk of wanting it and not getting it. Don’t let this put you off.

If you were true to yourself what one thing would you tell yourself you want?

When I was doing the talk for the Rotarians, the part of the “shoulds, needs and wants” I asked people to focus on were: how to turn “needs” into “wants” particularly when setting goals. You don’t necessarily need more money, or a new car - you want what having those things will get for you, e.g. happiness. By saying you “need” it, you absolve yourself of the guilt of wanting a new car. When we spoke about the job, you absolve yourself of addressing the problem with your existing job, by telling yourself you need a new one.

If you were to be honest with yourself and turned your needs into what it is you want, i.e. I want to be happier, therefore I want a new job, the power and responsibility lies within you and you are far more likely to get what it is you want.

This is of course the abridged version of my 35 minute talk, but to close I answered the meaning of life and it is thus - I believe that there is no universal meaning of life and that it is entirely subjective, the meaning of life, is the meaning we attach to our lives, the story we tell about ourselves and the story we will go onto create.

Are you happy with the story you tell and are you happy with your meaning of your life?

I am available for talks at schools, businesses, clubs and societies, please email me for more information: