Kaye introduced me to a very interesting exercise this morning, based on finding out exactly who I am and what I want.

On the surface, this would appear to be an easy enough task. I am Elaine Gunn, I want many things, career success, personal fulfilment, glossy hair and clear skin, a recurring role with BBC Wales as Doctor Who’s new assistant – subject of course to the lovely David Tennant regenerating as himself following his altercation with that Dalek last week…

So, pretty simple – right?

I was astonished to find that I was completely stumped, and really struggled to come up with the answers I was looking for.

First Kaye asked me a simple question; ‘What do you do?’

It took me a while to get my head round the context – i.e. what do I do in my job, what does a normal day in the office contain? I was able (eventually) to answer that I manage projects for systems development, I write for the company, I drive communications and contribute to marketing, and finally that I feel I am the company’s problem solver.

I then had to imagine that somebody else swooped in from nowhere and took ownership of all my responsibilities in the company, all the projects were managed, all the writing was done, the communications and marketing were completely under control, and there were no problems left to solve. What would I do then?

My first instinct was to worry about the imaginary ‘swooper’ in case they didn’t do everything properly, but on getting my head round the concept of not having to do anything I started to think about what I might like to do.

Oddly enough, I was able to answer this relatively easily. Last Thursday, for the first time in many months I got to the end of my to-do list for that day. I sat and thought about getting a head start on the next day’s tasks, but on reflection decided that since I had no looming deadlines, I would like to do some branding – this is when we change the look and feel of our gift voucher system to match a client’s website – it’s a bit geeky, but fun and extremely satisfying when you get it right!

Kaye then asked me to describe my feelings in relation to nailing a piece of branding and (again, very geekily – please forgive…) I came out with “triumphant”, “satisfied” and “like I wanted to laugh out loud or cheer” – all very nice feelings! I found those feelings very easy to connect to how I feel when I crack a piece of problem-solving code for some database or other, or how I get all excited when I find a better way of doing something that’s currently rubbish.

Moving on, Kaye asked me to describe what I had enjoyed most about previous jobs, and this (predictably by now) all fell into the same pattern. I’ve always enjoyed being the person that people would go to if they had a problem to solve, and I get massive kicks out of looking at a great big mess and coming up with creative or technical ways of making it better.

Therefore, it transpires that I’m a ‘solver’ – which makes perfect sense now that I think about it!

So, having identified who I am, it was time to find out what I want.

This involved me taking 5 minutes with a pen and a piece of paper, brainstorming (or thought-showering if we want to be all PC about it…) things that I want. This wasn’t terribly difficult, and I came up with a chunky list of things, ranging from children to a fabulous career, to being all I can be, and getting on better with my brother rather than just pretending to for the sake of the rest of my family. Ultimately I had 10 items on my list, which I then had to fine down to the three I truly thought were the most important, the ones I really want the most.

This is the part of the process where I shocked myself a bit. I went through my list, comparing items with each other in pairs, and asking myself which of each pair I wanted more. I whittled my list until I was down to three, and shared these with Kaye;

1. I want to start a family.

2. I want people to think I’m smart/successful/inspirational.

3. I want to overcome my crazy attitude to food and be able to accept any implications that might have, weight-wise.

Not outrageous at first glance, however when Kaye asked me to explain why I had picked those three out of the list of 10, I realised that instead of picking the things I truly wanted the most, I had picked the three I wanted the most out of the ones I thought I might be able to achieve!  

I had, without realising what I was doing, shortened my list before I even started the conscious elimination process, simply because I thought several of them were “just not going to happen”. I wasn’t allowing myself to want these things, because I was scared of being disappointed when (not if!) they didn’t happen. And who says they’re not going to happen?

Well I do, of course – by not believing they’re possible! And how sad is that…?

Therefore, I have a new list of three things that I truly want;

  1. I want to be all I can be.
  2. I want to stay happy and keep getting happier all the time.
  3. I want to truly accept myself as I am, without trying to pretend I’m perfect.

And I tell you what – I’m a lot happier with this list than I was with the first one! It’s a bit less shallow for a start, and I’ve also realised that these three basic ‘wants’ are a high-level umbrella under which each of my other, more specific wants fit. In my first list, I wanted to start a family – well that fits neatly under ‘being all I can be’. And overcoming my crazy attitude to food? That’s part and parcel of truly accepting who I am.

So it’s been an excellent lesson, and has made me realise that although I’m a very positive person in a task-orientated context, perhaps I need to be aware of a bit of negativity creeping in where strategy is concerned. I always thought I believed I could achieve anything that I wanted, but have suddenly realised that there’s been a massive ‘as long as I think it’s realistic’ caveat there all along. Oops…

Therefore (and on a much more frivolous note) keep your eyes peeled for me appearing on a screen near you some Saturday evening soon. Step aside Rose Tyler, The Doctor is mine, and those pesky Daleks won’t know what’s hit them.

Now that’s what I call problem solving!