What Are You Counting?

Ever since the invention of the Abacus, humans have been passionate about counting. We count everything.

If you are going to count anything, though, let it not be your calories or the inches around your waist. Nor the bad things which you’ve experienced or seen.

Instead, count your blessings, count your achievements, count the good people and positive influences which you have in your life.

Count your fondest, and happiest memories. Count all off the times you showed kindness to another person or creature, and how many times you received it unexpectedly.

Count the times you saw another human being do something beautiful, and which moved you.

Some things in life are worth counting. Others are not. Choose wisely.

The Power Of Forgiveness For A Positive Life

Let It Go, Let It Gooooooo….

Elsa (Frozen)

Forgive. Let things go. Don’t dwell on past pain and suffering. Reflect on what happened, learn from it and move on. We’ve all heard this advice. We all understand the value in it, but how do we actually do this? This is what the books, podcasts and blog posts often forget to help us with. They offer the platitudes but not the all-important “how to”. That’s only half the work, and really doesn’t offer any benefit for those who are stuck and looking for help.

When somebody does something that negatively impacts us, whether intentionally or not, our natural instinct is to look at ourselves. We wonder what we did wrong to that person that they had to treat us badly. We blame ourselves and beat ourselves up. STOP. JUST STOP. When we do this, we are hurting ourselves unnecessarily.

By blaming ourselves for the wrongs others have inflicted on us, we are forgetting to take human nature into account. This is the first step to mastering the art of forgiveness; perspective;

  • Learn to understand that we are all human and make mistakes. Some of those mistakes will hurt or upset others. Others’ mistakes will hurt you, and you will also make mistakes in life that will hurt others.
  • Very rarely does somebody actually set out with the intention of hurting anybody else. We all have a moral compass, but some work better than others. Sometimes you will get hurt because somebody else is so focused on what they want, and know that you are the key to them getting it, that they fail to stop and consider any consequences. Accept that most people are driven by their own wants or needs. We become so focused on what we want, that we forget to stop and think about how our words or actions might affect others.

The point i’m making here is that it’s not about you. It’s more likely that the other person was going after what they wanted with tunnel vision and couldn’t see the damage that they were causing. Or, perhaps they just made a mistake. It is, thankfully, incredibly rare that one person would intentionally aim to hurt another. We are human. We make mistakes. We don’t always think before we act. I know this for a fact, because I have been here more times than I care to remember. I have hurt people who I loved and cared for deeply just by being thoughtless or through poor judgement.

You can’t dwell on the bad things that you suffered, though. All that this achieves is to slowly erode your confidence. The more you focus on the negative things that you have done or have been done to you, the more your mindset becomes negative. This, in turn, invites self-doubt, pessimism and cynicism into your life while also negatively affecting your relationships. As this all takes hold, you lose focus and direction in life, and opportunities pass you by. In short, by dwelling on past pain, you sabotage your personal or professional development while robbing yourself of happiness.

This is a battle which takes place in your head. Those that have wronged you, are likely carrying on with their lives, oblivious to the pain which they have caused. You, on the other hand, are constantly replaying what happened and beating yourself up. You do need to play it back, but you need to do it with a purpose or else you are just beating yourself up for no reason. This is the second step to mastering forgiveness; reflection;

  • You are going to replay the situation in your head anyway, so you might as well get some use out of it. Revisit as much as possible.
    • Try to think about the lead-up to the event; what conversations were had, what was done and how it affected you. Did you become angry? Anxious? Happy? Reassured? Hopeful? Nervous?
    • Then the event itself. What happened? How did it affect you? How did you react? Did you discuss this with the other person?
    • Now, the analysis, which is all about self-awareness, and determining whether you could make any changes to your own behaviour to stop something similar happening again. What lessons can you learn from the experience? If faced again with a similar situation, how would you react next time?

People will say and do things that will hurt you. They are human, and make mistakes. Sometimes they will let their emotions cloud their judgement, and they will not stop to think about how their words or actions will affect you. How this all affects you, is all down to you, and you alone. You can let it eat you up and negatively affect your life, or you can learn and grow from the experience before letting go and moving on.

Happiness, And How To Find It

Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to “be happy”. One the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically…

…Once an individual’s search for meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering

Viktor Frankl

Everybody wants to spend the majority, if not all, of their time in a state of happiness. Which stands to reason. Releasing those pent-up endorphins and experiencing genuine happiness is one of the most powerful feelings available to all of us. In that time during which we are happy, our mood and mindset is positive, the world is a wonderful place and nothing can bring us down. But how do we find genuine, lasting happiness?

Social media and marketers constantly bombard us with messages about the products or holidays which we need in order to be happy. So we fall into the trap, buy their stuff, become happy for a while, but then we see something better which we want. So the happiness wears off and we need to spend more money buying more stuff. All this leads to is a situation where we have lots of stuff, but a lack of money, and feeling anything but happy.

We also seek happiness with other people, which is a dangerous game to play. At its worst we find ourselves compromising our beliefs and values just to be accepted by others.

Increasingly, though, people are turning to self-help books. These books claim to offer us the blueprint to happiness, the shortcuts to success and the guide we need so that we can start living the life of our dreams right now. Well marketed but lacking any real substance, most of these are best avoided. There are some exceptions to the rule, though, and I would highly recommend the work of Tony Robbins among others.

The above, however, is all a lie. Permanent happiness and an easy life is a myth. Life is often referred to as a rollercoaster ride, and I couldn’t agree more. Life is not straightforward, and it doesn’t follow a formula, but it has ups and downs, twists and turns. That’s what makes it so exciting. The experiences. The good times give us pleasure, joy, happiness and good memories. The bad times teach us valuable lessons. It’s important to embrace both equally.

Happiness, then, is not about material goods or fitting in with people who are not right for you. It certainly won’t be found in a “how to” book. After all, we are all different, with different hopes, dreams, strengths, weaknesses and drives. Happiness is internal. Only you can make yourself happy, and you do this through your own perspective; how you view the world and your place in it.

This is why it’s important that you become clear on your life’s purpose and the reason why you are here today. We are not put on this Earth just to waft aimlessly through life before fading away, like a fart. Each of us has their own contribution to make and their mark to leave on the world. It could be that you make your impact as a spouse and parent, raising, supporting and providing for a family of your own. Or, you may be destined to make your mark in the art world, the music industry or in business. Or perhaps philanthropy, conservation, politics…

Reflect on who you are, what you want from life, what you hope to achieve, what your strengths are, where your weaknesses lie, what you value and where your priorities lie. This will help you to identify your purpose. This will give meaning to your life, and once your life has meaning, it all makes sense. A life with meaning is more focused, as your thoughts and actions become geared towards living in accordance with your purpose and working towards it. Most of all, though, when you have a purpose and your life has a meaning, you experience true happiness which lasts. And it doesn’t cost a a thing.

Happiness need not involve spending a penny. It’s not about having nice things and lots of money. In fact, some of the happiest people you will ever meet are those that have the least. They are happy, however, because their life has a meaning. They know what they want and are striving towards it. They also know that when things go wrong and they suffer, they are going through hell for a reason. For instance, parents will gladly endure whatever hardships life can throw at them, for the sake of their children. And a husband will endure a job which he hates but pays well, so that his wife can work part-time while raising their children. They are happy because their life has a reason. In the same way, a struggling actor or actress will juggle several jobs and live hand-to-mouth while performing in small productions. They will struggle in this manner and remain happy, because they know that this is all helping to get them closer to where they really want to be in life – Hollywood. Essentially, when your life has a meaning, even the most challenging of times can be a source of happiness.

If you want to be really happy, genuinely and deeply happy, figure out what your life’s meaning or purpose is. Once you have determined this, live according to it. That’s the formula which works. It takes hard, introspective, soul searching and reflection but in the end it’s all worthwhile as your perspective shifts and your quality of life improves for the better.

Purpose Or Pleasure, Which Do You Choose?

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him

Viktor Frankl ~ Man’s Search For Meaning

If I had to pick one book to take with me on a desert island, there is a clear winner. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Many books claim to be life-changing but they rarely are. They fire us up and fill us with energy and enthusiasm, but as they can sometimes lack anything of real value to take away, they are soon forgotten after we’ve finished reading. This book, however, is the exception. Frankl actually had the manuscript prepared before the outbreak of World War 2, only to lose it on arrival at Auschwitz. Written in the aftermath of World War 2 and drawing on his personal experiences and observations, it’s powerful, moving and gives you plenty to reflect on.

This, however, is not a book review. I do believe, though, that this book should be read by everybody at some point in their lives. Viktor Frankl’s work is a timely reminder that we don’t have to continue living in this Freudian manner which can be so damaging, but that there is a better way.

According to Sigmund Freud, we live our lives according to the pleasure principle (German: Lustprinzip). What this means is that our natural tendency is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This is the purpose that we attach to our lives. We want as much pleasure as possible, and as little pain, in order to satisfy all of our biological and psychological needs.

If you want to see Freud’s pleasure principle in action, just look around you. You can’t miss it. It’s in the quick-fix diet and exercise plans which are yours for 3 easy installments of £100. It’s in the seminars, books and training programmes which promise to make millionaires of us without any formal training or experience.

These quick fixes and shortcuts only gain any attention or popularity because people are desperate to believe in them. People would rather pay whatever it takes to skip the blood, sweat and tears and skip straight to the positive results. They want the good stuff (the pleasure) while avoiding the pain (hard work and consistent effort) as much as possible. So, with a horde of lazy, impatient, gullible pleasure seekers desperately hunting for a quick fix or a shortcut to success, there will always be a receptive audience for the well marketed but baseless diet, exercise or financial success plan.

Social media has only worsened the situation. Seeing pictures of people’s perfect lives fills us with envy. We want what they have and now. And when we do get it, we are never satisfied because we want more. We want it now and don’t want to wait. So, we turn to credit cards and loans in order to buy things which we don’t want or need, just so that we can experience some momentary pleasure. Life just becomes a vicious cycle of seeking pleasure, getting what we want and then seeking more. And when we don’t get what we want, we become downbeat and disheartened.

Living according to the Freudian pleasure principle is dangerous. It robs you of so much of life’s richness and beauty. First of all, pleasure is a short-lived sensation. We lose sight of what is important in our lives and chase things, experiences and people. We get what we want, we experience a high, and then this wears off and we need something new to chase. If we fall short of what we want, this can be very damaging to our confidence. So, life becomes an emotional rollercoaster.

Secondly, we miss out on all that life has to teach us. When we strive for something, work tirelessly for it and fight our way through all of the challenges, we learn an awful lot about who we are and what we are capable of. We learn what works and what doesn’t. We learn what we are good at, and what areas we need to work on. We learn about what we hold important. Plus, when we do achieve positive results after working hard and struggling through difficult times, the positive boost we receive is long lasting. We grow in confidence as well as experience and gain the courage to strive for more challenging goals. Life is all about experiences and personal and professional growth, but this is soon lost sight of when we choose to live according to the pleasure principle.

This is why Frankl’s work is more important now than ever. Instead of living as hedonistic pleasure seekers, we should instead focus on the determining the meaning of our lives.

  • What is your purpose?
  • What is your “why”?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What is the endpoint which you striving towards? What do you hope to chieve or become by the end of the process?

Theses are all variations of the same question, and it is a question which is being increasingly asked in business and personal development literature. That is not enough, though, as it is something that we should all consider. When you determine what you hold dear in life, and what it is that you are striving for, life becomes clearer. You have something to aim for, and you are prepared to endure any hardship in order to achieve it.

Having a purpose in life, and working towards it, is healthy not just for us as individuals but also for our friends and families and society too. We become more focused and less insecure. We stop becoming so materialistic. The sense of competition with, and judgement of, others stops. Instead of judging what others have and trying to outdo them, we realise that everyone is on their own individual journey and that we should help each other rather than putting each other down.

Having a meaning or purpose in life is also a celebration of our individuality. My meaning will be different to yours, because we are different people with different drives, wants, needs, priorities and values. You won’t find your meaning in a book, but through honest reflection instead. It’s a reminder to be yourself, focus on what is important in your life and stop compromising your values in order to fit in with certain groups.

A happy, successful and fulfilled life is one with meaning and a purpose. What is yours?

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
~Friedrich Nietzsche

The Meaning Of Life

One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfilment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it

Viktor Frankl ~ Man’s Search For meaning

Control Your Anger, Or It Will Control You

Anybody can become angry, that is easy, but to be angry with the right nperson and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and is not easy

Aristotle

Of all of the emotional states, anger is the most harmful. It causes people to lose perspective and act irrationally. Worse still, it lingers. You can’t get angry at someone or something, take a few deep breaths and then be back to normal. Giving in to anger  could put you in a foul mood for the rest of the day or week. When this happens, you risk hurting more than just yourself. Unintentionally, you find yourself snapping at loved ones, finding fault or shutting yourself away from them through no fault of your own. All because someone pissed you off at work or on your commute.

Anger, when managed well, can be a force to bring about positive change. Contain it, bottle it up and unleash it in your work or in the gym, and you will find that fire in your belly driving you to hit all of your work targets or power through your workout. This is an incredibly difficult balancing act, as you have to be careful not to turn that anger towards anything or anyone else other than what you are focusing it on.

In order to control you anger, instead of letting it control you, there is a lot of work to be done first;

  • Self Awareness. First things first, you need some kind of idea regarding what you want from life, who you are, what you value and what makes you happy. After all, this is the baseline against which you measure your daily life. Living in accordance with your beliefs and values makes you happy. Being forced to go against what you value and hold dear, on the other hand, leads to frustration and disillusionment.
  • Triggers. As you self-reflect, try to identify the triggers for certain emotions. When do you feel happy? What makes you angry? What brings on certain emotional states and why?
  • Responses and consequences. Let’s look at anger. What happens when you get angry? How does it affect your work? How does it impact your interactions with others? Do you have any control over it? Do you deal with it quickly or does it linger? Does it cause unintended problems in your personal or professional life?

Once you’ve reminded yourself who you are, what you value, what you believe in and what makes you angry and why, it’s time to work out some strategies for dealing with this dangerous emotion. This is why it’s important to be self-aware, because the best way to change your mood is by doing something positive that brings you peace, enjoyment or relaxation.

This will inevitably vary from person top person as we are all different, so you have to find what works for you. Here are some of my favourite ways to stop anger in its tracks, as an example;

  • Take the dog (or just myself) for a walk. Simply taking yourself out of that situation, changing scenery and getting active can work wonders. I love being outdoors, so a walk in the park or the woods is an instant mood changer.
  • Look for an outlet. It’s not always possible to drop everything and go for a walk to clear your head, so you need a back-up
    • Write it out. I always carry a notebook, and will often write out everything that is pissing me off. This helps to clear my mind and I feel like a weight has been lifted. More importantly, I am able to read back what I have written and see what caused my anger, why and what I could do to stop it from happening again.
    • Gym. Get it out of you system by getting sweaty and releasing some endorphins.
    • Throw yourself into a project. Turn all of your nervous energy towards something productive, be it a DIY project at home or a work project.
    • Reach out to a friend or loved one for a chat. Sometimes, just having someone to listen can do the world of good.

Left unchecked, anger can cause untold harm in your personal and professional lives. That’s why it’s important to be proactive. Learn to recognise the warning signs, and always have a few strategies up your sleeve ready to stop it in its tracks. After all, if you don’t learn to control your anger, it will end up controlling, and ruining, your life

 

The Best Revenge…

Revenge. A powerful word. Its origins are Latin, coming from the words “re” (an intensifier), and “vindicare” (to claim, to avenge or to punish). It’s a big theme in popular culture, be that in movies, music or literature. Avenge those who have wronged you. Re-claim your family’s honour. Sounds great, but it’s easy to forget that this isn’t real life. It’s art, entertainment or make-believe. For most of us, though, we not only adopt this approach, but we allow it to even become a natural reaction. Somebody does something to hurt or offend you, and almost instinctively you start looking for ways to make them suffer and teach them a lesson. The problem is that revenge doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t give satisfaction, patch up wounded pride or make you feel good about yourself. At best, you find yourself feeling surprisingly numb instead of happy. At worst, you start to feel ashamed at having been provoked into doing something to harm someone else, going against everything you believe in and stand for.

Picture this for a moment. Somebody hurts you. So, you get your revenge by going one better. This is not the end of the matter, though, as they now seek to get their revenge.  To which you have to react. And it escalates, slowly becoming more serious until someone gets very badly hurt. All because of wounded pride and an ego which tells you that you must have the last say in the matter.

The best revenge is actually no revenge at all. Reflect on the situation and draw any lessons that you can from a negative experience. Then, get on with your life wiser for the experience. When you focus on revenge, you allow the offender and their actions to live on in your head, wreaking havoc on your emotions and sabotaging your personal and professional success. They do this without having to do anything. The other person just gets on with their life. You, however, keep letting your thoughts wander back to them and their actions. An inability to let go of the past will put a halt on any future progress.

As hard as it may be, doing nothing is the best way to send a message to the offender. Don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you hurt. People having a habit of judging others by their own standards, so when someone wrongs you, they will expect a reaction. By doing nothing and moving on, their mind will play tricks on them. They will be on edge for a while and wary of any reaction. While you are focusing on yourself, they are watching, waiting, anticipating and worrying. Let their mind do the dirty work for you. Not only that, but in this digitally-connected age, very little goes unnoticed. So, ask yourself, is it really worth risking your personal and professional reputation and straining your relationships, just to have some revenge and a temporary mood boost? I thought not.

So, when somebody hurts you do the smart thing. Deal with it sensibly. This isn’t Scarface, and you’re not Tony Montana, so dealing with it sensibly doesn’t mean seeking revenge. Depending on the situation, perhaps try to understand and maybe even forgive. We are all fighting our own demons, after all, and sometimes we inadvertently hurt others as we try to deal with our own pain. If, however, you can’t forgive them, cut them off and switch your focus back to your goals.

It is inevitable that people will say and do things which will hurt you. The reaction, however, is up to you. Instead of revenge or self-pity, aim for self improvement and put all of that pent-up energy to good use.

Antoine Says..Do It Now!

The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It’s Sunday evening here in London, and the calm before the Monday morning storm. Thoughts turn to the week ahead right about now for us all. Some dread the return to work, and giving up their freedom for a job they don’t particularly enjoy. Others, however, will be getting excited right about now. Even if they hate their job, they are looking ahead at a week full of possibilities and potential. This second group understand that, if they work hard for what they want, a week is a very long time in which anyone can make good things happen. We all need to be more like this second group.

The second group are the ones that tend to be more accomplished, fulfilled and happy. They don’t just possess an optimistic, positive mindset and a strong work ethic, though. What sets them apart is their understanding of a very important truth about life in general. They understand that;

  • There is no such thing as perfection. Your work is never finished. The most successful and accomplished people are those who reflect frequently and as themselves, “what can I do better, or more of?”
  • There is no ideal pairing of time and circumstances to take action. The time to take action is as soon as you know what you want to do, how you plan to do it and what resources you have available to you. Once you know this, go for it. It’s that simple. Think it through, make a plan and then act.
  • Don’t stop reflecting, experimenting and trying new things. When you set out on a course of action, you will notice two things in particular. There will be good times and fast progress, especially at the start. You will also face challenges. Lots of them. and they will test your resolve. This is why it’s important to stop at regular intervals and reflect on your progress;
    • What has worked well so far, and you could do more of?
    • What hasn’t worked, and what challenges have you faced? What have you learned that can help you to move forward?

The biggest killer of hopes and dreams is perfection, and the fear that we will fall short of it. Perfection is a myth. The only way to get anywhere and achieve anything in life is through baby steps, the accumulative effect of small actions over time which get you closer to your goal, slowly but surely.

Slow and steady is the only way. It may be frustrating, but along the way you gain new knowledge, skills and experiences, but you also grow as a person. This is the thing to remember; the journey which we embark on is about more than what we can achieve and obtain, it’s also about the person we become as we learn and grow.

So what if somebody else achieves more than you, and quicker?! Be happy for them, look for anything in their experiences which you can learn from, and get back to work on yourself. What others do is none of your business. Your business is the journey which you are on.

So, if you are stuck, waiting for inspiration to tap you on the shoulder or suffering from perfection paralysis, stop it. And yes, it is that simple. Stop it.

No matter your circumstances or resources, for the next week set yourself the goal of taking at least one action EVERY DAY which will get you a step towards your endpoint. Not only will this all add up and start to build some noticeable momentum, but it will give you the confidence that you may be lacking right now.

All the waiting around that you are doing right now, is just a waste of time. Start now. Start small and then build on it. The “perfect time” to start is always right now. Take that first step and watch the magic happen.

Why “Me-Time” Is So Important

The funny thing is when you start feeling happy alone, that’s when everyone decides to be with you

Jim Carrey

It’s great to be around people whose company we enjoy. We are social creatures after all. It’s also good, however, to spend time alone. This is the time in which we get to really reflect on our lives and whether we are happy, and look after our own needs.

It feels strange to put your needs first, and more than just a little bit selfish. It is, however, an essential part of helping others. Ask yourself, if you’re not happy and stable, how can you really help others? Work on your own life first, and once you are on the right track, then you can give your time and attention to whoever may need it.

Think about it this way. When somebody else offers advice, do you just stop and do what they suggest immediately, or do you weigh up their words against how they are living their lives? The fact is that we can’t influence or support others with words alone. We become a source of influence or inspiration to others when they see that we are living in accordance with our beliefs and values.

In order to live in accordance with our beliefs and values, we have to know what they are. That comes through honest, uninterrupted self reflection. Getting feedback from others is helpful, but it’s your own personal feedback which really matters. This is why time alone is important. It’s the time in which you get to figure out what you want from life, what makes you happy, what aspects of your life you are dissatisfied with and what you can do about them. Time alone is the time in which you can also just be yourself.

In our daily lives, many of us are expected to behave in a certain manner in certain situations. For instance, you might be conducting yourself in one way at work and then another in a social setting later that evening. As much as we try to live in congruence with our beliefs and values, sometimes we have to compromise depending on the circumstances. All of this compromising or playing a role is exhausting, though. That’s why some “me-time” is essential. It’s a period of time which you carve out of your day and give yourself permission to really relax, be yourself and recharge your batteries.

Too much time spent alone can lead you to feel withdrawn or lonely. On the other hand, too much time spent with others can lead to feelings of anxiety and pressure to behave in a certain way, to the point where you begin to forget about your own beliefs and values. That is why, like riding a bicycle, balance is essential. Spend time with others, but also carve out some private time in your day for yourself, and protect it. Schedule some “me-time” in your diary if you have to, but make sure to do it. This is one of the keys to self-awareness and genuine happiness.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, spending time alone leads to better, stronger relationships. As you become more self-aware and start living accordingly, you become happier. As you become happier, people find themselves drawn to you. Not just any people, but those with similar beliefs and values. In effect, spending time alone in order to work on yourself leads to genuine relationships being formed with others. This brings further happiness, because you are not fighting for the acceptance of others, but rather just being yourself while being surrounded by people who appreciate and respect you as you are. It’s a win-win.

So, start spending a little time alone every day. Clear your mind and free yourself of the pressures of the outside world, while taking an honest look at yourself and your life. Use this as an opportunity to weed out all of the toxic influences in your life and relationships which you might have outgrown. Then, prepare to invite into your life positive influences and the people who respect you as you are.

Your Job Title Is Not A Reflection Of Who You Are

If you are broke because you put food on the table to feed your family, you are not broke to me. Only a strong person would swallow his pride and take any job he can to provide for his family

Muhammad Ali

Right now, this very minute, there are people all over the world who are not working in their ideal roles. It happens. We don’t always get the job which we have studied or trained for. Even when we do, we can find our progression opportunities very limited despite years of experience.

It’s tough, it’s demoralising and really knocks your confidence. We all have an idea what our ideal career looks like, and put our hopes, dreams, blood, sweat, time and tears into making it happen. But the doors just won’t open for us, and we end up working in McDonald’s instead of Microsoft. Of course, you will be told that you need to increase your knowledge and skills, which will in turn help you to get the job you want. While I completely agree with this, it’s also true that some doors will not open, no matter how well you prepare and how hard you knock.

Job titles really become a problem when you have to introduce yourself to new people. After the initial introductions, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will be asked “what do you do?” If you’re in a job which you love and are passionate about, this is the perfect opportunity to share that with someone new. If, however, your job is something which you have settled on to pay the bills, it can be terrifying.

If you’re not in your ideal job, social situations terrify you because you will have to tell people what you do, and they will judge. It’s sad but true. People judge one another based on where they work and what they have. This, in turn, causes you to lose confidence and lose perspective. Instead of worrying what others will think when you tell them that you work as a cleaner in a hotel, ask yourself;

  • Who are these people and am I likely to see them again?
  • Why am I attaching any importance to their opinions?
  • Do they really care to find out why I am a cleaner and not a lawyer?
  • Why do I need to justify my life decisions to somebody that i’ve just met?
  • Is my job helping me to meet my life’s priorities, regardless of the job title?

The only person you have to justify your job to, is yourself. It is your life after all. If you have had to take any role just to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head, is that really a bad thing? Be grateful that you have a job. Everybody has to start somewhere, and just because you find yourself flipping burgers at McDonald’s today, that doesn’t mean that this is where you have to stay. Turn up on time and work hard, so that you can progress to a supervisory or managerial role. Then, take that experience, and see if you can’t apply it to a new career. Or, start a course of study in your free time that you will give you the knowledge and skills to change careers. It’s largely up to you what you make of yourself.

I know people who were teachers and diplomats in their home countries, only to be forced to abandon everything and flee because of war. They lose friends, family, possessions and social standing, and have to start again in a foreign country as cleaners, porters, sales assistants or anything else they can find. Yet, they don’t beat themselves up and curse their luck. Instead, they approach their job with pride and passion. They understand that they are lucky to have a job at all, and with it they can support themselves and their families. They also understand that their job does not define them as people. We need more of this mentality.

To the university graduates preparing their assault on the job market, you won’t get your ideal job straight away. You will have to start at the bottom, learn your chosen industry inside-out, and work your way up to the job. It’s all part of the process. Nobody will give you a managerial role straight out of college or university. You have to earn it.

As with most things in life, your job is what you make of it. Be grateful that you have a job which pays the bills and allows you to keep a roof over your head right now. If it’s not what you want or where you want to be, stop whining and look at it as a stepping stone. It’s easier to land a new job while you already have a job, than it is to get a job while unemployed.  You are not tied to a particular job forever.

Apply yourself, no matter what the role involves, and seek out any opportunities for personal and professional development. Then, use this to move onwards and upwards, with glowing references. Most of all, though, try to focus on the positives that your current job offers;

  • What does it allow you to do with the wage which you earn?
  • What opportunities or benefits does it offer?
  • How can it be used as a stepping stone to bigger and better?

Stop Trying To Buy Happiness.

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for abundance

Eckhart Tolle

Everybody seems to be in a race to get more of everything, be it money, cars, clothes opr whatever else they believe that will make them happy. We hope that, as we get more of whatever we want, the quality of our lives will improve. It doesn’t. You get a temporary high after bringing home your next fancy purchase, but the novelty soon wears off and you’re brought crashing back down to earth. So, you need to buy something bigger and better, slowly emptying your bank account while you fill your house with things you neither want nor need. If, on the other hand, your drug of choice is money, then you will find yourself devoting all of your time to working, and neglect your personal relationships in the process.

This is not a healthy way to live. Happiness is an inside job. What this means is that you don’t need to have a huge bank balance or lots of fancy things to be happy. All you need to experience true happiness is self awareness.

Self awareness is having a good idea of who you are, what you want from life, what you value and what direction you want your life to take. Once you know this, and are on the path to self awareness, you will begin to act accordingly. Living in accordance with your beliefs and values, achieving what you want for yourself and realising the power you have to create your own destiny are what bring real, lasting happiness.

Becoming self aware is very difficult. It’s a long and difficult process when reflecting on who you are, where you are right now, where you want to be and what you can do to get there. There is, however, something quick and easy which, if done daily, will also have a massive impact on your happiness. This is the practice of gratitude.

By thinking about all the good which you have in your life, you experience a crucial mental shift. You move away from thinking about your life in terms of what you lack, and instead focus on what you already have. Your attention is drawn towards the positive aspects of your life, which you could potentially build upon.

It feels weird and unnatural when you first practice gratitude, because marketers bombard us constantly with messages about what we should have in our lives and how happy it would make us. Fair play to them, they have to earn a living I guess, but it’s up to you whether you pay any attention to their bullshit.

So, how do you practice gratitude? There are countless ways, and you just need to find the right fit for you through trial and error.

Personally, I prefer to add this to my daily journal. I always carry my journal and write in it throughout the day, but there are 2 set times in the day when I must journal. This is my gratitude journal time, and the process is quick and easy;

  • As soon as I wake up, I reach for my journal and pen, and write 3 things which I am grateful for. It could be something as simple as a good night’s sleep or sunshine streaming in through the window.
  • These are in bullet point format, and only go into detail if I think that it will help at a later date when I revisit my journal.
  • Now, my mood and mindset is positive before I have even got out of bed, because I am feeling grateful and happy.
  • Before bed, I write another 2 things for which I am grateful. This helps calm my mind, especially after a challenging day, and contributes to a good night’s sleep.

So, every day, I write down 5 things which I am grateful for. It takes no longer than 10 minutes in total, but the mental boost is fantastic. It motivates, but also offers perspective. You realise that your quality of life is better than you thought.

Sometimes, however, I need to be more creative than just writing a list. On these days, I grab a sheet of paper and make a mind map.

  • In the centre of the page, I write the sentence, “I am grateful for…” and draw a fancy border around it.
  • I then draw a number of lines leading away from the centre, with each one leading to something which I am grateful for
  • Then, for added visual effect, I add pictures and colour to the mind map
  • Finally, the mind map goes up on the wall, and I add more lines and points for gratitude as the week or month goes on.

I use the mind map approach too, as having a visual reminder can be even more powerful than a list in a journal. Combining the two keeps me grounded, keeps me positive and ensures that I don’t lose focus.

Alternatively, there are note-taking apps such as Evernote which could be used to log your gratitude. Whatever shape it takes, log what you are grateful for, because it takes a mere 5 – 10 minutes of your day and the positive impact on your day, and life, is priceless. This is what will bring real, lasting happiness and it doesn’t cost anything apart from time.

Let It Go..

When someone is rude to you, don’t let your ego jump into the fight. You don’t need to have the last word or a storybook ending. Walk away, stay centred, love yourself and don’t judge humanity by a few bad apples

Brendan Burchard

It is an unfortunate truth that, no matter how kind we are to others and how well we conduct ourselves, some people will still seek to hurt us. The inclination is usually to respond in a like manner. You hurt me, so I will hurt you more in order to save face in front of my friends. Take a step back and think this through carefully before reacting.  This “eye for an eye” mentality leads to a situation in which there are no winners. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself drawn into a tit-for-tat exchange that started over nothing but could end in somebody getting hurt. As hard as it may be to actually do this, the best thing to do in such a situation is just to walk away. Let the other party have their meaningless victory if that’s what they need to feel better about themselves.

You are not powerless in such a scenario, and are not duty bound to react. As with everything else in life, it’s a choice. Your choice. So choose to walk away and not engage with rude, ignorant people. Choose not to let that cruel remark ruin your day and rob you of happiness. Choose your peace of mind over the need to have the last word. Choose not to compromise your values and beliefs by stooping to their level. Most of all, though, choose to avoid a needless confrontation by choosing not to react. We cannot control what anybody else says or does, but we most certainly can choose how we respond.

The power to deal appropriately with all people, even rude ones, is in your hands. So use it wisely.

Your Job Is Never Done

Maybe that’s enlightenment enough; to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go

Anthony Bourdain

Life is a journey of never-ending learning, growth and self discovery. There is always more that you can learn, another skill you can pick up or something new to strive for. This is the perfect antidote to complacency and boredom, as it keeps life more interesting and exciting. Never lose your inquisitive nature, and never stop seeking to become and learn more. This is the key to a happy, fulfilled life

Life, And Its Infinite Doors

What approach do you take to life? Do you reflect on what you want from life, and go after it every day? Do you take small steps every day towards becoming the person you want to be? Or, do you just go with the flow, reacting to whatever life throws at you with no real goals or plans?

One of these groups achieves great things and leads a fulfilled life in which they are constantly learning and growing. The other group tends to end up frustrated and cursing their bad luck. I’ll let you decide which group is which.

The key difference between the above groups is that one understands how much power they have with which to write their life’s story. The other group, though, believe that life is a matter of luck and circumstances which just happen to them. This focus on outside circumstances leads to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness, with people asking themselves “why should I bother to work for what I want, when I probably won’t get it anyway?”. What they don’t realise is that going after what you want, even if you fall short, is hugely important in itself. It teaches you about yourself, and what areas you might still have to work on. You might discover that your priorities have changed, or you might discover a new area of interest to explore.

The fact is that every single one of us has the power to determine what type of life we will lead, as soon as we start to take responsibility and ownership of our own lives. We don’t have to wait for outside influences to guide our way. We don’t need to wait for others to tell us what to do and how to do it. Other people offer advice which is based on their own beliefs and values. They are not, however, you. Only you, after a period of self reflection, can truly know what’s right for you and what you want from life. Understanding this brings real power, the power to make conscious choices which will propel your life forward.

Choice is the most powerful tool which you have in your arsenal. Everything boils down to choice, whether made consciously or not. We exist in a field of infinite possibilities. Every choice you make is like opening a door in a maze. Opening a particular door will automatically close many others, but at the same time it will also open many others. At any point, you can change the direction of your life by making a simple choice. If you choose wrongly, you  can always go back and try again. Mistakes or bad choices are not final, but rather just an opportunity for learning.

It is all in your hands, your heart and your mind. Choose wisely, choose with your head or choose with your heart. Whatever you do, though, make your own choices or someone else will make them for you and lead you in a direction you don’t want to go.

All Experiences Are Good Experiences

In life, we say and do things all the time. Some of these we regret, and wish that we could undo or erase them. Others, we wish we could relive a million times. But, all of our experiences, both good and bad, make us who we are. In the end, they shape every detail of our lives. Good experiences bring pleasure, but they also show us what we like and what we are good at. Bad experiences, missed opportunities, failure and mistakes, on the other  hand, tell us just as much about ourselves. They force us to question what we are doing, why we are doing it, who we are and what we want from life. These negative experiences are even more important than the good times, because it’s in challenging times that we learn, develop and bounce back back wiser and more resilient. If you were to undo or erase anything from your past, you wouldn’t be the person you have become today.

You are the person who you see in the mirror today, as a result of your past experiences, decisions and actions. Understand this truth, and embrace it. Everything that you have been through so far has led you to this point. You have discovered who you are, what you enjoy and what you are good at. You’ve even determined what your values and priorities in life are.

However, you life is not set in stone and you are not the finished article. You never will be, because life is a process of constant and never-ending learning, growth and development. So, if you are unhappy with your current circumstances, good. You have the power in your own hands to do something about it. Always seek to become more, and do more. Let comfort and complacency be your enemy.

So, just live your life as best you can. Make mistakes, have wonderful experiences and make incredible memories. Most of all, though, never second-guess who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve experienced or where you are going

Legacy

Everything you gain in life will rot and fall apart, and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart

Jim Carrey

All day, every day, we are bombarded with messages about what we lack in our lives. Some are more subtle than others, but the message is the same; buy this and feel happier, look younger, become irresistible to the opposite sex… Simply put, buy stuff to feel better and be better liked by others. Too many people buy into this idea, and end up short of money but also feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.

It’s time for a reality check. A materialistic mentality will negatively affect your quality of life, because you will never be happy. Technology is constantly being updated, new car models are released every year, and there will always be someone with a bigger house, nicer watch or more expensive suits than you. So, when you tie your happiness and self-worth to things, you will never be happy.

Say, for example, I buy a Maserati GT today. This is my dream car, and I would be over the moon. Driving it will leave me grinning every time, because I finally have what I always wanted. But..2 years later, there’s a redesign and the newer model is released. Suddenly, my car is an older version and not as sleek as the latest release. So, now I need to find another £100,000 to change my car. And then I become happy. Until they release another update. And so it continues. You get the idea.

Material goods do not last, because newer versions will be released or someone else will come along who has more than you. So, any happiness will be short lived. Before long, you will again find yourself unhappy and wanting more.

It is far better to learn to be happy with what you have, and what you have gained through your own hard work. You will stop comparing yourself to others, and live with less. Manage this and you will find yourself happier than ever.

The best way to cure yourself of the curse of materialism? Gratitude. Every day, for a month, take 10 minutes to list 3 things, just 3, for which you are grateful. After a few days, your outlook changes. Instead of looking to outside objects to bring you happiness, you understand that you already have plenty to be happy about in your life. So, you gradually begin to see objects as just that. Objects. Then you slowly stop making pointless purchases. You understand that a car is not going to make you happy or define you. It will just transport you from one place to another. Once you separate emotions from objects, you will find yourself feeling unburdened and happier than ever.

So, when making plans or setting goals, don’t focus on what you need to buy to feel happier about yourself. Do you really want, at the end of your days, to just be remembered as someone with an expensive car? Or would you rather be remembered and respected for your positive influence on others, and your artistic, philanthropic or business endeavors? For me, at least, the choice is clear.

Please do take a moment to reflect on this. Ask yourself;

  • How would you like to be remembered by your family and friends?
  • What kind of legacy would you like to leave?

Contemplating these questions, and expressing gratitude for all the positives which we have in our lives, is a great way to re–calibrate your inner compass. It offers a little perspective, and suddenly that new watch or handbag no longer seems more important than earning the right to be called a good parent, spouse and friend.

So, when your race is run and your eulogy is being prepared, what would you like it to say? Answer this honestly, and adjust your life so that you can live the rest of your days accordingly.

Never Stop Being Yourself

“That was what made traveling appeal to him – he always made new friends, and he didn’t need to spend all of his time with them. When someone sees the same people every day, as happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own”

Paulo Coelho ~ The Alchemist

You are the only person who gets to decide whether you need to change anything in your life, and if so, what and how. It is your life, after all. Some people are genuinely happy as they are, and for these people we should accept them as they are and be happy for them that they are at peace with themselves.

Change, after all, comes from within. No matter what external driving forces or potential rewards for change, if you don’t want it for yourself, you won’t commit to it and your efforts will eventually come to nothing.

Our friends and family are the greatest external drivers of change. Social groups are slightly different – they put pressure on us to conform and change but this is a decision we make with our eyes wide open. We are well aware that we need to fall in line to remain part of this group, so any decision to change which we make is a conscious one. We make the changes, and stay part of the group. OR…we do nothing and find a new group to join.

With friends and family, it’s not so easy because we believe that they are pushing us to change because they care and that it’s in our best interests. Maybe they can see something that we can’t?! Maybe they’ve been in a similar situation and have benefited form the changes which they want for us?! Or…maybe…and this is the part which we are reluctant to consider…maybe they are pushing us to make changes which are in their best interests, not ours.

The only way to know whether a change is in our best interests is to take some time to reflect on where we are right now, whether we are getting any closer to our goals and whether we are happy with our lives. Then reflect on the changes we are being asked to make. They may very well be for the best. Or not, but this is our decision to make.

In life, we learn and grow through the lessons we learn from others as much as what we learn through our own experiences. So, you should never dismiss another’s advice. Whether you apply any of it or not, though, is up to you. They may be advising a positive change which could really make a difference in your life. Or, they may be providing a warning that it’s time to change your surroundings and who you surround yourself with. So, hear people out and judge for yourself. Any change made should be one you want to make, and not just something you’re doing to please others.

One Door Closes..Now What Do You Do?!

When one door closes, another opens. This is more than just a popular saying, it is a universal truth and part of life for all of us. We’ve all experienced some part of our lives come to an end, whether it be a relationship, job, hobby or anything else. This is usually followed by a period of hurt, confusion, soul searching and reflection until we are struck by something else to focus our attention and efforts on. So, with one door having closed, another one has opened in its place. We don’t know where it will lead or how long this new adventure will last, and that is part of the thrill.

The time between one door closing and the next opening varies massively. It depends on the type of door which has closed, because a broken heart will take longer to heal than a broken ankle which forces you to give up competitive sports. It also varies depending on the individual. Some people have a hard time letting go of the past, and instead of trying to heal and move on, would rather keep replaying their glory days or the good times in their heads.  Instead of looking for what they can learn from the experience, they punish themselves and curse their luck that it ended. This refusal to accept situations as they are is incredibly damaging to any potential progress.

When your focus rests on the past and what was once great, you give all the power and control to an ex partner, an old boss, a former friend or anyone or anything else which no longer is relevant to your life. The past takes control of you and prevents you from learning, growing and seizing the next opportunity. Too often we beat so long on the closed door that we can’t see the one which has opened up for us instead.

Is there anything that we can do to avoid getting stuck in the No Man’s Land of despair and regret when a good thing comes to an end? While this depends on the individual and how they perceive that which has ended, I would argue that there are a few things which we can all do to speed up the healing and learning process, and get us into a position to identify the next opportunity which comes along.

The temptation, when a good thing ends, is to lock yourself up and wallow in self pity. This time is spent between replaying a highlight reel in your head of all the good times, and chasing after something which is clearly over, trying to reopen that closed door. The hardest thing to do when one door closes, is also the best thing to do..

That “thing” involves changing your surroundings and perspective. Get outside and go for a jog in the park. Visit a museum. Meet a friend for a drink and a chat. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get outside and do something to take your mind off of that which has ended. Change your surroundings and gain some perspective. Take yourself away from whatever it is that has ended and is troubling you, and any reminders of it. Do something interesting or fun for a while, and when you return to contemplate it, you will be able to look at it objectively with a fresh pair of eyes.

The power is in your hands, and the decision is yours. Understand that when something ends, you are not helpless, and do not have to wallow in self pity. It’s within your power to take yourself away and do something different for a while, which could in turn help to clear your mind and offer a fresh perspective. With fresh eyes, you will then be better able to identify new doors which are opening, and the opportunities which they could offer.

True freedom is understanding that we have a choice in who and what we allow to have power over us

Meryl Streep

 

 

Happiness Is Your Choice.

If you find yourself unhappy with your life right now, rest assured that you are not as helpless as you may feel. The power to change your circumstances is in your own hands. It just takes a little courage, and some difficult decisions, that’s all.

Too often, we stay in jobs, relationships, places and friendships long after we have outgrown them. They are familiar, and familiarity makes us feel comfortable. Letting go of them would launch us into the unknown, and this is a very scary place. So, even though we are no longer happy, we keep our mouths shut and carry on, hoping that the people in our lives or our surroundings will change for the better. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t. Take personal relationships of all kinds, for example. If someone is making you feel unappreciated or unloved, but they are doing it unintentionally and are unaware of how they are making you feel, waiting for them to change is never going to end well. How are they supposed to know that they need to address their behavior if you don’t address this with them? They may very well be laboring under the assumption that all is well. In the meantime, you become increasingly unhappy, possibly even resentful, until it all gets to a head, a massive fight ensues  and you go your separate ways. This is not good, and it is avoidable.

Unhappiness, restlessness and frustration are all warning signs. They don’t mean, however, that you should just drop everything and run away. They are warning signs that you are not living in accordance to your values and priorities. You are living in a town which you don’t like, because your friends and family live there too. You stay in a relationship because being single terrifies you. You keep friends around who you no longer share much in common with, because you don’t want to become a loner. You are unable to live your life as you would like to, because you are too busy accommodating others. Feelings of unhappiness are a wake-up call, reminding you that you have stopped putting yourself first and need to take back control of your life.

I am not, for one moment, saying that all of life and everyone in it should conform to your wants and needs. Life is about learning and growing, and as we do this we change. We outgrow some people and environments, while others need adjustment. Therefore, it is essential that you know what you need to walk away from, and what areas you need to compromise on. After all, you will never have everything your way. Even if you did get your way all of the time, that too would eventually become boring and make you feel miserable.

The only way to truly know why you are unhappy and unfulfilled is through reflection. There are plenty of great ways to do this, but this works best for me;

  • Determine you ideal method for reflection. This can be done on a note-taking app on your phone, but I prefer good old pen and paper. The process of putting pen to paper is a much more powerful process than tapping letters into a phone or computer. My journal of choice is a Moleskine notebook.
  • Clear your schedule and surroundings. Try and find somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted. Turn your phone on silent and put it away. Now, you can think and reflect, without being disturbed. On a good day, i’ll do this in the park or in the garden.
  • Write freely. This is the most important part of the whole process. Just put pen to paper, or stylus to screen, and write without taking a break for 10 minutes. Don’t think about it, just let the words flow.
  • Read and reflect on what you have written. Having written everything down quickly, you weren’t able to overthink anything or censor it. So, now you have in front of you everything which was troubling you. Read through it carefully and see what lessons you can draw from it. Is it that you no longer enjoy your job? Is it a friend or partner who no longer makes you feel valued? Whatever it is that is troubling you, you will discover it here.
  • Ask yourself why. Now that you have identified the source of your misery, ask yourself honestly why this is a problem and what can be done about it. Is this a situation that requires walking away from, or can it be salvaged with a bit of work? Is it that your values or priorities have changed?

You can’t change everyone or everything around you, but you can change the environment you choose to spend time in. Life is too short to waste your time on people who do not respect, appreciate and value you. Spend your time, and life, with people who make you smile, love, feel valued and feel loved. Only you can decide what happiness looks like to you, and only you can do something about it. So, will you choose to be happy, or just accept things as they are and remain miserable?

Live Your Life Inside – Out

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life…Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it

Viktor Frankl

Everybody is unique.  Everybody has different drive, purpose, passion, wants, needs and desires. That is what makes life so beautiful. Most of the time. Different people coming together and living happily. Think about how boring life would be if we were all the same and lived the same way? Boring, to say the least. We would cease to be human, and become living, breathing robots.

So, now that we agree that we are all different and this is a good thing, that raises another question…Why do we try to copy others and live their lives? Or, why do we let others dictate our lives (parents, friends, partners…)? It makes no sense. You can study Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or anybody else as much as you like, but no matter how hard you try you will never be able to copy their lives and achieve what they have. What worked for them will not work for you, because you are different people and your circumstances are different. While it’s great to study successful people and look for lessons which you can apply to your own life, blindly copying them will only lead to frustration and failure. The same is true when it comes to letting loved ones influence or dictate our lives. Live your life as they want you to, and the only person who you make happy is them. Instead, learn from their experiences, and see whether you could apply any of it to your own life. Rather than waste your time and talents trying to become somebody else, why not look inside yourself, figure out who you really are, what drives you, where your passion lies and what your purpose in life is?!

Live your own life, and live it as best you can. Compete against yourself only, aiming to become better today than you were yesterday. That is the key to happiness. Living somebody else’s life will only lead to disappointment.

It’s easy to read these things and nod, but what does this mean? In order to live your own life, you need to really know who you are. This starts with some honest self-reflection. Ask yourself;

  • What do you value?
    • Family and Friendships
    • Integrity and Honesty?
    • Health and Fitness?
    • Accomplishment and Success?
    • Influence?
  • What are 3 non-negotiable things which you need to do every day in order to feel happy and a sense of achievement?
  • What does a perfect day look like to you?

This is just a start on the road to self-awareness, but an important first step to discovering who you really are and what you have to offer the world. Once you know who you are, you can start living accordingly. Most of all, self awareness allows you to take control of your life by taking responsibility for your decisions and actions.

Taking responsibility for your own life, or being proactive, is how you discover more about yourself. It’s also how people become successful, because they don’t wait for good things to come to them, they get out there and work for them. Every day. When you take responsibility for your life, and become proactive rather than reacting to situations and circumstances, you gain a clear idea of what you want to become and do in life. Moreover, you better understand that the power to make this happens really is in your hands.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognise that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life, and he can only answering to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible

Viktor Frankl

The Time Is Now

Time passes so quickly, that you don’t even notice it until it begins to show. We forget this, though, and live as though we have all the time in the world to accomplish everything which we desire. We put things off, and tell ourselves that we will make them happen when the time or conditions are right.

The only thing that this attitude will achieve is to erode your confidence, stall your progress and leave you feeling unfulfilled and dejected. This is because there is no such thing as the “right time” or a perfect situation in which to make your move. This is a lie peddled by the lazy, fearful, those low on confidence and the unmotivated to justify to themselves why they are sitting on their arses eating pizza rather than working on their personal and professional development and chasing after their goals.

Those who sit around and wait for the right time to take steps towards their goals, are the same who curse their bad luck when others around them are progressing in life and having fun. “Why am I stuck in the same spot? Why is everyone else doing well, but not me? Why? Why? Poor little me…blah, blah, blah… It’s not rocket science, so quit the pity party and open your eyes.

Those around you who are experiencing success are doing so because they are putting the time, effort and work in to make good things happen. You’re stuck in the same spot, because you are sitting around and waiting for the planets to align and inspiration to strike. See the problem? People who take control of their lives and take action are rewarded for their proactive approach with success. Eventually. Those who choose to sit around and wait, taking a reactive instead of proactive approach to life…they stagnate, and only have themselves to blame.

The only way to achieve anything in life is to work for it. Stop waiting around and procrastinating. Start, instead, taking baby steps every day which will get you closer to achieving what you want and becoming the person you really want to be. This is especially true if you lack confidence. Waiting around and overthinking will only make it worse. Action is the only way to build confidence. Small actions completed successfully every day will help to build momentum, which in turn builds confidence. Everybody is afraid before starting on a big project, but those who conquer that fear and achieve great things are those who take action, no matter how worried they are. So;

  • Have a think about what you really want.
  • Make a list of all the resources you have, or the people who could help and support you
  • Make a plan of action.
  • Go for it. Schedule in regular checkpoints to stop and reflect on your progress to that point
    • What has worked well so far?
    • What have I learned during this process, and what can I apply from my learning?
    • What hasn’t worked as well as it could? Why?
    • Going forward, how can I adapt my approach to bring even more progress and success?

Don’t wait for the perfect, or right, time to do that which you want to do. Wear those fancy shoes you’re saving for a special occasion, take that trip, eat the donuts, watch the late movie, read that book and take more chances.

The time to live your life is now. Stop putting it off until an unspecified later date. Tomorrow is promised to no-one, so make the most of the time which you have.

Keep Smiling

Just because you fail once, it doesn’t mean you’re going to fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on and always, always, always believe in yourself because if you don’t, then who will? So keep your head high, keep your chin up and most importantly keep smiling because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.

Marilyn Monroe

We all experience failure, loss and hard times, some of which hit us harder than others. When failure does strike, the first thing we tend to do is to lose perspective. We stop looking at the bigger picture and just focus on the failure itself, blowing it out of proportion.

The easiest thing to do is also the hardest thing to do in these situations. We all know that we need to take a step back, look at the positives, look at what we can learn from the failure and then get up and get to work again. The problem is that this is easier said than done.

This is why I love the above quote by Marilyn Monroe so much. There is so much truth and wisdom in it.

Personal experience has taught me that the best way to recover from a failure and regain your perspective and mojo is a change of scenery. After all, how can you be reminded of the beauty of life of you are sat looking at the same 4 walls and feeling sorry for yourself?!

The temptation when things go wrong is to slump on the sofa and binge watch Netflix, or seek some other form of escapism. Short-term this may numb the pain, but it doesn’t solve your problem.  I fell into this trap more times than I care to admit.

This changed when, after one particular setback which hit me hard, a friend forced me to get up, get out of the house and go for a walk in the woods nearby. The effect was magical. As my body moved and loosened, my lungs filled with fresh air and my mind cleared. We keep walking, and as we did, I felt better and better.

By the time we went back home, I felt refreshed and happy. I’d been forced out of my pit of misery and been reminded about the beauty of nature which is right on my doorstep. Most importantly, I felt like there was no time to waste and that I needed to address this failure. So, I grabbed my journal and a pen and started reflecting on what happened and breaking it down.

I had recovered from a confidence-sapping failure, and all it took was a walk outside. A change of scenery led to a change of perspective and the way I was looking at the problem. Instead of wallowing in self pity, i’d been reminded of the beauty of life and that had got me back on my feet after a fall.

Of course, there have been other failures since. Each time, though, I forced myself to do something; bike rides, gym, museums, rugby games…whatever took my fancy. I took myself away from the problem, and by the time I returned I did so mentally refreshed and with fresh pair of eyes.

Telling someone who is enduring a tough time to change the way they are looking at the problem doesn’t help. Neither does telling them to reflect, regroup and go again, because at that moment they are suffering from tunnel vision. All they can see is the problem, nothing else.

So, my advice to you is to get up, get out of the house or office, and do something else for a while. Get active, get busy doing something you enjoy or spend time with family or friends. This is what will help you to pick yourself up after a fall, after which you can go back to the problem, conduct a post-mortem, learn, adapt, grow and go at it again.

 

 

The World Breaks Everyone

The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places

Ernest Hemingway

Bad things happen. We all know that. But so do terrible things, unimaginable things and things from which we doubt we will ever recover. As with anything else in life, it’s our response to these heartbreaking, soul sucking and demoralising experiences which  determine the quality of the rest of our lives. In short, these testing times can either make or break us. Whether it does the former or latter, is simply a matter of how we frame the incident, and how we respond to it.

We hear and read this everywhere, but the fact that our response to circumstances determines our quality of life, is not something that I fully appreciated until last year. Of all the things which I had worked on over the years for my personal and professional development, resilience and my response to negative situations was never one of them. As a result, for much of my life I would take 1 step forward and 2 steps back in everything I did. By this, I mean that I would research, plan and act upon something and really build momentum only for it all to fall apart at the first hint of a problem.

Something bad would happen and I would reason that I had done everything I possibly could, so the problem must be down to outside circumstances and bad luck. My confidence would take a beating, and I would give up, telling myself that I was a fraud and that I was not good enough and would never amount to anything. I would then work to repair my confidence, and try the same project again or attempt something else. All would go well until the first problem was encountered. I’d lose hope and confidence, and find myself giving up without a fight. This was a vicious cycle which I was well and truly trapped in. Everything bad which happened was exaggerated and became the worst thing in the world, and I was the victim of a cruel and vindictive world.

Then, last year, my world fell apart. For real, this time. Within a few short weeks, my dog was put to sleep and my fiancee left. Just when I thought that life couldn’t get any worse, I was hospitalised with pneumonia, developed sepsis and had to be put into an induced coma in order to stabilise my condition and save my life. I cheated death 4 times. I made it through, but my physical condition was so bad, that I had to learn to walk and talk again. I had gone from an independent and healthy 35 year old to someone who could barely do anything for himself. I spent my days in a hospital bed twisted like a pretzel. I couldn’t relax as I had to be positioned in a certain way because I had tubes in me, all the way down from my neck to my thigh, and because I couldn’t relax I found myself unable to sleep other than the odd nap here and there.

These were some of the longest days of my life. I couldn’t read because I wasn’t able to pick anything up or hold it. I literally had nothing to do. I couldn’t even chat to the nurses, as I couldn’t talk. All I had to look forward to was visiting time.

So, basically, all I had to do all day was think and reflect. Normally, in a bad situation my mind would go to war with me, and this was the worst situation I had ever faced. But..something strange happened. I reflected on my life to this point and how it had fallen short of what I want for myself. I reflected on why, and realised that the only thing that really held me back was myself. I wasn’t where I wanted to be because I had developed a habit of giving up as soon as times got tough. Most importantly, though, in that bed I never once saw myself as a victim of bad luck.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt grateful. I was alive. I had survived a serious illness, and was in the best place to fully recover. In my head, I had been given a second chance which should not be wasted. I was spared for a reason. My work here on Earth is not done. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I started to feel excited for the future.

I also discovered who my real friends are, and this was sobering to say the least. Much of my support came from the least likely sources. Overall, I felt blessed and as though my eyes had finally been opened. I realised that I had been a people-pleaser and prioritising others above my own needs, most of whom deserted me when I really needed someone.

I left hospital feeling grateful, confident and positive about the future. I may have lost everything I once held dear, and had my savings replaced with a mountain of debt, but nothing was going to stop me. I had amazing family and (real) friends, a job to eventually return to and a roof over my head. I was luckier than many people in the world today.

The recovery was very slow and tough, but I persevered. Not only that, but the months following my discharge from hospital last November have been some of the best of my life, and continue to get better the harder I work.

I share this today in the hope that it might help someone else who might be stuck. I learned, firsthand, that by switching your focus and perspective, you can change the course of your life. Even though i’d hit rock bottom, I spent my days in the hospital focusing on the positives – everything which I had to be grateful for, the lessons I can learn and apply from what happened, and the potential for my future if I put the work in consistently. This shift in focus led to a more positive outlook. In turn, this new outlook has helped me to keep going whenever I faced a challenge.

Before, I would give up and feel sorry for myself. Now, challenges get my adrenaline levels up, because I see them as opportunities to learn and bounce back stronger. I am more confident, more resilient and happier than ever. Of course, bad things happen, it’s just that I view and respond to them in a very different way now.

Please don’t think that I became an overnight billionaire and married a Hollywood actress with my newfound mindset, confidence and resilience. I am just a normal (I hope), mid-thirties guy who is passionate about learning and development, and what separates high-achievers from those who fall short of their goals. I have discovered the power of reflection, developing self awareness and resilience, and changing the way you view the world. Putting it all into practice has made 2018 a year in which my goals have been tumbling thick and fast as I approach them with a newfound confident and resilient attitude.

I want this for you, and that is why I share my story today. If I can do it, so can everybody else. I didn’t need any books, online courses or any other shortcuts. It took a lot of time and work, but my life changed for the better when i focused my attention on the things in my life which I am grateful for. It opened my eyes to the support and resources which I have available to me. Most importantly, I finally understood that the things which had been holding me back from living the life I wanted were not important at all, such as the opinions of others.

Bad things break us. All of us go through this, but it’s up to you how you frame the experience and how you bounce back from it. Play the victim, or use it as fuel for a bright and happy future? The choice is yours.

 

 

When Bad Can Actually Be Good For You

You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to

Robin Williams

Humans love comfort and familiarity. We do whatever it takes to bring joy and happiness into our lives, and will go out of our way to avoid pain, discomfort or anything we consider to be bad. This approach, however, can actually be holding people back in their lives.

Failure and painful experiences, two of the things which many people fear above all else, can actually be good things. They are also some of the scariest things imaginable, because failure and negative experiences can lead to feelings of loss, unhappiness and uncertainty. In order to avoid these negatives, we become risk-averse. In real terms, this means that we become less willing to take calculated risks in our lives and really challenge ourselves. Instead, we seek the security of the known and the familiar. This is fine if you are happy with the life you create for yourself through this approach. After all, isn’t that what we truly want – to design a life for ourselves and become the kind of person who makes us happy? The problem arises when people are unhappy with what they have become, and the life they now have, through playing it safe.

Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing amount of business and entrepreneurship literature which points to the positive side of failure and bad life experiences. As with everything else, it’s not the event, situation or circumstance which we need to pay attention to. We often have no control over that. For example, a business fails because one of the partners have been stealing money, or we are struck down by a sudden and serious illness. Very little, if anything can be done about that, so it doesn’t help to focus on it and become stressed, upset or give up.

Rather than focus on the issue itself, be mindful of how you are reacting to it. This is at the heart of maintaining perspective and developing resilience, two traits which are shared by many of today’s most successful people.

Mindfulness is not a fancy buzzword, but an essential part of living a happy life. At its core, mindfulness is about self awareness. It’s about having a good idea of who you are, how far you’ve come in life and how far you still have to go. It’s being aware of your own set of values and beliefs, and what is important to you. It’s knowing what you are, and are not, prepared to accept in life, what is non-negotiable and which areas are open for compromise.

Beating yourself up after a failure, or when you find yourself in a painful situation, will get you nowhere. It leads you to curse your luck and seek to lay the blame elsewhere for what went wrong. It can eat away at your confidence and stop your progress in its tracks.

This is where the shift in perspective comes in very handy. Shift your thinking away  from failure, pain and loss being negative. Instead, frame it as a learning experience, as pain is the best teacher of all.

Failure, pain and loss should, ideally, lead to reflection. If it’s something which we attempted but ultimately went wrong, reflect on what went wrong and why. Ask yourself, what, if you were to attempt it again, you would do differently. Look for lessons to be learned and changes you could make in order to bounce back stronger.

Pain and loss are different, but can still be formative experiences. Take losing a loved one, for example. While we come to terms with the loss, we are also forced to face our own mortality and accept that nobody lives forever. At least not in body. When doing this, ask yourself;

  • Are you happy with where you are in life right now? If yes, why? If no, why?
  • Are you living according to your beliefs and values?
  • What can you do to improve the quality of your life?
  • What is stopping you from achieving or experiencing more of what you want in life?

Bad things happen to everyone, even good people. For some, they can be crushing events from which they never fully recover. For others, they can be the catalyst for real, meaningful change. The deciding factor lies in the space between our ears. Our “little grey cells” as Hercule Poirot often called them determine how we view and react to everything which we experience, good and bad.

Our grey cells might be relatively “little” but they are incredibly powerful. They absorb everything we see, hear and experience before determining whether it is good or bad, positive or negative. In plain English..it’s up to each individual how they perceive the world around them. This is why we need to be self-aware, because once we know what we want from life, and what we attach importance to, this helps to provide a reference point to which we can compare everything that life throws at us. In this way, we know if we are truly happy at any given time, or not. It’s easier to remain positive in the face of adversity when we know that this bad situation will have no real impact on our lives and the direction in which it is headed. That way, we save our worries and energy for those things that do involve us.

How Will You Respond?

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom

Viktor E Frankl

Life is a rollercoaster ride, full of ups and downs. All of us experience good and bad times, without exception. You would be forgiven for thinking that the most successful people are that way because they have more luck and less misfortune than the rest of the population, but that is simply not true. They experience failure and bad times too. The only difference lies in the way that they react to it.

Social media has a big part to play in this misunderstanding, because people mistakenly believe it to be a reflection of real life. In fact, the majority of successful and influential people are not using social media platforms to document their daily lives. Instead, they are using these accounts to show you only want they want you to see, that which can raise their profile and those things that paint them in the best light. Think of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc as simply a highlight reel.

Some celebrities and influential people, however, have stopped reading from this script and are indeed using their accounts to show the realities of life as an entertainer, sportsperson or entrepreneur. They share their real lives, good and bad, and let us see that they are vulnerable and human too. They too experience difficult times and have their own demons to battle, and in doing it in the public eye they are providing true inspiration. In sharing their journeys with us, they send a message that we all have bad days but what counts is how we frame those bad experiences and react to them. We certainly need more of this, and less showing off.

Of course, some of these famous people were given a boost because they went to the right schools or were part of the right social circle. But they are the exception to the rule. The majority of those who have reached the highest heights in their chosen arena, have done so through hard work and perseverance. They haven’t necessarily had more opportunities that anybody else, but they just made the most of those which came their way. Luck didn’t have much of a say in the matter either.

Neither did they have a Midas Touch which ensured success at whatever they attempted.  They just kept going when their progress slowed to a crawl, and they started to experience difficulties. Essentially, they developed personal resilience. Armed with this, they bounced back when life knocked them down, and persevered until they tased sweet success.

In order to develop personal resilience, it is first important to identify your beliefs and values. Grab a pen and paper and select your top 10 personal values from this list. If you can, listen them in order of importance too;

  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Affection
  • Competitiveness
  • Co-operation
  • Creativity
  • Security
  • Family Happiness
  • Freedom
  • Friendship
  • Harmony
  • Health
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Personal Development
  • Spirituality
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

Now, think about your empowering beliefs. Write down your top 3.

Here are some examples;

  • I like myself
  • I am good enough
  • My future is full of interesting possibilities
  • I always find a way
  • I’m always lucky

Lastly, pick your 3 limiting beliefs. This is when that little voice pipes up to sap your confidence, and stop your progress in its tracks. What stories does yours tell you?You could have;

  • I don’t like the person I have become
  • I am not clever/ good enough
  • Life is meant to be difficult
  • People are basically only out for themselves
  • You get rich by exploiting others
  • I can’t afford to take risks

The purpose of the above is to help you become a little more self aware. Once you know who you are, what you believe and what you value, then you will start to live in accordance to your beliefs and values. This is the first step towards becoming resilient.

Now that you know that you know what you value and believe in, have a think about your desire to change;

Ask yourself;

  1. How committed are you to taking action to change your life?
  2. What are 3 key things which you would like to achieve within the next 3 months?
  3. What would your life look like and feel like if you achieved them?
  4. What would you have to do or become to make them a reality?
  5. What are 5 resources which you possess?

Lastly, having determined that you have the will and resources to change for the better, it’s time to think about what is holding you back.

  1. What 3 things are you tolerating in your life right now?
  2. What do you gain from these things?
  3. What have these things cost you in your life?
  4. What do you gain by to changing?
  5. What would you have to do to make decisive change?
  6. What would it cost you to make these changes?

What has all this got to do with the way in which successful people have achieved so much in their lives?

As we have touched on above, people become successful when they become resilient and work hard. In order to develop resilience, however, they need to become self-aware, know what they believe in and value and be committed to constant improvement in their personal and professional lives. This helps them to develop a strong belief in themselves and their abilities, ignoring negative influences and persevering when times get tough.

This is something that takes a lot of hard work, but anyone can do it. Those who stick with it and do become resilient, are the ones who will see positive changes in their lives. Consistently. Because they know who they are, what they want in their lives, what they are prepared to accept and what they will not. Most of all, though, they understand that it’s their perspective and reaction to outside circumstances that determines how far they will go in life.