The Joys Of Solitude

The more you realise things, the more you want to be by yourself. Not a lot of people will understand the depths of your thoughts

~ Elvis Presley

Humans are social beings. We have an inherent need to interact with others, and in doing so we learn so much and greatly enrich our lives. That said, we also need to get comfortable with spending time alone. Ideally, there should be a healthy balance between time spent with others and time spent alone. As we are all unique and have different personalities, this balance will vary from person to person. You just have to experiment until you find a split which works for you.

Periods of solitude sound scary, but they are actually very important for your mental health. It sounds counter-intuitive, but spending quality time alone can actually make you a better person, and better company to be around.

Those who willingly spend periods of time alone, tend to be viewed with suspicion, but we can learn a lot from a particular group of them. There are two different groups of people who willingly spend time alone, though. The first are those who appreciate the power of time spent alone to boost your mental health. These people spend their alone-time gathering their thoughts, reflecting or working on their personal and professional development. The other group can be found binge-watching Netflix series while mindlessly surfing the internet. Needless to say, it’s the first group who have a lot to teach us. They tend to be the most self-aware, authentic and happy people you are likely to meet.

Spending time with others benefits our lives in so very many ways, but it also comes with its pressures. We feel pressured to conform to the expectations of others in order to be accepted. We feel pressured to sacrifice our free time to do things we would rather not, for fear of missing out. We spend all of our free time with others who do nothing to enrich our lives and waste time doing things which take us no closer towards our goals. We do this so that we don’t get left out, or left behind. The problem is that this fear of missing out and of being rejected drives us to become someone who we are not. We forget who we really are, what we value and what we want for our own lives. While this might bring some fun and enjoyment in the short-term, over the long-term it can seriously damage your mental health as the strain of putting on an act takes its toll.

I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve stayed in toxic relationships, and spent my time living other peoples’ lives. While I was rarely alone, I was also never truly happy. Over time, this contributed to the slippery slope towards depression which I found myself on last year. The ensuing illness which nearly cost me my life is also a godsend, as it finally opened my eyes to what I was doing, and what I had been neglecting.

In that hospital bed, all I had was time so I used it to reflect on my life. After my discharge, I cut off toxic people and re-evaluated who I was spending time with. I even called off my wedding and left my fiancee, which is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do. This was extremely difficult, but necessary. Soon, my insecurities vanished and were replaced by a sense of calm. Best of all, though, I rediscovered the joy of my own company.

I used to love time spent mountain biking or running in the wooded areas near my home. I also used to be a voracious reader, and journalled religiously, but as the demands on my time grew, all of this got neglected.

Freeing myself from certain people also freed me from the insecurities and pressures which came from spending time with them. It also freed up time. Lots of time. This is time which I then invested in reading, running and cycling in nature. Or spent journalling and reflecting on who I am, what I want from life and what my values are, all of which are important for my personal and professional development. Ever since I reminded myself of the power of time spent alone, I am happier, my mental health is better than ever and I am more productive than ever before. Naturally, I still socialise plenty. It’s just that I now guard my time spent alone, as I appreciate how important it is for my happiness and mental health. As with everything else in life, there needs to be a healthy balance between the time you spend working on yourself and the time which you spend in the company of others.

 

Solitude is dangerous. It’s very addictive. It becomes a habit after you realise how peaceful and calm it is. It’s like you don’t want to deal with people anymore because they drain your energy

~ Jim Carrey

A Black Dog Named Depression

Depression is your body saying “Fuck You, I don’t want to be this character any more. It’s too much for me” You should think of the word DEPRESSED as DEEP REST. Your body needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play

Jim Carrey

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad and helpless for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a real illness with real symptoms, but being a mental health issue, it’s difficult to recognise. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a serious condition of which, thankfully, awareness is increasing. It is also treatable. There are still some, however, who refuse to accept its severity and potentially devastating consequences. They play it down by telling sufferers to “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together”. This is about as helpful as treating a broken bone with a band-aid plaster.

The best way to treat this disease is through talking. Anti-depressants don’t work. They simply numb you, while the underlying causes of your illness go unchallenged. When you’re living with the black dog that is depression, talking and opening up about your illness is the scariest thing imaginable, yet it’s the only way to overcome it and regain control of your life. All sorts of questions go through your head, as you weigh up whether to tell someone else;

  • What will they think of me if I tell them? Will they see me as weak and pathetic?
  • Will they understand?
  • What if they no longer want to know me after I told them?
  • What if they tell others, and I become a laughing stock?

Experience has taught me that these fears couldn’t be further from the truth, and people will surprise you with how caring and supportive they can be once you open up to them. You just need to think carefully about who it is that you are confiding in, and be sure that you can rely on their confidence.

Depression doesn’t distinguish between social status, race or age. It really can happen to anyone. I’ve suffered with this debilitating illness on and off for a while, but had never really done much about it. Just ride it out when it strikes, then brush it under the carpet and move on. Until last year, when it nearly cost me my life. I don’t suffer from drug or alcohol addiction, in fact I am teetotal by choice. My childhood was one filled with love and happiness, and I have performed well academically and later, professionally. I am one of life’s lucky people, and last year, I was preparing to marry my fiancee and buy a house together.

It should have been the happiest time of my life, but I was in turmoil. I felt overwhelmed. Demands were being placed on my time, and I had to forego the things which I wanted to do, and which made me happy. I was expected to behave in certain ways, and pretty much become a different person according to the company I was with. My focus was on keeping other people happy and tending to their needs, all the while neglecting my own. I barely slept, exercised or ate and was under constant attack by the grey matter between my ears. As my mental health deteriorated, so did my physical health and immune system, so that a simple flu led to pneumonia, sepsis and a fortnight fighting for my life in hospital.

I survived, but the road to recovery was a long and painful one. I finally accepted that I was suffering from mental health issues and asked for help. The friends and family in whom I confided were an amazing source of support and encouragement, but it was counselling that made all the difference.

Psychologists come only second in scariness to dentists. Still, I was determined to cure myself of this terrible disease once and for all, so I faced my fears and started counselling.

This was the best gift I could have given myself. Working with a psychologist forced me to confront my fears and insecurities, but also determine who I am. Not who society, family or friends expect me to be. I worked to understand what I hold important in my life, and what I need in order to be happy. I also worked to understand who I really am and what it is that I want from life.

All of this served to help me become more self-aware and more confident. As a result, I am able to identify the triggers that used to start me on an downward spiral, and tackle them before they take hold and cause me any harm. I have re-evaluated who I spend time with and what I spend my time doing, ridding my life of negative people and their influences. It caused a lot of problems, as some people reacted very badly to me taking control of my mental health and my life. As soon as I realised that they weren’t angry at me as a person, but that they were angry because I was no longer conforming to their expectations, I cut them off and felt instantly relieved.

I now live my life as I want. I still treat all others with kindness and respect, and strive to become the very best version of myself BUT I am careful about who I spend my time with, and what I spend my time doing. Is it making me happy? Is it helping me to grow as a person, or professionally? I no longer dance to the tune of others, and I have never been happier. Of course, I adapt and compromise wherever necessary, but I will never again sacrifice what I hold dear just so that others might accept me.

I’m not playing down depression, or saying that tackling it is easy. I’m not saying, either, that it’s just caused by trying to live up to the expectation of others. There are many causes, and mine was trying to live up to the expectations of others while neglecting myself. I only hope that this will help to increase awareness of the condition, and give others the strength to seek help.

Depression is one of the biggest killers of young people, but it’s treatable. We just need to find the courage to speak to someone. Most of all, though, we need to find the courage to be ourselves and live our own lives. Marketers and social media outlets bombard us with messages constantly about how we should live our lives and we feel compelled to pay attention. After all, we don’t want to miss out and be left behind. This becomes a problem, though, when we set aside our own values, forget who we are and become someone else just so that we can be accepted by others.

If you want to achieve anything in life, you need to pay close attention to your mental health. Like a bonsai tree, it can be very delicate and in need to of time and attention. Take good care of your little grey cells and they will take very good care of you on your journey through life.

 

It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction

Malcolm X

The Secret Ingredient To A Happy Life? Love!

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
If there really is a secret ingredient which has the power to instantly improve our lives, then it can only be love. Love is incredible. It gives us strength, comfort and confidence. It gives purpose and meaning to our lives, lifts us when times get tough and inspires us to push harder when things are going well.
Love comes in many forms and all are unique. In our lifetimes, we will experience the love of a mother, father, brother, sister, partner, spouse, friend and so many more. Every single one is slightly different, though. That said, each of these lift us and positively impact our lives. Feeling loved, however, doesn’t have to be dependent on other people. The most important love is not that which we give to, or receive from, others. The most important love is that which we show to ourselves. Self-love is the greatest love.
When you love yourself, you hold yourself to a higher standard. You have too much self respect to allow yourself to waste your talents and lead a life of mediocrity. When we love someone or something, we care for it, nurture it and help it to grow. However, as we do this, we sometimes neglect ourselves without realising. That’s why it’s important that we love ourselves first. After all, how can we serve others when we are neglecting ourselves?
When we love ourselves, respect ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for our own lives, something magical happens. Life gets better, and not by accident. Self-love fosters a positive, growth mindset so that we find ourselves striving every day to improve the quality of our own lives. So, we learn more, do more, achieve more and become more. For me, this is the essence of life – to strive to become the very best version of yourself. When you strive for this, you enrich the lives of your family and friends by inspiring them. If you have a family of your own , you become better able to support them. Outside of your personal life, this positive attitude, fuelled by love, drives you to bring value to the lives of the countless people with whom you will interact. Your example could inspire others to also love themselves and strive to improve their lives every day, and if more people did that, it could hardly be considered a bad thing could it?!
Learning to love yourself is not a simple process that follows a set of rules. Much like riding a bike, it’s about just taking action and perfecting your technique along the way. You will fall, but when you do, just get back up, dust yourself off and get back to work. Self-love is about realising what’s important in your life. From experience, I found that a break from social media worked for me. Because I wasn’t being bombarded by marketers and influencers with messages about what things (usually very pretty but also very expensive) I needed in my life, I was able to take the time to reflect and remind myself who I am, what’s important to me, what I want from life and why. I refocused on what I need, not what Instagram tells me that I’m lacking. I listed my non-negotiables, such as my health and personal and professional development, and revisit these every day to measure my progress.
Self-love is also about having the confidence and courage to say no to people. We constantly get requests from others for help. While this benefits them, we do need to stop and ask ourselves if it’s a good enough use of our time. As selfish as it sounds, it is necessary. Keep saying yes to the requests of others, and you will soon find your own life put on hold as you live someone else’s life. Think about it for a moment. When the majority of your free time is spent doing things for others, you stop doing what’s important to you and what makes you happy. As a result, you get frustrated, angry and disillusioned. In this state, how can you possible impact another’s life positively? We need to serve ourselves before we serve anyone else. That is not selfishness, it’s self-love.
Whenever things are going well, or even when they are not and we need a little cheering up, we like to treat ourselves to a little something, even if it’s just a posh, frothy coffee. The greatest gift we can give to ourselves, however, doesn’t cost a penny and we can have it at any time, because it’s not a thing. It’s a feeling, and so much more. So, today, whether you are in a mood to celebrate or commiserate, put your cash away and instead give yourself the gift of love.

Onward….March!!

Change is difficult. Change is scary. Change can be painful, but change is also a very important part of life. In fact, it’s essential. Without change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we stagnate, and that’s how we end up living lives in which we feel bored, unfulfilled and having fallen short of our potential. The apathy and frustration leads us to give up hope of a better life, so we accept the status quo and just live day to day, never pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

Life is not about getting up and doing the same thing every day. Life is about each and every one of us pushing ourselves to become the best possible version of ourselves, before helping others to be able to do the same. Life is all about experiences, from which we learn about ourselves and the world around us. It’s about self discovery and growth. Life is a journey, and on this journey it’s only natural that as we change, we outgrow that which we currently know. Don’t fear the changes which are a necessary part of life, embrace them and learn from them.

Recognise when a phase, job, a life stage or a relationship is over and let it go. Allow yourself to gracefully exit situations which you have outgrown. Moving on doesn’t have to be catastrophic, dramatic or associated with intense pain. It’s all a matter of how you frame the event in your mind.

Reflect on what you have learned and gained so far, but then accept the fact that in order to continue to grow, you may need a job which will offer more of a challenge and the opportunity to increase your knowledge and skill set. Accept that, while a relationship might have been wonderful so far, there is the possibility that you become different people who want different things. That is not to say that you MUST change everything, but be aware of when a change is necessary for your personal or professional development.

Humans generally fear the unknown, but that’s not a good enough reason to hold on to that which you have outgrown or which might be hindering your progress. Let things, situations and people go if you have to so that you can move forward. Embrace the unknown because that is where opportunity lies. Move forward with valuable experience, knowledge or skills. Above all, though, move forward with peace and clarity.

You can move in any direction, as long as it’s forward.

Glass Half Empty or Half Full?!

Glass half full? Glass half empty? How often do we get asked this pointless question. The glass is, basically, a metaphor for our lives. If you are a “glass half full” person this is supposed to indicate that you are one of life’s optimists, with a positive mental outlook and a belief that you have lots of goodness in your life, but room for plenty more. If, however, you identify with the “glass half empty” mentality, you are a pessimist who views and approaches life with a more negative mindset. Personally, I wonder why we even bother to focus on the glass at all. It’s all a load of rubbish, anyway.

Who cares how full or empty the metaphorical glass is?! If you like what’s in it, add more. If you don’t, pour it out and start again. Whatever you do, though, don’t just sit around and moan. Take ownership of your life and do something positive with it.

Enough metaphors now. They are making my brain hurt. To put it simply, if you are happy with your circumstances and your life in general, do more of what you are doing and build on what you have. If, on the other hand, you are unhappy, unfulfilled or dissatisfied with your life, stop moaning and do something about it. Decide what it is that you would like to change, and get to work.

Each of us is the master of our own destiny and in control of our lives. The beauty of life is that we can hit the reset button and start again whenever we need to. We can change direction whenever we want. It’s up to each of us what future we create for ourselves. Nobody else is going to fix your life for you, because they are busy enough with their own. The perfect life is not going to fall out of the sky and land in your lap, and neither is it to be found in the latest superstar self-help guru’s book or seminar. It’s up to you. Ask yourself… What is it that you really want? How deeply do you want it? How hard are you prepared to work for it? How much are you prepared to sacrifice in the short-term, in order that you can live out the rest of your life feeling happy and fulfilled? Answer these questions, and they will give you an idea of what you need to do in order to be living the life of your dreams. Turn these ideas into clear goals and a plan of action. Then put the work in. Every day. Even on those days when you least feel like it.

Stop looking for metaphors or excuses and start, instead, building the life of your dreams. Little by little, every day. Or, alternatively, do nothing and stay as you are. The choice is yours alone, but if you choose mediocrity over greatness, you lose the right to whinge about it. So…let’s have less whining and more work. Or less work but no whining. Choose wisely.

Knowledge and Action

We live in exciting times. There are massively successful and influential people who, over the centuries, have condensed their life’s work into books which we can devour in less than a week. Or, better yet, we can go online and find exactly what we are looking for. This enables us to acquire incredible amounts of knowledge in a relatively short time. Better yet, you don’t have to attend a fancy school or university to acquire this knowledge. If you have access to a computer with an internet connection, it’s all at your fingertips. There are no excuses.

But….but…what if you can’t actually read? Well, you can access that knowledge through the increasing number of audiobooks, podcasts or instructional videos on Youtube. OK, but…what if you’re blind? Thankfully, a great number of texts are available in Braille. You get the idea. The information that we really need to be able to change our lives, and the lessons to be learned from the knowledge and wisdom of those who came before us, is available to almost everybody. So, in a day and age where we all fight to stand out from the crowd, it’s clear that access to these sources of knowledge and information is not what makes us unique.

What makes us unique is not that we think in a particularly original way either. Our uniqueness comes from the way in which we absorb and understand the existing knowledge and ideas, before reacting to it in our own individual way. It’s in taking existing knowledge and ideas and challenging them, or improving upon them, that we become unique and original ourselves.

Set your ego and your fears aside, and open yourself up to change. Now, put that knowledge which you’ve acquired so far into action.  Act and learn. Discard the elements which don’t work, make adjustments and tweaks wherever you feel necessary and do more of what works. This is how you can actually improve your life, by acting on the knowledge which you acquire and learning from it. Or, would you rather make it to 60 years of age and look back with regret at a life full of unfulfilled potential, in which you had the knowledge with which to make your mark on the world, but instead did nothing with it? The choice, for me at least, is an obvious one. After all, knowledge is useless unless you do something with it.

If you are not using the knowledge which you acquire, why are you even bothering to read?!

Read…Learn….Act…Learn some more…Grow…

All Grown Ups Were Once Children….

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince)

As children, we are full of curiosity. The world around us is big and exciting. We explore, we investigate and let our imaginations run wild. Then as we grow up, we get taught to curb our inquisitive nature and think logically. We get processed through the education system, which aims to prepare us for life beyond school, only to emerge into the world the same as everyone else. So, in order to stand out from the crowd, we learn to think outside the box, be ourselves and adopt a mindset of constant improvement, aways asking why we’re doing what we’re doing, the way we’re doing it and whether there is a better way of doing it.

In an ironic twist, that child-like inquisitive nature which we had as children and had programmed out of us, is what we search for and try to rediscover as adults, in an effort to add meaning to our lives and discover what we are truly capable of. Some of the greatest artists, writers, poets, musicians, athletes and even entrepreneurs the world has ever seen are those who never lost touch with their inner child.

So, today, pick up a novel and transport yourself to a different time, country or even galaxy. Or if you’re more of a visual person, choose a good movie or go for a walk outdoors. Whatever you do, let your imagination roam free. Rediscover your inner child. You won’t be sorry.

Hell Is Other People…Really?!

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”
  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
From a young age, I was taught that we should make an effort to get to know people. All people. No matter what our first impression of them is. And when I read The Little Prince for the first time as a child, it reinforced the lesson that we should not be so quick to judge others. The narrator teaches us that if we spend time with caterpillars (the people we don’t immediately connect with) and get to know them, they eventually turn into butterflies. That is to say, that if you spend time with people and try to understand them, something beautiful can happen, whether that’s the beginning of a good friendship, or an important lesson being learned.
Everybody has something to teach us, whether it’s their level of knowledge on a particular subject, their life experiences or just their behaviour, body language and the way in which they interact with others. They can inspire us, motivate us and lift us. They can support us and offer us a new perspective on life. Or, maybe, they can serve as an example of what not to say or do. The two greatest teachers on life are our experiences, and the people with whom we come into contact with.
All of this only becomes possible if we approach others with an open mind. Which is easier said than done in the digital age. How often do we “google” a new acquaintance’s name or search social media outlets for them, only to form a judgement on who they are before we have actually taken the time to get to know them as a person? Even in this day and age, people are judged according to their political views, lifestyle choices, sexual orientation and so much more. None of which is a true reflection of who they are as a person and what they could bring to your life if you only put your judgements aside and really got to know them. It could be the case that, in getting to know each other, you are the one who will make a positive difference in their life. And isn’t that why we are all here? To make a positive impact on the lives of others around us? We are social creatures, so it’s only natural for us to lift and support each other.
Too often, though, we surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs and interests. People who think and act like us, and understand us. It’s the safe and easy choice. Given that we like the same things and think and act in similar ways, we know what we are getting with these people. No differences of opinion or challenging conversations. We can just be ourselves without the fear of being judged. As a result, we label ourselves and others, before joining the group which resonates the most with us. With everyone in isolated groups, it makes it harder to get to know others outside our spheres and share ideas and opinions.
In business, these isolated groups are called silos, and organisations are working hard hard to break these down in order to encourage better communication and co-operation between departments and colleagues. In much the same way, we need to work to rid society of these social bubbles, and encourage more people from all walks of life to get to know each other.
We all say that we want to better ourselves and improve the quality of our lives, so why are we overlooking one of the best teachers of all, the people whose interests and experiences are different from ours?!
Judge less. Communicate more. You’ll be surprised just how much this can enrich your life.

Judge Not..Unless You’re Judging Yourself.

That is the most difficult thing of all. It is far more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself correctly, then you are truly a man of wisdom

Antoine de Saint- Exupèry  ~ The Little Prince

Judge not, lest ye be judged yourself… Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could live this way. The world would be a happier place for a start, and a it would be a world in which we all supported and helped each other to become the best that we could be. Sounds like a fairy tale, and unfortunately it is. We judge others, whether we are conscious of it or not and social media has only made the problem worse.

Judgement is not all bad. It depends on the type, and context. We sometimes judge others harshly because we believe in them and have an idea of their true potential which they are not living up to. So, in this instance, initial judgement is followed by constructive criticism, advice, guidance and help with which we hope that they will realise what they are capable of, and start living up to it. This, however, is the exception to the rule.

We often waste valuable time and energy putting others down, whether that be to justify our own decisions and choices, or lift ourselves and feel better. This is just plain wrong, though. What business is it of yours what somebody else does for a living, or how they dress and how they choose to spend their free time?! Your attention should be directed at your own life, and your decisions, choices and actions. What does this achieve? Negative results. Instead of reflecting on what you have to be thankful for, you scrutinise what others have and kick yourself for not having the same, or more. Judging other people is the surest path to unhappiness and dissatisfaction, and who wants to willingly make themselves feel miserable or jealous?! It makes no sense.

Of course, it goes without saying that the best thing you could possibly do is not to judge at all. After all, everyone has the right to live their own life as they please, as long as their actions and words are not causing upset or distress to anybody else. Plus, we all have our own demons to fight and challenges to overcome. Live and let live. Rather than judging and criticising others, treat them with kindness and compassion. If you must judge, apply that scrutiny to your own life instead.

Ask yourself…Are you where you want to be in life? Are you happy with the person you are right now? If not, what could you do today to change this? Are you living up to your potential? Are you striving every day to become the best version of yourself?

Answer all of the above positively, and you will be well on your way to becoming the best you can be. Chances are that you will have already have started to reap the rewards of your hard work, so your focus will be on continuing your success, and not on what others are doing and whether you agree with it. Basically, if you are regularly reflecting on the above and working hard to improve yourself, you are unlikely to feel the urge to stand in judgement of anybody else. Why? Simply put..You will find yourself too busy focusing on your own life and the impact which you have on others to even think about what somebody else may or may not be doing. Life is a journey of constant learning, growth and improvement and once you realise this, and the potential which you have within you to achieve great things, your only concern will be to develop yourself and to nurture, help and support others to become the best that they can be too.

In a world where we are encouraged to adopt a dog-eat-dog mentality and judge others in order that we might rise above them, be the exception. Focus on yourself, and be your own harshest critic, testing your limits and pushing yourself to find out what you are really capable of. Then lend a helping hand to others, so that they may also do the same.

The only person you should judge is yourself. Your only competition is yourself. The world is a massive place, and there is plenty of room in it for us all to lift each other and become successful

What Matters Most…

What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them…Happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ~ The Little Prince

I recently re-read The Little Prince and quickly remembered why this is such a popular and powerful book, read across the globe. While it was intended for a younger audience, it’s a book which i’d recommend to adults too as it contains powerful observations about life and human nature. The story itself is enjoyable, but the real value comes from the way in which it makes the reader stop and think about the world and their place in it.

The main theme of The Little Prince is the importance of looking beneath the surface to find the real truth and meaning of a thing. It is the fox who teaches the Prince to see with one’s heart instead of just with one’s eyes. Unfortunately, this is something which most adults have difficulty doing. As we get older, we get bombarded with messages about what life should look like, and are processed through an education system which is out of tune with the world for which its students are being prepared. In the process, too many of us lose our sense of curiosity and even our creativity as we focus instead on becoming the kind of person society wants us to be. We focus on getting the best education, to secure the best career which will in turn pay us the best salary with which we can afford to buy a nice house and a nice car before meeting someone with whom to start a family. All pretty intensive and exhausting stuff, and with only 24 hours in a day, something has to give…

That something which usually falls by the wayside? The simple pleasures in life which bring so much happiness, joy and meaning to our lives. That is why I wanted to share the above quote, because it’s so powerful. We become so busy chasing after grades and jobs that we often forget or forego the time we should be spending enjoying our lives. We find ourselves overworked, stressed and often miserable, desperately seeking a solution.

This is where Marketers and Social Media Influencers come in. Their sole purpose is to influence our decision-making processes, so that we spend our hard-earned cash on things which we neither want nor need. We all like to think of ourselves as intelligent and perceptive, so how are they able to get away with this?! In short, they assign certain emotions to their products or services. We are led to believe that having their product in our lives will lead us to feel happy, satisfied or fulfilled. Or, another approach they use is one by which we become convinced that without their product or service, we won’t be happy and our quality of life will not improve. All of which is, of course, nonsense.

Buying things in order to feel better doesn’t work. All that happens is that you are left with a cupboard full of junk and an empty bank account. Hardly a cause for celebration. The reality is that happiness is a feeling and a mindset. It’s internal, and controlled by you, and you alone. It is, essentially, your choice whether to be happy or not and all comes down to what you choose to focus on. Do you focus on that which you already have in your life, and for which you are thankful? Or do you instead spend your time reflecting on what you don’t have but others do? Attaching your happiness to material possessions, or comparing your life with others, will only lead to disappointment, frustration and a lack of fulfillment.

Achieving happiness doesn’t require the latest smartphone or designer handbag. It requires quietening your mind through meditation or journalling, before taking time to appreciate the true beauty of life; whether that’s in our personal relationships or spending time surrounded by nature. These are just two of the simple pleasures which are so abundant that we can all enjoy them. Anybody can experience these pleasures at any time, young or old, rich or poor. It doesn’t even require you to open your wallet.

All you need to do is set some time aside to open your eyes and your heart. Take some time to truly appreciate the beauty of life, and the things which money can’t buy. That is the path to happiness.

Run Your Own Race

It’s not unusual to feel that you are behind in life. After all, social media is full of people announcing their achievements to the world. We open up Facebook, Instagram or whatever other platforms we use, and instantly see pictures of countless people who have already achieved what we are striving for. Not only that, but these people appear, to be achieving so much at younger and younger ages. If you take what you see at face value, of course. The question I want to ask today is; does it really matter what everybody else is doing? Why does it bother us? Why do we get the urge to compete with others who we don’t know?

There is no timetable or schedule for us all to follow. Life is not a linear process from Point A to Point B, but rather a long, winding and wonderful journey of growth and discovery. The notion of having to achieve a certain amount in a certain time frame is a fabrication. The situation in which you find yourself right now where you are meant to be. Billions of people around the world can’t do all the same things in the same order. For a start, each of us is unique. We all have our own desires, visions, goals,  strengths, weaknesses and motivations. Mine will vary greatly from yours, and that is completely natural.

Some get a degree in their 20s, some will get theirs much later in their 40s and some will have no degree at all. The same goes for marriage, children, buying a house and so much more in life. But.. what is considered early? What is late? Who or what are you comparing yourself with?

Your life is your own, and you shouldn’t allow others to impose their schedule on you, whether that be parents, friends or society. Don’t be hard on yourself because of your current circumstances. If you haven’t achieved all of your goals yet, it’s because you still have some learning and growth left. If your progress has stagnated, you need to set new, more challenging, goals. If you seem to be going nowhere fast, that’s a sign that you need some serious and honest reflection, to remind yourself of who you are, what you want from life and what drives you. It’s YOUR life, which follows YOUR own timeline. The only schedule which matters is the one which you set for yourself.

Take a moment to consider a flower bed. Each flower doesn’t care about how its neighbour grows, it just blooms and grows at its own rate. They all get the same water and sunlight, but develop individually. That’s the same with people. We all have access to many of the same resources, but our growth varies from person to person. Rather than beat yourself up about this, embrace your individuality and determine your own personal timeline for achieving your own goals.

Live Your Life Looking Forwards, Not Backwards

Your future is bigger, and more important, than your past.

All that really matters is what you’re striving towards in life. Your big goal, your mission, your “why” or your raison d’être. That is where your focus should be, not stuck in the past. Don’t rank your life by your accomplishments, failures or how it compares to others. Rather, rank your life by the courage and determination you demonstrate by giving your absolute everything to achieve whatever it is that you believe in. All day every day.

It’s the mission, or journey, that holds both the joy and the growth which you seek. That’s not to say that you should just forget about the past – it is one of life’s greatest teachers, after all. BUT you should be looking forwards and building your future. Focusing on past failures will destroy your confidence, just as focusing on your successes will lead you to becoming complacent.

Embrace The Unknown

We all set out to “find” ourselves, with ambitious goals, only for an awfully high number of us to end up playing it safe and avoiding risks. The truth, however, is that it’s only in the unknown that we are able to find ourselves. We don’t plan on selling ourselves short, but the unknown is a very scary place. It’s worth remembering that humans are creatures of habit, and our habit is to seek the easy route to anything. We seek pleasure and instant gratification while avoiding pain and uncertainty. We like to be, as far as possible, in control of our lives.

Being comfortable and in control will never make you great. It leads to unfulfilled potential, dissatisfaction and disappointment. If you crave greatness, if you really want to learn what you are truly capable of, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Get up off the sofa, get out there in the big, wide world and set off on your own journey of discovery through the unknown. This can be terrifying, but you must be willing to take a chance and embark on this journey.

This is not something you can plan for and think through. You just have to experience it. Learn, adapt, grow, develop and never stop pushing the limits of what you are capable of. This is how you discover who you truly are, what you are capable of, where your strengths and talents lie and how you can make your mark on the world.

So, don’t be scared of the unknown. Be scared instead of becoming comfortable and complacent. Be fearful of mediocrity. If anything is to trouble you, it should be the thought of losing your curiosity and passion for learning. The unknown is a weird and wonderful place, where through hard work and persistence you can learn, become or achieve whatever you set your heart and mind to.

Live In The Moment

Be here now. Be in the moment. The now is the greatest moment of our lives and it just keeps getting better. The bad parts, the boring parts, the parts with high anxiety. Embrace every moment for its greatness. This is life. This is the greatest movie we will ever see.

Kanye West

Destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or hustling in order to be successful. Embrace, instead, the reality that rest, recovery and reflection are essential elements of a happy, successful and fulfilled life.

Life is happening right now, all around you. So, stop putting yours on hold, and start enjoying it. Right this moment.

What Do You Believe In?

Shallow people believe in luck and in circumstance. Strong people believe in cause and effect

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is the simplest, and most powerful, shift which you can make in your life – choosing to believe that everything that happens is a result of choices which you make. It really is a matter of choosing how you wish to view the world and your place in it. You can choose to believe in luck, that you have no control over what happens in life, and that life just happens TO you. OR you can choose to recognise that cause and effect exists. You can blame the world for your lack of success, while sitting back and waiting for something good to happen or you. Alternatively, you can make small choices and decisions every day which will take you closer towards your goals. Even when things happen which are beyond our control, we decide how we react to them. Do you choose to admit defeat and give up? Or do you choose to get back up, dust yourself off and try again?

It’s more than just a choice, though. It’s your responsibility. You owe it to your family and friends to become the best you can be, but most important of all, you owe it to yourself.

The choice is yours, and the life which you are currently leading is the result of the choices which you have made until this point. It’s a refection of what you have decided to do, or not to do. If you want to improve your quality of life, you have the power to make better choices which will lead to better results. Simply put… If you want to get better at something, you need to put in the time, effort and hard work necessary to achieve it. Nobody can do it for you. No amount of books and courses can do it for you either. You need to make the right choices and put the work in every single day. This means choosing between working on your business or going out. It means choosing between the gym and a night in front of the tv. Even on days when you don’t feel like it, you still need to be maintaining your discipline and making the right choices. Over time, these choices all add up to steer you in the right direction towards your idea of success.

Whether you lead a reactive life, responding to the world around you, or become proactive and actively carve out the life which you want for yourself, is completely up to you. It’s your choice alone, so choose wisely.

 

 

 

When The Going Gets Tough…

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps

Confucius

Once you decide that you want something so badly in your life that you turn it from a wish into an actual goal, don’t let anything stop you from reaching that goal. Keep going until you make it happen. This is what we are commonly told, but it can often be easier said than done though.

The reality is that you will encounter obstacles and setbacks as your strive towards your goals, and at some point it might even become clear that the path which you are currently on will not get you to your goal. At this stage, you will be tempted to admit defeat and give up, but you must fight this urge with every ounce of your being. Resist the temptation, too, to curse your luck or feel sorry for yourself. Instead, go back to the drawing board and plan a different path. Ask yourself;

  • What has worked well so far?
  • What are my strengths?
  • Where are the gaps in my skills or knowledge? Is there somebody who could help me or a book I should read?
  • What is not working in the current approach?
  • Knowing what I now do, how can I adjust my approach so that I can still achieve my goal?

When you refuse to bend or be broken by obstacles and setbacks, but rather rise to the challenges, your life will change for the better. You become more resilient as your outlook on life becomes more positive. Instead of being frustrated by setbacks and obstacles, you begin to see them as challenges to be overcome. As you overcome more and more challenges, you grow and develop into a more positive and resilient person. You become the kind of person you need to be in order to achieve the goals which you set for yourself.

If you change your goal to make it easier to achieve every time things get tough, you will get used to playing it safe and taking the path of least resistance in life. In doing so, you will never realise your full potential, because it is in facing challenges and overcoming them that we discover who we really are and what we are capable of. Doing the hard things which make you feel uncomfortable is the best way to conquer self-doubt, and it’s self-doubt which causes people to adjust or abandon their goals when times get tough.

Believe that there is always a way to make the impossible possible. What seems beyond your reach today, could still be yours if only you change your approach. Believe that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to, and that when times get hard, you just need to work harder and smarter. Believe that there is nothing wrong with your goals, you just need to find a better way to reach them.

Adjusting your approach is not an admission of failure, it’s part of the journey towards success. We try things, keeping what works and changing what doesn’t, and we do this this until we achieve what we have set out to. This is how we learn, develop and grow.

You’ve Had Your First Taste Of Success. Now What?!

We all taste success at some point, because when we want something deeply enough, we work tirelessly to get it. Consistent hard work brings positive results. While we all have the ability and opportunities to improve our circumstances, success is temporary for some people, whereas for others it’s a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I’ve always been interested as to why this happens, and whether there’s a difference in behaviour or mindset. What I have learned is that there is one threat, above all, which we need to be able to manage in order to keep winning and keep making progress.

One of the biggest threats to our continued success is not failure. Failure is an important part of success, because it’s one of life’s best teachers. Through failure, we learn what works and what doesn’t. We learn what feels right for us, and who we are. With each failure that we experience, we are given an opportunity to re-evaluate our goals and decide whether they are still relevant. So, if it’s not failure, what is this threat to success then?!

The biggest threat to success…is success. To be more precise, achieving success can leave us with a feeling of complacency, causing our egos to swell and encouraging us to relax our efforts. Some people find themselves unable, or unwilling, to push onwards when they are winning, and this leads to disappointment in the long term. Instead of capitalising on their win, and the opportunities which present themselves, they choose to drop everything and celebrate their achievements. While this may be a fun way to unwind after the grueling journey towards success, stopping to celebrate leads you to lose momentum and any advantage you might have gained so far. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be proud of our achievements and share them with others, but that we should practice moderation. Spend too much time congratulating yourself on your achievements so far, and you risk losing sight of your overall goals and the sense of urgency with which you started your pursuit of them.

This is what separates high achievers from the rest, because when this group achieve what they set out to, they take some time to celebrate but then get back to work. They reflect on what they have learned so far, how far they have come and how far they still have to go. Wherever necessary, they adjust their goals before getting back to work, focusing on the task at hand and not on past wins. The key factor that sets this group apart is a thirst for constant improvement in their lives, and a desire to positively impact the lives of others.

If you want success and achievement to be more than a one-off event, there are a few lessons you can learn from high achievers who make success a habit;

  • Moderation. Don’t get carried away in congratulations and celebrations. Take time to acknowledge and celebrate your wins, and then get back to work.
  • Reflection. As with failures, wins are also valuable learning experiences. Once you have finished celebrating, reflect on what you have learned so far, and what you need to get yourself to the next level.
  • Action. Get back to work and go after your next win.
  • Constant Improvement. In all areas of your life, constantly ask yourself – Can I do this better? How? Am I making the full use of my skills and abilities? Am I pushing myself to constantly achieve bigger and better?

Successes and wins are not a reason to stop trying to improve yourself, but rather what happens when you adopt a philosophy of constant improvement in all areas of your life.

Have A Great Day. Every Day.

Each of us is allocated a certain amount of time on this Earth, which we forge into a life we are happy to lead. This time, as well as being limited, can’t be regained once it has passed so we should be making the most of it. Not everybody sees things the same way, however, and a shocking amount of people still lead lives with no direction or purpose, and blame bad luck and lack of opportunities for robing them of the life they want, and the happiness which they feel they deserve. Of course, people work very hard to change their circumstances, but then give up far too easily when times get tough.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are the lives of our dreams. Our vision of the future is achieved in small steps, consistently over time. It involves having one great day after another, and this can be achieved in 4 steps that anybody can take.

Determine what 5 actions you can take today that will take you a step closer to your goals. We all know what it is that we truly want, and many of us know how we could get it, and when we could get it by. It’s in the execution that it tends to fall apart. When times go well, we get tempted to take our foot off the gas, and spend time celebrating our successes. When things go wrong, we get disheartened, lose confidence and find ourselves fighting the temptation to give up. This is why we need structure and accountability in our day. Every day. To ensure this, prepare a list of 5 things that you must do every day to get you closer to your goals. For example, your list could be;

  1. Read for at least an hour.
  2. Reach out and speak to at least one friend or family member
  3. Gym, walk or physical activity for an hour.
  4. Journal.
  5. Tackle at least one thing which I have been putting off.

Obviously, your list will vary according to your goals but it’s the accountability that matters. You have to complete the list in order for the day to be considered a success. While it keeps you moving in the right direction, this daily list also keeps you focused and helps you to better manage your time. I still have plenty of time to unwind or have fun, but only after my list has been completed for the day. Give it a go, and see how you get on.

Learn something new every day. One of my favourite sayings (“Every day is a school day”) is such an important life lesson. It sounds funny when you first hear it, but when you think about it, this is a call for you to become a life-long learner. Life is more than just a pursuit of your goals. Life is a journey of learning and development, self-discovery and becoming the best version of yourself while also lifting up those around you.

Learning can be done in many ways, but my two favourites are reading and conversations. The first one is self-explanatory. You identify an area of interest, or an area in which you lack knowledge and then seek out books, websites, journals or blogs to read and educate yourself. With advances in technology, everybody can access reading material in a suitable format.

Conversations are something which we need more of. I believe that everybody, no matter their job title or status, has something to teach us if we care enough to listen. We tend to seek people just like us, or those who have achieved what we want, for conversations but it’s about time we ditch our preconceptions and become more open minded. That homeless man you just gave a tea and a sandwich? What if he was once a CEO who made a few bad decisions and has paid the ultimate price? That security guard you ignore as you walk past? What if he was previously a teacher, but now doing this job to pay for the studies which he needs to get the necessary qualifications to change careers? That cleaner? What if he was a lawyer in his home country until he was forced to flee persecution, and is working whatever jobs he can find in order to support himself and his family? You get the idea. Judge less, talk and listen more, and the life-lessons which you get will be priceless. After all, we don’t just learn from books, but we also learn from the life experiences of others.

So, today, pick up a book or engage someone in conversation and see how much you learn. Obviously, if you’re like me and have reading on your list of actions for the day, do your learning in another way, whether it be a conversation, podcast or anything else.

Take time to express gratitude. Focus on the things which you are thankful for. Think about what you have right now, and what you are. This is all about perspective. With the rise of the Social Media Influencer, more than ever before, our attention is drawn to what others have. We begin to crave these things to the point where we lose sight of what is important in our own lives and the journey which we are on.

People only show you what they want you to see. Especially online. You don’t see the debt incurred by those who are “faking it till they make it”. All you see are the houses and cars, and equate this to massive success. What of those who are genuinely successful? Again, you only see the perks, but not the tireless effort and sacrifices which they had to make to achieve what they have today. They were prepared to keep going when times got tough, chose nights working on their business or education instead of going out and were disciplined enough to finish what they started.

Turn your attention to what you do have. Have you got a comfortable house to live in with heating and running water? Have you got a job which allows you to support yourself and your loved ones? Have you got a car so that you can travel in comfort? Have you got food? A television? Internet access? A smartphone….All of these things make you richer than countless millions of people in the world, for whom daily life is a fight for survival.

You have very many things to be grateful for in your life. You just need to stop looking at what other people have, in order to realise this. Write down 3 things every day which you appreciate, and enjoy the magic which it works on your mindset and attitude.

Enjoy something every day which money can’t buy. For me this is quality time spent with loved ones, or a walk in the forest with my dogs. Some of the most wonderful things in life don’t come with a price tag. Seek them out and enjoy them every day in order to enrich your life and keep stress at bay.

Daily life is all a matter of balance. As well as working tirelessly on your goals, it is important to also appreciate what you have, what you are and the journey which you have been on so far. Furthermore, by doing something every day which money can’t buy, it brings balance into your life and makes every day look and feel like a great day.

I wish you all a great day. Every single day.

 

 

Your Words, And How You Use Them

Achieving success, reaching our goals and realising our potential is so much more than just getting a better job or starting a business, so that you can lots of money to buy nice things. It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves, and the best that we can be in all areas of our lives. It’s about becoming well-rounded people who raise and inspire others while we constantly pursue personal and professional development.

So, what i’d like to ask you today, is that you be nice to other people. Treat others with kindness, compassion and respect. Even those you would rather just avoid. Put all judgement aside, and aim to be a good person. Those who you often think deserve it least, turn out to be those who need it the most.

This is easier said than done, though, as we all get tired, frustrated, angry or upset and in turn take this out on other people. We are very quick to brush this off as harmless stress-relief, and just expect those on the receiving end to understand and forgive us if we apologise later. But, once those words come out of your mouth, it’s already too late. You can’t take them back, and you can’t undo the damage which has been caused. Before you lash out at somebody else, just remember that they are a human being with feelings. They are somebody’s mum, dad, daughter, son, brother, sister… Ask yourself, would you treat your own loved ones so badly?

You have no idea what struggles other people face on a daily basis, and the potential damage that one rude comment can do to another’s confidence and self-esteem. By the same token, you also have no idea the extent to which one positive, encouraging or supporting comment can do them the world of good.

Your  words, actions and body language have tremendous power. So, think very carefully about how you will use them. You can either build someone up or tear them down, without even realising it.

In a world full of big egos and where a dog- eat- dog mentality prevails, be the exception. Success doesn’t have to be achieved by trampling on the hopes, dreams or self worth of others. It can be achieved by believing in, supporting and raising others. Rather than discourage people, or try to pretend that you are something special or that nobody else can achieve what you have, help others to believe in themselves. Support others in the pursuit of their own dreams. Who knows..one day they might become a major client of yours, or you might end up collecting their artwork, but that might never happen if you become just another negative voice pouring scorn and derision on them.

Your words and actions carry tremendous power, so please use them wisely.

Stop Counting Other Peoples’ Blessings

“How much money does he or she make?”

“How many cars do they own?”

Why do they look so much richer, accomplished, healthier, happier and more successful than I am? I try so hard, too. All day, every day. So, why can’t I have what they have? I mean..everything on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter is real, isn’t it?!”

Nope. Not at all. Social media and reality tv is as real as the tooth fairy, a unicorn or rocking- horse poo.

If you catch yourself indulging in thoughts like the above, it’s a warning sign that you have your focus and your priorities all wrong. Firstly, of all the goals you set, and things which you aim for, material goods should not be among them. Don’t get me wrong, I love my creature comforts and name brands as much as anyone else, I just believe they shouldn’t be the end goal. Instead, you should be aiming to become someone of substance, providing value to others. If you manage that, fame and fortune are likely to follow. Once that time comes, then you can treat yourself to a Lamborghini, Chanel bag or whatever else you desire. Nice things should be the accompaniment of success. In other words, once your consistent hard work and persistence leads to success, you could find that success now affords you ability to afford the lifestyle of your dreams, or of your idols.

Counting other peoples’ money is not fair on them, and certainly not fair on you. You don’t know how hard they have worked and how much they have sacrificed over many years, in order that they can now wear Rolex watches and drive a Maserati. By the same token, you don’t know whether all the trappings of success which these people flaunt on social media was actually earned and not handed to them by their parents. Maybe they don’t even own the houses and cars, but just rent or lease them. Whatever it is, it’s none of your business. You should be too busy focusing on yourself, after all. Yes, it’s natural to want nice things and crave the trappings of success, but envying other people rather than focusing on your own personal and professional development is almost guaranteed to damage your confidence and your motivation levels, slowly killing your ability to make something valuable of your own life.

If you want something to focus on, focus on the one thing which you can control and influence… yourself. Ask yourself.. Is your life heading in the right direction? Do you feel happy and fulfilled? What do you want more of in life? What changes can you make today to positively impact your life? What impact do you want to make on the world around you? How do you want to be remembered at the end of your days? What legacy do you want to leave?

Turn the answers to the above questions into a plan of action and go after it with everything you have. This should keep you busy enough that your focus is firmly on your own growth, and you stop caring about what others may or may not have. Once you start to see the progress which you are capable of and get an idea of the greatness which you have within you, the lives of social media celebrities will cease to interest you and your focus will remain exactly where it should be – on you.

 

Where Is Life’s Reset Button?!

Sorry to disappoint you, but…there is no reset button in life. You can’t take anything back, and you can’t undo anything. Why? Because that would involve time travel, which is only possible in science-fiction books and movies.

We simply can not undo that which has been said and done. All of our actions have consequences, though, and the things which we say and do today could very well have a lasting impact on the rest of our lives.

We all need to understand this, and be aware of it when making our decisions. You, and you alone, are responsible for your life and the course which it takes. Naturally, things will happen which are beyond our control, but we determine how we react in these situations. Didn’t get the job? Your girlfriend left you? You could bemoan your bad luck, and drown your sorrows with a little alcohol, give up on your dreams and settle for less than you are capable of…OR…you can take back control. Do your family and friends dictate how you should live your life? You choose whether to listen to them, and do as they say, or whether to live your own life on your own terms.

We can’t erase the past, but every morning that we wake up, we have a golden opportunity to start again. Once a moment has passed, it becomes history and that is where it should stay. Constantly reliving past mistakes does more harm than good. The past is simply a lesson. You can’t go back and change it. You can, however, learn and grow from it. Which is great news, because we all make mistakes and failures which can actually prove to be a blessing. If things go wrong, reflect on it, learn from it, make changes to your behaviour and move on wiser for the experience.

If you make a mistake today, don’t dwell on it. Learn from it, make amends for it and grow from it. Don’t, however, beat yourself up. Whatever it is, it happened. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Learn from it and move on. Life moves forward, and that where your focus should be – the future and the life which you have ahead of you.

Going All The Way..

If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?!

Joe Namath

As Sunday draws to a close, our batteries are recharged and we gear up for the week ahead, I wanted to share the above quote with you. Why? Because too many people still play it safe, and are denying the world all that they have to offer. You could have it within you to become a great artist or musician, teacher or doctor, but unless you actually do something about it, nothing will happen.

Playing it safe exposes you to less risk, requires less physical or mental energy expenditure and frees up time to focus on things which bring instant gratification. This could manifest itself in the form of a steady job which pays the bills, mortgage and holidays. Or that you willingly avoid relationships. Or perhaps spend your evenings and weekends socialising, watching tv or just doing whatever you regard as fun. Whatever it is, the result is almost always the same. While it could lead to more time for fun, and experiencing less stress now, there is a price to pay, and that is frustration and the feeling of unfulfilled potential later on.

The best way to avoid this is to change your mindset. Go from being satisfied with mediocrity, to constantly seeking improvement. Seek to make small improvements in your life every day, and watch those small steps lead to massive success if you keep going.

This really is as easy as it sounds. Identify what areas of your life you would like to see a change in. New job or career change? More money? Better health and fitness? Now, think about where your strengths and weaknesses lie in relation to your goals. What are you good at and could be doing more of to make quicker progress? What areas do you need to work on improving? Are there skills which you need to learn or gaps in knowledge which need to be addressed?

This is different for everyone, so you need to do the reflection yourself. There is no one-size-fits-all formula to do this because we are all unique and each of us has different wants, needs and reasons for wanting that which we crave. We all know that there are no shortcuts to success. It requires lots of hard work and perseverance. When it all comes together though, and success comes knocking, it feels all the sweeter because of the effort which it took to reach your goals.

There are 24 hours in the day, and this is the same for every one of us. No exceptions. The only difference between the most successful people and everyone else, is largely a matter of how they use their time. For example, they spend less time watching tv and more time reading. Furthermore, they are more selective in what they read. They read to gain knowledge and understanding, which could potentially help them.

Have a think about how you spend an average day. Outside of work, how much time do you spend on positive activities such as exercise, networking, reading, studying or listening to audiobooks or podcasts? How much time do you spend out with colleagues with friends or watching tv?

What changes can you make in how you spend your free time? Can you turn off the tv one hour earlier and read in bed instead? Can you use your morning commute to listen to podcasts or read? Can you give up one or two nights a month to attend networking events?

Small changes to your daily routine (we love routines!) can add up to massive progress over time if we are consistent. In this way, with baby steps and small daily sacrifices we can turn the potential which is within us into a reality.

Beware The Lure Of Internet Fame

Fear ye not. This is not a rant about the dangers of the internet, but rather a call for us to be more intentional in how we use it and take advantage of all it has to offer. If you’re under the age of 70, own a smartphone and have internet access, chances are that you have a social media account. Or several. I’m no different, with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts which I love. I honestly believe that my life is all the richer for the connections which i’ve made, the interactions which I have and the access to knowledge, help, advice, ideas and entertainment which is on offer. There is something for everyone.

The downsides of the internet, social media and smartphones have been well-documented. It’s addictive, with people regularly checking their accounts because the digital world is fast-moving and nobody wants to miss out or risk being regarded uninformed. So a Fear Of Missing Out takes hold, leading people to check their phones every 5 minutes. In turn, this affects concentrations spans and the ability to focus. Then there’s the distorted version of reality which is portrayed online.

The online world, and social media in particular, is no more real than the Loch Ness Monster or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Yet we follow online trends, buy the stuff and do whatever we can to get the lifestyles which we see and crave on Instagram in order to feel happy. Not only that, buy we buy into the myth that we can have all we want RIGHT NOW. Forget about the hard work and perseverance, there are plenty of internet marketers willing to share their secrets with you if you’ll only part with a few measly pounds. Better yet, they will help you to become a social media millionaire too, so that you can live the life of your dreams and free yourself from your tedious 9-5.

Stop. Just stop. Claims like the above should raise the alarm and send you running to the hills, because they are lies. Lies told with the aim of parting the foolish and desperate from their money. Fame and fortune is the happy byproduct of hard work and perseverance. It comes after you build something of value to others. It comes when you solve a pressing need or a gap in the market which you have identified. Those who have become rich quick have often done so through social media marketing, shamelessly promoting products and services for a modest fee and selling people courses which promise to make them rich too. If that was true, though, why isn’t everyone who has ever signed up to one of the programmes a millionaire?! Why do schools,colleges and universities still exist if all you have to do to become rich is pay for a 6 week online course from the latest social media superstar?!

Because it’s not real. Internet fame is as real as monopoly money. These superstar marketers get rich selling people an illusion. If that’s what you are drawn by…stop to ask yourself what it is that you are after. Is it easy money, or do you want to create value and make a real difference? What impact do you want to make? Do you want to be seen as just another social media influencer, or do you hope to create something good which will last?

Furthermore, stop and take a moment to ask yourself whether you are making the best use of the online resources available to you. Do you really need motivational speakers barking at you to get up off your backside and be fierce like a lion in pursuit of your goals? Or some other crap like that. And it is crap. I’ve listened to plenty of these posts over the years and most of it sounds good on a surface level and fires you up, but when you actually think about what you are hearing it makes no sense. For example, one famous motivational speaker will one minute tell you to be a lion in the world of gazelles. Basically meaning that you be aggressive and devour everyone and everything that gets in your way. Only, the next minute he preaches about treating everyone with kindness and compassion on your rise to the top. Polar opposites, yet people lap this up because of the way he presents his contradictory nonsense.

Stop wasting your time, and make the internet work for you. I have written before about content being king, and it really is. Make the most of your social media accounts. If you want to gain influence and reach more people, document your daily life and struggles on your journey towards your goals. Once you have decided what you want, and start taking action towards it, share it with the world. People love real life stories. This is why we are hooked on reality tv, because we find characters with whom we can relate and whose experiences we have at some time shared. If you are a struggling entrepreneur, let people share your journey. Your social media documentary could later serve as the story behind the product or service which you launch. If you struggle with depression, share your story in order to increase awareness and let other sufferers know that they are not alone.

As you document the journey you are on, and share it with the world, try not to get too carried away. Of course, it feels great to be liked and be able to reach more people with your message, ideas, business or service. However, all of this can be somewhat intoxicating and it becomes easy to lose perspective and forget what truly matters. Value. Using social media and the internet to positively impact others. That is what truly matters, and that is what truly lasts.

If you can bring value to the lives of your audience, then your influence and/ or business will grow. If all you’re after is money, you may very well succeed in the short-term only to be quickly replaced by the next big thing that comes along when the market gets saturated or trends and tastes change.

Everyone is unique, yet we all share many of the same challenges in our daily lives. So, share your daily life and your journey with others. Who knows where or what that will lead to?!

Perseverance Pays…

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time

Thomas Edison

How many social media posts have you read by “gurus” claiming to have the secret to success?! Yep. They’re everywhere. Everyone seems to be super-successful, and keen to share their secrets with you . All you have to do is just buy their book or join their programme. Thing is, the world of social media is no more real than a Disney movie. It’s entertaining, but it’s also make-believe.

To be fair, some of these people are expert storytellers, and their books make for great reading. BUT when you buy the book or the course, you are not looking to be entertained. People part with their hard-earned cash because they want help getting started on the journey towards their goals, or have reached a plateau and need some help to get to the next level.

Reality check time. There is no secret, magic potion, silver bullet, book, online course or any other shortcut to success. Anyone who claims otherwise is either deluded, a liar, a charlatan or a fraud.

Success is achieved when you decide what you really want, identify your strengths which you can take advantage of, and the weaknesses which you need to address before taking determined action. Small steps every day which take you closer to your goals, learning and growing all the time.

If, however, there was to be one key ingredient to success, I would argue that this must be perseverance. Given that absolutely anybody can decide what they want and take action, why aren’t more people massively successful?! The “P” word. Perseverance.

Perseverance is what separates the successful few from everyone else. Those who persevere are the ones who keep going when progress slows down. These are the people who take a positive view on failures and setbacks, treating them as opportunities to learn from what went wrong wrong, adapt their approach and then try again. Whether things are going good or bad, they keep going and are always learning, adapting and growing.

Most importantly, those who persevere and achieve their goals are the ones who don’t look to others for validation or permission from others. They understand that everybody has an opinion on everything, and you don’t have to give your time and attention to all of them. Some will doubt you and others will openly laugh at your dreams. This is perfectly normal, and not to be taken to heart. Believe me, all of your doubters will change their tune once you prove that it can be done. Don’t let their limitations derail your efforts.

In order to persevere and ultimately succeed in your endeavours, the only opinion you need to pay attention to is your own. You need to believe in yourself and your ability. You need to be confident that achieving your goals is a matter of “when” and not “if”. This will keep you going when times get tough. This is what separates the successful from the mediocre – they keep going and never give up. They keep going when nobody else believes in them or shares their vision. They keep going when times get tough. They keep going when they don’t feel like it. They just keep going until they achieve whatever it is that they desire. They persevere.