Define Yourself, Instead Of Trying To Find Yourself

Authenticity, and being ourselves, are incredibly important. So we try our best to find out who we are. How do we go about this? We think of self discovery and authenticity as a process, journey or quest, so we create a plan of action. This plan basically involves going out into the world, living your life and trying to look for signs as to who and what you are. This approach gets you nowhere.

Think for a moment about what is happening when we follow the above course of action.  We essentially put ourselves at the mercy of others, and passively become what the world decides we should be. Instead, we should be actively deciding who we are, before taking decisive action to become that person.

You must decide who you are and live your life in a way which reflects that decision.

Sounds simple, so why aren’t more people actually doing this? People fear being labelled as a fraud or an impostor. They fear that if they consciously decide who they want to become  and take action to make that a reality, that they would be regarded as inauthentic and living a lie. The truth, however, is that you cannot find yourself by going out into the world and waiting to be told who you are.

Stop waiting for your family, friends or boss to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your life. Stop waiting for others to tell you you are or aren’t good at. However well meaning it may be, it’s just their personal opinion and not a statement of fact.

  • Reflect on who you believe yourself to be. What makes you happy? What motivates you? What are you passionate about? What direction do you want your life to take? What are the strengths and weaknesses in both your character and skills.
  • Decide what you want to excel at, and where you want life to take you.
  • Set your goals, create a plan for how to achieve them, and then take determined action.

Decide who you are and what you want. Then take action to make that a reality.

Self discovery is all about making decisions. You must play an active role in shaping who you are, and your future. Don’t wait for others to define you. It is up to you to decide who you want to be and back this up with the consistent actions which will forge that life.

You don’t FIND OUT who you are, but you DECIDE who you are.

Life is not a passive journey, it is intentional. Self discovery is about deciding where you want to go, and along the way learning and growing into the person you decided to become.

Make a decision about who you want to be. Visualise this vividly in your mind. You should be able to close your eyes and see this future you in all its detail. Now, take action to become that person.

You can reinvent yourself at any time. This is important, because as we learn and grow, our priorities change. Successful people are those who decided who they wanted to be, and did whatever was necessary to become that person.

It’s YOUR decision. It’s YOUR life. Only YOU can decide how that life will be lived.

If you wait for the world to determine what you become, you will become average. The world wants you to be the same as everyone else, but if this is not for you and an average life is unacceptable, it’s in YOUR hands to do something about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have our strengths and talents but, as nobody is perfect, we also have weaknesses too. Conventional wisdom tells us that we are only as strong as our weakest link, and must address our weaknesses in order to live life at its fullest. That makes sense, but what about our strengths, though? Surely, if we devote all of our attention to our weaknesses, there is a chance that our strengths might start to go a little rusty. Work on both then, I hear you say.

The first thing we need to do is determine which of our strengths and weaknesses we should work on, in which area and why. There are two areas in life, in which we have both strengths and weaknesses. How we work on these not only determines our quality of life but also how much value we bring to the world and enrich the lives of others. The first of these areas is our character. Character is who we are as a person and how we relate to others and the world around us. The second area is related to our skills and abilities. Our skills and abilities determine the value which we provide both for ourselves and others.

Traditionally, we focus on our weaknesses when it comes to our skills, and our strengths when it comes to our character. What if there was a better way, though? While this tried and tested approach works, I strongly believe that if you want real transformational change your focus needs to shift.

When we focus on our skills- related weaknesses, it takes time and during this time our strengths can go rusty. It’s far better, then to use this time and focus on our strengths when it comes to our skills. Invest in your strengths, work on them daily and watch them grow. This is how to provide greater value for others as well as yourself. Working on your weaknesses takes time and attention away from our strengths, which lose a little of their power. The result is a varied skillset in which you are between average and good at many, but excel at none. Better to have a few skills in which you are particularly strong and can make a real difference.

The opposite is true of our character. We focus on our strengths when it’s our weaknesses which need our attention. Focusing on improving our weaknesses while maintaining our strengths will help us to become the best version of ourselves. When you work on your weaknesses, you become more empathetic and compassionate towards other people and the world around you. At the same time, you also evolve and develop a more rounded character. This is what will help you to forge more meaningful and deeper relationships with people, both personally and professionally.

There is so much advice out there on strengths and weaknesses that it’s confusing. Here are a few pointers to get you started;

  • Determine your character and skills strengths. Reflect on where you believe your strengths lie in both areas and write them down. On a separate sheet of paper, ask family, friends and colleagues where they feel that your strengths lie. Write these down too, and compare both lists. Decide which ones you will take from both lists, and compile a final list.
  • Determine your character and skills weaknesses. Follow the same steps as you did for your strengths.
  • Draw up a plan of action. Now that you know where your skills-related strengths and character-related weaknesses lie, how are you going to work on both? Is there a book you can read? A seminar you can attend? Somebody who could coach or mentor you?
  • Take action daily to become the best version of yourself and provide value to yourself and others. 

So, if you feel that you are doing all that you can but making slow progress, turn conventional thinking and advice on its head. Work instead on your skills strengths and your character weaknesses, and see where that leads.

Good luck!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Don’t worry, be happy is the name of an old song by Bobby McFerrin. I have it on vinyl and it’s my go-to song if i’m having a bad day because when I put it on, I can’t help but smile. Once that smile takes hold, my worries fade away and I am happy again. Why do I love this song? It’s uplifting, but more importantly it has a very important life lesson which I sometimes need to be reminded of. That lesson is that we all endure tough times but worrying about them just makes everything worse.

We worry about our finances, health, relationships, careers and everything in between. Worrying comes naturally to an overwhelming majority of people, and it’s not always bad. On occasion, worry can provide the motivation for us to take action and rectify a bad situation, or better yet, preventing it from happening at all. It can prevent procrastination and inspire us to work harder and smarter than ever. The problem, however, is that there is a fine line between worry which is motivational and transformational, and that which is destructive and ruinous.

At it’s worst, worrying can destroy your confidence, rob you of your happiness and fill your mind with doubt and negative self-talk. This, in some cases, can be the start of a slippery slope which leads to anxiety and even depression.

Worry, however, is all in the mind. It’s the fear and anticipation that something could go wrong. We fixate on a potentially negative outcome or situation , and in doing so we assign much more importance to it than we should. It gets blown out of all proportion. Most of the time, when a situation actually arises we realise that it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated and that we worried needlessly. Our confidence took a beating and we lost sleep for no good reason.We need to stop doing this to ourselves by shifting our perspective.

We actually have the power to choose whatever it is that we focus on. It takes a bit of work, but the quality of life you will enjoy afterwards is worth the effort. By focusing on things that could go wrong in the future, we deny ourselves the opportunity to be happy and enjoy the present moment. This negativity affects our mindset and, as a result, other areas of our lives suffer. Nothing good can be gained by focusing on things which you have no influence or control over.

So, it stands to reason that if you want positivity and progress in your life, you need to focus instead on the things which you can control.

  • If you currently worry about ever meeting that special someone, quit worrying and take action. Work on your physical and mental health, striving to become the best possible version of yourself. Do that and “the one” will eventually find you.
  • If you worry about your finances, audit your spending habits. Worrying about bills doesn’t help, you have to take action. If you are being careless with your money, then more money won’t solve anything. You’ll just have more money to waste. Track your spending in an app or a journal, every single penny, and regularly revisit it to identify spending habits. You will become more aware of areas where you are spending money unnecessarily, and the knowledge that you track all your spending can also help you to avoid making impulse purchases.
  • If you worry about career progression, there is so much you can do to improve your prospects. Read or complete a distance-learning course that can help you to gain knowledge and acquire new skills. Network. Undertake a project which could provide value to the organisation and also help to get you noticed by the relevant people.

If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.

~ Ernest Hemingway

Worrying is a choice. Successful people have the same concerns and fears as the rest of us mere mortals, but it’s what they do about it that sets them apart from everyone else. Rather than fixate on what could go wrong, they focus on themselves and what they can do to ensure the best chance of success. Is there knowledge which they could acquire? A skill that they could work on? Instead of worrying unnecessarily, they focus on becoming the best version of themselves. This, in turn, attracts positive outcomes and helps them to develop a positive mindset. Worry is replaced by personal and professional development. which leads to fulfillment and happiness.

As a wise man once said “Don’t worry, be happy”

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.

~ Guillaume Apollinaire

I love the above quote from Apollinaire. It’s so beautiful and so true. Fear of the unknown leads us to play it safe in life, and avoid risks. It’s hardwired in all of us but causes so much pain and regret.

The two biggest drivers in our lives are pleasure and pain. We are drawn to pleasure, and avoid pain wherever possible. This is why we are so risk averse. We stick with what we know, or what we think we know because it’s comfortable and familiar. Taking risks, however, is taking a leap into the unknown, no matter how well researched the risk is. We weigh up what could go wrong, at which point we decide that taking a leap of faith could lead us into a painful, negative situation. So we decide against it and stick with what we know. The fear of loss, failure or embarassment is too great.

The problem is that in order to lead a fulfilled life in which we constantly push the boundaries of that which we are capable of, we need to take chances. We need to step into the unknown. This is where amazing things happen. We either taste success or are left with a valuable experience from which we can learn and grow.

So, stop selling yourself short and dare to achieve greatness. Take chances, expecting success while also being prepared to greet failure as an old friend and wise teacher;

  • Ditch your ego
  • Drown out the negative voices, and just believe in your abilities.
  • Stop taking pride in what you know, and instead open your mind to the possibility of learning and experiencing something new
  • Take that leap of faith.

I Gave My Heart To A Woman (William Ernest Henley)

I gave my heart to a woman–
I gave it her, branch and root.
She bruised, she wrung, she tortured,
She cast it under foot.

Under her feet she cast it,
She trampled it where it fell,
She broke it all to pieces,
And each was a clot of hell.

There in the rain and the sunshine
They lay and smouldered long;
And each, when again she viewed them,
Had turned to a living song.

Good Old Pen And Paper

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.

Jack London

Everybody nowadays is a technophile, with their own smartphone or tablet loaded with the latest and most popular apps. Technology is wonderful because it can help us communicate more efficiently than ever before, become better organised and become more knowledgeable.

It does have its downside though. Technology can become addictive. How many times have you seen people develop tunnel vision, to the point where they are so focused on their phone as they walk down the street that they do not pay attention to their surroundings and trip over and fall?! Technology can also malfunction, deteriorate over time and needs its battery to be regularly recharged.

This is why I always have one of my notebooks or journals with me at all times. This is something very simple yet incredibly beneficial. It is one of the factors which have helped me in transforming my life.

Instead of carrying around multitudes of thoughts, I write them down. Throughout the day, I write down ideas, make observations, reflect on the progress I am making towards my goals and how far I have still to go and I also write down any decisions which I have to make but am not certain how to proceed. It’s always better to write things down because when you see a decision or situation on paper, it becomes much easier to gain perpective and find a solution.

Notebooks are great for creativity too. When inspiration strikes, just open your notebook and start writing or sketching. Collect ideas or thoughts for your blog or the book you plan to write. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings.

All this means that the humble notebook, if you actually use it, can help you in your quest to make constant improvements in your life.

Give it a go. After a few days, you will find it making your creative juices flow. If, as I was for much of last year, you are battling depression, putting all of your thoughts and feelings into a notebook can help you to make sense of them and see light at the end of the tunnel. Not to overlook the benefits of helping you to organise your thoughts amd gain a deeper understanding of yourself and who you really are.

You Are What You Think About Most Often

The seeds which you plant in your mind today, will become tomorrow’s reality. Sounds like a rather bold and far-fetched statement when you first hear it, but it’s true. The quality of your life depends very much on what you choose to feed your mind. Whatever you feed it, your mind will work to turn that into your reality through your thoughts, beliefs and actions.

If you fill your mind with negative input, you become negative and pessimistic.

If you occupy yourself with mindless activities, you will become mindless and go through life on autopilot.

If  you carry out the bare minimum amount of work on your personal and professional development, just enough to get by, then the life you lead will be strictly average.

If, however, you fill your mind with positive input, you will develop an optimistic mindset and lead a positive life.

Furthermore, if you work hard on your personal and professional development, constantly striving to learn, adapt and grow, you will lead a successful and fulfilled life

Which would you prefer?

You can’t blame anybody else but yourself for where you find yourself today. After all, you can’t reap the benefits if you haven’t taken the time to sow the right seeds in the first place. That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, though. It’s never too late to start turning your life around.

You are your own creator. When people talk about the power which we all possess, this is what they are talking about. Each of us has the power to shape our own individual destiny. Our lives, and our current circumstances, are the physical manifestation and result of our beliefs, decisions and thoughts. Those who do not realise this fact often find themselves working for, or idolising, those who understand this truth and live their lives accordingly.

Grab a pen and paper and audit your thoughts and decision making processes.

  • What kind of input do you mostly feed your brain? Positive? Constructive? Helpful? Negative? Mindless?
  • What do you spend the most time thinking about?
  • Do you often reflect on how difficult and unfair your life is? Or do you think about how your potential is limitless, and how incredible your life would be if you applied yourself and put in the necessary work?

Your thoughts dictate your actions which in turn determine the quality of life which you will lead. Feed your mind with knowledge and positivity. Expect good things of yourself, and then get out there and work for them.

The Small Things

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things

Kurt Vonnegut

We live in an age of opportunity, and it’s exciting. Anything is possible if you are prepared to put in the time and effort required to succeed. There is, however, the very real danger of getting so completely consumed by the pursuit of your goals, that you forget to live your life too.

As with anything in life, there needs to be a balance. In this instance, you need to find a balance between your personal and professional development, and everything else that’s important in your life. Focus too much on your journey, and you risk causing irreparable damage to your personal relationships and health.

One thing which always struck me as a teacher, was how children take time to pay attention to the world around them. They touch, smell and explore everything. They ask questions so that they can better understand the environment in which they find themselves. And it makes them happy. Somewhere along the line, however, education conditions this curiosity out of them and they are taught instead to develop tunnel vision, only focusing on that which is in front of them. Herein lies the problem.

Developing a laser-like focus will help you to become disciplined and successful in whatever you choose, but it also robs you of so much of life’s beauty. We only have so much time and energy to give each day, and focusing it all in one area, means that other aspects of your life get neglected.

Of course, you may well achieve the status and level of wealth which you crave, but you face losing precious time which could be better spent with friends and family. Life can be cruel, and we have no idea how much time we have with those closest to us. Ask yourself, is that which you chase more important than spending time with your loved ones? Is it more important than your physical and mental health?

If you don’t spend time with those you love, you will regret it if tragedy strikes and they are no longer there. You will remember the times when you chose your goals and work over spending time with them, and this hurts because it was avoidable but now there is nothing you can do to put it right. Neglect your partner and they might end your relationship because they refuse to play second-best to your dreams any longer. Again this is pain which is avoidable. Is money and status really more important than the people who you claim to love? If not, then prove to them that you love them by giving them your time and attention. All of it. Put your phone away and be with them.

Do you take time to sit in the garden, smelling the flowers and listening to the birds? Do you listen to your body, and pay attention to your activity levels and what you eat and drink? Or is your mental and physical health less important than whatever goal you are currently working towards?

Time is precious and once it is gone, it is completely gone. So, it’s best to use it wisely. There are enough hours in the day that you can work towards your goals AND take time to smell the roses or spend quality time with loved ones. Of course, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but at the end of your days would you not rather look back on a fulfilled and happy life? This is surely better than the alternative, full of loneliness, ill health and a trail of broken relationships.

The choice is yours, so choose wisely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Selective About Who You Give Your Time And Attention To

Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great

Mark Twain

Each if us has the same 24 hours every day. No more, no less. Sounds like a lot, and it is plenty. In those 24 hours, you can sleep for 8, work for 8, work out for 1 and still be left with around 7 hours to chase your goals, spend time with friends and family, and just  relax.

The more you do with the time you have, the more chance you have of ending the day with a sense of fulfilment, and the satisfaction of having taken steps closer towards your goals. Who wouldn’t want that?!

The people who we spend time with can have a huge impact on whether we make progress towards our goals or not. Surround yourself with high achievers and caring people who support your goals and ambitions and you will thrive. If, however, you are spending time with negative people who make fun of your ambitions and gossip about you rather than support you, you will suffer as your confidence takes repeated blows.

We have previously looked at how to grow your network and surround yourself with likeminded people who push you to become the best you can be. Friends, colleagues, partners, clients…these are some of the people whose presence in our lives we decide. If they are toxic, we can make the conscious decision to stay away from them. For the most part, we choose the people we spend time with and we also choose how much we share with them.

There is, though, one group who we can’t rid ourselves of even if their absence would be a blessing. This group is your family. Most of us are blessed with very good immediate family (parents, siblings and grandparents) who only want the very best for us. Even if they are not as optimistic as you are about your goals, they will support you in whatever way they can. You can’t ask for much more than that, really. It’s with the extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins that there can be an issue.

At its very worst, this group can be disgustingly judgemental. Normally, we have pretty thick skins which allow us to ignore others’ criticisms. It becomes harder to ignore, though, when the criticism comes from those closest to you. People have their own motivations for speaking and behaving the ways in which they do. It could be that they do not fully understand the journey which you are on. It could be that their negativity is a reflection of their own limitations and fears. Or, it could be that they are unhappy with their own lives, and find it easier to belittle your ambitions than it is to improve their own circumstances. Whatever their reason for being so judgemental, it’s not your problem. So, how do you deal with them?

  • Limit your time with them. Easier said than done, though. You could limit yourself to seeing them at big family occasions, but the rest of the time, seek the company of other more supportive people. This, however, is not always an option because people can be very close even of they don’t support one another’s dreams.
  • Limit what you share with them. You do not need to share everything with everyone, especially if you can’t count on them for any support or understanding. If they keep probing about your journey and you don’t want to share, just change the topic. Answer with something as ambiguous as “so far so good, happy with things are progressing” then switch the conversation back to them by asking about something which interests them.
  • Stop placing so much importance on the opinions of others. Understand that people can only affect your confidence with their words if you let them. When they speak, nod, smile and then forget about it. Have faith in your ability. If you are to hold on to another’s discouraging words, do it with the aim of proving them wrong and use those words as motivation to keep going when times get tough.

Sometimes, we can’t choose who we spend time with. We can, however, choose how much influence we allow others to have over us. Understand that, for example, just because an aunt doesn’t support your goals and dreams that they are not any less important or achievable.

Stop looking to others for validation, but just have faith in your ability. Surround yourself as much as possible with people who do support your vision and can help you to become the best version of yourself. Take small steps every day in the direction of your goals but, most of all, don’t let a few negative voices discourage you from achieving great things, no matter who those voices belong to.

 

 

 

 

 

Substance over Style

Fake it until you make it. Dress like you already have the job or lifestyle which you want. Copy these 5/ 6/ 10 habits of highly successful people if you want results. Dress this way. Read this, watch that...The list goes on. If, however, you are serious about becoming the best version of yourself and achieving great things, then this is advice which is to be avoided.

The problem is that this advice is superficial and cosmetic. Furthermore, it’s a waste of time. The time which is wasted on dressing a certain way to impress others, for example, could be better spent working on yourself. This definitely does not count as working on yourself, because all you’re doing in this instance is putting on an act. Copying the behaviour of famous people won’t actually help you to become more like them. It won’t make you rich or famous. It won’t get you any closer to your goals, either. Instead, it could derail your progress.

If your ultimate goal is fame and fortune, then you are doing it wrong. The journey which you embark on should be one of self-discovery, learning and growth. The aim should be to achieve the big goals which you set yourself, while also growing personally and professionally along the way. If all you crave is money and status, then there is a very real danger that you will neglect your principles and forget who you are as you sacrifice everything in the hope of becoming rich.

This is why the current advice, like the above, which is being peddled by all the leading personal development speakers and authors is so very wrong. It misleads people into thinking that all they have to do is copy a celebrity to become more like them. Style over substance. Don’t worry about knowledge and experience, just dress like Steve Jobs and you can follow in his footsteps. Ok, so i’m over-simplifying but I hope you get the idea. When you prioritise style over substance, it’s like having a large double-fronted house with 4 cars on the driveway, but nothing of any value inside. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, the clothes and nice watch, but what’s inside. Your values, drive, determination and character. The things that make you…you. Those are important.

Rather than focusing on material gain, I strongly believe that the ultimate goal of a personal and professional development journey should be to become a person of value. If you are self-aware and can provide value to others, then good things will come your way if you continue to work for them.

This is why it makes no sense whatsoever to simply copy famous people and hope for the best. It seems to me bizarre to simply dress a certain way, then sit back and wait for success to come and find you. This will never happen. If you want to progress in life and achieve great things, then you have to put the work in. But you also need to be self-aware, knowing who you are and what you want to achieve in life.

This is all part of the reflection process, which comes before you even set your goals. Doing the reflection first, and becoming self-aware, is crucial because it ensures that throughout the journey on which you will embark, you will never forget who you are and what is important to you.

This is substance over style. Instead of compromising who you are, you stay true to yourself. This helps to forge and strengthen relationships with other people who will feel themselves able to trust you, and more inclined to help and support you. Moreover, it ensures that the goals which you set, the decisions you make and the actions which you take will all lead you to become the best version of yourself.

Forget about what others do, say, wear or eat. Nothing can be gained from merely copying them. Instead, aim to become a person of substance and someone who is self-aware, honest and trustworthy. This, along with determined action in the direction of your goals, is what will bring you success. The world needs more substance, and less mimicry.

Urgency

Urgency doesn’t sound as cool as “hustle”, “grind” or any of the other popular phrases we hear so often, but that doesn’t make it any less important. If you want to become successful, then a sense of urgency is essential. Putting essential tasks off until later, so that you can watch a movie now, won’t help you get to where you want to be. It just delays your progress.

Do you think Richard Branson and Elon Musk take a laid-back approach to business, frequently putting off until another day those things which they could do now? Of course not. They understand that the world of business is fast-moving, so they act quickly and decisively.

Unlike most of us, successful people are not selective in what they approach with a sense of urgency. They adopt that same approach with everything, so as to avoid the disappointment of missed opportunities. How do they manage to do this and still find time for their families and personal interests? They prioritise.

In order to be of service to others, you need to take care of yourself first. This means guarding your time. Throughout the day, every day, we get bombarded with requests for help from other people. High achievers, however, don’t stop to deal with each one but they have the courage to say no when that task would distract them from their own goals. They take care of their own priorities first, and then serve others if they have enough time and energy left.

Successful people have to-do lists for their days, which helps to avoid distractions and getting side-tracked. They also prioritise their activities to make sure that if they don’t complete everything, at least the most important tasks get completed. Most of all, though, they act with urgency in everything they do. This means that that by the time that they sit down to relax in the evening, they are able to reflect back on the day with satisfaction because they have taken positive steps towards their goals.

If, for example, your goals are to get a new job, lose weight and become debt-free in 2018, you need to give your all, in all 3 areas, every day. This is what helps you to achieve more, because you are constantly striving for improvement. Rather than taking one at a time, you fire yourself up and tackle all 3 because there is no time to lose. Momentum builds, experience is gained and progress is made. This, in turn, keeps you motivated and the fire burning to keep going and challenging the limits of what you are capable of achieving.

Better yet, when acting with a sense of urgency in all you do becomes a habit, it benefits you in other ways too. Of course, it has the potential to bring quicker results from your efforts, but it is also a great way to build momentum and boost your confidence. You will find yourself becoming more driven, focused and productive. You will find your work ethic increasing, and as a result, opportunities for personal or professional development will present themselves. Best of all, you stop procrastinating or deferring important tasks to another day. Your mindset changes, and you strive to complete as much as you can today, in order that you can push yourself harder and achieve even more tomorrow.

All of this is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Create a to-do list for the tasks that will get you a step closer to your goals each day. Then attack each one with an equal sense of urgency, and watch the magic happen.

Remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

When Are Habits Helpful?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

There are two types of habits, one is good and the other..not so much. Good habits are the ones which are productive and helpful, such as drinking more water or waking up earlier. Then there are the ones which are frowned upon, such as smoking. Naturally, in a blog devoted to striving towards your potential and making the most of your life, the focus here will be on the good habits.

Why are good habits such a big deal?

In an average day, our brain is working furiously for as long as we are awake. It controls our thought processes, our decision making processes, our actions and also how we interpret everything going on around us. Being this busy, any help it can get to reduce the workload is definitely a good thing. This is where the healthy habits come in, and if those habits can become daily routines, then that’s even better. When a habit becomes a routine, we no longer think about it, because it just happens. This means that some of our brain power can be turned towards focusing on other tasks or issues.

Healthy habits and routines not only ease the burden on our brains, but they also help us to structure our days. This means that we find ourselves with a number of things which we do because we want to, without thinking, and they help to get us closer to our goals. Adding structure to our days is essential, because it prevents procrastination and wasted time. It can stop us from putting off things which we could do now to propel us forward. Essentially, it can help to prevent us from becoming complacent and lazy, instead keeping us working to build and maintain the momentum which can bring positive results.

If you’re wondering just how to get started with developing positive habits and routines, there really is no secret. Just get started. It’s a matter of trial and error, keeping that which works and learning from that which doesn’t. Habits vary from person to person depending on who they are and the direction in which they want their lives to be headed. For me, I want to push myself to test the limits of what I am capable of. I want to keep learning and developing all the time in order that I can become the best version of myself and provide value to everyone around me. I want to raise myself up, before reaching out to raise others too.

To do this, I can’t allow myself to just take my days as they come. By the time my head hits the pillow at night, I want to know that I have achieved something with my day. Of course, I make sure I have enough downtime during the day for entertainment and relaxation because the least thing I want is to burn out. Here are a few of the things I do every day, which work for me;

  • Get up at the same time each day. On a weekday i’m up at 5:30 to shower and get ready for work. On the weekends, I am up at the same time. I don’t have lie-ins. Firstly, it keeps my body clock in good working order. Secondly, getting up early allows me to fit more into my day. Tired? Go to bed earlier. When I used my weekends to catch up on sleep, I would be exhausted on Monday morning and this is not a good way to start the week. I had allowed my body two days of sleeping late but was now asking it to spring into action early again. By getting up at the same  time every day, your body doesn’t need to adapt to anything. Simple, but effective.
  • Make your bed. Yes, you read it right. Making your bed takes a matter of seconds, yet it gives you the satisfaction of completing a task before you’ve even had breakfast. Plus it looks nice.
  • Gratitude journal and to-do list. While my coffee is cooling down to a temperature which won’t incinerate my insides, I write down 3-5 things for which I am grateful and a brief explanation why. This is a wonderful exercise, and puts you in a positive mental frame of mind for the day because you can’t write down your blessings and not feel happy. I also have a look at my to-do list for the day, which helps me to prepare mentally for the day ahead and also prioritise the tasks on the list. By the time I get to my desk, I know what I have to accomplish that day, and in what order.
  • Physical activity. If I can’t make it to the gym, i’ll go for a walk in the park. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I do something which involves getting active. When I get moving,  I clear my head and de-stress.
  • Journal and to-do list. In the evening, i’ll set some time aside to journal. This is where I reflect on the day, my decisions and their outcomes, my progress towards my goals and any issues I have encountered. This helps to clear my head again, and a clear head means a good night’s sleep. After journalling, I grab a separate notebook and make a to-do list of important tasks for the next day, so that I don’t forget anything or get distracted. If it’s on paper, then I will make sure it gets done.

All this makes for a busy but productive day. It keeps me learning, reflecting and growing. More importantly, though, it keeps me working hard on my goals. When bad things happen, I am too busy to wallow in self-pity so instead I reflect on what I can learn from the experience, apply it and move on.

I share this with you today, because it works for me and can work for anybody else. You don’t need any equipment, specialist skills or knowledge. All you need is to decide which habits you want to develop, identify how they can help you on your journey and get to work on them. Repetition and discipline will turn these activities into habits and later into routines. Once formed, these habits and routines will help you to build and maintain the momentum which will propel you towards your goals. You just need to want it bad enough that you are prepared to put the work in. Every day.

 

 

 

 

Keep Knocking On Doors…

..long enough and eventually someone will open up to let you in. This applies to everything in life. You will often fall short in your first attempt at anything, and that’s ok. It’s all part of the learning and growth processes. Don’t let failure or rejection stop you from chasing after whatever it is that you really want, though. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.

Job hunting is a prime example, whether you are seeking your first role, a better role or a totally new career. You find the ideal role advertised, and it is a perfect match with your experience and skillset. You apply and if you’re very lucky, you get shortlisted for interview. More often than not, however, you get a generic rejection email. Or maybe no response at all. You find another role for which you believe you are a perfect fit. Same thing happens again.

This can be a kick in the teeth for anyone. Left unchecked, it erodes your confidence and you find yourself reluctant to apply for more roles. Those which you do apply for, you only put minimal thought and effort into, because you already anticipate rejection. This is a vicious cycle which only serves to keep you from finding the right job.

This cycle can be broken, though, through persistence and a bit of good old review and reflection. If your efforts have fallen flat so far, change your approach. Think about it – when you hit turbulence while pursuing your goals, what do you do? You reflect on your approach so far and what you’ve learned, you seek advice and feedback and get back to work. The same applies to your job hunt.

Applying for jobs is a numbers game. Along with yourself, there could be tens or even hundreds of others all applying for the same role. The recruitment software that companies use to sift through CVs and application forms will cut that number down, and a panel will review the remainders and shortlist the lucky ones. In my own experience, the response rate to job applications is between 10 and 16%. This, however can differ for you, depending on your industry, qualifications and experience.

What does all of this mean? Well, when you hit a brick wall in your job hunt;

  • Take some time to review your personal statement, cv and cover letter. What messages are you sending? How well are you selling yourself to a prospective employer?
  • Seek help. There is plenty of good advice available online about how best to apply for jobs according to each industry, but don’t just rely on the internet. Make friends with recruitment consultants. Register with the main recruitment agencies according to your industry, and get feedback on your CV and cover letter. These are the people who will be approaching companies on your behalf, and their feedback and advice is priceless. Alternatively, ask friends, family or your professional network to help you.
  • Review your approach. Apply directly to companies which interest you. Apply via job boards such as Totaljobs, CV Library, or Indeed among others. Sign up with recruitment agencies. Check trade or industry-specific journals. Go to networking events. Speak to your personal and professional networks. There is no one right method to search for your next job so use as many as you can. Don’t just sit in front of a computer and wait for the right job to come to you. Get out there and hustle for it.
  • Keep applying. Don’t just apply for one or two jobs and then sit back and wait for a reply. Keep searching and keep applying. The more the better, because the more jobs you apply for, the better able you will be to sell yourself to prospective employers. Furthermore, when you have applications pending and are finding more jobs to apply for on a regular basis, you won’t be downhearted when you get rejected. And if you do have a high success rate, with lots of interviews? Then, you will gain a wealth of interview experience and will be in the envious position of choosing your next move.

So, if your job hunt is taking too long and you’re becoming frustrated, just keep going. Review what you have been doing so far and learn from it. What is and isn’t working for you? Why? What can you do about it? Who can help you? Put the work in to improve your personal statement, cv and cover letter and then get back to work.

The more doors you knock on, the more people you talk to and the more jobs you apply for, the more chance you will have of landing your dream role. Want more? Then do more!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rid Yourself Of The Limiting Beliefs Which Are Holding You Back

Go a little out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom. you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.

David Bowie

When it comes to identifying opportunities to improve our lives and circumstances, and taking advantage of them, we are our own worst enemies. Every decision we make can potentially be the first step to something wonderful, but for this to happen we need to be prepared to take calculated risks. I’m not suggesting that we should be reckless and rash with our choices, but that we should weigh up our options and be willing to step out of our comfort zones.

Yet, we don’t take chances, but instead make safer choices. So, all that we want for ourselves remains a dream because we fail to act upon it. After all, taking action towards our goals forces us to leave our  comfort zones. We fear the unknown, so comfort zones feel good. When in your comfort zone, you feel in control. You know, from experience, what to expect and there are no unwelcome surprises. This is a place reserved for people who are happy as they are, and have achieved all that they set out to in life. This is for those who want to save their energy and time for their families or interests.

Comfort zones, however, are the enemies of progress. If you want more out of life than you currently have, if you want to become more than you currently are, then you can’t afford to become comfortable and complacent. You can’t afford, either, to keep making the rubbish excuses which you use to justify remaining in the comfort zone. Of these, there are plenty, but I want to look at just three; background, circumstances and experience.

How many times have you dreamed of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, opening your own restaurant or having your ideal job? More times than you can count, right? And what have you actually done about it?

For a number of people, their dreams remain just that. Dreams. Not because they lack the knowledge, skills or work ethic, but because they talk themselves out of even starting to work towards making these dreams a reality. They don’t apply to the bank for a loan to open a restaurant because they believe that their current circumstances will only earn them a refusal. They don’t apply for their dream job because they lack experience, or believe that their background will make it difficult to relate to others and fit in. This negative self-talk needs to stop as it destroys your confidence. The truth is that you don’t know anything for certain unless you try. Even if somebody else from a similar background, for example, has tried what you want to do and failed, it means nothing. Everybody is different, and you may very well succeed where someone similar to you tasted defeat.

The reality is very different. We now live in an unprecedented age of opportunity. Your background, circumstances and experience can actually be a source of strength. So what if your parents aren’t millionaires?! Talk to them and learn from them about their struggles and how they overcame them. Instead of being embarrassed about a modest upbringing, use it to fuel your hunger for success. Aim to work yourself into a position that you can now provide a comfortable life for your parents and your own family. Strive to succeed so that you can ensure that your family will no longer struggle.

“But my current circumstances are bad, so I can’t help anyone let alone myself” I hear you say. Rubbish. We all go through difficult times in our lives. I have hit rock bottom several times, each new time worst than the last, but have always bounced back. As can anyone else. If this is your excuse for not trying to do and become more in life, you need to stop wallowing in self-pity and take action. If you are unhappy with your current circumstances, you have in your hands the power to change them. Leave a toxic relationship, get a new job, start exercising regularly…Identify whatever it is that is getting you down, and tackle it. A bad week or month does not lead to a bad life if you do something about it.

How about experience then? This really isn’t as important as people believe, because experience can be gained. Whether you lack experience in relationships or want to change career, don’t let that hold you back. Have the courage to go after what you want, and let your passion and dedication show. You will find doors opening for you, and you will get the experience you need. If you want to change careers and work in an industry where you lack experience, focus on what experience you have gained in studying and working and how that could help you in this new role. This is what will make you an interesting prospect for an interview panel.

Overcoming these limiting beliefs is one area in which reading the biographies of successful people could help. I am against the idea that copying the greats and trying to be more like them will bring you success, because it makes no sense. You could match their work ethic and ingenuity and still fall short because they succeeded in a different country, or even era. The only way you will succeed is by being you, and giving all you have in pursuit of your goals.

What these biographies can do is highlight how to people can succeed despite their background or circumstances or anything else which could have held them back. They didn’t let the negative self-talk take over and dissuade them from their path. Instead, one thing that many of the greats have in common, is their determination that they would succeed, regardless of the start they had in life or the circumstances in which they found themselves.

Like many of the other limiting beliefs which hold us back, background, circumstances and experience are not fatal to our progress. What does matter, and does determine how far we will go in life, is the courage, commitment, dedication, passion and hard work which we are prepared to put into the pursuit of our personal and professional development.

 

 

Expect great things of yourself

Have you ever stopped to think carefully about what standards you are setting for yourself personally and professionally? If not, now is the time to start. What do you expect of yourself? Are you living up to your expectations? What behaviours and influences do you allow from other people?

Not enough time and consideration is given to the expectations we set for ourselves. This can lead to us falling short of our potential or entering into toxic relationships with people who don’t respect us. The truth is that we either live up or live down to the expectations we set for ourselves. Subconsciously, we determine what we are prepared to accept in our lives and our actions and words are adjusted to reflect this.

You can identify someone who has set low expectations for themselves by the language they use. They hope, wish or wonder if something is possible. This screams self-doubt. The message that they are sending is that they would love it if they could achieve whatever it is that they are focusing on, but they are not convinced that they can do it. This will then show in their actions. They won’t commit fully to a course of action because they don’t believe that they have a realistic chance of success. And then they wonder why they fell short of their goals, convincing themselves that they did all they could and it just wasn’t meant to be. I know this scenario very well, because I have been here more times than I care to remember.

On the other hand, when you set high expectations for yourself, your mindset becomes more positive and your actions more determined. Expect great things of yourself because when you expect success, you attract positive results. Without realising it, you will  put everything you have into whatever you do, which in turn will give you the best possible chance of succeeding in pursuit of your goals. You expected to succeed, so you put every ounce of effort you could muster into making it happen. Not only that, but when you set high expectations for yourself, you tend to find yourself drawn to like-minded people. Instead of being drawn into toxic relationships with people whose insecurities and agendas will bring you down and damage your confidence, you will find yourself among people who inspire you and support your goals and your direction.

Stop hoping. Stop wishing. Stop wondering. That is for dreamers. Know that it will happen. Expect that it will happen. And then work relentlessly for it. That is as close to a recipe for success as I can give you.

If you are serious about changing your life, you need to change your views on greatness and success. Instead of thinking about them as something to be hoped for, learn to think of them as something which you expect. This leads to a shift to a positive mindset, and with this mindset you will naturally be inclined to do everything within your power to achieve that which you expect. Set yourself high expectations and you will find yourself doing whatever it takes to meet them. Set them low, and you will find yourself forever dreaming about what others are achieving.

Ok, so here comes the hard part. I have some homework for you. Grab a pen and paper, and write down what you currently expect of yourself, what you value and what you allow into your life. Now think about how you could raise those expectations. Where are you selling yourself short? Create a list of new, high expectations and set about achieving them. Believe that they will happen, and your actions will reflect this because if you expect great things, you will do whatever it takes to achieve them. It’s hard and takes a lot of practice, but once those wins start coming, you won’t be lowering your expectations again. Ever.

What Messages Are You Sending Out?

In our personal and professional lives, we are always trying to convince other people of something. It could be that you are trying to convince an interview panel that you are the perfect fit for the role, or thirty disinterested students that today’s class will benefit them. Perhaps, as discussed in a recent post, you need to convince someone that there could be a mutual benefit if they were to help you in your current endeavour.

How do we convince people to believe in us, support us or allow us to lead them? A lot of people rely on just words. The prevailing belief is that, if you want to convince anybody of anything, you just need to know what to say.  The reality, though, is very different. Words alone do not work because we have learned to tune them out. Technology has shortened our attention spans, so if somebody talks for too long we lose interest. There is also a growing awareness of the ways in which we are being bombarded with marketing and sales messages on a daily basis. This leads to some people regarding sales and marketing professionals as manipulative and deceptive, so anything that sounds too polished or too much like sales-speak is likely to be ignored. So, how do we get people to buy into our vision if words alone are not enough?

Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This brings me back to the title. You need to think very carefully about the messages which you are sending out. People do not only listen to what you are saying, but they also take into account your behaviour, appearance, accomplishments and even relationships. Are you qualified to teach the subject matter? Have you experienced enough of something to be able to offer advice on it? Do people see the potential in you, which could be realised with their help?

There needs to be congruency between what you say and do. That is what convinces people of your authenticity, and that they can trust you. If there is an intentional discrepancy, and you are a different person at home and in the office, then you need to take a step back and take a long hard look at yourself. Are you happy leading 2 separate lives? How is that leading you to behave towards others? Is it opening doors for you, or are they being slammed in your face? If you are anything but happy as you are, then perhaps it’s time to consider a job change or a relationship in which you can’t be yourself. When your actions and words are in harmony with each other, this brings peace of mind and helps you to develop more meaningful personal and professional relationships with people who feel that you are trustworthy.

Sometimes, there is a discrepancy between our words and behaviours which are unintended. Take, for example, a teacher who is also an introvert. These are polar opposites. A teacher needs to exude confidence, because students will allow a confident teacher to guide them in acquiring knowledge. Yet, an introvert is often rather quiet and can lack confidence. So, putting an introvert in a room with 30 teenage boys can be a recipe for disaster as they will sense the lack of confidence and spend more time pushing boundaries than learning French.

This brings me back to a recent post on seeking help when you need it. families and friends are a great place to start, but you do need to be careful. They will often sugar coat the truth, and not highlight all of the ways in which your behaviour and words do not match. They do this because they are trying to protect you and not destroy your confidence, but by telling you what you want to hear they are unintentionally doing you a disservice.

This is where professional help comes in. Consider talking to a psychologist. I did and it was amazing. We unearthed so many ways in which I was subconsciously sabotaging my progress, and once they were brought into the open, I was able to work on them and overcome them. I was also unknowingly causing a huge amount of damage to my relationship with my fiancée, because personal relationships can be hit particularly hard if your words and actions do not support each other.  It may be that an underlying issue is causing a difference between the messages you want to send out and those that you are actually sending out. Seek help and put the work in to rectify this. It’s not easy, because you will need to seriously question yourself to determine who you really are, what you want from life, what drives you and how you want to perceived by others.

A psychologist is a good place to start, because they are impartial. It could be that you would be better served by a body language expert, a speech therapist or a professional coach whom they could recommend. Having spoken to a psychologist first, though, they will be able to refer you to the right person.

While it is necessary to seek help at times from others on your journey through life, you will only get it if they feel that you can be trusted and won’t waste their time. To do that, you need to make sure that your actions reflect your true beliefs and values. Ironically, you may find that you need help in making sure that your words and actions support each other. If, however, you are serious about becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, you won’t hesitate to seek the support that will help you to become the person you need to be in order to achieve your goals.

Don’t Go It Alone

No man is an island

John Donne

You can do it. You already have the answers. The power is within you. Go out and hustle to get what’s yours. Nobody or nothing can stop you. You..You..You.

Almost every piece of self-help and personal development advice from the self-styled social media “gurus” will mention one or more of the above ideas. In short, they would have you believe that if you want success, you have to go it alone and that everybody else is your competition. Asking for help, or putting your trust in others, is discouraged and often pointed to as a sign of weakness.

The truth is very different. Our journeys towards our goals are also journeys of self-discovery. We learn who we are, where our passions lie, what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are. Identifying your weaknesses is essential to making personal or professional progress. When you know what gaps you have in your knowledge, skills or experience you can do something about it.

One of the main ways in which we can tackle our weaknesses is through working on them. Practicing a skill and reading books to gain knowledge are just two ways in which you can address your weak areas, but these take time and energy which can often be in short supply. If your goal involves working to a tight deadline, then the time required to turn a weakness into an area of strength is time that you do not have to spare.

This is where other people can help you. Ask for help, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised at how many people will be willing to support you in your efforts. It all depends on how you approach the other person. Simply asking them to give up their time to support you is not the way to go about it, though. People generally want one of two things; value for their efforts or to feel like they are a part of something. This value you provide in return for their help could be anything from a stake in your company, acknowledgement as a contributor in your novel or a meal at their favourite restaurant. As for wanting to feel a part of something, if that is what they desire, be prepared tell a compelling story that will entice them. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and self-awareness. You will benefit from another’s perspective and skills, which could be just what you need to progress to the next level.

Family, friends and professional networks are a great place to start but not your only option. It all depends on what you are hoping to achieve and the kind of support which you need. It could be that a coach, mentor or psychologist could be your best option. Don’t be afraid to experiment with help from different sources. At one time or another, I have benefitted from turning to all of the above and it has helped me greatly. I have gained confidence, knowledge and skills when I needed them the most.

This whole “self-made success” story which is so often peddled, is a lie. When you look deeper into the lives of people who claim to have come successful through their efforts alone, you will very often see that this is not the case. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. However, for the vast majority of these individuals, you will notice that there were people in the background who helped, supported, guided, inspired, pushed and believed in them which made it possible for them to succeed in their endeavours.

The only person who you should ever enter into competition with is yourself. Aim to improve daily, focusing on what you can control and not on what anybody else is doing. Put your ego aside and be prepared to ask for help when you need it. Also be prepared to help others. There is no shortage of possibilities for those who are prepared to work for them, and working together we can achieve even more. We can all taste success, and there is no need for greed. There is plenty to go around for everyone.

Again, be strong enough to ask for help when you need it and be prepared to provide it when called upon. This is how you grow your reputation positively, forge meaningful relationships and become known for your integrity.

 

 

 

 

 

What Will You Do With Your Pain?

In a recent post, I made the claim that pain is a necessary evil in our lives. I stand by this. If we reflect on it and learn from it, pain can be a springboard to success. As with most other things, though, it’s up to the individual what they will make of it. For pain to be a force for good, it requires reflection and a lot of hard work. The easier option is to find someone or something to blame this pain and failure on, and give up.

Pain can come in many different forms. The most common tend to be the emotional trauma of losing a  loved one, the break-up of a relationship, falling short in pursuit of your goals or physical pain. Pain is very rarely something which we seek (unless you like tattoos) and usually just happens to us. More often than not, we are unwilling participants when pain strikes. For example,if you give your all in an interview and don’t get the job, the resulting pain is a consequence of falling short in one of your goals and not an act of self-sabotage. We can’t control the actions of others or the outcomes of all situations, but we can control how we react to them.

One thing that tends to stand out when you study the lives of great men and women, is that at some point they faced adversity, hardship and pain. What separates them from everybody else, however, is how they bounced back from these negative situations. Media mogul Simon Cowell lost everything at age 35. J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, was a struggling single mother. Yet both have overcome adversity to become hugely successful in their respective arenas. Why? Because they believed in themselves and did not give up. They learned from failure and rejection, and it molded them into the people they are today.

Successful people welcome pain as a force for good, because it forces them to adapt, grow and redouble their efforts. They do not seek to shift the blame, but simply get to work. It’s not easy, but the person you can become and the things which you could achieve if you bounce back strongly make it all worthwhile.

What will you do with your pain? Will you let it break you, or will you let it redefine you?

 

Easy Money…

..is just marketing hype. Sorry to burst your bubble. It’s a lie, but it also sells books and coaching programmes to people who want quick results. There is generally no such thing as easy money, unless you buy a lottery ticket and get lucky. The rest of the time you need to work for it, or at least be resourceful. Unless you try something which has served me well so far…

There is a lot of excellent advice freely available on changing jobs or careers, launching a business or earning money from something which you are particularly good at, and passionate about. Hustling. Grinding. Entrepreneurship. Moving up the corporate ladder. Investing. Search for these terms and you will discover great ways to boost your income. Please be cautious before adopting any particular approach, though, as they all have their own particular risks to be mindful of. Take investing, for example. If it all goes wrong, can you afford to lose that money you invested? Or will it put a strain on your finances?

Today, however, I want to look at one thing which you can do to earn a little extra money when you are happy in your current job. Maybe you have a career which you love, or a successful business which you started from scratch. But you need more money. What can you do then to get a little extra cash, when you have neither the time nor inclination to hunt for a better job, launch a side business or take out a loan?

In a  word, Ebay. Gather up all the old clothes or stuff that you no longer want or need, and which is taking up valuable storage space. Then sell it on Ebay. It really is that simple. You will need to register for an Ebay account to buy or sell anything, and also Paypal to manage payments. But this is straightforward and doesn’t take long. Try and make the headline and photographs interesting in your listing, and sit back and watch as your items sell themselves. This is as close to easy money as you get because there is no risk. If an item doesn’t sell, you can simply relist it or put it back in the cupboard. Other than a little time, it won’t have cost you anything else.

Once you start selling your unwanted stuff, it can become addictive. At this point, don’t sell the stuff you don’t want to part with, but instead become acquainted with your local charity shops. These shops are full of wonderful old clothes, games and random items which you can resell on Ebay for a profit. For example, the market for vintage shirts is huge.

It won’t make you a millionaire, but with minimal time and effort, you can earn money by simply getting rid of your old stuff. Apply the 6 month rule. If you unlikely to wear or use it in 6 months, sell it. You de-clutter your wardrobes, and life, while getting enough money for a day out with the family, to pay some bills or whatever else you want to use that money for.

I mention Ebay because it works for me, but it’s not the only way. Facebook has a marketplace where you can sell your stuff, there are a number of other websites and apps you could use, or there is the good old car boot/ garage sale.

We could all do with a little extra money in our lives, and getting it is easier than you think. You just have to be a little resourceful, that’s all.

Pain Before Pleasure

If you’re going through hell, keep going

Winston Churchill

 

Pleasure’s good. We love it. Pain, on the other hand…No thank you very much. We do whatever we can to have as much of the first one as we can get, while trying to avoid the second. The truth, however, is that you can’t have one without the other.

I reflected on this a few days ago while getting tattooed. The actual tattooing process is uncomfortable, and at times painful. But if you suffer through the pain and discomfort, the results are beautiful and lasting. Every time you look at your tattoo, you see something beautiful while also being reminded of what you suffered through to make it happen.

The same rule applies in life. Good things do not come easily. Unless you win the lottery, in which case you get a huge amount of money from a lucky ticket and can afford whatever you like. Lottery wins, however, are far from guaranteed. What is guaranteed, though, is the simple fact that if you work hard consistently on your goals, good things will happen.

Much like a tattoo, work is painful at worst and uncomfortable at best. It’s the countless hours spent on market research, building a website or finding the right commercial space. It’s learning to bounce back from countless rejections. It’s picking yourself up after every setback. It’s working for hours on end to make things happen.

Yet, almost every single charlatan or snake-oil salesman you encounter, who wants to sell you their book or programme on how to become an overnight success, will gloss over the above truth. I am not saying that every keynote speaker, author, entrepreneur, life guru or coach falls into the above categories, but the bad outnumber the good. The truth, that it takes hard work and dedication to become successful, is just not sexy enough to sell books. People want to be led, directed and given the answers. Now.

Life is all about experiences, not things, and when you work hard for a goal you learn, develop and grow. If you simply were given all that you wanted without trying, what would this teach you? Exactly. Nothing.

The harder you work for something, the more you will appreciate it when you get it. You appreciate a new coat much more if you’ve had to work harder than ever to be able to afford it. Your new business feels a lot more special if you built it from nothing. Getting a loan of 1 million dollars from your Dad to get started in business, like Donald Trump, takes the shine away from your achievement. More importantly, though, striving for a goal is an experience in itself. You learn more about yourself, learn from your mistakes and grow into a better version of yourself.

So, if you want the pleasurable outcome, put the work in and suffer for it. Sometimes it’s the journey itself which is the best bit, and the end result just an added bonus.

 

Life (Charlotte Brontë)

LIFE, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall ?

Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly !

What though Death at times steps in
And calls our Best away ?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway ?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair !

Baby Steps

Being patient is not easy, because it goes against our natural impulses. When we decide that we want something, and set our sights on it, we don’t want to wait. We want it now. This is partly because we have been conditioned to believe that we can have what we want, when we want it. Fast food, fast fashion, same day delivery from Amazon…the list goes on. This is, however, a cause of much confusion.

Those things listed above which can be had so quickly and easily are material objects. If you have the money, of course you can have it now. Even if you don’t have the money, easy access to credit cards and loans means that you could borrow the money and still get it.

The problem here, is that an awful lot of people assume that the same applies to their life goals. They want immediate results, and waiting is not an option. They start strongly, and then progress slows down or stalls. At this point, you need to put more work in. Hard work. Reflect honestly on your progress so far and what you have learned from things that have or haven’t gone well. You apply this knowledge and get back to work on your goals. Simple. Tough but simple.

Hard work scares people because it takes time, and time is not an option because they want immediate results. This is where self-help books and programmes come in. People buy into the myth that a cleverly marketed book by someone like Tony Robbins might contain a secret formula which could help them get back on track. Some of these books can be excellent, while others tell a great story but lack any substance. Most of the information which they  share can be found for free online anyway.

What does this all actually mean? It means that big goals are being set and people are starting strongly, only to burn out or become disheartened and give up when they take longer than expected. This is why taking baby steps is so important. If you’ve ever seen a baby learn to walk, they never manage it in one go. They stand, fall, stand up again and keep picking themselves back up until they are able to stand by themselves. Then they start putting one foot in front of the other. 1, 2 steps and then they fall. Next time they manage 5. So it continues until they are able to walk. They keep trying, never giving up, and before long they are walking.

The same is applicable to the pursuit of our goals. Chasing a big and ambitious goal without a plan of action can be daunting. Breaking it down into small steps isn’t. You take it one step at a time, focusing only on doing what it takes to get to the next stage. You enjoy the experience, learning and growing along the way until you reach your target, almost without noticing how far you have come.

Instant success is a myth. Success without hard work is ridiculous. Those who have seemingly sprung up out of nowhere and made a name for themselves have done so after months and years of hard work and effort, experiencing failures and setbacks a number of times along the way. But they kept going and never gave up.

Don’t crave immediate results. That would be counterproductive, even if it was possible. Yes, you get what you want, but what would you learn in the process?! The whole beauty of setting goals and chasing them is that we embark on a journey of discovery. We learn more about ourselves and who we are, we develop better behaviours and at then end, we get the reward we set out for.

This is only possible by setting big goals, and then breaking them down into smaller steps which you work on every day. Every day, you take a step closer to your goals and before long, you have made your dreams a reality, and benefited so much more in the process. Is this not sweeter than simply having everything handed to you on a plate?!

If you want to get rich quick, take your chances with a lottery ticket. If you want to learn, grow and achieve great things, be prepared to put the work in and take small steps towards your goals every day. Your choice.

Auguries Of Innocence (William Blake)

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dove house fill’d with doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A Horse misus’d upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear.
A Skylark wounded in the wing,
A Cherubim does cease to sing.
The Game Cock clipp’d and arm’d for fight
Does the Rising Sun affright.
Every Wolf’s & Lion’s howl
Raises from Hell a Human Soul.
The wild deer, wand’ring here & there,
Keeps the Human Soul from Care.
The Lamb misus’d breeds public strife
And yet forgives the Butcher’s Knife.
The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that won’t believe.
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little Wren
Shall never be belov’d by Men.
He who the Ox to wrath has mov’d
Shall never be by Woman lov’d.
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spider’s enmity.
He who torments the Chafer’s sprite
Weaves a Bower in endless Night.
The Caterpillar on the Leaf
Repeats to thee thy Mother’s grief.
Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly,
For the Last Judgement draweth nigh.
He who shall train the Horse to War
Shall never pass the Polar Bar.
The Beggar’s Dog & Widow’s Cat,
Feed them & thou wilt grow fat.
The Gnat that sings his Summer’s song
Poison gets from Slander’s tongue.
The poison of the Snake & Newt
Is the sweat of Envy’s Foot.
The poison of the Honey Bee
Is the Artist’s Jealousy.
The Prince’s Robes & Beggars’ Rags
Are Toadstools on the Miser’s Bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy & Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.
Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the Soul divine;
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The Babe is more than swadling Bands;
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made, & born were hands,
Every Farmer Understands.
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity.
This is caught by Females bright
And return’d to its own delight.
The Bleat, the Bark, Bellow & Roar
Are Waves that Beat on Heaven’s Shore.
The Babe that weeps the Rod beneath
Writes Revenge in realms of death.
The Beggar’s Rags, fluttering in Air,
Does to Rags the Heavens tear.
The Soldier arm’d with Sword & Gun,
Palsied strikes the Summer’s Sun.
The poor Man’s Farthing is worth more
Than all the Gold on Afric’s Shore.
One Mite wrung from the Labrer’s hands
Shall buy & sell the Miser’s lands:
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole Nation sell & buy.
He who mocks the Infant’s Faith
Shall be mock’d in Age & Death.
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the Infant’s faith
Triumph’s over Hell & Death.
The Child’s Toys & the Old Man’s Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two seasons.
The Questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to Reply.
He who replies to words of Doubt
Doth put the Light of Knowledge out.
The Strongest Poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s Laurel Crown.
Nought can deform the Human Race
Like the Armour’s iron brace.
When Gold & Gems adorn the Plow
To peaceful Arts shall Envy Bow.
A Riddle or the Cricket’s Cry
Is to Doubt a fit Reply.
The Emmet’s Inch & Eagle’s Mile
Make Lame Philosophy to smile.
He who Doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you Please.
If the Sun & Moon should doubt
They’d immediately Go out.
To be in a Passion you Good may do,
But no Good if a Passion is in you.
The Whore & Gambler, by the State
Licenc’d, build that Nation’s Fate.
The Harlot’s cry from Street to Street
Shall weave Old England’s winding Sheet.
The Winner’s Shout, the Loser’s Curse,
Dance before dead England’s Hearse.
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet Delight.
Some are Born to sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro’ the Eye
Which was Born in a Night to Perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light.
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in the Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.

Stop Being Afraid Of Life

You have to die a few times before you actually live

Charles Bukowski

Life can be short, so it must be lived. Nobody knows how long they have, so why do anything other than forge a life which makes you happy and which you can enjoy?! There are experiences and challenges, both good and bad, to be had and lessons to be learned. We love, we lose, we win, we fail, we rise and we fall. This is what makes life so beautiful. We learn and we grow.

So, why don’t we live our lives as we should and could? In a word, fear.

We fear failure, but this makes no sense. Of course, failure hurts and it can have serious consequences and repercussions, but it can also be a beautiful thing. Failure is life’s greatest teacher. Once the shock and upset has worn off, pick yourself up and look for the lessons to be learned from the experience before bouncing back. If I was to say that this is easy, I would be lying. Far from it. What is easy is for negativity to take hold and one bad experience to turn into a bad week, month year or life. Once you fail and then bounce back stronger, though, you no longer fear failure and this gives you a new lease on life. Bouncing back is hard.  Very hard. I know because I hit rock bottom last year and lost everything. Everything apart from my family and friends. Yet, I have bounced back stronger than I could ever have dreamed and things are now better than ever. I bounced back because I forced myself into a positive mindset. I did this by, even in my darkest days, forcing myself to do something I love. At my lowest point, I journalled, rode my bike and headed to the gym. And it actually worked. It took my mind off my troubles and I felt good. This positivity helped me to review my failures with a more critical eye, which helped me to identify lessons to be learned and opportunities which I missed but could still be resurrected.

Fear of failure is not the only fear which we experience, though. Fear of rejection causes us to change who we are in order to become accepted by others, in the hope that it might improve our social or professional lives. So, we change ourselves to please others and gain their acceptance, in the process forgetting who we really are. Long term, this is very unhealthy, and it is far better to just be yourself and live the life you want.

The third fear I want to introduce is the fear of disappointing others, mainly family members. Families love to tell us what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. They genuinely care, and only want the best for us, which is why it can be difficult to say no to them. They have experienced plenty, so it’s only natural that they want to share their lessons to help us avoid difficulty. Thing is, it is through adversity that we develop, grow and learn the most about ourselves. If, for example, you don’t want to join the family business or follow your father’s footsteps, then don’t. Listen to what your family members say, be polite and respectful, but also be brave enough to live your own life and not theirs.

Sometimes that which we fear doesn’t actually happen. We take a gamble and it works out so well that we wonder what all the fuss was about. But you will also definitely experience failure. Everybody does. However, if you want to live a fulfilled life rich in positive experiences, you have to take chances and be prepared to fail. Or were you put on this earth to work 9-5 in a job you hate and constantly feel tired, frustrated and desperate for the weekend, when you get 2 days to do nothing? The choice is yours, and so is your life, so choose wisely.

The Crunch (Charles Bukowski)

(Original Version)

Too much
too little
or not enough

too fat
too thin
or nobody

laughter or
tears
or immaculate
non-concern

haters
lovers

armies running through streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking virgins

or an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe

many old guys in cheap rooms without
any photographs at all

many old women rubbing rosaries
when they’d prefer to be rubbing cocks

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movements of
the hands of a clock

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it blinking in neon signs
in Vegas, in Baltimore, in Munich

there are people so tired
so strafed
so mutilated by love or no
love
that buying a bargain can of tuna
in a supermarket
is their greatest moment
their greatest victory

we don’t need new governments
new revolutions
we don’t need new men
new women
we don’t need new ways
wife-swaps
waterbeds
good Columbian
coke
water pipes
dildoes
rubbers with corkscrew stems
watches that give you the date

people are not good to each other
one on one.
Marx be damned
the sin is not the totality of certain systems.
Christianity be damned
the sin is not the killing of a God.

people are just not good to each other.

we are afraid
we think that hatred means strength
we think that New York City is the greatest
city in America.

what we need is less brilliance
what we need is less instruction

what we need are less poets
what we need are less Bukowskies
what we need are less Billy Grahams

what we need is more
beer
a typist
more finches
more green-eyed whores who don’t eat your heart
like a vitamin pill

we don’t think about the terror of one person
aching in one place

alone
untouched
unspoken to
watering a plant
being without a telephone that will never
ring
because there isn’t one.

more haters than lovers

slices of doom like taffeta

people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other

and the beads swing and the clouds cloud
and the dogs piss upon the roses
and the killer beheads the child like taking a bite
out of an ice cream cone
and the ocean comes in and out
in and out
under the direction of a senseless moon

and people are not good to each other.