Excellence

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit

Aristotle

Starting today, create new habits that will benefit your life. Set your standards high and make it your goal to achieve excellence in everything you do. You won’t always achieve it, but by striving for excellence and making it a daily habit, you will surprise yourself when you discover what you are capable of.

Magic happens when you act with integrity, and strive for excellence. You will do, and create, great things. You will achieve more than you thought yourself capable of. Your confidence will grow massively, and doors will open for you personally and professionally. Your influence will grow as people become intrigued by your fast progress and what you have achieved. People will want to do business with you, learn from you or connect with you. All of this can lead you in new and wonderful directions.

So, if you’re feeling unmotivated, uninspired or bored with your current circumstances, adopt this approach for 3 weeks. Just 21 days. Strive for excellence in everything you do for 21 days, and it will become a habit, happening automatically. Research shows that it takes 3 weeks for a new habit to be formed. So, for the next 3 weeks, strive for excellence and document your journey. If it fails miserably and you find yourself no better off than when you started, please come back and let me know how wrong I am. But that’s not going to happen, because when you begin to really apply yourself, your efforts will bring positive results. Once you see what you are capable of, your goals will become bigger, you will push yourself harder and you will reach even greater heights. But for all of this to happen, you need to take that first step.

So, starting today, start striving for excellence. At work, aim to do your job to the best of your ability. Communicate better with colleagues, friends and family. Instead of switching on the tv when you get home, read to gain knowledge, spend some quality time with your family or start working on that business which you have a burning desire, but lack the confidence, to pursue.

Instead of drifting through the day and wasting time, look at how you can fill your day with excellence. How can you use your time to take a step closer to the life you now dream of?

For 3 weeks, aim for excellence in everything you do. And in 3 weeks, come back and tell me about how your life has moved forward now that this new habit has been formed.

Good luck and get to work!!

Life’s A Golf Course, So Start Swinging

Golf is a game of personal accomplishment. Just a little ball sitting there waiting for you to move it in a specific direction. If you do it successfully you get all the credit. If you don’t, you get all the blame. And it takes concentration and relaxation to be good at it

When you’re about to go perform, whatever you do, you’ve got to know the yardage, know which club you need, understand the feeling. This preparedness comes from the hours and hours of quiet practice away from the limelight; days and weeks and months of unrewarding and repetitive work that no-one will ever see. But you’ll know it’s there. And you’ll need it.

Samuel L Jackson

Life is a funny thing. It’s a great deal of things, in fact. However, one thing it should never be, is passive.

Life isn’t something that just happens. It’s whatever we make of it. While some people are genuinely happy to sit back and watch life go by, this is only because they have achieved all of their big goals, and now want a slower pace of life with which they can better enjoy their accomplishments and families. Until the rest of us reach that stage, we need to take a proactive approach to life.

We all know what we want to achieve in life. We know what we do and don’t like. We have an idea what a happy, fulfilled life looks like. Better yet, we know what we have to do to achieve our goals because there are no secrets in this respect. Hard work, perseverance, networking, gaining knowledge and skills and integrity. That’s not an exhaustive list, but they will certainly bring you a better quality of life if you adopt them all.

I’ve interviewed and worked with a great number of people who were unhappy with their lives and felt stuck in a rut. One thing that they all had in common was their approach to life. They were reacting to circumstances, and instead of working tirelessly for what they wanted, they were waiting for it all to fall into their lap. Which will never happen. They wanted all the good things and experiences, but were not doing anything constructive with their time in order to make that possible. They claimed that they were waiting for the right time or conditions before acting. This is, however, the quickest route to disappointment. Perfection does not exist, so you’ll be waiting an awfully long time for it. Time in which you could have been taking small, daily steps towards your goals, with the results already showing. This is, after all, how success is achieved. Small steps. Small wins. Every day. Over time there is a cumulative effect, and the small wins lead to huge achievement. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens as a result of the right actions and choices being made every day, consistently.

Like golf, the game of life takes countless hours of hard work and preparation. Not to mention the countless hours of practice while no one is watching. While everyone is out getting drunk, if you are serious about achieving greatly, you will be reflecting, planning and making minor changes to try and improve your performance. Things will not always go to plan. You will have failures and bad days. As with a professional golfer having a bad tournament, you don’t dwell on it and beat yourself up. You reflect on what happened, learn from it and make whatever changes you feel necessary in order to bounce back stronger. As any professional sportsman or woman will tell you, failures are a priceless learning experience, and can provide all the motivation and feedback you need to achieve great things.

Your life is like that little golf ball. Sit back and watch it, and you’ll notice that nothing happens. However, if you grab a club you will be able to send the ball in the direction which you want. The more time and effort you put in, the better you become at directing the ball. So is this true of life. When you decide where you want to go in life and what you want to achieve, magic happens when you get up and take action. And the more you plan, prepare, reflect and act, the better you will become at shaping your future.

It’s all in your hands. Will you act on, or react to, life?

Life Is What You Make Of It

A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with. A man is what he makes of himself

Alexander Graham Bell

The media, with its fake news and scaremongering would have us believe that we are headed for Armageddon, but the reality is very different. This is, arguably, the greatest time to be alive.

We live in exciting times. Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and the possibilities we are being presented with are endless. Not only this, but we are also well of the way to achieving equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. We’re not quite there yet in all areas, but we’ve come an awfully long way in the last 30 years and it’s only a matter of time.

Living in an age of equality, which is full of opportunities means one thing above all. It means that every single one of us has the opportunity to forge the life we want for ourselves. Life is no longer a production line of birth, education, work, family, retirement and then death. Career paths which were restricted before are now open to anyone who is suitably qualified. Employers are offering flexible working arrangements so that women can have successful careers while also raising a family. Some firms, such as 3M,  even offer employees the opportunity to use company resources to explore their own ideas and projects, thus driving innovation.

With this in mind, it’s now more true than ever that you have the ultimate control over the direction of your life. People are no longer products or victims of their circumstances. We no longer have to stick with circumstances which we have outgrown. And it is natural to outgrow your current circumstances. As we learn and grow, we change as people, and as we change so do our needs and goals.

With a nearly-level playing field, why do some design the lives they want and others seem to be happy just muddling through? It all comes down to confidence, self-belief and how much they actually want it.

How many times have you dreamed big, only to stop short and tell yourself that you could never do it and would look stupid trying. You might fail and people will laugh. People might turn their backs on you, and so on. You will make a start when the time is right. This is self-sabotage and a matter of low confidence or a fear of failure.

We ALL have access to the same information and resources. We all desire a better quality of life than we have right now. At some point, we all go after our vision of better. The ones who make it happen are no different than the rest of us. They don’t have more hours in the day or any other physical advantages. What they do have, however, is resilience. They keep going when times get tough. They learn, adapt and get back to work. This doesn’t stop when thy achieve their goals, though. Once they achieve one goal, they simply replace it with something more challenging. This is how people become successful and end up living their dream lives. They know what they want, and they want it so deeply that they will do or endure WHATEVER IT TAKES to get it.

So, basically, determine what you want, go after it and do not give up until you get it. Learn to love the process, because these experiences are what will help you to grow and develop into the person you want to become.

Map out the life you want for yourself. Then, determine where your strengths and weaknesses lie before acting on them. Make a plan, and then go after it. When things go well, reflect on why things are working. When complications and challenges arise, reflect on what you can learn from them before picking yourself up and going after it again.

If you’re not happy with your life and want more, then decide what it is that you really want and then DO more than anyone else is prepared to do to achieve it. The perfect time and circumstances do not exist, and even if they did you don’t need them. If you want to live the life of your dreams, all you need is a healthy dose of resilience and a solid work ethic.

The Man In The Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows that in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat

Theodore Roosevelt

Getting Back Up After A Fall

It’s easy to look at successful people and just assume that they are forever lucky. To outward appearances, they don’t experience setbacks. Instead, they only have good things happen to them. It’s an easy misunderstanding to make. Many of these people have a reputation to uphold or an ego that needs stroking, so they give interviews, write books and create social media posts which only highlight the positive aspects of their lives, their wins and their successes.

The truth is that they too experience misfortune, the same as anybody else. In fact, the rich and famous often experience setbacks, challenges and losses on a larger scale than many of the rest of us. That said, many of them share something pretty special. Something which each and every one of us can learn from. This special something is  possible for each and every person on this planet to adopt. It’s a strategy, and a very successful one at that.

This strategy is all about dealing with failures and setbacks, and is as simple as it is incredibly powerful;

  • Be a student of life, and take everything in your stride. Firstly, when things go wrong don’t panic. It’s easier said than done, but it is possible.
    • Go for a run, walk, gym session, swim, play the piano or do something else to take your mind off of what has happened.
    • Feeling calm, revisit what happened and look for what you can learn from the experience. Learn from your experiences, what works and what doesn’t.
    • Once you have taken all lessons from the experience, let it go. Dwelling on a failure will only stall any future progress. So reflect, learn and move on.
    • Do the same for all of your experiences, good and bad. Look for lessons to be learned and things that can be improved upon at all times. Learn from others, read, watch documentaries, visit museums and never lose your curiosity. This is what it means to be a student of life.
    • With a hunger for lifelong learning, setbacks stop registering as negative experiences in your mind. Instead, you come to view them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Learn to recapture a positive state of mind rapidly, even after a major setback, roadblock or problem. This is one of the keys to leading a successful, fulfilling life. Your mind is a very powerful tool, which needs to be handled with care. Whatever you focus on will determine the quality of your life.
    • Dwelling on past negative experiences will only lead to fear, insecurity and a mediocre life of risk avoidance.
    • Dealing with setbacks, learning from experiences, applying the new knowledge and getting back to work on your goals is the best way to get back up after a fall. It’s difficult the first few times, as the temptation is to wallow in self-pity, but do this a few times and it soon becomes an automatic reaction to problems which would otherwise derail your progress.

Teach yourself to return to a mental state of positivity and optimism over and over. Train yourself to do that until positivity becomes your default mental state, and notice how much better life becomes. Notice your increased energy, motivation, willingness to take chances and your ability to bounce back after a failure. Positivity and resilience are choices, and after a bit of practice, become easier and easier. Give it a go. Surprise yourself.

What Are You Counting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power Of Forgiveness For A Positive Life

Let It Go, Let It Gooooooo….

Elsa (Frozen)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purpose Or Pleasure, Which Do You Choose?

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

Viktor Frankl ~ Man’s Search For Meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meaning Of Life

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

Viktor Frankl ~ Man’s Search For meaning

Why “Me-Time” Is So Important

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

Jim Carrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Job Title Is Not A Reflection Of Who You Are

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

Muhammad Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Trying To Buy Happiness.

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

Eckhart Tolle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let It Go..

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

Brendan Burchard

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

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

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

Your Job Is Never Done

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

Anthony Bourdain

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

Life, And Its Infinite Doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Experiences Are Good Experiences

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

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

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

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

Legacy

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

Jim Carrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Door Closes..Now What Do You Do?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meryl Streep

 

 

Happiness Is Your Choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Smiling

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

Marilyn Monroe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The World Breaks Everyone

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

Ernest Hemingway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

When Bad Can Actually Be Good For You

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

Robin Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Will You Respond?

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

Viktor E Frankl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some examples;

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself;

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Compromise Your Creativity and Imagination.

Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model

Vincent Van Gogh

One of the most courageous things you can do in this world, is to be yourself. Open yourself up authentically and vulnerably. Discover what you were meant to do with your life, and do it. Don’t look to anybody else for permission or inspiration. Speak your mind and be honest. Do what makes you feel alive, and happy. You only have one life, so live it however you want. Provided that you are not hurting anybody else, there is no reason why can’t do this. The alternative, of course, is to live somebody else’s life for 50 years and then spend the rest of your days looking back with regret on missed opportunities and deferred happiness.

Resist the urge to conform and fit in. Resist the pressures to change or compromise, which society and social media will inevitably subject you to. If you need to change who you are in order for others to accept you, then that is a clear sign that these people are not meant to be in your life. The universe has something else planned for you instead.

Staying true to yourself and embracing your creativity can often leave you feeling rather lonely and questioning whether you are doing the right thing. Have faith in yourself, and trust that if you keep working hard and persevere through the challenging times, great things will happen.

Offices, warehouses and countless other workplaces are full of people who traded their creativity and their dreams for a steady paycheck. Talk to a few people in your own workplace, and you will encounter people whose real passion and talent lie in writing, painting, singing, dancing, acting or anything other than what they are actually doing for a living. That’s not to say that a good job with a steady income is a bad thing. Far from it. We all have financial commitments and bills to pay, so having a regular paycheck helps you to ensure that your bills are always paid on time and that you can manage your finances in order to live comfortably. However, if you are to trade your imagination for a steady, secure job, be sure that it’s your own choice to do so and that this is not a decision which has been forced upon you.

The happiest people in life, are also the most authentic. They are the ones who have held on to their creativity and imagination, and also live life on their own terms. It’s not easy, at all, but when you live your life as you want, you will find that life becomes infinitely more enjoyable. Why is this, I hear you ask? Well, living life on your own terms is empowering. You realise just how much control you have, and how it’s your own thoughts, decisions and actions which determine your future.

Stop limiting your talents, and putting your life’s direction in the hands of others. Take back control, and live the life you want, as you want to

Make Yourself A Priority

Don’t be too eager to please other people, no matter who they are. This can be easier said than done, though, as we are social creatures who are driven to help and support others. Helping others is definitely not a bad thing, but far too many of us do this while forgetting to help ourselves first. Ideally, there needs to be a balance between the amount of time spent working on yourself, and the amount of time you donate to other people.

Be clear on your priorities and the things which are non-negotiable in your life. Once you know what these are, start saying no to requests and other commitments which get in the way of your priorities. Work through your own to-do list before you help anybody else with theirs. This is essential in order to feel happiness and fulfillment.

When you prioritise the requests of others over your needs, you make them happy, while simultaneously making yourself miserable. They get what they want or need, while you miss out. Your gym session gets missed because you were helping a friend with their tax return and ran out of time. You can’t make it to the game because you stayed late at work to help a colleague with a project which they’re working on. And so on. No matter the scenario, the result is always the same. The other people enlist your help to get their to-do list completed, making them happy. You find yourself with less time or energy to do what you value. Any positive feeling you get from helping others is erased by the disappointment and frustration of not being able to do those things which are important to you.

So, learn to say no to others. There is nothing wrong with prioritising your own wants and needs. If you have enough time for others, then great. If not, at least you have done the things which are important to you, in the time which you had available. People will understand. And for those that don’t, that’s just selfishness on their part. We spend far too much time and energy chasing the approval of others, that we forget to seek the most important approval of all – our own. Before you start listening to others’ demands on your time, ask yourself if you have completed all the tasks which you set for yourself today. If you have, that’s great because you’re free to help whoever you like. If, however, you haven’t that means that you still have work to do..on yourself.

When you prioritise yourself, people will respect you more. This sounds counter-intuitive, but people will value your time and help more when it’s not so freely given. When you choose the needs of others over your own, on the other hand, you end up being treated like a doormat. The more you sacrifice your own wants and needs to help others, the more they will expect or demand from you, as you become a tool to help them lighten their load. You almost end up living the lives of others, and that is never going to be healthy.

When you put yourself first, you not only become more productive but also happier. You do more and learn more, and thus feel the warm fuzzy glow of accomplishment. Needless to say that the more knowledge, skills and experience which you acquire through working on yourself, the more you will be able to do for others.

So, before you do anything for anyone else, make sure you have taken care of all of your priorities first.