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.

 

Focus Only On That Which You Can Control

The world is a confusing place full of conflicting advice. So much so that we are never quite sure what we should be doing, how and who we should be listening to. This leads to us feeling overwhelmed, and easily led by others.

Too often, we ignore our gut instinct and what we already know, and instead turn to social media or our social circle for guidance. We look for someone who seems to have it all together and be on the right path, and try to remodel ourselves on them instead.

In doing so, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment, because you are not them and do not know the circumstances which brought them success. This is a game of chance, not a well thought-out strategy. It’s pointless focusing on things which you can’t control. Your focus should be on yourself, what drives you and what you want. Copying others will not automatically bring you the same results as them. It’s more likely to lead to lead to further confusion and frustration. You can’t control what others do, how they do it or the results which they might achieve. So, stop trying.

There are 5 things in life which you definitely can control, though;

  1. The books you read. Why are you reading? Is it for entertainment, or is it to gain knowledge and support your personal and professional development? Be more selective in your reading material, as the quality of what you feed your brain has a big part to play in the quality of your life and what you can achieve.
  2. The risks you take. Taking risks is scary, but it’s also the only way to achieve greatly and lead a fulfilling life. Naturally, people close to you will warn you to play safe, but you don’t always have to do what others say. I’m not advising recklessness, but that calculated risks can lead you to great places. It’s your life, and the choice is yours as to how you live it, so why not take some risks and prove the naysayers wrong?!
  3. Your perspective. You are the only one who can judge the quality of your life. You know who you are, what you want and what makes you happy. Therefore you know how much of the good stuff you have in your life. It’s not for anyone else to judge, because we don’t all share the same needs and are definitely not motivated by the same things. Someone motivated by money and material wealth might look at another and judge him harshly for having a lesser car and smaller house, BUT that person might have a job which he loves, a comfortable home and a family who we loves dearly. Don’t look at what others have and judge yourself harshly. Look at what you have and ask yourself whether you are happy. It’s all about perspective.
  4. Who you spend time with. It is perfectly natural to outgrow a relationship. After all, we all change as we grow. Our lives go in a different direction, our priorities change and our needs change. Don’t be afraid to cut somebody loose if they no longer support your dreams and ambitions. You don’t need to keep negative influences in your life, just because you have been friends for a number of years. The choice is yours as to who you surround yourself with.
  5. How kind you are to others. No matter what life throws at you, and how you might be feeling inside, there is never any excuse not to treat others with kindness and respect. Being kind to othersis a choice which costs nothing, yet it lifts you as well as the person to whom you’re being kind. Try it. Do something kind for somebody else, even if it’s just a kind word, and see how it makes you both feel.

Successful people do not sit around focusing on what others may or may not do. They focus on themselves and what they can control. That’s where their time and attention goes, and that is why they achieve great things. So, if you do want to copy something from successful people, let it be this; inward focus. Divert your attention to your own development, your needs and goals, put the work in and enjoy the results.

The Joys Of Solitude

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

~ Elvis Presley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

~ Jim Carrey

A Black Dog Named Depression

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

Jim Carrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Malcolm X

The Secret Ingredient To A Happy Life? Love!

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

Onward….March!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glass Half Empty or Half Full?!

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge and Action

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

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

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

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

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

Read…Learn….Act…Learn some more…Grow…

All Grown Ups Were Once Children….

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

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

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

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

Hell Is Other People…Really?!

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

Judge Not..Unless You’re Judging Yourself.

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

Antoine de Saint- Exupèry  ~ The Little Prince

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Matters Most…

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

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ~ The Little Prince

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Your Life Looking Forwards, Not Backwards

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

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

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

Embrace The Unknown

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

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

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

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

What Do You Believe In?

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

When The Going Gets Tough…

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

Confucius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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