Define Yourself, Instead Of Trying To Find Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strengths and Weaknesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

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

~ Guillaume Apollinaire

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

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

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

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

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

You Are What You Think About Most Often

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which would you prefer?

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

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

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

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

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

Be Selective About Who You Give Your Time And Attention To

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

Mark Twain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Substance over Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urgency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

When Are Habits Helpful?

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

Aristotle

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

Why are good habits such a big deal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Keep Knocking On Doors…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rid Yourself Of The Limiting Beliefs Which Are Holding You Back

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

David Bowie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Expect great things of yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Messages Are You Sending Out?

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

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

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Go It Alone

No man is an island

John Donne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

What Will You Do With Your Pain?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Easy Money…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pain Before Pleasure

If you’re going through hell, keep going

Winston Churchill

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Baby Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Being Afraid Of Life

You have to die a few times before you actually live

Charles Bukowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content is King

Stop waiting for inspiration to strike before posting on your blog or social media account. The perfect time to get started is right now.

We waste far too much time overthinking. What does this achieve? Nothing. I made the same mistake when starting this very blog. I created it in November 2016 but didn’t post my first article until the following April. Months wasted. Why? Because good intentions and planning alone achieve nothing. You need to post something.

The answer, and the only way forward, is to take action and create content. Post that picture on Instagram or your thoughts on your blog. It won’t be perfect but it doesn’t have to be.

As you post more content and interact with your audience, you will learn and grow. You will develop your own style and voice. This, in turn, will lead to better quality content and this is what will grow your audience and influence.

So if you want to grow or develop your social media account or blog, get off google and just post content. Keep posting content. Interact with your audience. Experiment with new formats and styles until you find which one works best. And then post some more.

Expand Your Network, Not Just Your Mind

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another

Proverbs 27:17

As we strive to become the best we can possibly be, there is one area which is often overlooked. We read journals, books and blogs, we listen to audiobooks and podcasts and we study for recognised qualifications to get us closer to our goals. We pay great attention to these areas and make sure that they are working for us and providing value, asking ourselves;

  • Is this course of study still relevant and meeting my needs? Will it still get me to where I want to be?
  • Is the material I read or listen to relevant? What am I actually learning or absorbing? Of this, how much am I actually applying to my life?
  • Am I making the best use of my time?

So, what is this area which we overlook? OUR NETWORKS. The people who we choose to spend time with, and whose influence we allow into our lives. While it is debatable how much you can learn and apply to your own life by reading the biographies of famous people, this is one thing which they all have in common and sets them apart from others. After all, almost everybody has strong desires and can develop a strong work ethic for any task which interests them enough. Successful people, however, also have strong networks which inspire them to keep striving for growth.

It’s an ego boost to surround yourself with people who have not yet achieved your level of success. While you could do much to help these people, and learn much from them, this is a scenario which is likely to breed comfort and complacency, which are 2 of the enemies of success. Simply put, if you are surrounded by well-meaning individuals who encourage you to stay as you are, you will stagnate and stop growing. If, on the other hand, you spend time in the company of people who push you and inspire you to keep going, the possibilities are endless. Which would you rather have, stagnation or possibilities? There are a couple of great ways to expand your network which have worked for me which i’d like to share;

  • Professional Networking. Professional bodies hold regular events which are open to most members, and are a great way to meet and learn from successful figures within your chosen industry. Aim to attend at least one talk or networking event per month, and engage with as many people as you can. Over time you will build a list of contacts, who may also become friends.
  • Clubs. What is your area of interest outside of work? What are you passionate about? Are there any clubs which meet near you, which you could join? Cigars are my guilty pleasure and I am a member of several groups which meet monthly. As well as sampling cigars and spirits in often luxurious surroundings, this is also an opportunity to spend time talking to, and learning from, extremely successful people in a range of industries and from differing backgrounds. Cigars are not for everyone, but the same applies to all kinds of groups whether their passion is Harry Potter or classic cars. Above all, it’s great for introverts who struggle when meeting new people. Because it’s a group which has a shared interest, there is no need for any awkward icebreakers.
  • Social Networking. No, not Facebook or Snapchat. Apps like LinkedIn and Shapr can help you meet new and interesting people, while on the go, with whom you could share experiences and advice.
  • Mentoring. Whether it’s for a personal or professional purpose, a mentor can motivate, support and guide you. Furthermore, a mentor can help you to improve your networking skills and push you to attend meetings and events which best meet your needs.

You will only learn, develop, grow and make real progress in life once you leave your comfort zone. Learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. If you look around a room and see people who are more accomplished and successful than you, then you are in the right room. Do these situations make you feel uncomfortable and awkward? Good! Use this to fuel your inner fire and strive to raise yourself to their level. Use your networking and communication skills to learn from them. Rather than close up and hide in a corner, make the most of this opportunity. You may very well end up talking to your next investor, mentor, business partner or boss. You won’t know unless you try, and you have to be in the presence of successful and accomplished people in order for this to even be possible.

I am not saying that we should distance ourselves from our friends and family. This would be ridiculous as well as damaging to our happiness and confidence. Unless they are negative influences, and holding you back. My advice is that we seek opportunities, preferably at least once a week, to spend time in the company of people more knowledgeable or successful than ourselves as they could provide a wealth of advice and a healthy dose of inspiration.

Surround yourself, and learn from, accomplished people and sooner or later their good habits will rub off on you.

If You Can’t Measure It, Is It Even Real?

Every January, we convince ourselves that this will be our year. We declare this proudly, and share our goals with the world, along with the determination that nothing will stand in our way. Maybe we even take the first tentative steps towards these big shiny goals and then…silence. Sound familiar?

Setting goals is great. I swear by it. However, setting big goals for the year ahead is not enough. Desire and the best of intentions are not enough either. Neither will all the support and encouragement in the world be of much help. Unless you have a certain magical, mystical failproof key which will bring it all together and lead to massive success. Now, at this point, most online celebrities will ask you to buy into a program or buy a book to get the answer. I hate that, because we don’t need to splash the cash on these unless we absolutely want to. Especially in an age where so much great advice and information is available online for free. We already have the key. It’s within all of us.

The name of this key? Careful planning and determined action. It sounds far from the catchy self-help marketing nonsense we get bombarded with, but that’s ok. It works, and that is all that matters. Alone, it works great but with some of the above it can work even better. The uncomfortable truth is that there are no shortcuts to success. You have to really want it, and really work for it.

While I stated that big goals are not enough, they can be a great place to start. It’s what you do with them next that really makes all the difference. Break these big goals down into smaller goals and milestones, each of which will take you one step closer to the desired end result. Add to this some reflection, through which you become aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and the resources available to you. This will help determine your course of action.

Now, you have a plan of action. You have a good idea of what you are capable of doing and how you can go about it. All that remains is to actually do it. Take those steps towards your small goals. Don’t focus on the end result, but just move forward one step at a time. At regular intervals, stop to review your progress so far. It is important to measure how far you have come, and how far you still have to go, as it helps you to remain focused and identify any potential issues which might affect your efforts.

If all you have is a big goal but no idea of how to achieve it, then it isn’t really a goal at all. It’s just a daydream which is never going to become a reality no matter how much you wish for it.

Without a plan, and some determined action, your goals will just remain a dream. You have a choice to make. Do you want to remain a fantasist living in a dreamworld, or are you prepared to wake up and work for what you want?

Sheeple No More!!

Follow your own path, no matter what people say

Karl Marx

Sheeple, a combination of the words sheep and people, describes the passive herd behavior of people who are easily controlled and easily led about. It goes without saying, that if you hope to achieve anything in life and have a sense of fulfillment you can’t afford to be one of them.

Controlling influences are all around us. From the media to clever marketing campaigns, we are being told what to think and how to act. We get used to taking instruction from those of a higher standing, professionally or socially, than us and we do it without thinking. One question about this…Of all the countless successful people who we read about every day, how many fall into this category? Not very many, if any at all.

We also find ourselves influenced by close friends and family, but this is different. In this instance, though, there’s no need to be alarmed. These are people who care about you and only want to see you happy. They might try and dissuade you from a project or a course of action simply because they fear the consequences if you are unsuccessful. Listen to them. Understand their views and concerns, but don’t let them hold you back either. Prove them wrong.

When we follow the lead of others, we find ourselves suppressing our true selves in order to fit in. This may give us a sense of belonging to a certain group for a while, but we do this at the expense of our happiness and mental health. In essence, when you hide your true self, you are putting on an act. This can be mentally draining and can lead you on a  downward spiral if left unchecked. Is it any coincidence that those who have broken free from the herd in order to be themselves, and live their lives on their own terms, always describe how happy and liberated they feel. Why do they feel this euphoria? Because they are no longer scared of the opinions of others and trying to follow their examples, but instead just living their lives as they want. After all, we are all individuals, and unique in our own way, so why should we lead someone else’s life? It makes no sense.

This is why I am not a big believer in the business and personal development books which aim to teach us how to be more like Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett. While these books can be interesting, boost our confidence and give us food for thought when well written, they are nothing more than entertainment and bear little relevance to our own journeys towards our goals. What applies to Steve Jobs will not apply to me. The only way that I can hope to achieve success in my life is by striving to become the best version of myself.

Simply reading about the traits and habits of successful people will not help you to replicate their success.Nothing can. Their success is theirs alone. If Mark Zuckerberg had a magic formula which can be found in a certain book, then why aren’t more people reading it and becoming billionaire founders of social media platforms?! The truth is that the only people who do make a lot of money from these books are the authors and publishers. Of course, you might discover some behaviours which you can adopt when you read these books, but ultimately, you make your own way in life.

Instead of reading about successful people and trying to copy them in the hope that you can achieve their level of greatness, why not just focus on yourself? Spend that time reviewing your current circumstances and resources, deciding where you want to get to, and mapping out how you will get there.

Instead of wasting money on books about people who have become successful against all odds, why not strive to become a success in your own right. You don’t need somebody else’s blueprint, you just need the desire to achieve greatly, the perseverance to keep going through good times and bad, and a solid work ethic.

Who knows, the next best-selling self-help book might feature you as their example of achieving greatness against all odds! On a more sober note, though, don’t focus too much on what other people say or do, but have the confidence to live your own life.

Strive for, and achieve, success in life but do it your way and on your own terms.

The January Job Hunt

Every January, alongside improved health and fitness, a new career or job which pays better comes high up on a huge number of peoples’ priorities for the year ahead. It can be for several reasons, of which money is one. After all, it stands to reason that if you want to have more money than you have now, then you need to find a way to earn more, while also saving more of what you earn. More money coming in combined with less money going out will leave you with a bigger bank balance. Others, however, are comfortable financially yet still want a new job. Why? Because money isn’t the only motivator to change jobs or careers. Some people will change because they do not enjoy what they are doing and want a new challenge, or need a new job which can fit in with their other commitments.

Whatever your reason for changing jobs, January is the perfect time to get started. Regardless of your desired role, and the industry which it is in, you are almost guaranteed to find plenty of roles to apply for. This tends to be the time of the year when people have been promoted and their former role needs to be filled, or new roles have been created. The rest of the year, the number of vacancies will fluctuate depending on your industry. So, that’s why if you want a new job, you cannot afford to waste any time this month. Start as you mean to go on, and when you get started, please remember the below, which I have learned through bitter experience;

Hustle. Never stop working for whatever it is that you want, but also develop a thick skin in order to be able to deal with rejection and setbacks without losing your momentum or hunger for progress.

The above applies to all areas, not just job hunting. Whatever you want in life, you have to work for it. Hard. More importantly, you have to want it with every ounce of your being. This will keep you going through both the good and bad times. You will learn to ignore the negative voices who tell you to admit defeat and move on. You will learn to brush off rejection and keep going. Which brings me back to today’s topic.

First of all, a reality check. Landing a new job is hard work and it won’t happen overnight. For every role you apply for, there will be tens, hundreds or maybe even thousands of others applying for the same job too. You will spend countless hours working with recruiters only for them to go quiet all of a sudden. You will also encounter generic rejection letters or emails, or even no response at all. This is why you need to develop a thick skin and not take any of it to heart, because taking it personally can hurt your confidence and derail your progress.

Now…about the actual job search..

  • Use a number of approaches. If you have an idea of which company you would like to work for, check their website for vacancies. Send a cv and cover letter to the hiring manager, whose details you may be able to find via LinkedIn. Sign up with recruitment agencies. Check job boards, newspapers, magazines and social media such as LinkedIn. Do not rely on job boards, or any one approach, alone.
  • Network. Sitting in front of a computer firing off applications may give you a warm fuzzy feeling of achievement, but alone it won’t get you a job. You need to get up, get out and talk to people. Don’t just sign up with a recruitment agency, go to their offices and speak to them in person. How can a recruiter confidently put you forward for a role if the only contact they have had with you is a few emails and phone calls? Meet them, talk to them and forge a working relationship. Don’t just stop there. Now that you have ventured outside and away from your computer, attend networking events relevant to your industry or personal industry. You never know, the next person you speak to may have the perfect role for you, or if not, they might know someone else who does.
  • Develop an elevator pitch. This is something which can help you greatly in your search. You will be meeting and talking to countless recruiters, hiring managers and figures within your chosen industry, so it’s best to have a well thought-out introduction prepared. Keep it to around 30 seconds, and if the other person wants to know more about you they will keep the conversation going. For this to be effective, you need to be clear about who you are, what you want and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. The best way to master this? Practice. Keep practicing and amending your introduction until you feel that you can do no better.
  • Ensure that your CV and Cover Letter relevant and up to date. For a recruiter, there is nothing worse than receiving a cv and cover letter which is full of jargon and business buzzwords, but very little information about why you believe that you are a good fit for the job in question. Without fail, these cvs and cover letters go into the shredder. If you can’t take the time to update your cv and cover letter to reflect your suitability for this particular role, then you don’t deserve to be considered for shortlisting. You have to make some effort and show that you want this in order to stand out from other candidates. So, while a ridiculous amount of people still insist on having one generic cover letter and cv which they use to apply for every job, be the exception and take the time to tailor yours to the specific role. If the job advert lacks some information which you need to tailor your application, take the initiative to contact the recruiter and speak to them about it. That effort will work in your favour.
  • Be relentless. Don’t just apply for 2 jobs and then put your feet up for the rest of the day, or week. Apply for 2 more. And another 2. Keep going until you have applied for all the relevant roles which interest you and for which you are a good fit. The job hunt is a game of numbers, and personal experience has shown me that you should expect a response rate of around 10% from your applications, depending on your skills and experience. So, if you apply for 50 roles, expect to hear back from around 5 of them. If you’re lucky, all 5 might want to interview you. On the other hand, if you’re really unlucky, all 5 might reject you. Regardless of whatever happens, keep going. You have interviews lined up? Great, but don’t stop searching for other roles. Keep up your job search until the moment you get the right offer and sign the contract. Then you switch your attention to the relentless pursuit of excellence in your new role.

So, be realistic about what you want. Don’t apply for every job going, but focus on the area which interests you. Take each application seriously, and tailor your cv and cover letter to show that you are interested in this role and why you believe that you are a good fit. Accept that you will meet with setbacks and rejections, but don’t give up. Keep the momentum going and keep applying for suitable roles and keep networking. It takes a lot of hard work to land the right job, but if you want it deeply enough, you will find a way to make it happen.

 

Inspection Time

As we enter the last full week of the first month of 2018, this is as good as point as any to review and reflect on your progress so far. Whether you choose to make several resolutions once a year, or set yourself goals throughout the year, you need time out to check your progress.

Review and reflection is important because it identifies lessons which can be learned, and questions which you can ask yourself, such as;

  • What has worked well so far, which I could continue?
  • What hasn’t worked well, and what have I learned from this failure or setback?
  • What skills and knowledge have I gained so far?
  • What gaps still remain in my skills or knowledge?

When you review how far you have come since you set out on your journey, you will also find yourself re-energised and with your motivation levels replenished.

Maintaining your motivation and focus is essential, especially now as we approach the point in the year when reality sets in, and far too many goals and resolutions go out of the window.

Why does this happen, especially in January? Well, resolutions are very often made, and goals set, as we approach the New Year. They are declared with a strong sense of optimism and belief, with everyone declaring that THIS year will be their year. The problem with this, is that these promises and pledges are made at a time when people traditionally have a fortnight’s holiday to celebrate Christmas. So, there’s a LOT more free time to get excited and be optimistic when making plans for the future.

Then, we go back to work, and back to reality. You start strongly, before work and family commitments eat into your time. Late nights at work, business travel, spending quality time with your other half and your kids…it all adds up. So you find yourself feeling increasingly tired, and perhaps a little stressed. Not a great way to start the year is it? Something usually has to give, and it tends to be the goal or resolution which suffers. Short on time and always tired? Skip the gym. Your partner decides that you don’t have enough stuff in the house, and wants to go to Ikea to stock up? Skip the reading, journalling or job-hunting time and spend it instead in this hellish labyrinth of Swedish minimalism.

Very rarely are our journeys derailed in one fell swoop by a major event, but rather it tends to happen over time due to a lack of discipline. We miss one workout in the gym. Having missed one session, it becomes easier to miss a second or third. This applies to whatever it is that you are striving for, not just health and fitness. Break your commitment once, and it becomes more likely that you will do it again, and again, until you give up altogether.

This is where review and reflection comes in. It boosts your motivation to keep you moving forward. It highlights lessons to be learned, and how far you have come since you started. Best of all, it helps you to clear your head, refocus and identify how best to move forward.

If you are serious about becoming the best version of yourself, and committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve this, help yourself. Schedule checkpoints throughout the year to review and reflect on your journey so far. Your future self will thank you for it.

 

Slow Down To Go Fast

I love this saying, as there is so much truth and wisdom in it. It sounds counterintuitive, after all slowing down and going fast are opposites right? Well, yes, they obviously are but in the context of being able to live a fulfilled life and reach your potential, it makes perfect sense.

We live our lives today at 100 miles per hour, and wear tiredness as a badge of honour. We’re not happy unless we are busy, but this causes more problems than it solves. Your health suffers as the lack of sleep reduces your immune system’s ability to ward off illness. Your relationships suffer through neglect, as you’re too busy to spend time with family and friends. Not to mention the fact that your creativity and ability to think clearly suffer the more tired you become. Why do his too yourself? Is it not better to be able to enjoy life now, while fighting for more?

This is where adults can learn an important lesson from children. One thing that struck me as a teacher, was how children slow down and take time to notice things and enjoy experiences. They don’t rush from one thing to another, but live in the moment. Why can’t we do the same?

When you slow down and take some time out for yourself, you will find ample opportunity to;

  • Reflect. Take some time to revisit your goals and the progress which you have made until this point. What has worked well so far? What hasn’t gone according to plan, and what have you learned from it? Do your goals need to be adjusted? Are there any knowledge or skills gaps which you have identified, and can address?
  • Refocus. That problem that you have been unable to solve for the past 3 weeks despite working on it night and day? Take a step back, do something fun for a while to unwind, and the answer may very well come to you. Not only that, but you will be getting back to work re-energised and refocused with a clear head. I’d say that’s with a timeout for an hour or 2.
  • Work on your relationships. As your journey towards your goals picks up momentum, there is a danger that it consumes all of your time and attention to the point that you unintentionally neglect your relationships. Take some time to remind your partner or spouse how much you love them, and how they are the most important person in your life. Spend some time with family and friends. Let people know that you appreciate them.
  • Focus on your physical and mental health. Long hours spent hustling, combined with a lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your body and mind. Catch up on some sleep, go for a bike ride, get in the gym, meditate, read or write in your journal. Whatever it is that you usually do to maintain your physical wellbeing and your mental health and happiness, do it. Do lots of it. It’s pointless striving hard for your goals only for your health to fail and you to burnout.

 

How do you find time for any of the above? Simple. MAKE TIME. Schedule an hour in your day to read, perhaps another hour for exercising and three hours in the evening for quality time with your family or friends. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. My examples require a total of 5, which leaves you with 19 hours to work on your personal and professional development and ensure that you get at least 7 hours of sleep. It sounds simple because it is. All it requires is some discipline, a little organisation and lot less time in front of the tv mindlessly watching rubbish while eating junk food.

Stop putting your life on hold. When you slow down, and take some time for yourself, you will be able to lead a fulfilled and happy life now while you work to become and achieve more.