Life, And Its Infinite Doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legacy

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

Jim Carrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never Stop Being Yourself

“That was what made traveling appeal to him – he always made new friends, and he didn’t need to spend all of his time with them. When someone sees the same people every day, as happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own”

Paulo Coelho ~ The Alchemist

You are the only person who gets to decide whether you need to change anything in your life, and if so, what and how. It is your life, after all. Some people are genuinely happy as they are, and for these people we should accept them as they are and be happy for them that they are at peace with themselves.

Change, after all, comes from within. No matter what external driving forces or potential rewards for change, if you don’t want it for yourself, you won’t commit to it and your efforts will eventually come to nothing.

Our friends and family are the greatest external drivers of change. Social groups are slightly different – they put pressure on us to conform and change but this is a decision we make with our eyes wide open. We are well aware that we need to fall in line to remain part of this group, so any decision to change which we make is a conscious one. We make the changes, and stay part of the group. OR…we do nothing and find a new group to join.

With friends and family, it’s not so easy because we believe that they are pushing us to change because they care and that it’s in our best interests. Maybe they can see something that we can’t?! Maybe they’ve been in a similar situation and have benefited form the changes which they want for us?! Or…maybe…and this is the part which we are reluctant to consider…maybe they are pushing us to make changes which are in their best interests, not ours.

The only way to know whether a change is in our best interests is to take some time to reflect on where we are right now, whether we are getting any closer to our goals and whether we are happy with our lives. Then reflect on the changes we are being asked to make. They may very well be for the best. Or not, but this is our decision to make.

In life, we learn and grow through the lessons we learn from others as much as what we learn through our own experiences. So, you should never dismiss another’s advice. Whether you apply any of it or not, though, is up to you. They may be advising a positive change which could really make a difference in your life. Or, they may be providing a warning that it’s time to change your surroundings and who you surround yourself with. So, hear people out and judge for yourself. Any change made should be one you want to make, and not just something you’re doing to please others.

One Door Closes..Now What Do You Do?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meryl Streep

 

 

Live Your Life Inside – Out

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life…Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it

Viktor Frankl

Everybody is unique.  Everybody has different drive, purpose, passion, wants, needs and desires. That is what makes life so beautiful. Most of the time. Different people coming together and living happily. Think about how boring life would be if we were all the same and lived the same way? Boring, to say the least. We would cease to be human, and become living, breathing robots.

So, now that we agree that we are all different and this is a good thing, that raises another question…Why do we try to copy others and live their lives? Or, why do we let others dictate our lives (parents, friends, partners…)? It makes no sense. You can study Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or anybody else as much as you like, but no matter how hard you try you will never be able to copy their lives and achieve what they have. What worked for them will not work for you, because you are different people and your circumstances are different. While it’s great to study successful people and look for lessons which you can apply to your own life, blindly copying them will only lead to frustration and failure. The same is true when it comes to letting loved ones influence or dictate our lives. Live your life as they want you to, and the only person who you make happy is them. Instead, learn from their experiences, and see whether you could apply any of it to your own life. Rather than waste your time and talents trying to become somebody else, why not look inside yourself, figure out who you really are, what drives you, where your passion lies and what your purpose in life is?!

Live your own life, and live it as best you can. Compete against yourself only, aiming to become better today than you were yesterday. That is the key to happiness. Living somebody else’s life will only lead to disappointment.

It’s easy to read these things and nod, but what does this mean? In order to live your own life, you need to really know who you are. This starts with some honest self-reflection. Ask yourself;

  • What do you value?
    • Family and Friendships
    • Integrity and Honesty?
    • Health and Fitness?
    • Accomplishment and Success?
    • Influence?
  • What are 3 non-negotiable things which you need to do every day in order to feel happy and a sense of achievement?
  • What does a perfect day look like to you?

This is just a start on the road to self-awareness, but an important first step to discovering who you really are and what you have to offer the world. Once you know who you are, you can start living accordingly. Most of all, self awareness allows you to take control of your life by taking responsibility for your decisions and actions.

Taking responsibility for your own life, or being proactive, is how you discover more about yourself. It’s also how people become successful, because they don’t wait for good things to come to them, they get out there and work for them. Every day. When you take responsibility for your life, and become proactive rather than reacting to situations and circumstances, you gain a clear idea of what you want to become and do in life. Moreover, you better understand that the power to make this happens really is in your hands.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognise that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life, and he can only answering to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible

Viktor Frankl

The Time Is Now

Time passes so quickly, that you don’t even notice it until it begins to show. We forget this, though, and live as though we have all the time in the world to accomplish everything which we desire. We put things off, and tell ourselves that we will make them happen when the time or conditions are right.

The only thing that this attitude will achieve is to erode your confidence, stall your progress and leave you feeling unfulfilled and dejected. This is because there is no such thing as the “right time” or a perfect situation in which to make your move. This is a lie peddled by the lazy, fearful, those low on confidence and the unmotivated to justify to themselves why they are sitting on their arses eating pizza rather than working on their personal and professional development and chasing after their goals.

Those who sit around and wait for the right time to take steps towards their goals, are the same who curse their bad luck when others around them are progressing in life and having fun. “Why am I stuck in the same spot? Why is everyone else doing well, but not me? Why? Why? Poor little me…blah, blah, blah… It’s not rocket science, so quit the pity party and open your eyes.

Those around you who are experiencing success are doing so because they are putting the time, effort and work in to make good things happen. You’re stuck in the same spot, because you are sitting around and waiting for the planets to align and inspiration to strike. See the problem? People who take control of their lives and take action are rewarded for their proactive approach with success. Eventually. Those who choose to sit around and wait, taking a reactive instead of proactive approach to life…they stagnate, and only have themselves to blame.

The only way to achieve anything in life is to work for it. Stop waiting around and procrastinating. Start, instead, taking baby steps every day which will get you closer to achieving what you want and becoming the person you really want to be. This is especially true if you lack confidence. Waiting around and overthinking will only make it worse. Action is the only way to build confidence. Small actions completed successfully every day will help to build momentum, which in turn builds confidence. Everybody is afraid before starting on a big project, but those who conquer that fear and achieve great things are those who take action, no matter how worried they are. So;

  • Have a think about what you really want.
  • Make a list of all the resources you have, or the people who could help and support you
  • Make a plan of action.
  • Go for it. Schedule in regular checkpoints to stop and reflect on your progress to that point
    • What has worked well so far?
    • What have I learned during this process, and what can I apply from my learning?
    • What hasn’t worked as well as it could? Why?
    • Going forward, how can I adapt my approach to bring even more progress and success?

Don’t wait for the perfect, or right, time to do that which you want to do. Wear those fancy shoes you’re saving for a special occasion, take that trip, eat the donuts, watch the late movie, read that book and take more chances.

The time to live your life is now. Stop putting it off until an unspecified later date. Tomorrow is promised to no-one, so make the most of the time which you have.

How Do You Let Others Treat You?

Our attitudes and behaviours are the biggest factors in determining how we are treated by others. Whether we realise it or not, people look to you for signs as to how they should behave around you.

People read each other all the time. We regularly monitor the facial expressions and body language of others, as well as what they say and do. From this, we determine if they are happy, angry or sad and in need of help or support. We determine whether a stranger may be potentially friendly or hostile. We read moods, and so much more, so that we can adjust our behaviour towards others accordingly.

This is why self awareness is so important. Once you know who you are, what you want and what you will and will not accept from others, you begin to live according to these values and principles. This causes a subtle shift in the messages you send to others around you through your words and actions. Your interactions with others will change as they begin to adapt their interactions with you accordingly. Self awareness leads to self control and self discipline. You no longer stumble through life, but instead everything becomes more deliberate. When you know who you are and what you want in life, you act accordingly. When you become disciplined and your actions become more deliberate and carefully considered, people treat you more respectfully. In fact, they often turn to you for guidance and advice, through which you become able to positively influence others. When someone can see that you conduct yourself with respect and discipline, their approach to you changes. They are unlikely to try and impose their will on you, but rather try and discuss everything with you as an equal. Try it. Stand up straight, and talk more confidently in your next interaction. No matter how long you have known that person, chances are that you will notice a change in their behaviour.

The opposite can be true if you lack self awareness and self respect. Without knowing who you really are, you are at a greater risk of being led astray by others. Even if they don’t lead you astray, you will likely find yourself following their lead in life, regardless of whether it goes against everything that you want for yourself and takes you in completely the wrong direction. When another person views you as indecisive or suggestible, they tend to become more domineering, taking control of conversations and decisions. After all, if you don’t respect yourself, they won’t feel compelled to respect you either.

That is not to say that everyone is cold, calculating and manipulative. Far from it. It’s just that we tend to watch others for clues as to how we can behave towards them. This saves a lot of guesswork, because all we have to do then is treat them in a way which they are likely to find acceptable.

A lack of self awareness is not the only reason why we let people treat us the way they do. Sometimes, we consciously allow others to treat us in ways which we don’t appreciate. This, we do out of fear. We let a partner disrespect us because we fear that if we don’t, they will leave. We also tolerate behaviours from family, friends and social groups because we fear being frozen out. While this might make others happy, we become miserable. We hate the way others treat us, yet we feel powerless to address this as we don’t want to lose them.

This brings us back to self awareness. When you know who you are and what you want, you not only adjust your body language and actions accordingly, but you also review the people who you allow into your life. Be bold and be honest when doing this. Some people you may have outgrown and need to let go. There may be others with whom you need to spend more time. As we develop and grow into the people we were meant to be, it’s only natural that our social circle will change in order to reflect who we are and where we are going in life. After all, like attracts like.

You teach people how they can treat you. If you are unsure of what is acceptable from others, put the work in to rediscover who you really are. Note down;

  • How you would describe yourself
  • What legacy you would like to leave
  • What makes you happy
  • What you enjoy doing,
  • What you would do with your days if you won millions playing the lottery and no longer had to work?
  • Think about where you would like to be in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time.
  • What films and music do you enjoy?
  • What does a perfect weekend look like to you?
  • What are 3 things which you need to do every day in order to feel as though you accomplished something?
  • What is important to you and non-negotiable?

This list is not exhaustive, but answer the above points honestly and you will have a good idea of who you are and what you hold dear. Once you know this, reflect on your body language and words, and whether they reflect your true self. Then, look the people you allow into your life and ask yourself whether these are positive influences or not. If anything leaves you feeling unconvinced or uncertain, do something about it. Don’t be afraid about making the changes which could improve your quality of life. Instead, be afraid of doing nothing and remaining the same.

What Conversations Are You Having With Yourself?

Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears

Laird Hamilton

How much attention do you pay to your self-talk, and that little voice in the back of your head? More importantly, what does it say to you? Does it remind you of how far you’ve come and what you are capable of, or does it scream at you to play it safe and avoid taking risks?

Of all the things which can be blamed for sabotaging our progress, this is the biggest, but it’s also the one you can do something about. You can’t control the financial or employment markets, for instance, but you can change the way you talk to yourself. It’s not easy, but it is one of the best things which you can do for yourself, both personally and professionally.

We read, we study, we network and do whatever it takes to get us closer to our goals. However, this all counts for nothing if, when all the knowledge gathering and preparation has taken place and it’s time to take action, fear gets the better of you and you convince yourself that you just can’t do it.

Much the same as with perception and its power to determine your outlook on life, self-talk can either be a force for good or your biggest hindrance. It all depends on you. Sit back and do nothing, and you will find yourself going round in circles, getting all the preparation done, only for fear to take hold and it all to come to a screeching halt before it has even started. When you take a more proactive approach, though, and take control of what you are telling yourself, good things will happen as you proceed with confidence. It is often the case that you hit a wall in pursuit of your goals not because you lack knowledge, skills or experience, but because your confidence has been eroded by your fears and insecurities.

Changing the things which you say to yourself is just as difficult as changing the way in which you see the world and your place in it. The payoff for managing this, however, cannot be understated. Self belief, and feeling certain that you have whatever it takes to accomplish that which you set your sights on, is incredibly powerful once mastered. It’s a positive cycle;

  • Decide what it is that you want to achieve and break it down into goals and a plan of action.
  • Acquire the knowledge or skills required to accomplish that which you desire
  • Proceed with confidence in your ability, telling yourself that you already have everything which you need to succeed. Even if you don’t fully believe it, keep talking to yourself positively and confidently.
  • Learn from any setbacks, celebrate small victories and just keep going
  • As you accomplish your goals, replace them with more challenging ones and start again. When you start again, your recent achievements will leave you feeling more confident and more positive.

The more cycles you complete, the more positive and encouraging your self-talk will become. As you continue to learn, grow, develop, achieve and become more, you will notice how that little voice gets louder while at the same time becoming more supportive.

Pay close attention to what you are telling yourself, and if it’s not as positive as it should be, take action.

  • Carry a notebook and pen with you for a week (of course, you could do this digitally, but pen and paper is much more effective).
  • Every time that little voice speaks to you, no matter when or what about, write it down in your notebook.
  • At the end of the week, sit down with your notebook and revisit all that you have been saying to yourself. Is it largely positive or negative? If it’s overly negative, try changing the language which you use, and re-framing the situations. For example, you might not have got the job, but you were shortlisted for interview above hundreds of others  and have gained valuable interview experience which will stand you in good stead for next time.

When we love, care about or really like someone, we find ourselves naturally supportive of them and this is reflected in the language we use towards them. Starting today, make an effort to care about yourself just as much as you do about others, and adjust your self-talk accordingly.

 

Where Does Your Focus And Attention Rest?

Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say “so what?”

Andy Warhol

There is no magic combination of personal circumstances (relationships etc), finances and career that automatically lead to happiness. It’s up to you whether your life is one that makes you happy or miserable, because it’s a matter of perspective. It comes down to your life experiences, needs, wants, desires and how they make you feel. In short, life is what you make of it.

This really is as simple as it sounds, but we often forget it. We forget the power we have to forge our destinies and shape the world around us. Instead, we look to outside sources for inspiration or guidance on how to be happy and lead a fulfilled life. We seek advice or support from family and friends, and look to social media for an idea as to what we should have in our lives, or what we should be aiming for, in order to feel happy and accomplished.

It’s never a bad thing to seek the advice, or be inspired by, others. We shouldn’t, however, rely on it completely or follow their lead. We have to listen to ourselves first and foremost. The problem of looking to others for guidance or approval is that we assume that we can automatically replicate their results by copying them and following their lead. This is pure fantasy, though, as there are factors such as circumstances, opportunity and timing which are not taking into account. Most importantly…Why on earth would you just want to copy others and live as their clone? Would you rather not just be yourself, and live your life in a way which makes you happy?

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is perspective, not the truth

Marcus Aurelius

The above quote should be displayed everywhere, so we never forget this simple truth. Social media is make-believe. It’s simply not real. People show you only what they want you to see. As for our friends and family, all advice and guidance from others is never impartial, it’s a reflection of their own experiences, fears and insecurities. That is why the path to happiness lies in self awareness, learning about who we are and what we really want and adjusting our perspective accordingly.

In my life, I have met people with very little, struggling to support themselves and their families. They were genuinely happy, though. Speaking to them, I learned that they were happy because they felt loved by their families and friends, they were grateful for the little that they had and they felt blessed that they had opportunities to improve their circumstances if they worked hard enough. I have also met people with the best educations and careers, able to afford anything their heart desired, who still feel unfulfilled and unhappy. Their unhappiness largely lies in where they let their attention wander. Rather than practice gratitude for what they achieved this far, they focus on what others have and that they lack. So, they constantly postpone their happiness until they have a bigger house, faster car or better job. In this way, they will never be happy because they are always comparing their lives to others and always one step behind in cha. sing after what they have

Do you sit and beat yourself up about not having a big house, flashy car or millions in the bank? Or are you grateful for what you have, and constantly striving to become, and achieve, more? It’s a question of where you let your focus rest. This is why it’s important to reflect regularly on what we have in our lives for which we are grateful. It serves as a reminder of how far we have come,and what we have to be thankful for. It also grounds us and stops us from getting carried away by social media’s distorted reality. It reminds us who we are, what we have achieved so far and what goodness we already have in our lives. From here, we can focus on what we still need to improve the quality of our lives, and go after it.

Your Way Is The Only Way

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

There is no perfect, or right, way to do anything in life. Yet, it’s this fear of failing to achieve perfection, or do things exactly right, which paralyses so many people. We hold off on taking steps towards our goals or doing what we really want to. We spend too much time researching what others do and how they do it, and end up going nowhere fast ourselves.

Life is all about learning. We learn new skills or acquire new knowledge. Then we apply what we have learned. When things go well, we learn what we need to do more of. When they don’t go according to plan, we learn from this too and adapt our approach. Simple really, when you think about it. Feed your brain lots of good quality information, apply that knowledge by putting it into action and let the results inform you of the best way to complete the task at hand.

Also worth bearing in mind is that we are all unique. We have all been shaped by different circumstances and, as such, all view the world slightly differently. It stands to reason, then, that when we undertake a task, we all do it slightly differently. This is also true of situations when the steps and actions required to complete the task are all the same. Some will change the order in which the steps are tackled, spending more time on some than others. Some will even look at the whole process and question whether there is a better, easier or more efficient way to carry out the task.

Take, for example, an essay writing task given to a class of 14 year old schoolchildren. As a class, you study the instructions and the process together. Every single student is as clear as they can be on what they have to do and how. Yet, when it comes to actually planning and writing the essay, they will all tackle it in their own way. This is completely natural. They work to their strengths in order to produce the best result which they are capable of.

As adults, we can learn an awful lot of good things from children, and this is among them. We need to spend less time looking at how somebody else completes a task which we are attempting, and more time just putting the work in.

In short, you just need to take action and learn from the experience. Stop researching the details or trying to plan for perfection. All that really matters is the work. Take the task at hand and tackle it in your own way. Work to your strengths and make it yours. If you conceive a more efficient solution, try it. If it fails, just go back to square 1 and start again. If it succeeds, however, people may start adopting your approach.

You will never paint like Picasso, write like Hemingway or sing like Whitney Houston because you are not them. You can study their processes and copy them, but you will never produce the exact same results. Focus instead on yourself, and what you can do. Then, do it to the best of your ability, consistently. That is the way to get things done. Your way.

 

Life’s Two Groups

There are two groups of people in this world. One group’s members will endure a lifetime of frustration, missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. The other will achieve more than they ever thought possible. So, what are these groups and which of them do you belong to?

Group 1 believe that their success is purely a matter of luck. They see social media posts of people who’ve become successful in their chosen arena almost overnight, and become encouraged that their time will come too. They fail, though, to take into account the years of disappointments, rejections and failures which these people have battled through in order to finally achieve fame and fortune. They regard these people as lucky, and reason that it’s only a matter of time before Lady Luck magically showers them with everything great in life. So, they sit around and trawl the internet for the quick and easy way to success, and wonder why success eludes them.

In group 2, however, people work relentlessly, and have faith that their desired results will come over the course of time. They work as hard as they possibly can and do EVERYTHING they can to forge the life that they want. Day and night. They study, they read, they listen to podcasts, they network and do whatever it takes to get them closer to their goals. One step at a time. They have faith in their ability, and believe that their efforts will pay off, even though it may not be going accordingly to plan right now. This is the group who lead a more productive, meaningful and fulfilling existence. They live with purpose, constantly striving for improvement in their personal and professional lives and as a result, achieve greatly.

Both groups have one thing in common, and it’s that they believe in an unseen force at play. So, what separates them? Work. Relentless, hard work.

One group depends on luck. They believe that they don’t have to do much at all, other than wait. Sounds too good to be true. Do nothing, and wait to get lucky. When this doesn’t happen, they just wait longer for it. As a result their time and potential gets wasted and they lead a mediocre life. There is only one way in which blind luck will make you rich, and that is by winning the lottery. You buy the ticket, and if your numbers come up, you hit the jackpot. No effort required. For everything else, you need to be more like the other group.

The other group are more proactive. They actually set goals and get to work. These are people who understand that they are in control of their own destiny, and do whatever it takes to get them closer to their goals. To them, sitting around and just waiting for it to happen is unthinkable. They have faith and belief in their abilities, but they also have a very strong work ethic. The faith and self-belief is what supports them through the challenging times and keeps them going when things go wrong. So, while they also believe in something unseen, in their case it provides a source of strength and helps them to become resilient and bounce back from setbacks.

The good news is that, even if you’ve spent a lifetime in group 1, all is not lost. You can change at any time. All you need to do is;

  1. Set aside some time for serious reflection. Be honest about where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what you truly want from life.
  2. Set goals. Once you know who you are, what you want and the resources at your disposal, set some clear goals.
  3. Plan. So, you’ve become more self-aware and have set your goals. Now you need to clarify how you will get to these goals. What resources will you be using? What gaps in your skills or knowledge will need to be addressed? How will you achieve this?
  4. Action. Now that you know who you are, what you want, and how you will get to it, all that is left is to put this into action. Enjoy the rollercoaster ride, but never stop learning and growing. Strive for constant improvement, and when things go wrong, learn from the mistakes and failures before picking yourself back up and trying again.

Which group are you currently in? If you are in Group 2, keep up the great work. If you find yourself in the group of dreamers, however, it’s time to get to work.

Talk Less, Listen More

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new

~ Dalai Lama

There is a good reason why we have 2 ears, and only one mouth (aside form the obvious physiological reasons, of course). It’s so that we can listen more to others and talk less. This is easier said than done, because humans are social creatures and we love to talk.

Talking is great. We share our experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings with others in order to impress, inform, persuade, gauge their reaction and so much more. The problem is that we love to talk about ourselves and our lives so much that we forget how to listen properly to others. It’s this inability to really listen when someone else is talking that impedes our ability to better understand, and forge closer relationships with, others. Not only that, but when we listen we can learn so much from other people and also have our beliefs and preconceptions challenged. Good conversations are the gateway to learning, understanding and growth. The great thing is that this works both ways, and you could be the one to help someone else by sharing you experiences and beliefs. However, if you’re not listening and paying attention to what they are saying, you won’t be able to help them because you won’t know what they need.

There are different types of listening, and nowadays it’s mostly done on a surface level. Too many people, when in a conversation, don’t give their full attention to whoever is talking. They hear only a fraction of the conversation because they are too busy thinking about what they are going to say next. But how do you think that makes the other person feel, when you don’t want to listen, but talk at them instead? Whether you realise it or not, when you do this, you are sending a message that you don’t find anything which they have to say to be interesting or important.

When in a conversation, you need to put your ego to one side and actually listen to what the other person has to say. Stop letting your mind wander onto what you want to say about yourself next, and just focus on understanding what you are hearing. This is how you forge closer and more meaningful relationships with people, by showing an interest in what they have to say and giving them your undivided attention. Your body language and your responses make it obvious when you are paying attention and when you are not, so don’t think you are fooling anybody by pretending to listen.

When you listen to somebody, you get a unique opportunity to view the world through their eyes. Everybody has something to teach us, whether it’s through their achievements or life experience, so approach conversations as an opportunity to learn. It may even be the case that you become the teacher, helping the other person to re-evaluate their ideas, or the inspiration for them to take their lives in a new direction.

Instead of merely exchanging pleasantries, or just talking at people, try to engage in meaningful conversations. Listen to, and try to get a better understanding of, the other person. Then, respond accordingly. Conversations are not one-sided lectures, but they are about sharing, discussing, challenging each other and learning. Effective conversations can help to forge deeper bonds with others, but also to challenge what you think to be true.

It’s no coincidence that those who are able to listen well, and hold effective conversations, tend to be the most successful. Listening and communicating effectively can make a person more likeable and help to grow their influence. After all, people like to feel appreciated so will seek out the company of those who they feel will listen to what they’ve to say. This can lead to better job and networking opportunities, but also forging stronger personal relationships.

So, the next time you are having a conversation with someone, try to listen twice as much as you are talking, and see what happens.

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.

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.

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.

The Mind-Body Connection

The mind and the body are like parallel universes. Anything that happens in the mental universe must leave tracks in the physical one

Deepak Chopra

Your mental state affects your physical state, and vice versa. When one, whether intentionally or not, gets neglected the other will also suffer. We all know this, but with our busy lives we often find ourselves so short of free time that we are forced to chose and prioritise either our mental or physical health.

It’s not uncommon to see successful professional people devote all of their time and attention to their career, to the detriment of their health. They eat junk food at their desks and don’t take time for physical activity. Even more worryingly, their sleep patterns are very unhealthy, and they are constantly feeling stressed and unable to switch off and unwind.

On the other hand, we’ve also all met those whose main focus is their physical health and wellbeing. So much so that work, study and even relationships suffer. We need to find a healthy balance between the two states, physical and mental,  if we are to lead happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.

Not paying attention to your mental AND physical health together is a recipe for disaster, but we find ourselves trapped so we make a deal with ourselves. We tell ourselves that we will go to the gym tomorrow, the diet will restart tomorrow, we will start reading more once we reach a weight loss target and the list goes on and on….

The problem is that tomorrow comes and goes and we are still in the same situation. Again, we make promises about what we will start doing. We only take action, though, once things start to go wrong. Your mind and body both have their own ways of issuing warning signs that they are feeling neglected and require your attention. This could be the onset of depression as a result of not taking your mental health seriously, or illness as a result of neglecting your body.

Stress and a lack of sleep affect your body’s ability to fight off disease and infection. I know this better than anyone after what I experienced. Spiralling into depression, I wasn’t sleeping or even giving my physical health much consideration. I stopped exercising and eating well. This affected my immune system and my body’s ability to fight off infection. Before long,  I came down with a cold which got steadily worse until I found myself in hospital fighting for my life. Lesson learned.

Why is the mind-body connection so important to consider when chasing your goals and striving to become the best version of yourself? Simple answer? When you take care of your physical health, you will find yourself with increased energy levels, and a more positive mindset. Increased energy levels will allow you to achieve more in your day, and a positive mindset will not only open your eyes to opportunities but also help you to bounce back stronger after a setback. If, however, you adopt a workaholic mentality you are inviting trouble. Sleeping less and not making time to work on your physical health and fitness  will inevitably lead to stress and potentially a mental or physical breakdown.

Which scenario sounds better to you? Yep, achieving your professional and financial goals while getting into the shape of your life doesn’t sound bad at all. And it can be done. There are plenty of examples of people who manage exactly this, and it’s all a matter of discipline and commitment. We all have the same amount of hours in our days, after all, it’s just that some make better use of those allotted to them.

Mens sana in corpore sano (A healthy mind in a healthy body)

Lying…The Biggest Killer of Relationships and Dreams

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything

Mark Twain

We’ve all done it at some point, but often call it by a different name so as not to feel guilty. Lying is a dirty word, and a horrible act, we all know this. Who wants to admit that they are a liar?! Who even wants to be associated with a liar?! So, we dress it up in language that is less scary, and doesn’t make us feel so bad for engaging in this behaviour. A lie becomes a “little white lie”, an “embellishment”, “creative licence” or “bending the truth”. However you try to justify it, though, it’s still a lie. Calling it by a different name might soothe your conscience, but in reality it changes nothing. After all, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

Lying destroys relationships, and ruins careers. There is no such thing as a small, insignificant lie. Once you lie, you will find yourself trapped. In order to avoid being exposed as a liar, you need to keep lying. It’s a vicious cycle which only ends when the truth inevitably comes out. When this happens, people find themselves no longer able to trust you, with your credibility and reputation left in ruins.

Whether you lie to a partner to avoid an argument, to a boss to hide your low productivity or to yourself about how hard you are working to better yourself, you are playing with fire and will get your fingers burnt. Fear is usually the biggest factor that drives people to be dishonest. We fear difficult and uncomfortable conversations with a loved one, losing a job or being unable to keep a promise which you made. So we lie to avoid awkward situations, avoid losing something we would rather keep hold of or to buy ourselves more time. In the process, though, we invite stress into our lives. Lots of it. When you lie, you feel guilty and you live in fear of the truth coming out. You have to remember the lies which you have told, and to whom, so as to avoid being caught. All of this can be stressful.

I know just how bad lying can be because i’ve been there. Looking back, it was the beginning of a downward spiral which led to depression and ultimately fighting for my life in hospital. Funny enough, life was actually really good. I had a wonderful fiancee and we were planning our wedding, surrounded by friends and family and I had an ok job. It wasn’t a great job, but I was working hard on landing myself a better one.

The wedding we were planning would be a pretty elaborate one, and very awesome. This, however takes a lot of planning, and it also doesn’t come cheap. Despite studying for a Masters, working full time, job hunting and house hunting, I convinced my fiancee and our families that this would all work out just fine. Problem is, I was lying to myself about how much I had taken on and how much I could manage myself.

I felt overwhelmed, yet insisted on doing as much as I could by myself. This just made things worse. I had plenty of people who would have gladly helped, yet my ego wouldn’t let me turn to them. So I lied and told everyone that everything was all in hand. I felt that if I just bought more time, everything would fall into place and would work out fine. More lies, but by now I was trapped in the lie and had to maintain it. Get found out, and I lose everything. Which I later did. The stress led to loss of sleep and the onset of depression. In turn, my immune system weakened, and before long, I was in hospital with pneumonia and sepsis.

Needless to say, the wedding was cancelled and it was all over. I hurt an awful lot of people who, if i’d been honest with, would have helped to ease the burden in any way they could. I only have myself to blame for lying and maintaining a lie. Had I been honest from the start, this would all have been avoided, but instead I lost everything and am now left fighting to better myself and get back all that I lost. I share this, in the hope that it may help somebody else to avoid the same painful mistakes which I made. Believe me, you don’t want to go through what I brought on myself, it really is no fun.

Honesty, both with ourselves and others, is more than just the best policy. Honesty is the only policy. There may very well be some consequences which arise as a result of being honest, but these can be overcome and people will respect you more for not avoiding the issue. Furthermore, honesty brings with it peace of mind and a clear conscience and the opportunity for learning and growth. Taking ownership of, and responsibility for, your errors or shortcomings teaches you an awful lot about yourself. Reflect on this lesson, and determine how best to pick yourself up and continue your journey towards your goals; is there a gap in your skills or knowledge which you need to address?

Resist the temptation to tell anything other than the truth. The mind has a habit of playing cruel tricks on us, with the scenarios which we fear and drive us to lie, often turning out to be huge exaggerations. On many occasions have I found myself surprised at how few consequences I encountered as a result of telling the truth after something bad happened. If you have any intention of reaching your potential, be honest at all times. You will make mistakes but reflect on them, learn from them and take responsibility for them. This is how character and reputation are formed, which along with persistence, hard work and integrity will take you wherever you want to go in life.

Be honest. Be open. Be humble. Be yourself.

Thank You

Gratitude is heaven itself

William Blake

These two little words are such a powerful force for good in our lives. When outwardly expressed, they can make another person feel valued and appreciated. However, it’s when we reflect on the things which we are thankful for in our own lives that the real magic happens.

I have a very big reason of my own to be thankful today which i’d like to share. Yesterday, I passed the “100 followers” mark. I generally try to avoid getting caught up in the figures and statistics, but for me this was a big deal. I have always been an introvert and very shy, with my confidence often suffering and holding me back, so for 100 people to like my content enough to sign up for it, means a lot to me. As a rule, I share poetry and write about topics which i’m passionate about, all with the goal of providing the spark which can lead to people realising their potential. If my posts make just one person smile, or think or feel anything at all, then i’m happy.  Job done. After all, I started this blog in order to make a positive difference.

When we take a moment to reflect on what we are grateful for, even the worst of moods can be lifted, because gratitude is the key to a positive mindset. Focusing on what you have to be thankful for in your life turns your attention away from what you may be lacking or what is not going well. Instead, good things come to mind. And once you find the first thing for which you are thankful, there are usually more which follow. This happens because you have, intentionally or not, opened your mind to possibilities and opportunities. Life can seem, and indeed feel, a whole lot better after spending some time expressing gratitude.

This kind of exercise does need practice though, as it does not come naturally. All day every day, clever marketers bombard us with messages about how we shouldn’t settle but instead we should want more. In order to be happy, we need a certain item, to visit a certain holiday destination, to drive a certain car or yo eat certain foods. This programmes our brain to focus on what we lack in our lives and what we want. All this leads to is the misery generated by unfulfilled wants and desires.

Instead, we should be focusing on the positives which we already have in our lives. At the end of the day, life is a matter of perspective and how we see the world. People can be happy and fulfilled with very little money or possessions, while others can have the power and money to get whatever they want but still be miserable.

Choose to be positive and happy. Teach yourself to practice gratitude and enjoy the new lease on life which comes with it. Positivity and gratitude attracts positive energy and good things. How do you do any of this? Grab a pen and paper and i’ll tell you.

On a blank piece of paper, preferably in a notebook which you can revisit, write 3 things which you are grateful for. It can be anything from the people you have in your life to having a place to call home or meeting a weight loss goal. For this to work, next to each item, write a few words about why you are grateful for it. This forces you to think a little deeper. It is during this thought process which several other reasons to be thankful will reveal themselves. That list of three things can easily become 9 or 10.

Keep this up, once daily, for three weeks. Three is the magic number here, because research has shown that it takes around 21 days for a new habit to form, and this is definitely a habit worth forming.

Aim to find 3 new items to list each day. If you list the same things day after day, they will lose their positive impact. This process can also spur you into action. After all, if you’re running out of things to be thankful for, then it stands to reason that you need to get outside and find some! This is why I do this reflection in the morning. If I am struggling to come up with the minimum 3, then I know that I have to really work hard to make good things happen that day. It’s a great way to stay motivated and on track towards you goals.

Gratitude can be practiced at any time of the day. I do it in the morning, and also last thing at night before I go to bed. In the morning, it motivates me and gets me into a positive frame of mind for the day. At night, it can help me recover from a bad day by shifting my focus, or simply put me in a positive frame of mind which can improve my quality of sleep. It’s a win-win, and costs nothing more than 5 minutes of your time.

Give it a go and let me know what you think…

 

Life After Failure

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
Colin Powell

Failure is good. Don’t fear failure. Welcome and embrace failure. Failure can catapult you to massive success. I have lost count of the number of times that I have encountered these phrases and many, many more. I wholeheartedly believe that failure can be a powerful force for good in our lives, but we are not always being given the full story or advised on how to capitalise on it.

We are advised that we should see failure in a positive light. There is nothing wrong with  adopting a positive outlook when faced with failure, but the truth is that failure can only be positive if you do something about it. Do nothing, and failure can actually be incredibly destructive. Not only can it destroy your self confidence and halt your progress in its tracks, but it can lead crushing self doubt and negative self-talk. Burdened by these, it’s not hard to see why some people abandon their goals, and settle for a safer, more comfortable life.

I, and countless others, have failed more times than I care to remember. I have failed spectacularly in things both big and small, because I was always taught that you give your all in everything you do. The more you put into something which subsequently fails, the bigger the failure. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I am now massively successful as a result of having failed so many times. The truth is that my progress has been somewhat slower than it should have been, and unspectacular, despite the failures and all of their lessons. Why? Simply put, I have not always taken action following failure.

Failure can only be positive if you do something about it. It won’t be easy, and will hurt, but it is vital. Take action and you will learn and grow from the experience. Do nothing, and you risk not only stagnating, but also failing in the same way again and again. So, what can you actually do following a setback? The list below is by no means definitive, but has worked for me;

  • Reflection. Look back and analyse what happened. It is painful to revisit a bad experience, but also essential. What can you learn from the experience? Can you identify any actions or decisions which led to failure? If you could start again, what would you do differently?
  • Goal Setting. With the new knowledge acquired, and a clear idea of your strengths, weaknesses and the options open to you, revisit your goals. Do any of them need to be amended or replaced?
  • ACTION. It’s all in capital letters for a reason. Taking action after suffering a failure is vital to maintaining your confidence and momentum. It is action, after all, which brings results. Add to that the fact that knowledge without action is useless, and you have a very strong reason to get back up after you’ve been knocked down.

 

Failure is a part of life. For everybody. What separates the successful people from the rest, is how they respond to it. Dwelling on what went wrong is a recipe for disaster, whereas reflecting on the experience and learning from it can catapult you to success. That said, all the knowledge in the world counts for nothing without action. So, don’t let a bump in the road bring your personal development journey to halt. Be prepared to accept failure as part of the process, and when it comes take some time to reflect on it and learn from it before setting out again on your journey.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill

 

The Most Liberating Word In Your Vocabulary…

..is nothing fancy, or a buzzword which appears all over social media. It’s a word which we all know, and is easy to remember. The word? No

When you say “yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “no” to yourself

Paulo Coelho

No is a negative word, so we try to limit it’s use, until somebody jumps out in front of us with a clipboard when we are out shopping. That’s when we can say it loud and proud with no guilt. The rest of the time, we use it sparingly so as not to let others down or miss out on something which we might regret later.

All day, every day, we are bombarded with requests from other people. Now, if your boss is asking you to do something and you are on company time, NO is not an option. Within reason, you do what is asked of you and you do it to the best of your ability. That is called integrity, which we need more of in business. Furthermore, integrity and a willingness to take on new tasks is what can help you progress in your career.

The rest of the time, however, you have a choice. NO is most definitely an option,. This is especially true if the request you receive will not direct your focus away from your goals, eating instead into the time in which you could be working on becoming the best version of yourself.

The problem is that we often feel guilty when saying no to someone. We don’t want to damage our relationship with that person, so we say yes. Again and again, we say yes. Until, before you know it, you have become a “Yes Man”. Nobody respects one of those. People, whether intentionally or not, take advantage of your helpful nature as they know that you will agree to help with whatever they ask. Time and again. So much so that, in fact, a Yes Man often has very little time in which to chase their own goals and live their own life. You are viewed simply as serving to help others live their lives.

The result is that your life goes unlived. Your goals and potential go unfulfilled and you end up frustrated, angry and even battling depression. Furthermore, your credibility gets undermined, your confidence takes a blow and your creativity and productivity suffer. All because you say Yes too quickly to others, without thinking of yourself first. You MUST put yourself first. Only when you have designed for yourself the life that you want, can you afford to help others to build theirs. After all, you need to be happy with your life and in a good place before you can help anybody else.

Sometimes you have to be selfish to be selfless

Edward Albert

Don’t be afraid to say no. What is the worst that can happen? A friend stops talking to you? I hate to break it to you, but when that happens you have received a blessing. That person was not a friend at all, they were using you and taking advantage of your generosity and kind nature.

The people who care about you will respect your decision to turn down their request, as long as you do it politely, tactfully and respectfully. You will then find yourself with the time to do the things that you want and that make you happy. This is a truly liberating feeling, that you control your life once more. You will have more time to work on your side-hustle, spend time with your kids or take up a new hobby which you had been thinking about for so long but never had a chance to start.

Time is so very precious, yet we give ours away so freely to others at times. This leaves us with very little opportunity to work on ourselves, and this hurts us whether we realise it or not. So, start saying no without feeling guilty. You will never get anywhere near your potential if you constantly let others dictate how your days are spent.

Take back control of your life, by becoming good friends with the word NO. Use that newfound freedom and time to gain knowledge, acquire a new skill or whatever else will take you closer to your goals. Then enjoy the resulting improvement in your relationships, career success or whatever else you have been working towards.

Is it really impossible? Do you know for certain?!

“Impossible is just a big word thrown about by small men who find it easier to live in the world they have been given than to explore the power they have to change it”

Muhammad Ali

Impossible. It can’t be done. Be realistic…. We hear this an awful lot, and are often discouraged. Far too easily, in my opinion. I would like today to ask you, next time someone tells you that something is impossible, to see it as a challenge rather than a fact. Don’t just take their word for it, but put their theory to the test and see if it really can’t be done. When someone declares your proposal to be unachievable, it is a reflection of their own limitations and not yours. They can’t accomplish it themselves, so assume that nobody else could either. Overlooked in this instance are not only only your knowledge, skills, ability and experience but also your determination to succeed.

Act, and see where it leads you. You may succeed and prove your doubters wrong. Alternatively, you may fail in your initial attempt, but in the process discover what knowledge skills or abilities you lack. By working on these areas and trying again, you may succeed or learn further valuable lessons. Life is a journey of discovery, learning, growth and development and the only way that all of this becomes possible is through action. Challenge what is commonly believed to be impossible, and see which doors open for you and where that leads.

The truth, is that those whose achievements we admire and who we look to for inspiration weren’t dissuaded from their efforts when others believed they were aiming for the impossible. They took action and tested that theory. They faced challenges and setbacks from which they learned and adapted, and kept going until success was theirs. At the time, these were people who were regarded as dreamers and doomed to fail. Some were ridiculed, others were simply ignored but we now look to them as visionaries and trailblazers.

Like the greats before us, we need to test the boundaries of what is possible and see what exactly it is that we are capable of. We may very well fall short of achieving what we set out to, but even if this happens all is not lost.  If you do not achieve the impossible, you will learn the limits of your capabilities and plenty more besides. Who knows what else you might stumble upon instead? After all, viagra  and penicillin are just 2 discoveries stumbled upon by accident while looking for solutions for very different problems.

“Action, or work, is the connecting link between desire, plan and fulfilment”

Napoleon Hill

What is it that you want to BECOME?!

This is arguably one of the most important questions which you need to ask yourself, but it often gets overlooked. When we think about our personal development, we think about what we want to achieve, the value we might bring to the world in the form of a business, product or service and how we might be able to lead a more luxurious lifestyle.  The time has now come, though, to put your “wants” and desires to one side. The fame, cars, houses, holidays and clothes are not where your focus should be. Of course, they would make for some great posts on social media and attract a lot of attention but they are also just things or experiences. Material goods should not be prioritised over providing value and becoming somebody of substance. When you reflect on your current circumstances and set goals for yourself, reflect also on the kind of person you want to become.

Ask yourself what knowledge you would like to acquire. What skills or abilities do you want to improve? Reputation and personal brand are becoming increasingly important in business, so how would you like to be regarded personally and professionally? What kind of relationships and interactions do you want to have? When you leave a room, how would you like to be remembered?

Our thoughts, beliefs and perceptions of the world around us determine our actions and behaviour. These all impact the decisions we make and the quality of life which we lead. Which ultimately dictate the kind of person we become and what we achieve in life.

I’ld love to hear your thoughts on this, but for now will leave you with a few of my favourite quotes on this topic from Jim Rohn;

“Change starts from within”

“If you want to have more, you have to become more”

“Success is something you attract by the person you become”

“Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better, then go about becoming better”

Tabula Rasa..

..or a clean slate, as it is otherwise known.

We have an awful tendency to dwell our our successes and failures, both of which are damaging. Of course our wins should be celebrated, but as with everything else, there should be moderation. Celebrate too long and you begin to lose perspective, as well as any advantage you may have over your competitors. It is easy to begin to overestimate your skills and abilities when you focus too long and hard on your successes. Your ego, however, needs to be kept in check. It is important to understand that life is a continuous process of learning and development. Whatever comes to pass, whether good or bad, has within it a lesson. Identifying this lesson and learning from it is the surest way to continue your personal development and avoid stagnating.  In short, if yesterday was successful, don’t sit back and relax but rather take advantage of it by learning from, and acting on, it in order to continue your progression.

The same rule applies to those times when things are not progressing well or according to plan. It’s too easy to become disheartened and demotivated by focusing on the negative aspects and what went wrong. Left unchecked, negativity and pessimism start to take hold. This can then turn a bad day into a bad week, month or year. Perspective is again important. Amid all the doom and gloom, take a moment to remind yourself just how much control you have over your own life. You control your decisions and actions. Therefore, to a certain extent, you also have a level of control of what happens. So, if you had a bad day, don’t dwell on it but rather use it as a learning experience. Remind yourself that you have the power to turn your fortunes around. Try and identify where it went wrong for you; was it a lack of knowledge or experience? Or was it perhaps a decision which didn’t produce the expected results? Reflect on any  lessons to be learned, so that you can move on wiser as well as determined to get back on track. Learn for the experience and bounce back before negativity sets in and a bad day becomes a losing streak.

Regardless of whether yesterday was good or bad, start each day afresh. Wake each morning with the determination to improve yourself and take steps in the direction of your goals.

 

Less Searching, More Experiencing

Advice on personal development and leading a more fulfilled life is often confusing and full of contradictions . Of these, one of the biggest inconsistencies revolves around taking action. If you were to look back through some of the posts on this very blog, you would be forgiven for spotting potentially opposing advice.

There seem to be two schools of thought on this subject. The practical side will preach the importance of taking action, learning from your experiences and adapting along the way. The theoretical side, however, will stress the importance of reflection, setting goals and making plans. Surely, one of them must be right, but which one?!

The reality is that both of the above are right. Together, they both highlight the key stages in the personal development process. Not all of the stages are relevant for everyone, and there is no set order in which they should be followed, though. I put reflection at the top of this list because that is my starting point, which works best for me.

  • Reflection. This is the ideal starting point, as you identify your strengths and weaknesses, your interests, what drives you and what you hope to achieve both personally and professionally.
  • Goal Setting. With a good understanding of your situation and circumstances, the next logical step will be set goals, both short and long-term. Goals are a great way to keep you motivated as you have something to strive for which is broken down into small steps. Furthermore, goals are an indicator of what progress is being made, and whether you are staying on track.
  • Planning. The planning stage is more a matter of personal preference than a necessity. Some prefer to take action once their goals have been set, but others prefer to plan and strategise. In this instance, some find it helpful to set out how they will use their resources in order to reach their goals, and what knowledge or skills they may need to acquire.
  • Action. Arguably, the most important stage of all. After all, without taking action in the direction of your goals, you won’t achieve very much, if anything. It is by taking action that we gain the experiences from which we learn and grow.
  • Review. As you take action in the direction of your goals, it’s important to regularly review your progress. This will help you identify gaps in your knowledge and areas to be addressed, as well as highlight what has been working well. The review process also gives you the opportunity to amend and update your goals as you meet them.

As with everything else in life, both sides are right but balance is essential. In this case, you need to find a healthy balance between reflection, planning and taking action. If you spend too much time thinking, planning, searching or strategising, you won’t have enough time left to actually take action and so will get nowhere. On the other hand, if you just jump straight in and get to work without a plan, it becomes incredibly difficult to judge what it is that you are actually achieving.

Through reflection and planning, you gain an understanding of who you are, what you have to offer and what you would like to achieve from life. When this is coupled with action, you then get to experience life in all its glory. The lessons gained from your experiences help you to understand what happiness and life itself mean for you.

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.

You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life

 

Mistakes and Imperfections

All experts, leaders and gurus were once beginners. Like everyone else, they had to start from somewhere, and undoubtedly made mistakes. It would be fair to say that many of them would’ve been far from perfect right away, but they persevered and learned from their mistakes. They acted on what they learned, increased their knowledge and sharpened their skills, eventually achieving the successes for which they are known today

The same, then should be true for us. We should have the courage to take action in the pursuit of our goals. If mistakes are made, they should be seen for what they are; proof that we are trying to improve our lives and also an opportunity for learning. Lessons could then be learned, if we reflect on our mistakes instead of shying away from them, allowing us to move forward wiser and stronger.

Should…Could….

There is, however, a problem. Too many people want to wait for the right time or perfect circumstances before they take action. They wait and wait for a golden opportunity to present itself, but miss out on so much while they wait. Even when they finally summon the courage to act, they lose heart at the first sign of trouble.

The problem lies in our obsession with perfection, to the point that it seriously hinders our progress. We fear that if we fail to attain perfection, we will be ridiculed by others. We will be seen as incompetent, a fraud or an impostor. Our mistakes are, therefore, not learning opportunities to be embraced but rather sources of embarrassment to be covered up. Perfection, however, doesn’t really exist. It’s a myth.

Despite its bad reputation and negative associations, imperfections are actually very good. They show that we are only human, and that like everybody else we also make mistakes. This makes us more likeable and can help us to connect with others, increasin the size of our networks.  Imperfections, more importantly,  provide a learning opportunity which can lead to greater self-awareness.

It’s perfectly acceptable not to have all of the answers right away. Just as its ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. When you find yourself in this situation, here are a few suggestions as to how you can move forward;

  • Re-evaluate the situation and your goals. Where do you find yourself right now? How can you move forward? What led to this mistake? What lessons can be learned?
  • Seek help. If you’ve identified a gap in your knowledge or skills, seek help from a friend, a mentor or a coach.
  • Be patient. While you seek to address one area in which a learning need has been identified, do not put everything else on hold. Continue to push yourself, ask questions and pay it forward by helping others.

Life is a journey of continuous discovery, learning, development and growth, after all.