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.

The secrets for a successful life

If you’ve been reading some of my previous posts, you will know that I don’t believe there to be any real secrets when it comes to success. Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of motivational speakers and gurus who claim to have all the answers if you sign up for their programmes, but I respectfully disagree. That is not to take away anything away from or discredit their work, though. The work which they do, and businesses which they run, help countless people take control of their lives and futures. The problem is that success itself is very personal and therefore difficult to boil down to a general set of rules and guidelines.

The definition of success, and what it means to live a fulfilled life, varies from one person to the next. This is because each of us has different dreams, goals and priorities. One person’s idea of success might involve having multiple houses, expensive cars and financial independence. For another person, success may be centered around spiritual development. For this reason, if you are to seek help on your journey, you should seriously consider working individually with a coach or mentor on a personalised programme to help you reach your goals.

Before you seek the help or professional services of others, though, here are a few things which could help you. In and of themselves, they may not bring you success and fulfillment, but they can certainly help to lay the foundations upon which you can build later.

  • Practice self-reflection. This will help you to better understand your dreams, purpose, strengths and weaknesses. You will gain a clearer idea of the direction which you would like your life to take, the goals to be accomplished along the way and how to meet the potential obstacles and challenges which you will undoubtedly face.
  • Practice gratitude. When you learn to identify and focus on what you have to be appreciative of, magical things happen. Expressing gratitude, whether publicly or in a private journal, improves your mood. Your mindset becomes positive and optimistic which in turn attracts positivity, but it also gives you the confidence and mental strength to keep going even when times become tricky.
  • Embrace life-long learning. Life is a journey of discovery so it makes sense to remain inquisitive. In order to keep moving forward, keep reflecting and learning. Reflection will identify areas for improvement, which you can address through learning. As you learn, your mind develops and grows through new experiences or knowledge gained. This means that you will be become better able to meet challenges in the future because of your new knowledge or experiences. Furthermore, it will also open up your mind to new possibilities.
  • Take care of your wellbeing. We have long been told that a healthy mind needs a healthy body in which to exist, which stands to reason, so we need to look after our physical health. This doesn’t mean that we should live in the gym, but there is a lot we can do to help ourselves, from getting enough sleep to trying to ensure that we eat foods which will provide us with the right nutrients. And of course, it helps to become more active. Just as important, though, is our mental health, which can be greatly helped if we surround ourselves with people who inspire us and challenge us to grow.
  • Pay it forward (wherever possible). We all have our own strengths and talents, and it would be a shame if we kept these hidden from the world simply through self-doubt. In sharing your gift, you can not only help and inspire others to follow their own dreams and passions, but you might also get some constructive feedback which could help you in your own development.

Experimenting with the above suggestions can help to lay the foundations upon which you can build a successful life by helping you to adopt a growth mindset.  This list, however, is far from exhaustive, and I would love to hear from you if you have anything further to add.

Coaching and Mentoring

Everyone we meet, whoever they may be, has something valuable to teach us. IF we are prepared to listen. It really all comes down to your attitude and desire, and whether you really want to live a healthy, happy and productive life. When your attitude is positive and receptive, you will notice how people quickly become more willing to to help you. Positivity attracts positivity after all.

This isn’t an easy thing to do, as you will first need to set your ego aside. Before you can accept any advice or guidance from another, you must accept that you don’t know everything and that there is a lot which you can learn from others. This is often best done through coaching and mentoring, but not always. It could just come from a simple conversation with someone you just met. Coaching and mentoring, however, are essentially more structured processes of learning from the experiences of other people, and applying that knowledge to your own situation. That new knowledge can help you to address any shortcomings you may have identified as you strive towards your goals. In order to be coachable though, you must be humble and receptive.

To really benefit from the guidance and advice of others, you first need to abandon the belief that you are always right, and accept that others may have a lot to offer. Ditch the ego. Moreover, you need to realise that seeking coaching, mentoring or help from others, is not a sign of weakness. Seeking help in the pursuit of your goals shows that you have been reflecting honestly on your strengths and weaknesses. It also shows that you have the strength, courage and self-awareness to address any shortcomings which might be slowing down your progress.

Your chances of really benefiting from coaching or mentoring in addressing your areas for improvement will be helped if you heed the following points;

  • Be ready and willing to do whatever it takes (within reason) to take a step closer towards your goals.
  • Be humble and accept that you do not know everything. Understand that other people have the potential to share valuable advice if you give them the opportunity.
  • Listen to feedback and constructive criticism, without regarding it as a personal insult or attack.
  • At regular intervals, reflect on your strengths, weaknesses and progress so far. This will help you to re-evaluate or replace your goals, or identify areas with which you need support in order to move forward.
  • Research. Once you have identified the areas with which you need help, visit your local library to see what books they have to offer, or go online to seek the information or blogs on your chosen topic which are freely available.
  • Not all coaching and mentoring opportunities are free, though, so if necessary, be prepared to invest a small amount of your monthly wage in the right programmes, books or seminars which could help you in pursuit of your goals.

There is a wealth of information online and in our libraries if we look carefully, but sometimes we need a little more guidance or support. This is where coaching and mentoring, whether formal or informal, can really make a difference. In order to get the most from a coach or mentor, though, we must first prepare ourselves as best we can. And leave our egos at home.

In short; talk less, listen more and keep working hard on yourself.

Complacency

Having recently looked at regret, and how it can either be a negative emotional state or a force for good, I would like to explore one of its main causes; complacency. In life, we often reach a certain level only to become comfortable, shift our priorities, develop a routine or just settle. In doing so, we lose some of our drive and stop chasing our goals with much purpose. Most worrying of all, though, complacency blinds us to many of the opportunities which present themselves to us. These could be opportunities, which with some work, have the potential to further improve our lives. However, we often don’t realise this until it is too late and the opportunity has long since passed.

Our minds, if we fully take advantage of them, are incredibly powerful. In the animal kingdom, doing everything they can to the best of their ability is a matter of life and death for many creatures. If they want to survive, then lions must become expert hunters, just as monkeys must become expert climbers and always alert. Humans, however have a choice. We actually choose, whether consciously or not, to do less than our best.

Every single person has the ability to choose their own destiny and to actually make it a reality. This is why some people, despite the most difficult of upbringings, achieve incredible success while others from privileged backgrounds falter and fall short of their dreams and ambitions. What is the difference, and why does one group soar, while other stumbles or falls flat on its face?

Much of this is tied to our mental and emotional strength. Anytime we pursue our goals, we will likely face challenges along the way. The bigger the goal, the bigger the challenges. It is our reaction to the challenges that we face which determines our success. The brain considers change to be a threat to the status quo, therefore we often become resistant to it or find ways to avoid it. Humans love to walk the path of least resistance. At crucial moments, we doubt ourselves and lack confidence. We give up too easily after a setback. Or we settle when we reach a certain point, for fear that the challenges which we will face as we try to strive for our next goal will be too big and beyond our abilities to overcome.

Challenges, as I have said before, are wonderful things. They are an important ingredient for success because they can teach us so much if we pay attention. We can gain knowledge, learn new skills or improve our abilities in a certain area as we strive to overcome them. Facing fears, challenges and obstacles which arise on your journey towards success also builds character. Or, if your prefer, you can avoid them and just remain comfortable while not exerting yourself. You are unlikely to achieve much with that attitude and approach though.

Settle for less or relentlessly go after your goals. One of these leads to a fulfilling life, the other to regret. The choice is yours, so choose wisely..

People-Watching..

…Is something which I love to do. I find that it not only helps to pass time, but also inspires creativity If you are suffering from writer’s block, as I sometimes am, it helps to go and sit somewhere with a coffee and a notepad, and for every person you see, imagine their story

The pace of modern life is ridiculously fast.  Our minds are switched on and racing almost incessantly throughout the day. Technology and social media are constantly fighting for our attention. So much so that we become fearful of what we might miss out on if we don’t check in regularly. We forget how to switch off which affects our health, mental wellbeing, ability to function and the quality of our sleep. Once our sleep is affected, then our mental and physical health suffer as a result, locking us into a vicious cycle. 

It shouldn’t be like this. Life is more than just a race from goal to goal and achieving as much as possible in the shortest time. Life is to be enjoyed, experienced and savoured. Slow down to smell the roses. Take time to appreciate the beauty of life and acknowledge that which we often take for granted. Calm your mind in the process. 

Find somewhere quiet to sit and watch the world go by. As you watch the human behaviour and interactions taking place, create a story in your mind or on paper. It is tricky at first, but also a lot of fun. After doing this for a few days, you will find yourself becoming more observant and more appreciative of the world around you.

Regret

“When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.”

Jeff Bezos

When you reach a ripe old age and are reflecting back on your life, what would you rather be filled with; the satisfaction of a life well-lived and full of achievement? Or the regret of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities?

Regret is a very powerful emotional state, but also has within it the potential for good. It is far too late if you wait until you are approaching the end of your days to reflect on how your decisions and choices affected your life. Regret, in this case just intensifies as hindsight reveals missed opportunities which time has now left you unable to take advantage of. If, however, you are self-reflecting regularly as you go through life and setting goals to be aimed for, then regret can be used to your advantage. 

When you reflect back at regular intervals (monthly, for example) on your progress, it is inevitable that you bring to mind elements which fill you with a sense of regret. These could range from a missed business opportunity to an interaction which you could have handled better. Regret is uncomfortable, and our default reaction is to pretend as though it never happened. You can, however, choose to confront the source of your regret. In this way, regret is a positive force as it can spur you into action. It provides a learning opportunity, so that you may handle a similar situation better in the future, but it can also motivate you to search for a way to rectify the error or salvage the situation. The key message to take away here, is that you have a choice whether to let regret motivate you or defeat you.

The life we ultimately lead is the result of our choices and the limits that we have placed on ourselves. Of course, there are always outside forces and unforseen circumstances which may force us to change direction. It is, however, up to the individual whether they allow these challenges to derail their progress and force them to give up, or they find instead the courage to keep going. 

Reflecting on your life’s direction regularly and taking action is one of the most effective ways to fight off regret in later life. Stop letting outside influences dictate how you live your life, but rather make the choices and decisions which take you closer to your dreams, ambitions and goals. If your reflections do reveal sources of regret, don’t shy away from them but muster up the courage to challenge them.

You already have the answers…

..so stop making excuses for not taking action. Stop doubting your knowledge, ability or skills. Stop playing it safe, for fear of failure. Take action. What is the worst that can happen? You stumble and fall short of your goals? If that does happen, learn from the experience and get back to work.

You already have the answers to many of your questions. You also know what you have to do, and even know how to do it. For those questions which you can’t answer yourself immediately, a quick internet search could help. The real obstacle here is not a lack of knowledge or ability, but a crippling fear. You are being held back from leaving your comfort zone and fulfilling your potential because fear is leading you to doubt yourself.

While I do believe in mentoring and coaching, I also believe that they come much later in the personal development process. First, listen to yourself before you seek counsel from anybody else. In my own experience, the following process has really helped;

  • Quieten your mind. Whether it’s a quiet room in your house, or a walk in the forest, go there and get away from the fast pace of daily life. Now, you can clear and quieten your mind.
  • Reflection and goal-setting. You can’t discuss personal development without mentioning reflection and goal-setting. Both are crucial, as this is where you identify your strengths, skills and abilities as well as your weaknesses and areas for improvement. You define what success looks like to you and set goals which can get you there.
  • Research. Having identified gaps in your knowledge, search online and read books to help find the answers you seek.
  • Trust your instincts. Now is the time to act. No excuses or waiting for the perfect opportunity or time. Trust your instincts and listen to your inner voice. What are they telling you? Just put the work in to get yourself closer to your goals.
  • Checkpoints. At regular intervals, reflect on your progress so far. What have you learned? Every experience, even a bad one can offer us a valuable opportunity to learn and grow. Learn, adapt and then get back to work. If you have hit a wall on your journey and can see no clear way forward, this is the perfect time to seek a coach or a mentor whose fresh perspective can make all the difference to your progress.

Stop telling yourself that you don’t have the answers or know what to do. In looking everywhere for answers, you are just procrastinating and wasting time. Quiet your mind, reflect and the answers will come to you.

If you are ever in doubt as to how much you already know, ask yourself what advice you would give to someone else if they were in your situation. This simple act of taking a step back and looking at a problem from a different perspective, could be all you need.

You have a choice; Are you going to trust your instincts and act in order to take a step towards your goals and dreams? OR are you going to play it safe while you procrastinate and search for  more answers?

 

 

Know your worth..

..and the value you bring to the world. People only respect us to the extent that we value and respect ourselves, and this applies to all areas of our lives from our personal relationships to our businesses. 

When we lack confidence and self-awareness, this is reflected in our body language and interactions with others. We then get treated accordingly. The negative behaviour of others towards us affects our confidence further, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Furthermore, there will be unscrupulous and manipulative individuals who will be looking to take advantage of a weakness which they perceive in us. This is why knowing our worth and having a healthy amount of self respect is so important, as it provides an effective defense mechanism against these situations and circumstances. 

If, however, we think and behave as though we are confident and know our worth, people will behave more positively towards us. “Faking it” has its limits though. If we really want to live the lives of our dreams, we need to work on becoming more confident, more self-aware and having more self-respect. In order to achieve our goals and taste success, we need to know our worth, our strengths and the value which we bring. Then we need to let the world know about who we are and what we can offer. 

How can this be done?

  • Reflect, then take action. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Determine where your passions lie, and define what success looks like to you. Set goals, make a plan of action, and get to work. As you make progress towards your goals, you will become more confident and more aware of your worth which will show in your behaviour and speech.
  • Learn a new skill. As you master a new skill, your confidence will grow. Furthermore, as you master new skills, you become better equipped to provide value to the world around you.
  • Invest in yourself. Read books, attend training courses or go to conferences. However you do it, invest some of your time and money in your personal development.

As you reflect on yourself and identify your strengths, as you learn new skills and take steps towards your goals, your confidence will grow. In turn, there will be a positive shift in your behaviour and how you carry yourself. In turn, people will respond to you in a far more positive manner and you will find more opportunities presenting themselves to live a more fulfilling life.

Hustle

“Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you”

Mark Cuban

You have the power within you to go from good to great. Don’t wait for a spark of inspiration to motivate you. Don’t wait for the offer of a reward. Don’t wait for a push. Don’t settle when you become good, but use that as a springboard to greatness. Even when you think you have achieved everything, keep going and be relentless in your pursuit of greatness. What am I talking about? Allow me to set the scene and put it into a business context…

So, you’ve carried out your research, set your goals, planned and put in the hard work. It’s been a bumpy road, but you have reflected and learned on your experiences and, as a result, have continued to adapt and grow. Now, comes the most challenging point of all. Your effort and dedication is starting to pay off and you are tasting sweet success in your chosen arena. What do you do next?

The temptation is to take a holiday or treat yourself to a shopping spree in Harrods. Or maybe just to take some time off to recharge your batteries. Appealing as each of those options may be, they could do more harm than good to your progress and stall the success of that which you have created.

As your strategy and hard work pay off, things start moving in the right direction. This isn’t the end point, but rather the perfect opportunity to create some real progress. Don’t leave it to chance, but work for it like you have never worked before. Rather than taking a step back to savour your success, build on what you have created. In getting attention and successfully launching your venture, you have opened a door and taken the first step. Now is the time to build forward momentum. Keep growing and developing your business, until you reach a point where you have enough market share that you can’t be unseated or replaced by a competitor. This will take different forms for different people but there are some general steps which anybody could benefit from;

  • Re-evaluate your situation. On a personal level, reflect on where you are at the moment and where you would like to get to. Identify your strengths and areas for improvement. Update your goals and how you plan to achieve them. Now, with a renewed focus, carry out exactly the same audit for your business.
  • Spread the word. With the knowledge that you have a successful product or service, and a clear idea of the direction in which you want it to go, make sure people know about it. Network. Get out there and meet people. If you don’t have one already, think also about a marketing and social media strategy. How will you be engaging with people? Which social media outlets will you be using? Will you be using influencers to increase awareness?
  • Hustle. Do that which brought you success in the first place; work hard with passion and determination. Of course, the goalposts have moved and your business is in a better position but if you want to remain successful and build on what you have created, you need to keep working at it. Keep pushing forward, be bold and take calculated risks. Take note of what works well so that you can do more of it, and learn from bad experiences so that they won’t be repeated.

Profiting from your passion

Turn what you love into a successful business, and quit your 9-5 job!! This is the new dream which we are being sold. It’s everywhere we look from magazine articles to social media. Is it really possible, or just too good to be true? I am not about to try and find fault with this proposition, but rather urge caution. So yes, I do think it’s possible, but you need to be smart about it.

We read and hear of plenty of success stories in which people have turned a hobby or passion into a very successful and profitable business. They subsequently quit their jobs and are now wealthy entrepreneurs. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who gave up everything to pursue their dream only to be brought back to Earth with a vicious bump. Countless people are staking everything on their passion project and losing badly. This begs the question, as to why there are such extremes.

Having helped a number of people launch small business over the years, I would like to share a few pointers on what I have learned. I’ve said it before, the world needs more beauty and positivity, so we should create art and music, or launch businesses which will bring value to people and brighten their lives. However, too many people are rushing in to their new ventures blindly and leaving too much to chance, and it is this which. I would urge against

Your passion must be mixed with practicality. You must also be realistic about your expectations. Yes, you dream that you will take what you love and turn it into a very successful business. You can envision it. You can reach out and touch it. You can taste it and smell it BUT in order for it to go from dream to reality, there will be a lot of hard work involved. Your passion needs to be mixed with a strong work ethic, a well thought-out plan, a strategy of how you it will unfold, resilience and an incredible amount of hard work.

If you are serious about profiting from your passion and turning it into a viable business, there are a few things to bear in mind;

  • Research and Plan. You need a well-researched plan. Look at the market and who you might be competing with. Look at consumer trends and research the forecasts for the future within your chosen market or industry.  Use this information to plan wisely for the future.
  • Be financially savvy. Save enough money, or secure enough funding before you take your first step. It is a hard fact that many business run at a loss in their first year. This is because it takes time to establish yourself and build a customer base. Naturally, there are exceptions, but I would strongly recommend that you plan for this outcome. Plan for the best and work to make it happen, but have enough money in the bank to support yourself if it takes longer than expected for success to come. The last thing you want is to have to abandon your business and take a full-time job to pay the mortgage and bills. Worse still, you might keep your business only to be maintained by funding from an investor who pushes you to compromise your values. Give yourself a financial safety net, and remove one of the big pressures when starting a business.
  • Determine your strategy. You have a plan, a financial safety net and the drive to succeed. Next step? Work out how you will go about launching your business. Who is your audience? How will you grab their attention? What is your story? What value will you offer them? What is your marketing plan? How will you promote your business?
  • Hard work. You are now clear on what you want to do and how you will go about it. Now, just put the work in. Give it your full focus and attention and put in the relentless work. Take advantage of any networking opportunities and use social media to raise awareness of your brand. As you work, though, you must also reflect on your journey. Learn from the positives and negatives and use this knowledge to adapt and grow. This is a fluid process, and as you work towards making your business a success you need to keep learning and adapting. You need to have a plan and execute on it, but you also need to be able to respond quickly to any challenges or expand on what is working well.
  • Perseverance and resilience. There will be bumps in the road, challenges and rejections. This is unavoidable. The key is to keep going. When disaster strikes, reflect on it and see what you can learn from the experience. Learn from it and then get yourself back on track, stronger and more determined than before.

Having witnessed the struggles of people as they launched their new ventures, I would ask you to please reflect on the above so that you can avoid the same challenges. Research thoroughly, plan well, develop an effective strategy and go for it. Give it your full focus and attention, but don’t forget to take advantage of any learning opportunities on your journey and use them to adapt and grow. If the entrepreneurial route is the one for you, I wish you the very best and pray for your success.

“No” is not a dirty word. Embrace it.

Wherever we look, there is a battle going on for our attention. It’s big business. There is a whole array of books, seminars and programmes devoted to it, because attention is priceless. Once someone is granted your attention, they can use their sales and marketing techniques to try and manipulate you into buying something you don’t want, or doing something you don’t want to.

Most of the time we don’t realise that we are being manipulated into doing another’s bidding . Even when we do, it’s only after the event, or because we feel unable to decline or picture any alternative and therefore just go along with it. The downside to all of this is that time, focus and energy is taken away from our own lives. We stop doing whats important to us. Our progress slows and our relationships become strained, all because somebody else convinced us that their need was all that mattered. This is why we should start saying no, and stop putting the wants and needs of others before our own. Of course, there must be give and take in life but we need to be careful of just how much of ourselves, our time and our energy we give.

If it sounds a little selfish, that’s because we sometimes have to be. In this case, putting yourself, and those you care about the most, first is absolutely necessary if you want to be happy. If you handle the situation respectfully and with tact, people will respect your decision to say no. What form this “no”  takes will differ from person to person. For me, I prioritise my own journey and the goals which I am working towards, alongside spending quality time with my family. As such, I say no to things which can divert my energy and attention away from what is important to me, such as resisting the temptation to check work emails at home. When you say no to things which you don’t want to do, strange things happen, such as an increase in productivity. You find yourself getting fewer requests, and having more time to do what makes you happy. Most significant of all, though, you get to focus on what’s important to you. Your confidence also gets a healthy boost as you take back control of your life and stop being led by others.

The more you try to help others  and accommodate their wishes, the more they will ask of you. However, if you say no to whatever you don’t feel to be a good use of your time, people will soon get the message and leave you in peace. Say no, and watch as your happiness, time, confidence and productivity all get a healthy boost

Perspective

Too often, people unwittingly sabotage their own success and fall short of their goals. They fail to fulfill their potential, but the problem is that most don’t even recognise that they are doing it. This is because the cause is not openly visible for them to see. The sabotage comes from somewhere internal and hidden from sight; the mind. Your own worst enemy can often be found in the space between your ears.

The mind is as wonderful as it it complex. In good times, its positive voice can keep up the momentum and keep us motivated and inspired. It can identify opportunities for more success, or just identify things which we should be grateful for. In short, when times are good, our mind instills in us a positive outlook and we become happier and more determined to do well. This has the ability to attract more positivity and good results into our lives. Today I would like to focus, however, on the negative voice which can sometimes take over and bring our progress to a screeching halt.

When things are not going so well, though, our mind can also work against us. We find ourselves almost paralysed by fear or insecurity, being held back by thoughts of what others will say or do. We also tend to dwell on our misfortunes, or get so accustomed to a certain lifestyle that we are filled with terror at the thought of losing it.

The difference between these 2 scenarios is perspective, and the ability to take a step back and look at the overall situation, not just the snapshot in which we find ourselves. Whether times are good or bad, we should still be reflecting on our journeys. This helps us to keep everything in perspective. In times of success, maintaining a sense of perspective is what keeps us focused and motivated, but also humble. We realise that, in order to maintain our momentum and stay ahead of our competition, we need to keep learning from our experiences, putting in the work and taking steps forward.

In bad times, a sense of perspective is what can help us to turn the situation around. Again, you need to reflect on your current situation and identify opportunities for learning. Ask yourself where it went wrong and what you could’ve done better. Identify areas of weaknesses which need attention, and areas of strength which need to be taken advantage of. Use this reflection as an opportunity to learn, but also as a chance to rediscover your hunger, motivation and passion. This is how you put a setback into perspective, by using it as a chance to learn and bounce back wiser and hungrier to succeed.

Focus on the important aspects, such as your journey and progress, and not on things which you can’t control, from the approval of others to the lifestyle you wish you had. This is how you will develop the ability to put situations into perspective, and stop a bump in the road from totally bringing your progress to a halt.

 

The good thing about bad decisions…

..is that they can provide a valuable learning opportunity. IF you heed their lessons, that is. As with failure in general, bad decisions should be regarded as a necessary inconvenience which have in them the power for good. This is all on one condition though, that you not only learn from these mistakes but also put that learning into practice so that it doesn’t happen again.

Hence the importance on reflecting on your journey, and the direction in which you are headed. When you have a positive outcome, reflect on the decisions, actions and behaviours which led to the successful result. This will allow you to identify which aspects of the decision making process and behaviours to continue, or seek to improve, in order to prolong success. On the other hand, reflecting on what may have led to a negative outcome is just as valuable. It highlights flaws in the decision-making process and behaviours which can be avoided in the future. Rather than just blaming everything on bad luck, ask yourself if there was anything you could’ve done differently; are there resources at your disposal which you could’ve used to achieve a more favourable outcome? Could you have devoted more time, attention or effort? Are there warning signs which were missed?

Reflection is not easy, especially after a negative outcome, but the benefit is immense. When you are able to identify areas for improvement in your decision-making process, and address them, you develop a more proactive approach to life. Life is no longer something which just happens to you, and to which you react. You have, to a certain extent, ownership over your future and no longer leave everything to chance. In turn, you become resilient and feel in control of your destiny. You also feel better able to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Self-awareness also increases as a result of reflection. You become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. Not only that, but with time and effort, alongside the ability to identify decisions which were good or bad, you also come to understand what drove you to make those decisions. This stops your ego from driving you to continue chasing losses or making bad decisions.

Improving your decision-making process is as important in business as it is in our personal development. Don’t just take my word for it though;

Part of making good decisions in business is recognizing the poor decisions you’ve made and why they were poor. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’m going to make more. It’s the name of the game. You don’t want to expect perfection in yourself. You want to strive to do your best. It’s too demanding to expect perfection in yourself

Warren Buffett