The Secret Ingredient To A Happy Life? Love!

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

What Do You Want?

Of all of the questions which we ask ourselves every day, there is one which we often overlook. In failing to consider this question, we often end up leading unfulfilled lives with no direction or real purpose. That question;

What Do I Want?

is NOT “What does society tell me that I should want?”

and DEFINITELY NOT “What do my family and friends want for me?”

This is a deeply personal question, and is all about what you desire for yourself. You, and you alone. Don’t worry about others’ opinions. If they care about you, they will take time to understand and respect your wants, desires and decisions, even if they conflict with their own. Those who have a problem with you chasing what you want in life? Forget about them, because you don’t need their negativity infecting you.

Determining exactly what you want in life requires some actual work, though, so grab some paper and a pen. On this paper, write the following questions, and leave enough space under each question to write down the thoughts which immediately come to mind;

  • What do I want personally? What relationships do I want to have? What do I value most in my personal life? What would I like more of? What kind of legacy do I want to create?
  • What do I want professionally? Am I happy in my current role? What can I change to improve my current circumstances? Would a career change make me happier, and give my life more meaning?
  • What do I want financially? What is my goal in terms of salary? What would earning more give me – freedom, security, comfort..?
  • What do I want in terms of health and fitness? Am I happy with my current physical state? Do I feel healthy? Do I have vitality and energy? Am I eating healthy and exercising regularly, or is that something that needs to be addressed?

This is one question, broken down into the 4 main areas of life. Even if you have done this exercise previously, revisit it because as we learn and grow, our needs and desires change. Make sure that your “wants” clearly reflect the direction in which you want your life to be headed. It’s your life, nobody else’s, therefore these choices are yours alone. When you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in life, you make better informed choices and decisions. Because you know where you are headed, you make the decisions and take the actions which will take you closer to your end goals. No more drifting through life.

Stop waking up with no direction and just taking life as it comes. Living is not a passive process, so stop treating it as such. Don’t sit back and let life just happen to you. Worse still, don’t sit back and wait for good things to come to you before you have put in any work. Forgive me for my negativity, but life does not work in this way. Decide what you want to attract and achieve in life. Turn these desires into specific goals. Now, break these goals down into a plan of action. 

With a clear idea of what you want, and a plan of how you will achieve this, all that is left is to wake up each morning with the hunger and determination to take steps towards achieving your goals. This gives your life structure and purpose. Every day, you are striving towards your goals, and learning, developing and growing as a person in the process. Stop leaving everything to chance. Or would you rather wander aimlessly through life waiting to get lucky and have good things happen? Personally, i’d rather not waste time waiting, but go out and make good things happen. Decide what you want, and go after it with all you have. All day. Every day.

Rid Yourself Of The Limiting Beliefs Which Are Holding You Back

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

David Bowie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Don’t Go It Alone

No man is an island

John Donne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Pain Before Pleasure

If you’re going through hell, keep going

Winston Churchill

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Baby Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Cheating Yourself

Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.

Aldous Huxley

Everyone has a good idea or a dream as to the kind of life they want for themselves. The majority of us are wise enough to know that simply desiring something is not enough and that we actually have to work for it. So, we make plans, set small goals and tell ourselves that we will be embarking on a journey of discovery and personal development soon.

We start. It goes well. Very well. The results are evident, our motivation levels are sky-high and we are full of a newfound sense of accomplishment. Then either our progress slows down, or we hit a roadblock. This is natural and only to be expected. It is, however, the way in which people react to this inconvenience that determines whether they will be ultimately successful in the pursuit of our goals. We have all at some stage given in to temptation and cheated on our diet with some fast food. Many of us have missed a workout and spent the day instead in our pyjamas watching movies on Netflix. Your progress has slowed, and you’ve sinned for a day. Now what?! Successful people pick themselves back up  and get back on track. The rest of us, we lie to ourselves and cheat ourselves. We tell ourselves that we will start again when the time is right;

January 1st…Tomorrow…Monday…Next month..

We convince ourselves that we have the best of intentions and we want this. We really want this. We really, really,  really want this but before we start, we just have to prepare ourselves mentally to pursue our goals once more. All we are doing, however, is lying to ourselves. When you are putting the pursuit of your goals off to a later date, you are cheating yourself and selling yourself short. Why not now? Why not put down the tv remote and take a step, no matter how small, that will get you closer to your goals?!

There is a deeper threat here than merely falling short of your potential. Lying to yourself and cheating yourself can have serious implications for your mental health. This is not scaremongering, but something I have been through myself and finally come out the other side, wiser for the experience.

When you lie to yourself, cheat yourself and sell yourself short it is only yourself who you are hurting. Over time, your self-belief and self-confidence erode and you start to lose faith in yourself. You doubt yourself capable of carrying out even the most simple of tasks. This leads to frustration, anger and, potentially, depression. Worse still, when lying to yourself becomes acceptable you become more likely to lie to others too. And nobody likes a liar or an unmotivated, undisciplined layabout.

The best way to prevent the above? Make today the day you start, or re-start, chasing your goals.

Make today the day that the lying stops

Make today the day that you stop giving in and giving up without at least putting up a good fight

Make today the day that you take steps to build your confidence and self-belief, rather than damage them both.

Draw a line under what has gone before, and start afresh. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and misjudgements. Learn from them and move on. When you do this, today‘s date will forever be etched into your memory as the day when everything changed.

We strive and fight hard to keep our promises to others, and maintain our integrity. It’s time now that we keep our promises to ourselves. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

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.

How to keep on winning..

You’ve achieved your goals, personal or business, and success is yours. Finally, you are living the life you had until now only dreamed of. So what do you do next?! KEEP GOING!!! After all, success is an ongoing journey of learning and development. It doesn’t just come to you one night, at random, and stay for a lifetime. It requires an incredible amount of hard work before you can even think of tasting success, and even more of the same to remain successful.

All too often people hit the dizzying heights of success only to then fail, fade away or be overtaken by competitors. This is especially true in the business world. Why does this happen? How does it happen? One big reason why some ventures fade into obscurity after a very strong start, is the naivety and the misunderstanding of what success really is. Too many people see it as an endpoint or a finish line. As soon as they achieve their big goals, they become comfortable and complacent. Most telling of all, though, is that they stop doing what made them successful in the first place. The hunger and desire which drove them this far is now replaced with satisfaction and contentment. Focus turns to living a comfortable lifestyle with nice houses, cars and luxury goods which they can show off to the world through social media.

Unfortunately, success does not last forever. Tastes change, new inventions come to market, new writers or artists release their work and competitors emerge to challenge you for your market share. The problem is that, during this time, you’ve taken a step back in order to enjoy the fruits of your labour. From there, you won’t be able to see, let alone react, to the challenges you will be facing. Before you know it, you are yesterday’s news and scrambling to catch up with everyone else.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Not at all. Take, for example, our personal lives. As we achieve the goals we set for ourselves, we simply stop to reflect before setting more challenging goals. In this sense, our development is ongoing and we are never truly finished learning and growing;

  • We begin with reflection on who we are, our values, what we want from life and our strengths and weaknesses.
  • Once the above has been established, we determine our purpose and then set ourselves goals, both short-term and long-term.
  • At regular intervals, we reflect on our progress so far
  • As we meet each goal, we return to the beginning and reflect before replacing it with another, more challenging, goal.

Sounds a lot easier than it actually is, but this is a formula which can work for anyone willing to put in the required work and effort. Moreover, it can be applied to a business venture too. The only real difference is that the reflection being done and the goals being set are not for yourself but for the business as a whole.

In order to maintain the momentum built by your initial success, you need to be proactive. This is regardless of whether the success is for yourself personally or a business you have launched. You can’t afford to sit back and wait for events to unfold and then react to them. It is far better, and far less stressful to reflect on your progress at regular intervals, adapting or updating your goals whenever necessary. Take a proactive approach and let others strive to catch up with you.

Naturally, when the bad times come, you should maintain your focus and keep going in the direction of your goals. The exact same is true of when the good times come. Keep doing what brought you success in the first place, and fight off complacency with a proactive approach. Don’t lose the passion, desire, hunger and determination which drove you towards achieving what you set out to. Just keep learning, developing, growing and moving forward.

 

 

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.

If you don’t take control of your life..

…someone else will. This is why I feel so strongly about why we should become more self-aware, set goals in life and pursue them. It’s why we need passion, purpose and drive, or else life can become uneventful, dull and repetitive.

That is not to say that we need to have it all figured out, but we do need a certain level of direction in our lives. We need to know, roughly, where we are headed. With this awareness, we are less likely to be led astray or manipulated by others. We become stronger mentally, more focused and wiser. We are, essentially, better able to position ourselves to live the life of our dreams.

We also need to have interests which we are passionate about, as this gives us a break from the stresses of life. Being in control of our lives means that we will be immune to the doubts and criticisms of others, and have the strength to do whatever it is that makes our hearts sing. After all, when we follow our passion and share that which we create, we are inspiring others to have the courage to do the same.

Humans are creatures of habit, though. We like that which we know. Hence we develop routines which feel safe and also provide a source of comfort. We also don’t need to think too much when something is familiar. But there is a downside to the comfort of habit and routine, which is best summed up in a quote from the inimitable Charles Bukowski;

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”


The truth about luck

“It seems the harder I work, the more luck I have”

Thomas Jefferson

We are often being misinformed and told half-truths when we read about the success of others in journals, magazines or online. All too often, we are entertained with tales of overnight success and pure luck. In the same publications or websites, however, we also find motivational articles advising us how we can achieve whatever we focus our attention and effort upon. Confusing to say the least. Are we to wait for Lady Luck to shine brightly upon us, or do we get out there and work for what we want?

We must give credit where it’s due, though, and stories of luck do make for good reading. They are heartwarming and reassuring. We start to think that maybe we will get lucky too. I enjoy a good story as much as anyone else and love reading. However, I also live in the real world and am a strong believer in hard work and consistent effort. For me, there is no other way and it stands to reason. Imagine, for example, a man named John who dreams of becoming a successful musician. He sits around at home all day, binge-watching programmes on Netflix while waiting for inspiration to strike, after which he hopes to get lucky. What are his chances of success? Pretty small, right?! Now imagine John version 2, in which he is more proactive. John spends his day writing songs, practicing, performing in bars and clubs, putting some examples of his work on Youtube and networking online and in person. It goes without saying that Version 2, the version that works hard and doesn’t give up easily, will have the higher chance of becoming successful.

The truth is that when we work hard on our ourselves, our passions and our dreams, we stand a higher chance of finding ourselves in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people, after which we can achieve success in our chosen arena. There is no such thing as an overnight success or pure luck. The uncomfortable truth is that persistence and continuous hard work are the keys which will open the door to achievement and success. There is no shortcut. You need to work hard and be patient. Believe that, if you are doing everything you possibly can, the doors will open and your time will come.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll just get run over if you just sit there”

Will Rogers

 

Humility

It is becoming increasingly popular for people, in social media as in real life, to want to show the world the trappings of their success. These are essentially the designer clothes, jewellery and cars which give the outward appearance of wealth and achievement. The original meaning of the word trappings was the bridle and saddle decoration which riders would put on their horses to show how powerful and privileged they were. In modern terms, however, trappings has come to mean  peacocking and showing off. In short, people are tying their sense of self-esteem and self-worth to material goods and this needs to stop.

We need to stop feeding the narcissism and over-the-top self confidence of these people and deny them the attention which they crave. Of course, everyone should be able to celebrate their successes, but as with all good things it should be done in moderation. Instead we should be glorifying those who achieve greatly yet remain humble. The humble achievers. These humble achievers are not just found in the business arena, but in all areas. These are the people who have discovered their motivation and inspiration, determined their goals and set out on a journey to achieve them. They share their journey with others , so that they might in turn learn from them and be encouraged to define their own goals and embark on their own pursuit of them.

The humble achievers are those who choose to document their journey and process, with all its ups and downs, rather than the end result. They are as open about the hard work and challenges which they face on a daily basis on their journey towards their goals, as they are about the fact that they do not know everything and occasionally make mistakes. They are not driven by fame or social status, but rather their “why” and their purpose.

Here are a few more traits which the humble tend to have in common;

  • They engage with others and listen to their opinions
  • They accept that they have limitations and are open about them
  • They are considerate of others and their needs
  • They are open about their mistakes, taking responsibility for them and sharing what they have learned.
  • They reflect on what they have learned, how far they have come and how far they have yet to go. They are driven to keep learning, growing and developing.

I’ll leave you with quote from Laszlo Bock, Head of People Operations at Google;

“Without humility, you are unable to learn,”

What is your driving force?!

You may have heard of it referred to as your “why” and if you want to lead a successful and fulfilled life it is important that you know exactly what it is. Everybody has goals and dreams but it is your “why” or reason for being that has the power to set high-achievers apart from the crowd.

Your why is your purpose. It’s your reason for being. It’s a cause that you believe in deeply, to your core. Furthermore it’s a source of inspiration and motivation which will help you to rebound strongly from setbacks and problems and keep you going when times get tough. When you know why you are doing what you do, and find yourself on your chosen path, there is less likelihood of becoming disheartened and quitting when faced with adversity. On the other hand, it also keeps you grounded, humble and focused when you do start to make real progress.

There is a catch, though. I can’t tell you what your why is. Nobody can. For every individual it will, of course, differ. Only you can figure that out for yourself through honest reflection. There are, however, some questions which anybody can benefit from asking themselves;

  • What does success look like to you? Before you embark on your journey, you must know what it is the you are aiming for. If you don’t know where you are headed or what you are aiming for, you can’t possibly know when you are making progress. What does the end result look like? What do you want to achieve through your journey? Are you driven to bring about social change? Are you looking to start a business? Are you looking to strengthen your personal relationships?
  • What issues are you passionate about? What motivates or inspires you? What keeps you up at night, occupying your thoughts? What is the burning question that you want to answer, or change that you want to bring about?
  • If money were no object, what would you do? Put aside the pay check for a moment and the bills which need paying. If your finances were comfortable and you were in complete control of your destiny, how would you spend your time? What would you focus on?

Your why is your mission. Use the 3 questions above as prompts to help you find your own. It gives you strength in testing times and keeps you humble and focused when things go well. Find it and you will discover strength and ability which you may not have realised that you possess. Coupled with a deep belief in what you are doing, and a dogged determination to succeed, you will soon find yourself on a journey through life which is as fulfilling and meaningful as it is successful.

A call for Congruence

In exploring the importance of authenticity and being yourself in the modern digital age, it is wise to consider congruence. Congruence, in this instance, refers to the harmony or balance between our self-image and the version of ourselves which we present to the outside world.

This post is inspired  by a Japanese proverb which I have encountered numerous times on social media outlets. The proverb in question states that we have 3 faces. The first face is the one which we present to the outside world. The second face is the one which we reveal to family and close friends. The third face, which we never reveal to anyone else, is the truest reflection of who we are.

I interpret this as the first face being a mask which we wear when engaging with others outside of our immediate circle. In essence, this face represents the regulation of our behaviour to ensure that it is in line with what is socially expected while also being accepted culturally.

The second face is the mask we wear when interacting with family and close friends. This represents the way in which we modify our behaviour when with our nearest and dearest. We often do whatever we can to let them know that we love, care for and respect them. We often prioritise the happiness of those closest to us over our acting according to our true selves.

The third face is our true reflection. This is our authentic, true self which we often keep hidden from others for fear of ridicule or rejection.

Is it really necessary, or even healthy, to live like this?! There must surely be a better way.

In the last post, we touched on Aristotle’s “Golden Mean”. According to this rule, authenticity is a perfect balance between honesty and discretion, which also takes into account the context and circumstance.

Why can’t we apply the Golden Mean here too? If there are to be 3 versions of the self, why can we not work to ensure that there is congruence, or harmony between all 3? 

In doing this, we relieve ourselves of any inner conflict. Thar is not to say that it is easy. Far from it. In order to achieve harmony between our 3 faces, or selves,  we must first have a good understanding of who we are and what drives us. Self-Awareness, however, is a big part of the journey we are on towards success and something we should be working towards anyway.

On the other hand, maintaining several different personas is tiring. Unless you are an entertainer, it can also be conflicting and tiring leading to wasted energy which could be better directed elsewhere

So, is congruence a possibility? Are we able to find harmony and consistency in who we really are and how we present ourselves to the outside wold? 

The shortcut to greatness. ..

…is a myth. There is no secret, special formula or anything else. Sorry to burst your bubble. This may come as a surprise, because we are constantly being told that there is. Then again, those who usually claim to have all the answers usually have a book or a training course to sell too. Coincidence?!

The hard truth is that, in order to achieve success and greatness in your chosen arena, there must be hard work and effort. An awful lot of it. You have to do what others are not willing to. Consistently. Sacrifices and compromises will need to be made, and you will need to become resilient and persistent if you hope to persevere and overcome the obstacles and problems which you will encounter.

If you can do this, you will make progress. Progress not only with regards to your goals, but also your self awareness. You will, through all of the ups and downs and lessons learned, grow as a person.

Business publications and social media would have you believe that success can come quickly and bring tremendous riches. All that they are showing, though, is just the glamorous and appealing  end result and not the journey or the process itself. This is a shame, as the journey and process are what truly matter. This is where we are challenged to learn and grow, and discover who we truly are and what we are capable of. Gary Vaynerchuk tells us that “life is a marathon, not a sprint” and I couldn’t agree more. If you are going to be successful in pursuit of your goals, you will need patience and dogged determination. And you absolutely must fall in love with the journey and the process. 

Stop and smell the roses

Stop and smell the roses. For anyone unfamiliar with this idiom, it means taking time out of your day to notice, appreciate and enjoy the beauty of life. It involves a shift in your focus from all things work or business-related to the small things that often go unnoticed, such as the sights and sounds of nature as you cut through the park on the way to the office. It means developing a childlike curiosity which can help you to view the world from a different perspective, through new eyes. Furthermore, it can help you to rediscover how much life has to offer, and how much you appreciate it.

While smelling the roses may appear to run counter to the “Carpe Diem” philosophy recommended overwhelmingly in business literature, it can actually compliment it. We live increasingly busy lives, and are constantly reminded to “seize the day” and take action if we want to lead a successful and fulfilled life. While this is excellent advice and we should take action in the direction of our goals, there must be some moderation. We are so used to hearing that we need to work harder, devoting more time and effort to outwork the competition, that we often feel guilty when we do try and unwind. How often do we find ourselves reaching for a laptop, Ipad or smartphone to check our emails for something we may have missed while trying to relax?! This “always on” culture, worn by some as a badge of honour, can lead to stress burnout, loss of focus and drive and also damage our personal relationships.

This is where slowing down comes in. Smelling the roses, and taking some time out for yourself, can help to reduce stress and make us more appreciative of what we have. It also brings a sense of calm and relaxation. This can help to recharge our batteries so that we return to our professional lives and goals re-energised, motivated and with a renewed focus.

There is no need to pick one approach or the other in this case as they work so well together. Naturally, taking action in the direction of our goals will lead to a more fulfilling life, but there needs to be moderation and time out to appreciate everything which we have already and which life has to offer. Life is not about rushing from one goal to the next, but the journey itself and the process which helps us to reach our goals and become successful. There are so many wonderful experiences and valuable lessons which we will encounter on our journey, and this is why we sometimes need to slow down and take that break to savour them. It would be shame to miss out because we are in too much of a hurry.

 

Procrastination; Friend or Foe?

Procrastination has long had a bad reputation, with those who engage in this practice traditionally dismissed as being lazy, disorganised timewasters. The internet however, is awash with vlogs, blog articles and TED talks which aim to show procrastination in a positive light. Which brings us to the question; does procrastination deserve a second chance?

Procrastination, as I have discovered through personal experience, has the potential to be a very positive practice. At its best, it affords you the opportunity to complete small tasks which you may have been putting off. Stress levels can also be reduced, as you switch your focus temporarily from something challenging to something more enjoyable or relaxing. Following this, you might find yourself returning to the original problem or task refreshed and with a renewed  determination. This can in turn reduce wasted effort and increase focus and, ultimately, productivity. During this interlude and shift in focus and attention, you might find yourself learning something new or finding inspiration.

Furthermore, and this is my particularly true in my case, some people thrive under the pressure of a tight deadline which drives them to produce their best work. So, again, shifting your focus temporarily from the task in hand temporarily to something else could be a good thing if it serves to recharge your batteries and you subsequently return to the original task determined to succeed.

There are, however, an awful lot of if, buts, maybes, coulds, shoulds and woulds at play here. Procrastination’s ability to serve as a force of good or bad is really a question of potential. It has the potential to improve your life and make it easier, but it also has the potential to breed lazy, unmotivated, uninspired timewasting clockwatchers. The deciding factor? The individual.

As with anything else, it’s what you make of it. Procrastination can either be good or bad, positive or negative and it all depends on your attitude and behaviour. On the one hand, it can present an opportunity to reduce stress levels, get your creative juices flowing and provide a source of motivation and inspiration. On the other hand, though, it can breed laziness, disengagement and drain motivation.

If harnessed correctly, procrastination can be a powerful force for good on your journey towards success. It is, nonetheless your choice  as to where it leads, and if left untamed and allowed to run wild, it has the potential to seriously derail and undermine all of your efforts and good work to-date.

Procrastination. Good or bad, it’s up to you what you make of it.

Can we please stop advising people to Give 110%?!

It’s everywhere, from sports coaching to books and articles on business, psychology and self-help. We are being bombarded with the advice that, if we want to achieve great things we need to give 110%. Which makes no sense.

This idea that you too can become a successful entrepreneur, sports star, actor or whatever else you want to be by giving 110, 120, or even 150% sounds simple, cool and catchy. Hence it is spreading like wildfire, but it’s time that we contain it and put it out.

Maybe I am just being pedantic, but we can only give 100% effort. That is our maximum, no more. Effort depends on so many factors that you might feel like you are giving your all today, but find that you can give a little more tomorrow. These factors can range from getting enough rest or food to the level of knowledge which you possess.

Let’s take running as an example. I might be able to manage 25 minutes at a steady pace on the treadmill today, but a week later find myself completing 45 minutes. In that time, I haven’t discovered a mystical energy reserve which allowed me to give 110%, but more likely the improvement came about as a result of my body adapting to the demands of my training and a possible improvement in my rest, recovery and nutrition.

The same can be said of progress made from one week to the next in business and other arenas. It is doubtful that your success is driven by 110% effort, but rather an increase in knowledge, understanding and experience.

If you are giving your all, that means that you are giving 100%. no more, no less. If you walk away from whatever you are engaged in and still have some energy left in the tank, then it is unlikely that you gave 100% in the first place, but rather around 80% which was the most you could give at that point in time. A good night’s rest, some further reading or adequate hydration and you might be able to return the next day and truly give 100% effort.

I believe that in order to be successful in your field of interest or expertise, there is a formula which could help;

1 – Identify what it is that you want to achieve, alongside the behaviours and skills which you want to develop.

2 – Set goals, both short and long-term, do your research and formulate a plan of action.

3 – Take action. Set up regular check-ins which will allow you to review your progress and identify any areas in which improvements can be made. Make tweaks as and when you feel appropriate.

4 – Be consistent. Keep putting in the work. Bounce back from setbacks, and as you reach each of your goals, tick them off and replace them with more challenging goals.

5 – Repeat.

Consistent, focused effort and hard work, mixed with passion and dedication is a formula which can drive you towards success, so please can we change the conversation and give more sensible advice?!

 

Resilience

We recently added optimism to the list of elements which can help us on our journey of self discovery and growth. But does it not sound a little too simplistic?! So far we have learned that we should adopt a growth mindset and an optimistic outlook before setting goals and taking action if we want to succeed. As for failure, which is inevitable in any undertaking, it should not be feared but rather welcomed as an opportunity to learn and grow. So, armed with all of the above, you should confidently go forth and be rewarded with the life of your dreams, right? The problem is that if it was as easy as that sounds, we would all be entrepreneurs, actors, singers or astronauts.

So, what is it that high achievers do or possess that allows them to achieve their goals and ambitions? This element goes by many names, such as resilience, perseverance, mental strength or persistence. There is also an excellent book on this subject by Angela Duckworth, which defines it as grit.

Resilience, or whichever definition you prefer, is a passion and perseverance for long-term goals but means different things to different people. For some it is a stamina, which gives the strength to rise from setbacks and finish what they started. For others, it is the knowledge that, as long as you keep learning and putting in the work, you will get back on the right track. In other words, it is a belief that failures and setbacks are just a bump on the road towards success. It is the drowning out of the negative comments and misgivings of naysayers, no matter how good their intentions, and having confidence and faith in your own ability.

Resilience is not something you are born with, which you either have or don’t. The good news is that it can be worked on and developed, and here are some of the ways which work for me when  things don’t go according to plan and failure pays a visit;

  • Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. This is where optimism, a positive outlook and perspective really help. Keep reminding yourself of your purpose and why you are doing this. What do you want to achieve? What skills and behaviours do you want to foster and develop? What kind of person do you want to become by the end of your journey? How is this done, though? ⇓⇓
  • Reflect. Remind yourself, ideally in a reflective journal,  of what you are grateful for, and the progress which you have made so  far. This will help steer you back towards a positive mindset. Once you have rediscovered your optimism, it’s time to look for reasons as to why a particular setback happened. This is healthier and more productive than making excuses and becoming disheartened.
  • Evaluate. With things back into perspective, your optimism returned and an awareness of what went wrong, it’s time to bring it all together with an honest evaluation. This is where you determine how you will be getting back on track and moving forward. What resources do you have available to you? Are there any gaps in your knowledge which you can address? Most importantly, though, you now have an opportunity to challenge yourself, venturing once more outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself to do something which you think you can’t.

Obviously, this list is by no means exhaustive and others may use methods and strategies which work just as well, if not better. If you are one of these people, I would love to hear about your experiences and what works for you.

Resilience means different things to different people, but at its core it’s the faith that setbacks are only temporary, and actually offer an opportunity to learn and grow. Furthermore, it is the confidence that you will soon be back on course, stronger and better informed.

Optimism

Recently, we have looked at how setting goals, feeding your mind with positive input and taking action can help you on your journey of self discovery and achievement . There is, however, something that has the power to throw a spanner in the works and halt your progress, and that is pessimism. Pessimism is an attitude in which a person has the tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen. Its opposite, optimism, is what we should be striving for, defined as hopefulness and confidence about the future.

Unfortunately, you can’t just push a button and suddenly become an optimist. It takes hard work, but there are steps which we can take.

As a starting point, we need to look at reducing the negativity in our lives. This can be done, to a certain extent, by turning off the news and choosing positive sources of information which can take you closer to your goals. Avoiding gossip, while being easier said than done, is another important step which can be taken. Instead of complaining when things don’t go your way, get in the habit of looking for a solution.

Once you have started to minimise the negativity in your life, it’s time to think about how you can become an optimist;

  1. Practice gratitude – By practicing gratitude, we are reminded of the positives which we have in our lives, and it helps to put situations into perspective. You can practice gratitude by simply making a list of 3 things, every evening, of which you are grateful for. Over this time, this can be developed into a gratitude journal.
  2. Become better informed – Read books or journals, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, watch vlogs and youtube videos or seek networking opportunities. This will help increase your knowledge on a particular subject, potentially taking you closer to your goals if you use that knowledge.
  3. Take action – Identify one area in which you want to improve or which may be troubling you. Next, identify what you can do to make progress or solve the issue. Now make a plan to do 1 thing every day which will take you closer to your goal. In doing this, though, don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

 

In short, achievement and personal development occur when you foster the right attitude, namely one of positivity.

Goals are not just something you see in sports

Goals are not just something a football player might score, but a valuable tool to guide us on our journey towards success, self-discovery and achievement. Without goals, there is a danger that we might find ourselves just drifting through life lacking purpose, direction and focus while falling far short of our potential. The real benefit of having goals and striving to achieve them, however, is not in the goal itself but in what we learn along the way and how we develop and grow on this journey.

“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s as simple as that.”

Earl Nightingale

In short, goals give us the power to take control of the direction of our lives, force us to learn and grow and provide a tool to measure success and achievement.

There are 2 different types of goals, long-term and short-term and both are essential. Long-term goals are sometimes referred to as BHAGs (Big, Hairy and Audacious Goals) and should be challenging yet achievable. Your long-term goal is your overall vision of success. However, your long-term goal comes at the end of a journey of hard work, consistent effort, self-discovery and achievement. Along this journey, there are a number of sign-posts and checkpoints. These are your short-term goals. Short-term goals are the stepping stones which lead you towards your long-term goals, so it is essential that they are related to one another.

Before you start thinking about potential goals, define what success will look like to you. Carefully consider what it is that you want to achieve long-term and how you will do this through smaller short-term goals. Be honest and realistic about the resources available to you, and try to identify the behaviours and skills which you will need to develop in order to achieve your overarching goal.

A goal must be important to you, and be related to your priorities. There must be value in achieving your goals, as this helps to increase motivation and commitment, provide a sense of urgency and get you back on track after a setback. Essentially, you should be taking each short-term goal in turn and considering why it is important to you, what value it offers and how it will help you get closer to achieving your long-term goal.

“Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.”

Les Brown

Business literature, journals and the internet are full of recommendations as to the many different ways in which goals can be set. One of the most popular and highly recommended is the process of setting SMART goals, and it is on this process which we will be focusing. An effective way to create short-term goals is by making them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound).

Specific. There should be clarity in the definition of your goal. Goals are like signposts on the road to success, guiding you on a journey of self-discovery and achievement.

Measurable.  Be precise when determining how success will be measured (ie. generate ‘x’ amount of sales by ‘y’ date). With a way to measure your progress towards your goals, it becomes easier to identify and celebrate your successes while also identifying any areas for improvement.

Achievable.  As good as it may be to have a goal which stretches you and takes you out of your comfort zone, you must be realistic and honest with yourself about whether it can be done. Too challenging, and it could negatively affect your confidence and halt your progress.

Relevant.  There should be a clear link between your goals and the direction in which you want to steer your life. Your goals should be building blocks or signposts towards success

Time-Bound.  There must be a timeline in which you want to achieve your long-term goals, with deadlines for the short-term goals along the way. This helps to create a sense of urgency.

With your goals, both long and short-term set, the next step is to write them down. A goal becomes real when you put it before you in writing. I choose to write mine in a series of positive statements starting with “I will…” and ending with a deadline “by….”

Accountability can also be helpful and provide extra motivation. This is not for everyone, but your goals can be shared with trusted friends or family. Some people find that this is another helpful way to create a sense of urgency and keep you on track. Others, however, prefer their privacy and would rather work in silence.

Simply stating that you want something to happen is wishful thinking or dreaming. For it to become a reality, you need a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and why. Then comes the goal-setting process, before planning and taking action, celebrating victories and reflecting on what you’ve learned along the way.

Who doesn’t love a list?!

Lists are everywhere and form an integral part of our daily lives, whether they be shopping lists, to-do lists, done lists, short term goals, long term goals, bucket lists or favourite quotes among many others. Personally, I love them and the done list is one of my favourites, as it forms a reminder of everything which I have accomplished during that day, week or month. Lists can also be helpful, saving memory space in our overloaded brains as well as valuable time. A shopping list is a good example of this; you identify what you need, write it down, put that list in your pocket and off you go. These are, however, not the type of list which we will be looking at today.

There is a type of list upon which we are becoming overly reliant. This is, in my humble opinion, to our detriment. What type of list am I thinking of as I write this? The list of what successful people do, read, eat…

Don’t get me wrong, they can be very interesting and motivational, but that’s about it. The problem with these success lists, is that the evidence of success and achievement is deeply personal and specific to that individual. I can adopt all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s behaviours, training routine and eating habits but that won’t give me the same results and turn me into a star footballer.  There is also the matter of context; what works in professional sports will not always be transferrable to another domain, such as business. Another question is raised over the validity of the evidence. These lists are often based on generalisations and similarities, pointing at particular behaviours or traits that a groups of successful people share. There is often a lack of scientific support for these findings, which tend to be anecdotal. As mentioned before, they can also be rather specific to a particular context and bear little relevance to the situation in which you find yourself. Then we have the small matter of change. Times change. The world evolves and changes. Technology advances and changes at a rapid rate. These particular lists, however, do not always account for this. A quick google search on Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg  will bring up plenty of lists, many of which deal with their rise to eminence. What they do not take into account, though, are their circumstances and the climate in which they released their groundbreaking products. It is simply not possible to follow a list and launch another Apple or Facebook today, in the same way that Jobs or Zuckerberg did all those years ago.

The problem is that these success lists are comforting. In an age where everything is fast, from our food to our information, it’s encouraging to be offered a shortcut to success. The truth, though, is that there is no shortcut. If you want to be successful, you need to take action but be prepared to fail and then learn from your experiences. There are no substitutes for hard work and effort. Rather than focusing on what successful people do, focus on your strengths and abilities and stop trying to be someone else. As Oscar Wilde once said “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,”

Thank you, as always for reading. If you agree, or disagree, with the above please feel free to leave a comment

Visualisation and the Law of Attraction

Now that we have touched on the brain and how we learn, it’s time to look closer at the mind and what it is capable of. When exploring the power and potential of the mind, it is inevitable that the Law of Attraction will be encountered, alongside the power and benefits of visualisation. Well, what are they?

The Law of Attraction is a universal law which states that everyone has the ability and potential to attract things into their life through their thoughts, intentions and actions. In short, you attract whatever is on your mind. You will hear this expressed in many different ways, among them;

  • As you think, so shall you become
  • You attract what you feel, fear and think about
  • What consumes your mind, controls your life

Essentially, you have the potential to become or attract whatever you focus on. As the second point above hints at, however, the mind has the potential to attract negativity as well as positivity.

Visualisation is a similar concept, in that you first decide what you want to become or have, then focus on how you are going to achieve it before picturing it clearly in your mind. This vision will then become a reality. In other words, if you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand.

Does that not sound a little to easy or simplistic? Yet that is what endless self-help articles, books and programmes will tell us, and we love to hear it because we live in a time where hard work is shunned in favour of quick fixes. And hard work is definitely needed in order for visualisation or the Law of Attraction to actually produce positive results.

As we have seen, the Law of Attraction and Visualisation both work in a very similar way; you decide what you want, focus your mind on how it can be achieved or obtained and it will happen in due course.  There are 2 essential elements to their success, however which have been overlooked.

The first oversight is a person’s mental attitude. If you have the power to attract whatever you focus your mind on, then it stands to reason that there exists the potential to attract negativity into your life if your mind is filled with fears and insecurities. Therefore, optimism or a positive mental attitude is essential. After all, a negative mind cannot attract positive results. How does this work? Well, a positive mind leads to positive thoughts and positive behaviours which have the potential to attract positive results. Likewise, a negative mind affects our thoughts and behaviour negatively and can potentially lead to undesirable results. So, before anything can be visualised it is important to confront any fears and insecurities which could potentially derail the process.

The second oversight? Work. Yep, the dreaded W. As with anything else, having a positive mental attitude and visualising success is just the first step. You have to put the hard work in. It’s not enough to just believe and live as though you have already achieved your goal, but you also need to ACT. This is the final step and where a lot of people fall short. You do the initial work which leads to a more optimistic and positive outlook. From there, you decide what it is that you want and how you can get it. At this point, that which you are focusing on is merely a dream. It is only when you start to take action that your dream becomes a goal which can be achieved. Until then, it is merely wishful thinking.

In short, optimism plus a clear idea of what you want to achieve and the hard work needed to make happen is the recipe for success.

Thank you for reading. As always, please feel free to leave a comment or share your thoughts and experiences

The power of the mind

Having looked at several factors and strategies which can enhance our learning and development potential, it’s now time to look at the human brain and how we can harness the power within.

The adult brain weighs around 3 pounds and contains more than 60 different chemicals which affect our memory, learning and behaviour. Not only that, but it is also home to around 100 billion neurons, each one being capable of making thousands of connections. Returning momentarily to the subject of memory, it is interesting to note that we have 2 types or systems. These are spatial memory, which records our daily experiences and rote memory which deals with fact and skills.

This, however, is where the generalities and similarities end. Everyone is, after all, unique. All humans have the same set of systems, but we are all different based on our genes, our prior knowledge and our environments. It also stands to reason that the more we learn, the more unique we become. This is a notion which is becoming increasingly popular in a day and age where people strive to stand out from the crowd, and one method of achieving this for a growing number of people is by becoming life-long learners.

Brain-Based Learning is one popular theory on how we learn. While the research and focus of this theory primarily concerns formal education settings (namely how students learn and what approaches teachers can adopt in order to maximise their learning potential), there is much that is relevant for adults as life-long learners. This theory is more than just an exploration of teaching and learning, it explores the structure and function of the brain as well as the learning process and how that changes as we age, grow and mature socially, emotionally and cognitively.

That’s all well and good, but what does it mean for us?

Essentially, the brain is a muscle and, like the rest of our muscles, needs a challenge in order to grow. Naturally, there are a number of ways, and stimuli, with which to challenge our brains and enhance the learning process.

Stimuli refers to what we feed the brain, and good quality information is essential brain food. The brain absorbs information with which it is directly involved, such as journal articles, books and podcasts, but it also pays attention to peripheral information. Essentially, learning involves focused attention and peripheral perception, so it helps to be mindful of what we spend our time reading or listening to as well as where we spend our time. Challenge your brain and keep it well-fed with information which can help your development and get you closer to your goals, while also being mindful of where you spend your time and what you choose to surround yourself with.

As for the ways in which learning can take place there are many, but we will be looking at one today; movement. The learning process engages the whole physiology and body, so movement is a critical consideration. After all, sitting still all the time can be incredibly boring, not to mention tiring and counterproductive. Research shows that physical movement can enhance our readiness for learning, as it increases the oxygen in the bloodstream and can help to improve concentration. This can be done through listening to audiobooks or podcasts while exercising, or going for a walk while reflecting on what you have just learned.  Get active, whatever form that may take, in order to increase your learning potential.

On a final note, I would like to look at whether there are specific conditions under which people learn best. And the short answer is no. Everybody is different, and therefore has their own strategy which works for them. Some need time and space for quiet reflection, away from outside interference. Others prefer a collaborative climate, whether in person or through social media and blogs, in which to share thoughts and ideas. And some just need to feel safe and supported. Whatever the method, learning will occur as long as the brain is not prohibited from fulfilling its normal processes.

Thank you for reading, and as always please feel free to share your own thoughts, reflections and experiences.