What Are You Counting?

Ever since the invention of the Abacus, humans have been passionate about counting. We count everything.

If you are going to count anything, though, let it not be your calories or the inches around your waist. Nor the bad things which you’ve experienced or seen.

Instead, count your blessings, count your achievements, count the good people and positive influences which you have in your life.

Count your fondest, and happiest memories. Count all off the times you showed kindness to another person or creature, and how many times you received it unexpectedly.

Count the times you saw another human being do something beautiful, and which moved you.

Some things in life are worth counting. Others are not. Choose wisely.

Focus Only On That Which You Can Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Counting Other Peoples’ Blessings

“How much money does he or she make?”

“How many cars do they own?”

Why do they look so much richer, accomplished, healthier, happier and more successful than I am? I try so hard, too. All day, every day. So, why can’t I have what they have? I mean..everything on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter is real, isn’t it?!”

Nope. Not at all. Social media and reality tv is as real as the tooth fairy, a unicorn or rocking- horse poo.

If you catch yourself indulging in thoughts like the above, it’s a warning sign that you have your focus and your priorities all wrong. Firstly, of all the goals you set, and things which you aim for, material goods should not be among them. Don’t get me wrong, I love my creature comforts and name brands as much as anyone else, I just believe they shouldn’t be the end goal. Instead, you should be aiming to become someone of substance, providing value to others. If you manage that, fame and fortune are likely to follow. Once that time comes, then you can treat yourself to a Lamborghini, Chanel bag or whatever else you desire. Nice things should be the accompaniment of success. In other words, once your consistent hard work and persistence leads to success, you could find that success now affords you ability to afford the lifestyle of your dreams, or of your idols.

Counting other peoples’ money is not fair on them, and certainly not fair on you. You don’t know how hard they have worked and how much they have sacrificed over many years, in order that they can now wear Rolex watches and drive a Maserati. By the same token, you don’t know whether all the trappings of success which these people flaunt on social media was actually earned and not handed to them by their parents. Maybe they don’t even own the houses and cars, but just rent or lease them. Whatever it is, it’s none of your business. You should be too busy focusing on yourself, after all. Yes, it’s natural to want nice things and crave the trappings of success, but envying other people rather than focusing on your own personal and professional development is almost guaranteed to damage your confidence and your motivation levels, slowly killing your ability to make something valuable of your own life.

If you want something to focus on, focus on the one thing which you can control and influence… yourself. Ask yourself.. Is your life heading in the right direction? Do you feel happy and fulfilled? What do you want more of in life? What changes can you make today to positively impact your life? What impact do you want to make on the world around you? How do you want to be remembered at the end of your days? What legacy do you want to leave?

Turn the answers to the above questions into a plan of action and go after it with everything you have. This should keep you busy enough that your focus is firmly on your own growth, and you stop caring about what others may or may not have. Once you start to see the progress which you are capable of and get an idea of the greatness which you have within you, the lives of social media celebrities will cease to interest you and your focus will remain exactly where it should be – on you.

 

The Small Things

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things

Kurt Vonnegut

We live in an age of opportunity, and it’s exciting. Anything is possible if you are prepared to put in the time and effort required to succeed. There is, however, the very real danger of getting so completely consumed by the pursuit of your goals, that you forget to live your life too.

As with anything in life, there needs to be a balance. In this instance, you need to find a balance between your personal and professional development, and everything else that’s important in your life. Focus too much on your journey, and you risk causing irreparable damage to your personal relationships and health.

One thing which always struck me as a teacher, was how children take time to pay attention to the world around them. They touch, smell and explore everything. They ask questions so that they can better understand the environment in which they find themselves. And it makes them happy. Somewhere along the line, however, education conditions this curiosity out of them and they are taught instead to develop tunnel vision, only focusing on that which is in front of them. Herein lies the problem.

Developing a laser-like focus will help you to become disciplined and successful in whatever you choose, but it also robs you of so much of life’s beauty. We only have so much time and energy to give each day, and focusing it all in one area, means that other aspects of your life get neglected.

Of course, you may well achieve the status and level of wealth which you crave, but you face losing precious time which could be better spent with friends and family. Life can be cruel, and we have no idea how much time we have with those closest to us. Ask yourself, is that which you chase more important than spending time with your loved ones? Is it more important than your physical and mental health?

If you don’t spend time with those you love, you will regret it if tragedy strikes and they are no longer there. You will remember the times when you chose your goals and work over spending time with them, and this hurts because it was avoidable but now there is nothing you can do to put it right. Neglect your partner and they might end your relationship because they refuse to play second-best to your dreams any longer. Again this is pain which is avoidable. Is money and status really more important than the people who you claim to love? If not, then prove to them that you love them by giving them your time and attention. All of it. Put your phone away and be with them.

Do you take time to sit in the garden, smelling the flowers and listening to the birds? Do you listen to your body, and pay attention to your activity levels and what you eat and drink? Or is your mental and physical health less important than whatever goal you are currently working towards?

Time is precious and once it is gone, it is completely gone. So, it’s best to use it wisely. There are enough hours in the day that you can work towards your goals AND take time to smell the roses or spend quality time with loved ones. Of course, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but at the end of your days would you not rather look back on a fulfilled and happy life? This is surely better than the alternative, full of loneliness, ill health and a trail of broken relationships.

The choice is yours, so choose wisely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all need a challenge

If you don’t push yourself and leave your comfort zone, how can you hope to discover what you are truly capable of, where your talents lie and what your limitations are? That’s why, as well as goals, we need to set ourselves challenges. Challenges not only force us to learn, develop and grow, but also keep complacency and laziness at bay.

If you are a gym-goer,for instance, then you will probably be aware that every 6 weeks or so you have to increase the amount of weight you lift in order to challenge your muscles to grow stronger. A runner may find themselves increasing their distance or speed every few weeks. This is because the body adapts to the pressure it is put under after a few weeks and your progress begins to slow. This is why it is necessary to increase the pressure under which the body is placed, in order to keep your muscles adapting and developing.

Challenges come in many forms, not just physical. Studies have shown that, in the workplace, people not only need to feel appreciated but also challenged. Without challenging your brain, work can start to feel mundane and repetitive leading to the best staff heading for the exit. Outside of the workplace, our brains can still benefit from exercise, whether it take the form of puzzles, creative work, video games or anything else that forces you to learn and develop.

In short, all forms of challenge can;

  • Increase focus
  • Give you something to aim for
  • Force you to learn, grow and develop
  • Provide a huge confidence boost when overcome

While laying in hospital in a weakened state, I decided I needed a physical challenge which would motivate me to work hard on my health and fitness. So, after I was discharged, I took the plunge and entered 3 triathlons for next year. It’s been a few years since my last race and this is the perfect motivation to get me back on track. For me, a triathlon is one of the best physical challenges with 3 disciplines back to back. As your body tires, the temptation will present itself to keep stopping, slow down or give up. Persevering through the soreness, tiredness and negative self-talk is as important as your fitness levels and preparation for the race. The feeling when you cross the finish line in a triathlon is like nothing else, because you have not only taken on a physical challenge and won, but have also become mentally stronger in the process. I want to experience this feeling again next year, 3 times, so have already started easing myself into a training programme.

So far, we have only looked at voluntary challenges, by which I mean ones which we consciously choose. These, however, are not the only challenges we will face in life.

As we pursue our goals in life, no matter how well prepared we are, at some point we will hit a roadblock. As in many other difficult situations, there will be a temptation to give up and try something easier. A little voice in your head will also be telling you the same thing repeatedly. These situations, which seem terrible at the time, can be a blessing in disguise as they force you to reflect on your progress so far, what has led to this point and what you could learn from them. Once you overcome these unforeseen challenges, you will be able to get back to pursuing your goals while being wiser and more knowledgeable for the experience.

Whether you choose them specifically or they just happen, challenges are powerful forces for good. They force us to learn and grow, and stop us from stagnating in life and becoming bored or boring.

 

Never lose your inquisitive nature

“I think that’s the single best piece of advice; Think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself”

Elon Musk

In the last post we looked at the importance of integrity, and working to the best of your ability consistently over time. Giving your all, regardless of how you feel about your current role or situation, over time can open doors. There is, however, one special ingredient which is still missing but has the power to make a real difference.

That ingredient is questioning. You should never lose your inquisitive nature. As children, we question everything, but then, after years of formal education we find ourselves conditioned to question less and follow instructions more. We question less and less, until we become automatons simply going through the motions of day-to day life. If you are serious about your personal and professional development, though, you need to be rediscover your passion for asking questions and reflecting.

Questioning and reflection go hand in hand. When you question a particular process at work and identify an element which can be improved, for example, your next step is to reflect on your own strengths, skills and abilities and how they might be used to improve the process. Through questioning, you discover innovative ways to solve problems or improve processes but it doesn’t just end in the workplace. Questioning is important in our personal lives too.

By reflecting on and questioning the decisions which you make, you learn more about yourself. You become more self-aware. You also become more independent and less likely to follow the lead of others. You won’t do something just to please family and friends, because you know who you are, what you want and what makes you happy. In this way, you will be less inclined to settle but will rather challenge and push yourself to become and have more. Because you asked questions which helped you to better understand what it is that you want from life.

Questioning is the first step in the learning process. We ask the questions, we think of solutions and then identify our strengths and the gaps in our skills and knowledge before taking action. Through questioning we learn, develop, improve and grow.

Massive success, regardless of what it might look like to you, will not come overnight. It is rather the accumulation of consistently asking questions and seeking improvement while putting in the hard work and effort over time, and this is done one day at a time by focusing on what is in front of you right now.

“My success just evolved from working hard at the business in hand each day”

Johnny Carson

Fulfill Your Potential

Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses power of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.”

William James

 

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a philosopher and psychologist, widely regarded as one of the founders of modern psychology in America. The above views were published in January 1907, and 110 years later his words still ring true.

I am sharing the above quote today, as it describes perfectly the driving force behind my blog. This is why I started sharing my thoughts and experiences on personal development, in the hope that it might help or inspire others to start or continue on their own journey. Plus, I love writing which certainly helps.

We all have the potential within us to achieve success, maybe even greatness. Potential, alone, is not enough though. For all too many people, this potential remains unrealised either through fear or complacency. Some fear failure, others fear the disapproval of others, while on the other hand, there are people who reach a point in life where they become comfortable with what they have achieved or complacent. There are also the lazy and entitled among us, who believe that good things will come to them without their having to make any effort. Truth is, potential alone is not enough. You have to want to better yourself. Really want it so bad that you challenge yourself to make small improvements daily, which will in time help you to grow and develop to the point where you become and achieve what you could only dream about before.

If you really challenge yourself to be the best you can, it’s possible to achieve the unthinkable. Be under no illusion, the journey itself is a minefield and requires a lot of planning, hard work and difficulty. What you could achieve, however, if you persevere is priceless. This is why I write; to share my experiences, knowledge and ideas in the hope that it might motivate, inspire or help others.

Blogs, programmes, books, podcasts and videos can only help so much, though. After all, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t teach it how to drink. Potential, talent and knowledge will count for nothing if you don’t act upon it.

Will you fulfil your potential? I have no idea, only you can answer that. Depends on how much you want it and how hard you are prepared to work for it. So…will you?!

You hate your job…now what?!

Everyone has, at one time or another, reached this stage in their careers. They no longer enjoy their work and begin to think about leaving for pastures new. Some even consider starting their own businesses and being their own boss instead. While I would normally urge taking action and learning from your experiences, this is one area in which I would urge extra caution and a little more time spent in planning and preparing your next move.

Tempting as it may be to quit your job, it’s a big gamble. It could work out brilliantly. Then again, it might not. If it’s not thought out properly, the results could be disastrous. We all need money, for food, bills, rent, mortgage and living expenses and in order to keep earning this money, we have to work. It may not be the job you want or enjoy, but it supports your lifestyle. That is not to say that you should just carry on as you are. Too many people stay in unsuitable jobs for fear of failing to better themselves if they leave. When your job stops motivating you, and you begin to seriously contemplate quitting, this is a warning sign that it’s time to take action.

The most important thing to do is to figure out why you want to leave. What is it that this job no longer offers, which another one might do?  Do you really have to leave in order to get what you need or want? Next comes an attitude adjustment. Until you find another job or launch a business, your current job is where your head should be at. If you have become unhappy and distracted, switch your focus. Rather than thinking about what you are currently lacking, spend a week finding 3 things a day which you like about your job and for which you are grateful. Practicing gratitude is a very powerful and effective way to adjust your attitude when you become disillusioned.

Now that you have asked yourself some serious questions and adjusted your attitude, you need to plan your next step. Whatever your intention, you need to speak to your manager. This is the person who will provide a reference if you leave, after all. You never know, they may even be able to offer you a pay rise or a move to a different area within the company instead. You won’t know until you ask.

Not in any particular order, but there are a few things which you will need to do once you have decided that your future lies elsewhere. Firstly, find a new job first. This is not always possible, especially if you only take jobs with short-term contracts but if it is, this is the way to go. The truth is that it is easier to find a job when you are already working. There is a negative stigma attached to unemployment which can start alarm bells ringing for recruiters and hiring managers, putting you at a disadvantage. Once you have the ball rolling on this, audit your online presence. Google your name and see what comes up. Audit your social media accounts and remove anything potentially embarrassing. An increasing amount of recruiters are screening applicants in this way, as they can’t afford to have their reputation tarnished by an abusive social media outburst.

While applying for other jobs, look closely at the skills listed in the job adverts and think about how you could refresh these while in your current role. What staff development/ training opportunities can you take advantage of? This is a perfect opportunity to learn as much as you can before you leave which will help you in the future. Whatever you do, don’t become distracted and take your foot off the gas.

Lastly, if you are to leave don’t burn your bridges. Your current employer may become a client in the future, or a stakeholder, so it’s important to maintain some kind of relationship and goodwill. Work out your notice period as agreed with your manager, and in this time maintain your work ethic and integrity. That is not to say that you can’t, discreetly, seek out networking and business development opportunities before you leave.

If you have reached the end of the line and want to leave your current job, here are a few tips;

  • Reflect on the reasons behind your wish to leave. Do you want more money? Are you lacking a challenge? Is the commute too far?
  • Speak to your manager first. Be open and honest about your situation and how you feel. They may be able to facilitate a raise, one day a week of working from home or perhaps a secondment to another department/ division. Even if none of these appeal to you, your manager will be writing your reference so it’s important to maintain a good working relationship with them.
  • Update your details on your CV, LinkedIn profile and any other recruitment tools which you might be using in your job search.
  • Audit your social media accounts and online presence, as these will undoubtedly be visited by prospective employers or clients. Identify any red flags and edit your accounts accordingly.
  • Before you resign, take advantage of any staff development/ training opportunities which might make you more attractive to another employer. Think in terms of skills which you can refresh or gain a basic grasp of. Take advantage, too, of any networking opportunities. Any relationship which you forge now could, potentially, be carried forward into your next role.
  • Make sure you have enough money saved to support you for at least 6 months. This will ease the financial pressures of starting a new job or branching out on your own.
  • Lastly, having accepted a new role elsewhere or launched a business, continue to work to the best of your ability until the day you leave. This is, after all, a measure of your integrity. That is not to say that you can’t use any downtime to carry out some research for your next role, or use social media to promote your new business.

 

The untapped potential of your morning commute

For many people, the morning commute is something to be dreaded, whether it involves getting the bus, train, driving or walking. It’s regarded as nothing more than a necessary evil, which gets them to their workplace so that they can earn a living. Does it really have to be that way though?!

It’s easy to understand why this one particular journey, in the morning, is a source of stress for so many people. You wake up, wash, get dressed, have a quick breakfast and then leave the house to head for work. As you leave the house, you put on a pair of blinkers, which provides a dose of tunnel vision for your journey. You then either get in the car and fight the slow-moving traffic all the way to work, or find yourself fighting the crowds of fellow commuters to get on a train or bus. All that then happens is that you arrive at your place of work bored, tired, angry, annoyed, a bit flustered or just in a daze. None of this will set you up for a productive day.

Maybe i’m wired differently, but I enjoy commuting. For me it presents the perfect opportunity to get the day off to a positive start. In total I spend 3 hours every weekday getting to and from work, and I enjoy it because I make the most of the time spent travelling. I love to watch people and observe their behaviour, and it never ceases to amaze me how much time we waste. I see a lot of people listening to music, playing games on their phones, watching a film or just napping. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this. Not at all. But what if, instead of playing games or absentmindedly leafing through a newspaper, we chose to fight boredom by doing something a little more productive during our commute?

We have become so accustomed to leading fast-paced lives that we feel anxious whenever we have to slow down. The commute is seen almost like a race to work. We rush around to get ready, then rush to the car or station and then try to get to our destination as quickly as possible. Every day, without fail, I see people start checking their watches or nervously tapping their feet on the floor as soon as the train leaves the station. It’s almost as though they believe that their nervous energy can help the train to go faster.

I strongly believe that the morning commute to work is the ideal opportunity to get your day off to a good start. I love to read, and will spend the majority of my travelling time with my head in a book. Not only does this mean that I spend this time learning about a topic which I am interested in, but I arrive at the office more relaxed, more focused and with my brain wide awake and contemplating what I have just read. I don’t need time to adjust or get myself ready for the day ahead. I just make a coffee and then get started. Reading on the train really works well for me. Alongside the knowledge which I gain or the enjoyment which I experience, I also become immune to the many irritations that come with being in a confined space with lots of people. I don’t care if I get bumped, nudged or someone is talking loudly. I am focused on the book in my hand, so much so that even on the worst of days when delays and other irritations come all at once, I still arrive at work calm and happy.

If you don’t read, or drive a car so you can’t read, what then?! Modern technology has blessed us with audiobooks and podcasts on almost any topic you can think of. Pick one, and enjoy a dose of knowledge or escapism. Try to either read a book or listen to a podcast/ audiobook, for a week. Monitor your moods and how you start your day when you get to work during that time. Has it helped in any way?

As I said earlier, we tend to go about the majority of our days with tunnel vision, focused solely on what we are doing or where we are going. In doing this, we miss so much of the beauty of daily life, not to mention the opportunities it presents for happiness and enjoyment. Reading a book or listening to an audiobook focuses the mind. We are no longer fighting tiredness or daydreaming, because we have to be present in the moment in order to understand and make sense of what we are reading or listening to. As a result we turn off autopilot mode, and become more aware of what is happening around us, becoming more conscious and less ignorant of the people around us.

We spend so much time reviewing our daily routines and planning how to improve them as we chase our goals, but we overlook the greatest opportunity of all. The time we spend commuting not only presents us with an ideal opportunity to focus our minds, learn and develop but also ensures that we arrive at work motivated and ready for the day ahead. As you put your daily life under the microscope and look at how you can make improvements, take a good look at your commute and how you can harness its potential How can you use that time to make progress towards your goals?

 

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.

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.

 

Love your haters.

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”

Winston Churchill

Haters. Doubters. Naysayers. Critics. We all have them. Most have good intentions and mean well; just family and friends urging caution as we chase our big goals and dreams. They urge us to be realistic, play it safe and think smaller. They do it because they care, though. They want to see us succeeding and doing well, but fear that we might overreach and fail. It comes from a good place and they mean well, but it’s also a reflection of their own limitations. Perhaps they too chased big goals once, only to fall short, become discouraged and give up. Out of respect we should listen to what they have to say, as their experiences could provide priceless opportunities to learn from, but be careful not to let your spirit and passion be dampened.

Sometimes, however, criticism can come from a more sinister place. This is a dark place inhabited by curious lifeforms known as trolls, where the air is thick with the pungent smell of spite and jealousy. These people seem to exist solely to discredit, discourage or abuse people online. Maybe they resent the happiness of others. Perhaps they are jealous of the success of others. Perhaps they are unhappy with their own lives but too weak to address the cause of their misery. After all, it is easier to point out another’s flaws, weaknesses and shortcomings than to admit that you have your own and tackle them. Or maybe they were never taught kindness, respect and compassion. Who knows?! It’s not your responsibility to diagnose their ills and try to fix them. If you have worked on becoming more resilient, then this is one area in which it will pay off handsomely. With the increased self-awareness and confidence which you have developed, you will be able to see trolling as a cry for attention. You will neither take it personally nor give them the attention they so badly crave.

If the criticism is constructive, welcome the opportunity to learn and develop. If it isn’t, just do your best to ignore it and move on. In order to succeed, you need a thick skin. Most important of all, though, is not to lose your focus, passion, desire or drive. In order to persevere and stay on course in the face of criticism;

  • Remain open to constructive feedback, and act on that which you feel is relevant.
  • Keep reflecting on yourself, your journey, your work and your progress. Keep updating your targets and adapting to circumstances wherever necessary.
  • Just keep going.

 

Monday. Your Time To Shine

“Everyone has his day, and some days last longer than others”

Winston Churchill

Monday. Its mere mention is enough to instill fear in some of us, while filling others with eager anticipation. Why the contrast? In a word, outlook. Whether a person regards Monday positively or negatively, is largely dependent on their mindset, vision and attitude. Those who welcome the first day of the working week, are those who sense opportunity. These are the people who view the traditional working week as a chance to make progress towards their goals. Those who dread it, however, see the working week as a necessary evil. To them it is simply a means to an end; they suffer through the drudgery of the week so that they can enjoy themselves in the evenings and weekends.

Social media, and Instagram in particular, is slowly working to change Monday’s bad reputation though. How?! Through the humble hashtag, #Mondaymotivation. People are starting the week by sharing positive quotes which motivate them, or by simply declaring their determination to work tirelessly towards their goals. This, in turn, inspires others to change their attitude towards work and strive for more. After all, who wants to be left behind when everyone else becomes successful?!

Here are a few truths i’d like to remind you of. If you work hard enough, smart enough and for long enough you will succeed. If you are patient and persistent you will succeed. If you can bounce back from setbacks and bumps in the road without a loss of enthusiasm you will succeed. With self-awareness, passion, drive and purpose you will succeed.

Your time will come. If you want it badly enough, visualise it so well that you can reach out and touch it, and are constantly striving to learn, grow and improve, it will happen. For some this might last for no longer than a fleeting moment, but for others it may last much longer. There are various factors which can affect this, many of which are outside of our control, and there are no guarantees that we will be able to extend our 15 minutes of fame when it comes. That said, there a few steps that we can take to help prolong our success;

  • Keep going. The hard work and effort which brought you success…keep it up! All too often, people ease up when the good times come and turn their attention to enjoying their time in the spotlight. We should, of course, celebrate our successes but this is the perfect opportunity to make even more headway. If we stop innovating and making progress, we allow our competitors to catch up and overtake us.
  • Keep evaluating. Even when your hard work and effort is finally recognised, the work doesn’t stop there. In order to remain successful and relevant in your chosen arena, you need to keep reviewing and reflecting. You need to reflect on yourself and decide whether you need to set new goals and targets for yourself. You also need to reflect on your work, and what you have learned so far; is there anything that can be improved upon? how do you move it forward?
  • Keep networking. Markets, trends and fashions are constantly changing and evolving. What was popular yesterday might be seen as cringeworthy and to be avoided at all costs today. You need to stay relevant in your chosen arena if you want your success to be lasting. You need to do what you can to ensure that people continue talking about you, and the best way to do this is by networking. Connecting with your clients, suppliers, stakeholders, industry insiders or fanbase will help you to keep abreast of developments which may affect you.
  • Keep telling your story. People relate to each other best through stories. It’s our oldest form of communication. The way you tell your story, or market yourself, is crucial. As other competitors challenge you in your chosen industry or area of expertise, your story will help you stand apart from the crowd. In selling a story, people will feel as though they know and understand you better. This in turn fosters a sense of loyalty in your consumer or fanbase which can in turn translate into lasting success.

Talent vs Hard Work.

Which one wins? This is the age old question. Talent is a wonderful thing, and we all have it. Talent is what makes us unique, because we have an ability to do something in a way that precious few others can. The problem is that talent alone is not enough to bring achievement and success.

Identifying your talent is the easy bit; you just reflect on what you think you are good at, and also seek feedback form family and friends on where they think your strengths lie. Once you know where your talent lies, you then have to do something about it. In this respect, talent is very much like knowledge because they are both good to have, but useless unless you act upon them. How many young, talented players have been drafted into NBA, NFL or MLB teams but failed to live up to their potential? How many talented people graduate from universities only to struggle to make an impact in the business or creative world? We focus on those who do capitalise on the opportunities which they are given and become successful, but should also be learning from the talented individuals who fail to live up to their potential.

There has been plenty of research carried out in this area, and one of the most interesting findings is that talent requires focused practice. 10,000 hours of it to be precise. In studies of successful sportsmen and women, and musicians past and present, it was found that they each averaged around 10,000 hours of focused practice on their talent before they became successful. In other words, talent needs hard work and patience to become a success. Lots of it.

Which brings me to my thoughts on this question of talent vs hard work. I strongly believe that there is no substitute for hard work. A good work ethic will open doors to wonderful opportunities, whereas a poor work ethic will leave you floundering. In order to become successful in your chosen arena, you must be prepared to outwork your competition. This means being smarter in the way you work and being constantly on the lookout for ways to develop and grow. This needs to be coupled with patience and persistence, as there is no shortcut to achievement. Too many people focus on the overnight success, which is misleading and a myth. It focuses on the end result, which may appear to have come out of nowhere, but was in reality the culmination of much blood, sweat and countless months of toiling away in anonymity. Talent can help, but I believe it comes second to passion and a strong work ethic.

Talent alone will not get you very far. Greatness comes from hard work, patience and having the resilience and perseverance to deal with adversity. In the battle of hard work vs talent, hard work wins every time.

Discipline

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory was over themselves. Self-discipline with all of them came first”

Harry S Truman

When exploring the multitude of factors which have the power to influence or contribute to our happiness and success, there is one which reigns supreme. Discipline. Mastery over the self, and a certain level of control over our emotions and impulses, can bring serious benefits to all areas of our lives from our health and fitness to our relationships with others, our professional lives and everything in-between.

There have been a number of studies over the years which have explored the power and benefits of discipline in depth, and if there is one common theme, it is that those who practice self-discipline are often happier as a result. Better yet is the fact that discipline is a learned behaviour. It is not something that you are born with, but rather it’s within reach for all of us. So, if you want to become more disciplined, it is entirely possible as long as you put the effort and hard work in. And hard work it most certainly is. In order to become disciplined, you must master the self. This means becoming more aware of who you are, what motivates you, your hopes and fears and your vision for the future. Furthermore, you become more acutely aware of your emotions and what triggers them, leading you to becoming more effective at controlling them as well as your impulses. This culminates in a person developing a sense of balance and becoming more able to make better informed and more rational decisions, which are not governed by impulse and emotion. Your decision-making process becomes proactive and guides you towards your goals as you spend less time and energy simply reacting to the world around you.

Becoming more disciplined requires constant practice and reflection, but the results are more than worth the hard work and effort required. Alongside the increased self-awareness and impulse control, as you work on becoming more disciplined, you will find bad habits being broken and replaced with healthier, more productive ones.

When it comes to the “how” of becoming more disciplined, there is no singular, winning formula. This stands to reason, as we are all unique and on our own individual journeys towards our vision of success. There are, however, a few proven and popular methods, and i’ll end with my top 4;

  • Expressing gratitude. We live in an age of consumerism and are relentlessly bombarded with messages about things that we need to buy in order to be happy. The result is that we spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy focusing on what we lack, and how important it is for our future happiness to have it. Essentially, we are allowing our impulses and actions to be manipulated by clever marketers and salespeople. If you want to become more disciplined, you need to take control here. This starts with a shift towards appreciation and gratitude. Focus, instead, should be switched to what you already have and are grateful for.
  • Eating healthier foods, sleeping well and exercising regularly. Fighting temptation and cravings in order to lead a healthier lifestyle will build a healthy mind as well as a healthy body. As the saying goes, “Mens sana in corpore sano” or “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.
  • Organisation. This is one area which you can practice at work, as well as at home, in order to become more disciplined. In becoming more organised, you become better able to prioritise tasks and manage your time effectively, as well as your emotions and energy levels.
  • Resilience. Discipline is also about willpower and mental strength, and the one area where this guaranteed to be regularly tested is in our response to setbacks. As you develop the ability persevere through hard times, you will find yourself becoming more disciplined. This, in turn, will help you to develop the strength to bounce back from challenges and get yourself back on the path towards your goals.

 

 

 

 

Ego

Recently, we looked at the beauty of humility, but today I would like to discuss its arch-nemesis, the ego. The word “ego” comes from the Latin, meaning “I”, and unless it is kept in check, it is a powerful force that has the potential to undo much of your good work.

Ego often gets confused with confidence but it is important to understand that these are 2 very different concepts. Confidence is a belief, and faith, in your skills and abilities. It is something that, when we work on it, can improve our lives and open the door to opportunities. Ego, on the other hand is about self-interest. When the ego takes over, we crave the validation and approval of others in order to justify what we do and how we do it. Ego is a very destructive force.

The problem with ego is that it doesn’t like feedback. Ego assumes that you already know everything and have nothing to learn. To the ego it is a sign of weakness to admit that you don’t have all the answers. In turn, the egotistical overestimate their abilities, skills and knowledge and miss opportunities. In opening yourself up to feedback from others, you also open the door to potential opportunities for learning, growth and progress. The ego, however, makes sure that this particular door remains locked, bolted and boarded up.

As we become more self-aware, some are taking it to the extremes and becoming self-obsessed and self-centered. If this is not addressed, it can wreak habit our our personal lives and relationships as well as our professional lives and businesses. There is a balance between humility and confidence, which we should strive to find. In order to keep the ego in check and stop it from taking over, I have found the following very effective;

  • Allow yourself extra time before making decisions or taking action. Wherever possible, stop and think first. In this way, you are more likely to be calmer and more focused as you take your next step.
  • Practice gratitude. Be thankful for what you have achieved and experienced so far. Celebrate your successes and achievements, but also acknowledge others who have helped and supported you on your journey so far.
  • Take responsibility and ownership. Just as you celebrate your successes, take responsibility for setbacks and failures too. Rather than complain, or ignore it altogether, focus on how you will recover and bounce back. Share your experiences, negative as well as positive, so that others may be inspired and learn too.

Life itself is a journey of learning, discovery and development, so admitting that we don’t have all the answers just makes us human, and humble. More likeable too.

 

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.

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?!

 

Gratitude

Gratitude is infectious, and easy to practice. Try it. Take 5 minutes out of your day to stop and reflect on 3 things which you have to be thankful for. Make a note of them, either mentally, electronically or with good old pen and paper. Now, as your focus shifts to these opportunities for which you are grateful, you will discover even more to be appreciative of. This, in turn, has the power to improve your mood and outlook, making your days feel brighter and more fulfilling. Motivation levels are thus topped up, focus is shifted back to your goals and your progress towards them, and the small, seemingly mundane daily tasks which all add up to propel you towards your goals become a lot more pleasant.

Practicing gratitude can have a positive impact in a multitude of ways, providing a healthy boost to our brains, bodies, relationships and everything in between. It’s a healthy human emotion, with therapeutic powers and physiological benefits which are endless. The more you express gratitude, the more opportunities you will attract for which to be grateful. This is supported by science, neuroscience to be exact, which has revealed that the expression of gratitude can play a role in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter in the body, manufactured in the brain and intestines,  which is thought to regulate mood and social behaviour, as well as sleep, memory, digestion and sexual function.

In essence, as soon as you start to find reasons to be grateful, your mood lifts as your serotonin levels raise. This improves your mood and outlook further, opening your eyes to even more opportunities to express gratitude and improving your body language and behaviour in such a way as to potentially attract even more to be thankful for. This is known as a virtuous cycle, in which the initial benefit of expressing gratitude generates ever more opportunities to express gratitude, with our mood and behaviour improving to attract even more to be thankful for.

The relatively small step of finding 3 initial things for which to be grateful has the potential, over time, to play a huge role in guiding you on your journey towards success.

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.

You are what you read

If there is one thing that many leaders and successful people have in common, it is a thirst for knowledge. Not all, but the majority of these people see their development as a life-long, continuous process and are constantly seeking to learn and grow before taking action. Others, however, prefer to skip the first part and just learn through experience, which is also a powerful teacher. That said, taking action without a good understanding of what you want to achieve is as reckless as it is bold. There is a fine balance between learning and making plans, and taking action which leads to learning experiences. You need a knowledge base, plans and goals but this all amounts to nothing if you don’t act upon them. As I have stated previously, we should be wary of spending too much time and attention on making plans, and be prepared to take action and learn from the experiences.

All day every day, we are bombarded with information, and demands are placed on our attention, but those who have an appetite for knowledge and learning are very deliberate in what they choose to focus on. Rather than reaching for the tv remote or a newspaper, they read a book, magazine or a blog article on a topic which interests them. Rather than binge-watch the latest drama series on Netflix, they will more likely be found watching TED talks, documentaries or Youtube videos on a topic related to their goals and development. The internet has created an explosion in resources, available in an instant and accessible from anywhere, that can help us on our journeys of self discovery and achievement. The greatest challenge, however,  lies in separating the wheat from the chaff. That is to say, we need to be careful in choosing which resources we will be devoting our time and attention to, focusing on feeding our minds with positive input which is of good quality. After all, that which we choose to feed our minds, in turn influences our thoughts, mindset, attitude, decisions and actions. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you have goals which you are striving towards and you want to become successful in a particular area, that you select good quality sources of information which could help you on your journey of learning and development.

Education does not end when your time in the classroom does. We are naturally curious, and as such should be using that curiosity, and our free time, to constantly learn and push ourselves to become, and achieve, more. Read a book or magazine article written by a great philosopher, influential person or thought leader, watch a documentary or take advantage of the internet or your local library. Good quality resources offer the opportunity to expand your mind and help you grow.

Social media also has a role to play. Humans are social beings, so it helps to associate with influential people who are leaders in their particular field, while also networking with other like-minded people with whom to share and discuss ideas. LinkedIn is just one of many platforms which, if used wisely, has much to offer in this area.

In short, we should be more careful and deliberate when choosing what we pay attention to and how we spend our time. Great progress requires great effort and sacrifice after all.

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.

Embracing failure

Embrace failure. This is the catchy message we are bombarded with through business books, articles and social media outlets. What does it actually mean, though?

Failure can mean different things to different people, as everyone has their own idea of what success and failure look like. The dictionary, however, offers 2 definitions of failure, as either “the nonperformance of an assigned or expected action” or “a falling short of one’s goals”. For the purpose of this post, we will be using the second definition.

Failure can come in many different forms, and when it does we need to take time to reflect upon it and put it into perspective. Failure itself can come in the guise of bad decision making, an inability to change or adapt to circumstances, poor planning or poor execution and everything in between.

The danger with failure is that it has the potential to lead to further failure, unless we learn from it and use it to inform the changes which will lead to future success. Failure itself has such a negative connotation that many choose to hide theirs rather than take ownership of them and embrace them. This is perpetuated by the misconception that in embracing failure you are admitting defeat or lowering your standards. This is very damaging to your progress , as when you adopt this thinking, you become oblivious to the fact that sometimes you need to go back to the beginning and start again, armed with new knowledge gained from this failure.

Failure makes us feel vulnerable, but when we accept that everyone fails and embrace it as a fact of life, it can benefit us in many ways, the following just a few of them;

  • Learning. Most of what we learn is through trial and error, with some of our best lessons being learned as a result of failure.
  • Inspiration. When we reflect on our failures, they can serve to inspire and motivate us to try again, armed with what we have learned from the experience.
  • Humility. Failure reminds us that we are not infallible, but human.
  • Lower aversion to risk. Having failed, learned from the experience and moved forward, you become less fearful of taking calculated risks.

When failure is embraced properly, you overcome the associated fear and disappointment. In doing this, you move from a negative mindset to a positive one in which failure is regarded as a learning experience.