Purpose, Goals and Happiness

If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes

Andrew Carnegie

Happiness is an internal job, largely determined by what we allow to take up our time, focus and attention. It doesn’t lie in money, status or material possessions, but in determining our purpose in life and living in accordance with it.

So, it stands to reason that if you want to be happy, you need to do some work on yourself. Put your money away, and log off your computer. Instead, pick up a pen and notepad, and answer the following questions honestly;

  • Self reflection. What do you really want from life? What do you value? What are your priorities? When are you at your happiest and most productive? What are your non-negotiables?
  • Current status. Now that you have reminded yourself what is most important in your life, and what you feel to be your “why” for doing what you do every day, it’s time to check where you are with this right now. Are you living in accordance with your purpose, beliefs and values? Are you making progress in the right direction? Now that you can see the bigger picture, where are you right now?
  • Goal setting. With the big picture of your life fresh in your mind, this is the time to revisit your goals. Do your goals reflect your purpose and what you hold dear? If not, change them. It’s no big deal. Sometimes we cling to goals, circumstances and relationships which we have grown because we fear what might happen if we let go. Life is all about change. As we grow, learn and develop, our needs, wants and priorities change too. This is why it’s important to reflect on yourself regularly, and if something’s not working for you, change it. Change is not to be feared, but a natural part of a fulfilling life.
  • Planning and action. With your goals fresh in your mind, determine the timeline and what resources you have at your disposal. Where are your strengths? What areas do you need to work on? Where do you anticipate any potential problems arising? With your plan set, all that’s left now is to take determined action. Throughout the journey which you are embarking on, be constantly aware of what is or isn’t working. Be brave, and use this feedback to adapt your approach and keep you marching onward towards your goals.

When you know who you are, what’s important to you and what your purpose in life is, expect to feel happy. Genuine, lasting happiness. The kind of happiness which is contagious and will attract the right people into your life.

Expect happiness, you say? Yes. When you live in accordance with your purpose, and set goals which reflect this, deep down you know at all times what you are working towards. Every action you take, every day, no matter how small, is getting you closer to your goal, one step at a time. This is where genuine happiness comes from. You don’t need millions in the bank, houses, cars and luxury goods. You don’t need to chase other people or change who you are to be accepted by them. You will face challenges and have bad days. Other people will try and discourage you from your path. None of that will matter, though, and you will be unstoppable. Why? You have something much bigger – a purpose, goals which reflect this purpose, and a plan of how to get there. All of this depends on you, how much you want it and how hard you are prepared to work for it. The power to bring positive results into your life is in your hands alone, and what you make of the opportunities which you have. This is where true happiness comes from.

Be yourself, and live your life on your own terms, as you want. Then, you will find true happiness.

Man’s real life is happy, chiefly because he is ever expecting that it soon will be so

Edgar Allan Poe

When The Going Gets Tough…

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps

Confucius

Once you decide that you want something so badly in your life that you turn it from a wish into an actual goal, don’t let anything stop you from reaching that goal. Keep going until you make it happen. This is what we are commonly told, but it can often be easier said than done though.

The reality is that you will encounter obstacles and setbacks as your strive towards your goals, and at some point it might even become clear that the path which you are currently on will not get you to your goal. At this stage, you will be tempted to admit defeat and give up, but you must fight this urge with every ounce of your being. Resist the temptation, too, to curse your luck or feel sorry for yourself. Instead, go back to the drawing board and plan a different path. Ask yourself;

  • What has worked well so far?
  • What are my strengths?
  • Where are the gaps in my skills or knowledge? Is there somebody who could help me or a book I should read?
  • What is not working in the current approach?
  • Knowing what I now do, how can I adjust my approach so that I can still achieve my goal?

When you refuse to bend or be broken by obstacles and setbacks, but rather rise to the challenges, your life will change for the better. You become more resilient as your outlook on life becomes more positive. Instead of being frustrated by setbacks and obstacles, you begin to see them as challenges to be overcome. As you overcome more and more challenges, you grow and develop into a more positive and resilient person. You become the kind of person you need to be in order to achieve the goals which you set for yourself.

If you change your goal to make it easier to achieve every time things get tough, you will get used to playing it safe and taking the path of least resistance in life. In doing so, you will never realise your full potential, because it is in facing challenges and overcoming them that we discover who we really are and what we are capable of. Doing the hard things which make you feel uncomfortable is the best way to conquer self-doubt, and it’s self-doubt which causes people to adjust or abandon their goals when times get tough.

Believe that there is always a way to make the impossible possible. What seems beyond your reach today, could still be yours if only you change your approach. Believe that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to, and that when times get hard, you just need to work harder and smarter. Believe that there is nothing wrong with your goals, you just need to find a better way to reach them.

Adjusting your approach is not an admission of failure, it’s part of the journey towards success. We try things, keeping what works and changing what doesn’t, and we do this this until we achieve what we have set out to. This is how we learn, develop and grow.

It’s Good To Want Success

It’s good to want success (whatever that may look like to you). In fact, it’s important to recognise what you truly want in life, and to go after it. That is what gives us a sense of purpose, giving meaning to our lives. By visualising the future we want and going after it, we find ourselves no longer taking life day by day and just letting things happen. We become proactive and strive every day to get ourselves closer to our objective. Moreover, we embark on a journey of self-discovery, growth and personal development.

Appreciate the journey, as tough as it might be, but don’t lose yourself along the way.  The temptation will present itself, at times, to shift your focus and your goals to chase something more likely to bring fame and fortune, but which goes against who you are and what you believe in. Don’t sell out, but instead stay true to yourself. No amount of extra money or material gain is worth risking your inner peace. The struggles you will encounter provide priceless lessons, making you stronger and more self-aware. They are one of life’s greatest teachers, so make sure you keep taking notes and reflecting along the way, as you never know when you might benefit from revisiting your journal for a bit of revision, or to see how far you have come since you started.

Not everyone will share your passion, enthusiasm or vision. Please do not hold it against them. They may be fighting their own demons, and not in a position to focus on personal and professional development. In this instance, be there for them and support them. Let them know that they are not alone. On the other hand, they might have reached a point in life where they are comfortable with what they have achieved. They’ve got the job they want, have met their soulmate and have a family. These people don’t have the inclination to set ambitious goals and take big risks in chasing them. Instead, they just want to enjoy the life which they have forged. When others have made this decision in their own lives, please respect it. Don’t try to convince them to copy you in embarking on their own journey of self discovery. Just be happy for them.

Do not compare your life with that of anybody else. This is far from easy, though, because we live in an age of digital peacocks, where people flock to social media to show off how many nice, shiny things they have or how accomplished they are. Do not fall into this trap. See social media for what it really is; a fantasy world. It’s just a bit of entertainment. Does it really make any difference to your life how many Rolex watches someone has?! Again, it a world of make-believe, so enjoy it but don’t take it seriously. Resist the urge to waste money unnecessarily trying to keep up with these social media celebrities. Invest in yourself and your dreams instead. Your future self will thank you for it. Determine who you are and what you want from life. Decide what you want to achieve, set concrete goals and go after them with passion and determination.

Whatever happens, be patient. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, learn from them and move on. Your life will blossom and develop according to the rate at which you work on yourself and your goals. The harder you work at it, consistently, the sooner you are likely to see results. That said, don’t be disheartened if it takes slightly longer than you anticipated, because there are often external factors, outside of our control, which can slow down our progress.

Resist the temptation to fixate on the time frame in which others have achieved that which you desire. You will develop and grow at your own rate. After all, flowers don’t grow at the same rate.

 

Your Life Is Your Responsibility Alone

Stop waiting for others to make your dreams come true. They have dreams of their own…they’re not worried about yours.

Tim Grover

This is one of the most important life lessons which we all need to be aware of, at all times. In short, our lives, and the direction which they take, are our responsibility alone. Each person is answerable for the life which they lead, and whether it’s one full of progress and achievement, or frustration and missed opportunities. Of course, we seek guidance, advice and direction from family, friends, mentors and various other sources, but what we do with the information they provide is up to us. Nobody else can live your life for you. You’re the one who has to decide whether the advice you receive is relevant to you, and what action you will take (if any) to implement it into your life.

Technology, and the ease of access to information, has blessed us with a level playing field. Now, everybody with internet access can find the information and help which they need, if they care enough to look for it. One of the things which separates the successful from the average people is not access to knowledge, but the willingness to apply that knowledge and take action. There is no excuse for living an average life, unless that is what you truly want.

Seeking the advice or assistance of others is not a bad thing by any means. You just need to understand that another’s opinion is based on their own experiences and limitations, and while something might have worked for them, it might not be relevant to you. If a friend doesn’t agree with a goal which you are working towards, so what?! They might not like it, but that doesn’t matter because it’s what you really want in your own life. Letting other peoples’ opinions dictate your life will only lead to anger, frustration, resentment and regret.

Don’t allow someone who has had their dream killed, to kill yours. Don’t allow someone who accepted their limitations, to limit you.

Prince Ea

I’ll let you into a little secret…very few people really care about your dreams, ambitions and goals. They will voice their support, or their misgivings, but their priority is themselves. They have families to raise and goals of their own to chase. You can’t wit around for them to validate yours.

For a long time I was stuck in this trap. I would seek the advice, help or opinions of others whenever I set out to achieve a goal. If they didn’t like the goal, I would allow their negativity to dent my confidence and give up. Or, I would wait to be told what to do and how to do it, instead of just taking action and figuring it out for myself. The change I made in my life was about taking responsibility, and trusting my instincts. I had an honest brainstorming session about my life’s direction, asking myself the below questions. This gave me clarity about who I was, what I wanted and my life had purpose and direction breathed into it. While I still share my goals and journey with others, I apply a filter to their opinions and advice, asking myself what they have based it on and if it’s relevant or helpful to me. This has given me back my confidence, because I know what I want and how I can get it. I take action towards my goals every day, without waiting for others. Knowing that my destiny is in my own hands, gives me the confidence, drive and responsibility that has enabled me to really turn my life around. I wish the same for you, which is why I share this.

Stop relying on other people to tell you how to live your life, give you permission or do the hard work for you. Take ownership of your life. It’s yours, and up to you what you do with it. Not all advice you receive will be relevant, and not all opinions which you hear are worthy of acknowledgement.

Take yourself somewhere quiet, and think carefully about what you want from life;

  • What is your purpose in life, or your calling?
  • What do you want to achieve? What are your goals?
  • What is important to you?
  • What principles and standards do you live by? What are/ aren’t you prepared to accept in life?
  • What does a happy, accomplished life look like to you?
  • What kind of people do you want in your life? Do you need to reconsider who you are spending time with?

Once you have an idea of who you are and what you want from life, you will feel empowered like never before. This is more than just motivation though, because once you know what you want, you can then go after it with passion and determination. You will no longer drift aimlessly through life while hoping for the best, but more importantly, you won’t let the opinions of others affect your confidence and derail your efforts.

 

 

How Deeply Do You Want To Win?

When a man desires a thing so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win

Thomas Edison

Do you dream about leading a successful, fulfilled life? Because if it’s just a dream, hope or a wish, then that is how it will remain. Or do you crave it, want it and feel drawn by it with every once of your being? Is it your first thought when you wake up in the morning and your last thought at night? Does it drive your thoughts, decisions and actions every day?

Desire is an intense motivation to achieve whatever you believe to be worthwhile, against all odds. With deep desire, you will be unstoppable in pursuit of your goals. You won’t let obstacles stop you, and you won’t be prepared to take no for an answer. You will do whatever it takes, until you make your desire a reality.

Thing is, we all know what we would like to have. We all know what we want, because social media dictates that to us; nice cars, big houses, fancy clothes….so we chase material goals. The problem here is that when we buy that Rolex or Maserati, the initial joy is replaced by a sense of emptiness. So we set a bigger material goal and go after it. We never stop, however, to consider why we want these things. We never stop to consider the direction we want our lives to take, or the people we want to become because we get caught up in a cycle of craving nice things, obtaining them and then moving on to the next shiny trinket.

I was caught up in this vicious cycle for far too long. I won lots of times, or at least thought I did because I had nice things and a comfortable life. But my confidence was low. I would achieve something, then immediately feel empty. Things would go badly, and I would give up. All this happened because I lost sight of what I truly desired in life, and was living without purpose. My life felt like a lazy river waterpark ride. It was as though I was floating on a slow moving river being gently carried along, no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted.

I lived this way for far too long, and it took a serious illness which very nearly cost me my life for me to address the direction of  my life. It took me losing everything before I finally decided to ask myself what my vision for my life really was, not what others wanted for me. I determined not to waste a moment more of my life, and once I got home I put pen to paper and wrote down what I truly desired from life. What I wanted personally, professionally and financially. This gave me purpose, direction, hunger and my life took on a new meaning. I set my goals, drew up my plan and went after it with passion and desire. Going after what I truly desired was a very expensive act, though. It cost me everything, including my relationship. However, my life now had meaning. I had hit rock bottom but I was happy because I knew what I truly desired, and where my life was headed.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I lost everything but I knew what I wanted my life to look like. This was last November and since then, life has been better than ever. I am happier and more fulfilled than ever. I know who really cares about me, and have rid myself of fake friends and hangers-on. I am more self-aware than ever, more successful than ever and have reconnected with my faith, family and friends in a deeper way than ever. How? Because I know what I truly desire in my life, and knowing this has helped me find a new level of energy and strength which I never knew I had.

So what do you really desire? To achieve financial independence? A successful acting career? To positively influence the lives of others? Take a moment to honestly reflect on what drives you and write it down. What does your heart really crave? If you had a billion pounds in the bank, and money was no longer a worry, what would you choose to do with your life? How do you want to be perceived? What reputation do you want to have? What contribution do you want to make? What legacy do you want to leave?

Unless you know what makes your heart sing, and what you deeply want, your life will lack direction and purpose. This is dangerous because you could find yourself a slave to outside influences such as money or the opinions of others. Take control of your life by taking control of your life’s direction. How can you do this? By becoming clear on what you want from life

When you want something deeply enough, you will find a way to make it happen. Why? Because when you really want something you will do whatever it takes to make it happen. You will work harder than you have ever done before in your life. You will live and breathe your goals. Your approach to them will be relentless. Most importantly though, you will give meaning, passion and direction to your life.

So, what do you really want? Determine this and then get after it.

If you limit yourself only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise

Anaïs Nin

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.

Be Selective About Who You Give Your Time And Attention To

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

Mark Twain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Inspection Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reality Check

On January 1st, countless people declared their resolutions to themselves and others, about what they would be achieving in 2018. Social media was full of these declarations. You couldn’t start a conversation with anyone without the topic of goals and resolutions coming up. People then embarked on their journeys with real vigour, sharing their progress with the world through Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or whatever other social media platform they could think of. These posts then receive a healthy sprinkle of likes and positive, encouraging comments. It’s what you do at this time of year. You make resolutions, chase after them and then tell the world. If you don’t jump on the bandwagon, you can feel left out or as though you are about to miss out on something. Personally, resolutions which come around once a year have never worked for me. What does work is to set myself clear goals before embarking on a journey of learning, personal development and the discovery of who and what I am. That is not to say that I do not respect resolutions, or believe that they can’t work. They can. Without a doubt. It’s just that in my case, I have always lacked the discipline to stick with mine and let laziness and excuses take over. My personal record for keeping New Year’s Resolutions going stands at around 19 days. Terrible, I know.

As we enter the third week of January, the time is ripe for some review and reflection. Whether you set yourself big resolutions once a year, or a series of smaller goals as stepping stones to big, brave goals, review and reflection is essential to making progress. After all, if you don’t stop to take stock of where you are in relation to where you want to be, how will you know if you are making progress? By reviewing and reflecting, you get an idea of what you have learned so far and what you have yet to learn. It can also help to identify potential roadblocks and obstacles which you might encounter, helping you to deal with them efficiently if they do happen.

We review and reflect as part of the goal-setting process and personal development journey, so why can’t we do the same with New Year’s Resolutions? They fail and we give up because we don’t review our progress and top up our motivation levels. We keep it up for as long as we can, but then reality kicks in and we have to return to work and the kids go back to school and it suddenly gets a whole lot harder to keep the resolutions going. Review and reflection is the key factor which could help more people to stay committed and on course to achieve a breakthrough in 2018. It is not easy, though, if you are not used to it and it does take a bit of practice before you can become comfortable with a bit of honest reflection. To help, here are a few of the points and questions I consider during my own reflection. Grab a pen and a notepad or journal, and start reflecting. You could, of course use an ipad, laptop or smartphone, but I find that keeping all of your reflections together in a journal makes it easier to revisit them later and remind yourself of how far you have come and the challenges which you have overcome so far.

  • Where are you now in relation to your goal or resolution? How close are you to achieving it? What do you still have to do before you can declare success?
  • What has worked well so far? What are the positives that you can take from this experience?
  • What issues or problems have you encountered? If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
  • Are you the same person now as when you started? What has the experience taught you? Is your mindset still the same as before?
  • How have you felt throughout the experience? Has it been overall a very positive journey which you have been on? Are you still as motivated now as when you started?
  • Of everything which you have learned so far, what could you implement now to help you as you strive to reach the finish line?

Your mindset and outlook are crucial in determining the success of your resolutions. Instead of thinking of them as something that you do once a year and sustain for as long as you can, treat each resolution as a big goal to be worked towards. Embrace the journey to reach that big goal as a learning experience, with regular checkpoints along the way to review your progress and determine whether your route needs a slight adjustment or not. Don’t just focus on the end result which you desire, but open your mind to the possibilities that the journey itself offers, and how it can help you to grow.

 

 

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Action is the foundational key to all success

Pablo Picasso

A rolling stone gathers no moss (Publilius Syrus). Of all the sayings and quotes which have stuck with me over the years, this one is up there with my favourites because it speaks volumes. For me, the “moss” refers to the dangers of stagnation, comfort and complacency. If you keep taking action and moving forward, however, you will likely find yourself full of fresh ideas and creativity.

Another interpretation for the “moss” is as a roadblock on the journey towards your goals. No matter how well you have planned for it and how decisive the actions you take, you will encounter challenges and problems on your journey towards your goals. It’s only natural, and happens to all of us. Becoming a “rolling stone” is what will help you to overcome these roadblocks, and set yourself apart from those who fall short of their goals. A rolling stone keeps moving, and in doing so gathers momentum. So it stands to reason that when you are serious about achieving your goals, you become more like that stone. When disaster strikes, don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself and give up, but rather learn from the experience, apply that knowledge and keep moving forward.

I started this blog because I have a passion for learning and development, and what we can do to reach our potential. I write to inform, inspire, provoke thought and motivate through my own efforts as well as the poems, books or quotes which have moved me. Credited to Publilius Syrus, the rolling stone quote is up there with the best of them. To me it tells the importance of taking action towards your goals. As you take action, no matter how small, you start to build momentum. Consistently take action and momentum will increase to the point where your progress becomes almost unstoppable. Success is intoxicating. Experience it, even just a small victory, and you will want more. Lots more. So you capitalise on this newfound motivation and take more action, and bigger steps. Any problems you encounter will not derail your efforts, but merely provide a learning opportunity. As a result, you keep moving forward and making progress, in the process learning, becoming and achieving more than you thought possible.

The key here is to take action. By taking action, you not only move forward in the direction of your goals but you also discover more about yourself and who you are. You get a clearer idea what your purpose in life might be. Don’t just take my humble word for it, though. It has been phrased much better than I could have hoped by someone far wiser than me;

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.

Thomas Jefferson

So what does the process of taking action look like? Before you start, you will need to reflect honestly on who you are and what you hope to achieve in life. This will inform the goals which you will then set for yourself and how you plan to achieve them. Only once you know who you are and what you want, you are ready to embark on your journey.

Set out each day to take at least one step in the direction your goals, no matter how small. Alternatively, you could always take the easy option and do as little as possible, provided that you are happy to suffer a life of mediocrity and missed opportunities. The choice is yours. Do you take the risks and put in the hard work now in order to achieve your goals and live a fulfilled life, or do you settle for less than you are capable of and suffer later in life from regret over the missed opportunities and your unrealised potential?

Choose wisely.

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.

John F Kennedy

Dream big. Aim high. Fulfill your potential

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, but that it is too low and we reach it

Michelangelo

Demand more of yourself. Put the work in. Push yourself and challenge your limits to discover what you are truly capable of. We were not given the gift of life, making it this far, to now simply stumble along. We are here for a reason and have an untapped well of  potential within us. I say it’s time that we made the most of it.

Reflection, planning and goal setting are things that we should all be doing at regular intervals. Along with reviewing progress, reflecting on experiences and learning and adapting. Sprinkle that with a healthy dose of unglamorous, thankless hard work, and you have the recipe for achievement and success. There is, however, a catch.

The steps above, as with the act of learning itself, are a lifelong process. If you stop setting goals and pursuing them with hunger and determination, you will eventually stagnate. That is why New Year’s Resolutions do not work. Resolutions are made once a year and with no plan  of action. Therefore, when the initial excitement and novelty wears off, resolutions going out of the window for another year.

When you do set goals and take action, make sure that they are your own. Another thing that we see all too often is people watching and wanting to become like the latest social media influencer or celebrity. Be yourself. More importantly, be true to yourself. What I mean by this is that when you set a goal for yourself, it should be to achieve something that you want for yourself. It should be dictated by a desire which burns deep within you and won’t go away.

One of the main reasons people play it safe and don’t push themselves as far as they could, is self-doubt. They pay too much attention to that little negative voice, the one which tells them that they are not smart enough, experienced enough or skilled enough to succeed. If you have started to believe that you are not talented enough, and are letting a perceived lack of talent hold you back, you need to stop and get a grip of yourself. Talent is actually far less important than people assume. It’s hard work and perseverance which really matter.

Success isn’t the same as talent. The world is full of incredibly talented people who never succeed at anything.

Tim Grover

Do yourself a favour and ignore that negative voice. Actually, you can do yourself an even bigger favour, and stop letting negative people dissuade you from chasing big scary goals. When people belittle your ambitions, it’s a reflection of their limitations and not yours. Swap these naysayers for people who believe in you and support your goals.

Surround yourself with those who want you to succeed. people who don’t pursue their own dreams won’t encourage you to pursue yours

Tim Grover

You have nothing to lose by setting ambitious goals and pursuing them. Along the way you will grow and develop, achieving wonderful things and becoming the best version of yourself. That’s not such a bad thing is it?

 

What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?

Grant Cardone

The Fire Within

January. The most wonderfully deluded time of the year. Everyone is keen to share their New Year’s Resolutions with anybody who will listen, and social media is full of every variation of the good old “New Year, New Me” post. Please forgive my cynicism, but come February 1st how many people will still be living their new lifestyle and still be working towards their resolutions? In my 36 years, i’ve made a lifetime’s worth of resolutions only to see them go out of the window not long after. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. People can and do make lasting resolutions and changes, and it’s something that anybody can do. How, I hear you ask…

The answer is simple, the only ones still standing next month and beyond will be those whose motivation is intrinsic. This means that their motivation comes from within. It’s more than just the pursuit of a goal which will earn a reward, it’s their purpose, their reason and their “why”.

For many people, their motivation is extrinsic, or motivated by external sources. This means that they are chasing their goals in the hope of achieving some kind of external reward, be it new clothes which they will treat themselves to if they lose enough weight, a promotion at work or the approval of others, for example.

The problem for those motivated by the hope of some external reward (extrinsic motivation) is that it doesn’t last. It simply cannot last. Sounds harsh, but it is also the truth. I know, because I have had to find this out the hard way over the years.

Externally motivated goals only work in the short-term and the reason is simple. Life is a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs. During the ups, extrinsic motivation works just fine, but it’s during the down times that it falls apart. In pursuit of a goal or resolution, you will undoubtedly encounter tough times and challenges. If your pursuit of the goal is tied to some reward, it is only natural to question, when times get difficult, whether it’s really worth continuing. This is the point at which people start to give up as they determine that the reward is not worth the time, effort or risk required.

When you pursue a goal or resolution which is motivated internally, the results are very different. Intrinsic, or internal, motivation is when you chase a goal for yourself. You’re not after a nice shiny treat. This is when you want something with every ounce of your being. A fire burns inside you for it. It is your purpose, and the reason why are here. It is your first thought in the morning when you wake, and your last before you go to sleep. This is the deciding factor between success or failure in pursuit of your goals, and it really works because it inspires you to keep going even on the most difficult of days, never giving up and never settling.

If you want something badly, deeply or strongly enough, you will do whatever it takes. You won’t just work for it, but you will suffer for it. When the difficult times come, you will persevere through the pain, misery and disappointment until you finally achieve what you set out to. Then, and only then, do you receive the greatest reward of all…the feeling of accomplishment.

Setting goals is the easy part in the quest for a more fulfilled and rewarding life. On the other hand, putting in the time and effort required, and persevering through the tough times, is incredibly difficult.

So, as well as considering what you want to achieve and how you plan to go about it, i’ll leave you with some questions which you may find helpful to reflect upon;

  • How badly do you want this?
  • What/ how much does achieving this goal mean to you?
  • What do you hope to have received in reaching this goal?
  • What are you prepared to do, or give, in order to achieve this goal?
  • What sacrifices are you prepared to make in order to be successful?

 

Whatever your goals, I wish you the very best of luck. May 2018 be your best year yet!!

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.

 

The Power of Small Victories.

Before we start, let’s please just get one thing clear. Success and great achievements DO NOT occur overnight. There is no magic book, pill, potion or secret. You need patience, persistence, self belief and HARD WORK.

A big reason why some people fail to realise their true potential is largely a matter of confidence. Some look at their big goals and doubt their ability to achieve them. Others spend too much time in the planning and researching stage, struggling to muster up the courage to make a start. For those who do start on their journey towards their goals and make initial progress, confidence can also be affected when things stop going according to plan, leading to self-doubt and ending in them quitting prematurely.

Confidence was never my strong point, and far too often I let negative self-talk, the doubts of others and minor setbacks keep me from persisting in the pursuit of my goals. If you find yourself in the same situation, there is a great way to overcome self doubt and it works wonders.

Darren Hardy, public speaker and editor of Success Magazine, calls this phenomenon The Compound Effect and his book on the subject is well with a read. The Compound Effect is about how small actions all add up, and over time lead to huge success. In other words, over time small victories can lead you to fulfilling your potential.

Life is all about learning and growing, and that won’t happen if you play it safe. You don’t need to have it all figured out to before you get started on the journey towards your goals. You just need to have;

  • Reflection. Before starting, it is important to have reflected enough that you are aware of your strengths and weakness, and what resources you have at your disposal.
  • Goals. As well as that, it helps to know  what you ultimately hope to achieve and set yourself small, achievable goals which will help you to get there.

Reflection and goal-setting alone won’t help too much with any confidence issues. You need to pair them with action. With small, defined and achievable goals to aim for, you will find that your confidence grows and momentum builds as you reach those goals. Make sure to celebrate, briefly, as you meet each on. After all, each goal met, no matter how small, is an achievement and progress in the right direction. For example, if your ultimate goal is a new job or a career change, your small goals may involve applying for jobs, reaching out to recruiters and attending careers fairs, each of which can be ticked off and rewarded on your journey and will provide a confidence boost.

There is a snowball effect, or compound effect, at work here and the more small goals you achieve and celebrate, the more your confidence will grow and spur you on. Even when disaster strikes, the confidence gained from achieving your goals so far will help you to pick yourself up and keep going. In short, to take advantage of the confidence boosting effects of meeting your goals;

  • Break your big goals down into small, achievable goals which will get you there.
  • Take action, and enjoy the confidence boost as you meet your small goals
  • If you hit a roadblock, look for lessons to be learned before picking up where you left off.
  • Keep going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blueprint

“All you need is the plan, the road map and the course to press on to your destination”

Earl Nightingale

As the weekend draws to a close and we turn our thoughts to the week ahead, I would like to offer two more of my favourite quotes.

The first, is all about the quest for success, and tells you at a glance what you need to get started. The plan is your overall vision, your big goals and the timeframe in which you will achieve them. The road map describes the small goals along the way and your strategy for achieving them. Your strategy, in this case, is simply how you will be making the most of your strengths and resources in order to achieve your goals. The course is the journey which you will be on. This is, arguably, the most important part as this is where you learn and develop. Throughout the journey, you gain knowledge and skills while improving your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. Finally, the destination  is your ultimate goal. This is not the end of the process or the journey at all, though. Once you reach your destination, reflect on the skills and knowledge which you have acquired before starting again. Life is a journey of continuous progression and personal development after all.

There is one element which i’d add to the above, though, and that is the initial reflection. I strongly believe that you should first reflect on who you are and what you want to achieve before you can set goals and pursue them. You have to know what you are good at, and where your weaknesses lie. You also need an idea of what success would look like to you. Without this, how would you know that you have achieved success?

As for the second quote, it’s about taking action now and not wasting time.

Taken together, both quotes offer an important piece of advice. You don’t need much to get started on your journey towards success. Reflect, formulate a clear idea of what you want to achieve, set your goals and get after them. Don’t waste time overthinking it.

I’ll leave you with quote number two from one of my favourite actors, Robert de Niro;

“Time goes on. So whatever you’re going to do, do it. Do it now. Don’t wait”

Money and material wealth is not the answer

“I wish everybody could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so that they will know that it is not the answer”

Jim Carrey

Too many people view the money as the key to leading a more successful, fulfilled life. The reasoning behind this is that the more money they have, the more comfortably that they will be able to live. The truth is very different though. Money doesn’t bring happiness. It can’t, because money itself is simply a tool with which we exchange value. Money is either given or received in return for services or goods. Simply put, we provide a service to an employer (otherwise known as work) for which we are paid. This money is then exchanged for goods and services which can range from mortgages and household bills to cars, holidays, clothes or whatever else takes your fancy.

Far from bringing happiness and satisfaction, the pursuit of money can often bring the opposite. As we earn more, we crave more. This is because our tastes change. For example, a person may be earning £30 000 and living comfortably within their means. They have a house with an affordable mortgage, a decent car and enough money to live well but also save a little. All in all, life’s good but they feel that if they earned more, life would become a little easier and they would be able to do more.

Later, an opportunity arises for professional development which is taken advantage of, and now they are earning £50 000. In theory, if they continue to live within their means, this extra money will make life a little more comfortable. Some do adopt this approach and live well. However, too many people get seduced by the images of luxurious living which they are bombarded with in glossy magazines and on social media outlets. They then decide that, as they are earning more, they can buy those things and that lifestyle, and when they do they’ll be happy. When happiness doesn’t come, after all, they chase more money with which to buy more. And so it continues…

It is worth repeating that fame and fortune do not bring happiness. The more we have the more we want, so are never fulfilled.

Rather than chase financial gain and the lifestyle which it can buy, you need a goal, a purpose or something which you strive for and gives your life meaning. In setting goals and chasing after them, or leading a life driven by a sense of purpose you will learn, grow, develop and bring value to the world. Fame and fortune may very well come to you, but as a consequence of the value you provide. As I stated before, money is a tool with which we exchange value. So, if you find yourself in a position to provide value to others, they may well be prepared to pay you for your time and services.

Aim not to earn the highest salary possible, but rather aim for continuous personal and professional development. Pursue an increase in knowledge, not your bank balance, and do your best daily to become the best, not richest, version of yourself.

 

Carpe Diem

Seize the day. The time is now. There is no time like the present…

These are phrases which we hear all too often, but despite being overused they remain relevant. We all start out with big dreams, goals and ambitions which we chase relentlessly, until we reach a point where we become comfortable and content. So we stop. From there, we fall into a routine and stop striving for constant growth and development because we are happy as we are. Our lives become a cycle of work, play and home life, which is not a bad thing as long as you are not only happy, but also confident that you won’t be filled with regret later. For many people, though, daily life continues merrily until they wake up one morning feeling as though something is missing. This is followed by reflection on time misspent and opportunities missed.

The good news is that it is never too late to put that reflection to good use. Rather than dwell on what may have been missed out on so far, identify what it is that you really want and go after it. Regardless of your age or current circumstances, anybody can set themselves goals for personal development and chase them with vigour and determination. If you want something bad enough and are prepared to put the work in, you will find a way to make it happen. Anybody, absolutely anybody, can make minor adjustments to their daily lives which will help them to take steps towards their goals. These steps may be very small, but each one gets you closer to what it is that you’re aiming for. Darren Hardy calls this “The Compound Effect” and it really does work.

Ideally, you will be carving out a few minutes each day for a little reflection, and acting upon it. I find that this works best for me at night, just before bed, when I look back on my day and ask myself;

  • What have I got to be grateful for (usually 3 things) ?
  • What have I learned today?
  • Did I take any steps in the direction of my goals? Could I have done more? Tried harder? What do I need to work harder on?
  • Did I make a difference to anybody other than myself? Did I pay it forward? Did I help anybody or provide a service? If not, why?
  • What steps can I take tomorrow to get me closer to my goals? Where are the gaps in my skills or knowledge which need to be addressed?

With this done, I get a more restful sleep with a clear mind, and wake up energised and ready to continue my journey towards my goals.

It is by no accident that I post this call to action today, a Friday in August. August is traditionally a month of downtime, when people take holidays to unwind and recharge their batteries. Furthermore, Fridays tend to be quieter days as people switch their focus to the weekend. So on this quiet Friday in the quiet month of August, I would like to ask you this; What if you were to take a different view? What if I told you that there was a golden opportunity to be had if you didn’t follow the lead of others?

A large number of people right now have turned their attention to rest and relaxation while on holiday, or their plans for the weekend. If, however, you chose instead to take action in the direction of your goals, you could gain a huge advantage. Success is not just a matter of hard work and determination, but also having the ability to sense an opportunity and seizing it.

So, while others are working on their suntan or planning their weekend shenanigans, use this to your advantage. The more headway you make now towards your goals, the harder others will have to work to catch you or reach your level when they return from their break.

The secrets for a successful life

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

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

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

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

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

Hustle

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

Mark Cuban

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

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

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

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

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

Profiting from your passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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? ”


Passion, and doing what you love

“Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing”

Hunter S Thompson

Passion is a powerful emotion and, when it’s controlled, it is a beautiful thing. It can bring untold joy and satisfaction, or simply provide an antidote to feeling lost or unfulfilled. It can inspire and motivate us, or provide a welcome respite from the trials and tribulations of daily life.

Passion is more than just an emotion, however, but also a very popular topic for conversation and debate. Business books, journal articles and blogs are increasingly advising us to chase our passions. After all, if we are passionate about something, we will be more inclined to devote a large chunk of our time to it, as it won’t feel like work. We are told that we should think like entrepreneurs and find a way to turn our passions into businesses. Many people are doing exactly this and have become incredibly successful in the process, but it’s not for everyone. It’s not easy, either.

Not everyone wants to turn their passion into a business. Some people just want to enjoy the benefits of doing something which they love. Their rewards come from the happiness, inner peace or adrenaline rush which they may experience. Monetising your passion and turning it into a business, on the other hand, can take away some of its shine and enjoyment. Your passion then gets tied up with the added pressure of financial gain and this can blur the lines between work and fun. That thing which you did simply because you loved it, you are now doing it for money.  Some people are successful in this pursuit, but others find themselves unable to turn their passion into a sustainable or scalable business, or simply lose interest.

Before you even get to the stage of deciding whether to turn your passion into a business, you need to know what it is that makes your heart sing. Many people just don’t know. Their lives become routine and comfortable, and almost seem to run on autopilot. This is why we need people to rediscover their passion, whether it’s to become a business venture or just for personal enjoyment. Passionate people are, after all, happy and can create wonderful things. This all starts, as with most things, with reflection and becoming more self-aware. You have to know yourself, in order to know what truly makes you happy.

So, as you ponder your passion and what it is that makes you tick, i’d like to leave you with a few prompts for reflection which might help;

  • What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?
  • What do you feel that you would be unable to live without?
  • If money were not an issue and you were finances were comfortable, what would you spend your days doing?
  • What would you be prepared to do full-time without being paid?
  • What subject could you read 20 books about without getting bored?

Well… what are you passionate about?

 

Duty

“Man’s happiness lies not in freedom, but in the acceptance of a duty”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Duty is a word which we often hear in our daily lives, from the workplace to the church and everywhere in-between, but struggle to define. What actually is it? It’s sometimes interchanged with the terms purpose or responsibility, but is it really the same ?

There are a lot of similarities. Responsibility, as with duty, can mean being accountable for someone or something. It can also mean an obligation to successfully carry out an action. While there is a lot of interchangeability here with duty, the difference is that I regard duty as being the more powerful driving force of the two. Duty is intrinsically motivated. With a sense of duty, you become involved in an activity not out of self interest and gain, but rather out of compulsion, commitment and a drive that comes from deep inside. Duty is stronger than purpose too. Purpose illuminates the path towards a goal or aim, on which you will focusing your thoughts and actions. Purpose helps you to remain focused when things are going well and to get back on track when faced with challenges. A duty, however, runs deeper.

Duty is something which we feel morally obliged to do, but it is born within us only after we become more self-aware. In essence, duty comes from a clear understanding of the principles by which you will live your life. To be able to fully understand and define those principles, however, you must first have a good understanding of who you really are. If you truly hope to embark on a journey of achievement and discovery, at the end of which you fulfill your potential, inward reflection is the logical starting point. Once you have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses, what drives you and what you hope to achieve from life, you are then in a good position to define your goals, purpose, duties and responsibilities.

In defining our duties and devoting ourselves to them, we can find fulfillment and a sense of inner peace. Subordinating and sacrificing ourselves to our duties can also give a deeper meaning to our lives, or simply make us happier.

 

 

 

 

Before you help others, help yourself.

I recently watched a video in which serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk warns that you need to be selfish before you can even think of being selfless. I was initially surprised to hear this because they are complete opposites, but it gave me plenty of food for thought. A few days later, I had a flight to catch. As usual, my mind wandered as the safety demonstration began, but I came back around just in time to hear the announcement instruct passengers that, in the event of an emergency, they should secure their own safety vest before helping others with theirs. In other words, only after you have helped yourself should you attempt to help others. Cue even more reflection.

After my initial skepticism, I actually began to understand and appreciate the brilliance of this advice. If your intentions are noble and you only wish to help others and be kind, the first step is to be kind to yourself. After all, if you are struggling in your personal life or career, how are you going to help anyone else?

Helping others in place of helping yourself will neither make your troubles go away, nor is it a substitute for them. Simply put, if you prioritise the needs of others over your own, it’s just another form of escapism.

In order to achieve anything in life, regardless of your goals, you need to first work on yourself. You need to define your purpose, identify your goals and learn to become resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. This, in turn, will help you to become stronger and more rounded as a person. From that position, you can use your experiences to help other people meet the challenges which they may be facing.

In short, the more you work on yourself and build your self-awareness and strength, the better you will be able to help others and make a difference in their lives.