Stop Trying To Buy Happiness.

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for abundance

Eckhart Tolle

Everybody seems to be in a race to get more of everything, be it money, cars, clothes opr whatever else they believe that will make them happy. We hope that, as we get more of whatever we want, the quality of our lives will improve. It doesn’t. You get a temporary high after bringing home your next fancy purchase, but the novelty soon wears off and you’re brought crashing back down to earth. So, you need to buy something bigger and better, slowly emptying your bank account while you fill your house with things you neither want nor need. If, on the other hand, your drug of choice is money, then you will find yourself devoting all of your time to working, and neglect your personal relationships in the process.

This is not a healthy way to live. Happiness is an inside job. What this means is that you don’t need to have a huge bank balance or lots of fancy things to be happy. All you need to experience true happiness is self awareness.

Self awareness is having a good idea of who you are, what you want from life, what you value and what direction you want your life to take. Once you know this, and are on the path to self awareness, you will begin to act accordingly. Living in accordance with your beliefs and values, achieving what you want for yourself and realising the power you have to create your own destiny are what bring real, lasting happiness.

Becoming self aware is very difficult. It’s a long and difficult process when reflecting on who you are, where you are right now, where you want to be and what you can do to get there. There is, however, something quick and easy which, if done daily, will also have a massive impact on your happiness. This is the practice of gratitude.

By thinking about all the good which you have in your life, you experience a crucial mental shift. You move away from thinking about your life in terms of what you lack, and instead focus on what you already have. Your attention is drawn towards the positive aspects of your life, which you could potentially build upon.

It feels weird and unnatural when you first practice gratitude, because marketers bombard us constantly with messages about what we should have in our lives and how happy it would make us. Fair play to them, they have to earn a living I guess, but it’s up to you whether you pay any attention to their bullshit.

So, how do you practice gratitude? There are countless ways, and you just need to find the right fit for you through trial and error.

Personally, I prefer to add this to my daily journal. I always carry my journal and write in it throughout the day, but there are 2 set times in the day when I must journal. This is my gratitude journal time, and the process is quick and easy;

  • As soon as I wake up, I reach for my journal and pen, and write 3 things which I am grateful for. It could be something as simple as a good night’s sleep or sunshine streaming in through the window.
  • These are in bullet point format, and only go into detail if I think that it will help at a later date when I revisit my journal.
  • Now, my mood and mindset is positive before I have even got out of bed, because I am feeling grateful and happy.
  • Before bed, I write another 2 things for which I am grateful. This helps calm my mind, especially after a challenging day, and contributes to a good night’s sleep.

So, every day, I write down 5 things which I am grateful for. It takes no longer than 10 minutes in total, but the mental boost is fantastic. It motivates, but also offers perspective. You realise that your quality of life is better than you thought.

Sometimes, however, I need to be more creative than just writing a list. On these days, I grab a sheet of paper and make a mind map.

  • In the centre of the page, I write the sentence, “I am grateful for…” and draw a fancy border around it.
  • I then draw a number of lines leading away from the centre, with each one leading to something which I am grateful for
  • Then, for added visual effect, I add pictures and colour to the mind map
  • Finally, the mind map goes up on the wall, and I add more lines and points for gratitude as the week or month goes on.

I use the mind map approach too, as having a visual reminder can be even more powerful than a list in a journal. Combining the two keeps me grounded, keeps me positive and ensures that I don’t lose focus.

Alternatively, there are note-taking apps such as Evernote which could be used to log your gratitude. Whatever shape it takes, log what you are grateful for, because it takes a mere 5 – 10 minutes of your day and the positive impact on your day, and life, is priceless. This is what will bring real, lasting happiness and it doesn’t cost anything apart from time.

The World Breaks Everyone

The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places

Ernest Hemingway

Bad things happen. We all know that. But so do terrible things, unimaginable things and things from which we doubt we will ever recover. As with anything else in life, it’s our response to these heartbreaking, soul sucking and demoralising experiences which  determine the quality of the rest of our lives. In short, these testing times can either make or break us. Whether it does the former or latter, is simply a matter of how we frame the incident, and how we respond to it.

We hear and read this everywhere, but the fact that our response to circumstances determines our quality of life, is not something that I fully appreciated until last year. Of all the things which I had worked on over the years for my personal and professional development, resilience and my response to negative situations was never one of them. As a result, for much of my life I would take 1 step forward and 2 steps back in everything I did. By this, I mean that I would research, plan and act upon something and really build momentum only for it all to fall apart at the first hint of a problem.

Something bad would happen and I would reason that I had done everything I possibly could, so the problem must be down to outside circumstances and bad luck. My confidence would take a beating, and I would give up, telling myself that I was a fraud and that I was not good enough and would never amount to anything. I would then work to repair my confidence, and try the same project again or attempt something else. All would go well until the first problem was encountered. I’d lose hope and confidence, and find myself giving up without a fight. This was a vicious cycle which I was well and truly trapped in. Everything bad which happened was exaggerated and became the worst thing in the world, and I was the victim of a cruel and vindictive world.

Then, last year, my world fell apart. For real, this time. Within a few short weeks, my dog was put to sleep and my fiancee left. Just when I thought that life couldn’t get any worse, I was hospitalised with pneumonia, developed sepsis and had to be put into an induced coma in order to stabilise my condition and save my life. I cheated death 4 times. I made it through, but my physical condition was so bad, that I had to learn to walk and talk again. I had gone from an independent and healthy 35 year old to someone who could barely do anything for himself. I spent my days in a hospital bed twisted like a pretzel. I couldn’t relax as I had to be positioned in a certain way because I had tubes in me, all the way down from my neck to my thigh, and because I couldn’t relax I found myself unable to sleep other than the odd nap here and there.

These were some of the longest days of my life. I couldn’t read because I wasn’t able to pick anything up or hold it. I literally had nothing to do. I couldn’t even chat to the nurses, as I couldn’t talk. All I had to look forward to was visiting time.

So, basically, all I had to do all day was think and reflect. Normally, in a bad situation my mind would go to war with me, and this was the worst situation I had ever faced. But..something strange happened. I reflected on my life to this point and how it had fallen short of what I want for myself. I reflected on why, and realised that the only thing that really held me back was myself. I wasn’t where I wanted to be because I had developed a habit of giving up as soon as times got tough. Most importantly, though, in that bed I never once saw myself as a victim of bad luck.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt grateful. I was alive. I had survived a serious illness, and was in the best place to fully recover. In my head, I had been given a second chance which should not be wasted. I was spared for a reason. My work here on Earth is not done. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I started to feel excited for the future.

I also discovered who my real friends are, and this was sobering to say the least. Much of my support came from the least likely sources. Overall, I felt blessed and as though my eyes had finally been opened. I realised that I had been a people-pleaser and prioritising others above my own needs, most of whom deserted me when I really needed someone.

I left hospital feeling grateful, confident and positive about the future. I may have lost everything I once held dear, and had my savings replaced with a mountain of debt, but nothing was going to stop me. I had amazing family and (real) friends, a job to eventually return to and a roof over my head. I was luckier than many people in the world today.

The recovery was very slow and tough, but I persevered. Not only that, but the months following my discharge from hospital last November have been some of the best of my life, and continue to get better the harder I work.

I share this today in the hope that it might help someone else who might be stuck. I learned, firsthand, that by switching your focus and perspective, you can change the course of your life. Even though i’d hit rock bottom, I spent my days in the hospital focusing on the positives – everything which I had to be grateful for, the lessons I can learn and apply from what happened, and the potential for my future if I put the work in consistently. This shift in focus led to a more positive outlook. In turn, this new outlook has helped me to keep going whenever I faced a challenge.

Before, I would give up and feel sorry for myself. Now, challenges get my adrenaline levels up, because I see them as opportunities to learn and bounce back stronger. I am more confident, more resilient and happier than ever. Of course, bad things happen, it’s just that I view and respond to them in a very different way now.

Please don’t think that I became an overnight billionaire and married a Hollywood actress with my newfound mindset, confidence and resilience. I am just a normal (I hope), mid-thirties guy who is passionate about learning and development, and what separates high-achievers from those who fall short of their goals. I have discovered the power of reflection, developing self awareness and resilience, and changing the way you view the world. Putting it all into practice has made 2018 a year in which my goals have been tumbling thick and fast as I approach them with a newfound confident and resilient attitude.

I want this for you, and that is why I share my story today. If I can do it, so can everybody else. I didn’t need any books, online courses or any other shortcuts. It took a lot of time and work, but my life changed for the better when i focused my attention on the things in my life which I am grateful for. It opened my eyes to the support and resources which I have available to me. Most importantly, I finally understood that the things which had been holding me back from living the life I wanted were not important at all, such as the opinions of others.

Bad things break us. All of us go through this, but it’s up to you how you frame the experience and how you bounce back from it. Play the victim, or use it as fuel for a bright and happy future? The choice is yours.

 

 

Have A Great Day. Every Day.

Each of us is allocated a certain amount of time on this Earth, which we forge into a life we are happy to lead. This time, as well as being limited, can’t be regained once it has passed so we should be making the most of it. Not everybody sees things the same way, however, and a shocking amount of people still lead lives with no direction or purpose, and blame bad luck and lack of opportunities for robing them of the life they want, and the happiness which they feel they deserve. Of course, people work very hard to change their circumstances, but then give up far too easily when times get tough.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are the lives of our dreams. Our vision of the future is achieved in small steps, consistently over time. It involves having one great day after another, and this can be achieved in 4 steps that anybody can take.

Determine what 5 actions you can take today that will take you a step closer to your goals. We all know what it is that we truly want, and many of us know how we could get it, and when we could get it by. It’s in the execution that it tends to fall apart. When times go well, we get tempted to take our foot off the gas, and spend time celebrating our successes. When things go wrong, we get disheartened, lose confidence and find ourselves fighting the temptation to give up. This is why we need structure and accountability in our day. Every day. To ensure this, prepare a list of 5 things that you must do every day to get you closer to your goals. For example, your list could be;

  1. Read for at least an hour.
  2. Reach out and speak to at least one friend or family member
  3. Gym, walk or physical activity for an hour.
  4. Journal.
  5. Tackle at least one thing which I have been putting off.

Obviously, your list will vary according to your goals but it’s the accountability that matters. You have to complete the list in order for the day to be considered a success. While it keeps you moving in the right direction, this daily list also keeps you focused and helps you to better manage your time. I still have plenty of time to unwind or have fun, but only after my list has been completed for the day. Give it a go, and see how you get on.

Learn something new every day. One of my favourite sayings (“Every day is a school day”) is such an important life lesson. It sounds funny when you first hear it, but when you think about it, this is a call for you to become a life-long learner. Life is more than just a pursuit of your goals. Life is a journey of learning and development, self-discovery and becoming the best version of yourself while also lifting up those around you.

Learning can be done in many ways, but my two favourites are reading and conversations. The first one is self-explanatory. You identify an area of interest, or an area in which you lack knowledge and then seek out books, websites, journals or blogs to read and educate yourself. With advances in technology, everybody can access reading material in a suitable format.

Conversations are something which we need more of. I believe that everybody, no matter their job title or status, has something to teach us if we care enough to listen. We tend to seek people just like us, or those who have achieved what we want, for conversations but it’s about time we ditch our preconceptions and become more open minded. That homeless man you just gave a tea and a sandwich? What if he was once a CEO who made a few bad decisions and has paid the ultimate price? That security guard you ignore as you walk past? What if he was previously a teacher, but now doing this job to pay for the studies which he needs to get the necessary qualifications to change careers? That cleaner? What if he was a lawyer in his home country until he was forced to flee persecution, and is working whatever jobs he can find in order to support himself and his family? You get the idea. Judge less, talk and listen more, and the life-lessons which you get will be priceless. After all, we don’t just learn from books, but we also learn from the life experiences of others.

So, today, pick up a book or engage someone in conversation and see how much you learn. Obviously, if you’re like me and have reading on your list of actions for the day, do your learning in another way, whether it be a conversation, podcast or anything else.

Take time to express gratitude. Focus on the things which you are thankful for. Think about what you have right now, and what you are. This is all about perspective. With the rise of the Social Media Influencer, more than ever before, our attention is drawn to what others have. We begin to crave these things to the point where we lose sight of what is important in our own lives and the journey which we are on.

People only show you what they want you to see. Especially online. You don’t see the debt incurred by those who are “faking it till they make it”. All you see are the houses and cars, and equate this to massive success. What of those who are genuinely successful? Again, you only see the perks, but not the tireless effort and sacrifices which they had to make to achieve what they have today. They were prepared to keep going when times got tough, chose nights working on their business or education instead of going out and were disciplined enough to finish what they started.

Turn your attention to what you do have. Have you got a comfortable house to live in with heating and running water? Have you got a job which allows you to support yourself and your loved ones? Have you got a car so that you can travel in comfort? Have you got food? A television? Internet access? A smartphone….All of these things make you richer than countless millions of people in the world, for whom daily life is a fight for survival.

You have very many things to be grateful for in your life. You just need to stop looking at what other people have, in order to realise this. Write down 3 things every day which you appreciate, and enjoy the magic which it works on your mindset and attitude.

Enjoy something every day which money can’t buy. For me this is quality time spent with loved ones, or a walk in the forest with my dogs. Some of the most wonderful things in life don’t come with a price tag. Seek them out and enjoy them every day in order to enrich your life and keep stress at bay.

Daily life is all a matter of balance. As well as working tirelessly on your goals, it is important to also appreciate what you have, what you are and the journey which you have been on so far. Furthermore, by doing something every day which money can’t buy, it brings balance into your life and makes every day look and feel like a great day.

I wish you all a great day. Every single day.

 

 

How do you practice gratitude?

Following the recent blog article about the positive benefits of gratitude, a number of people have asked how they can get started with this practice.

Expressing what you are grateful can lift your mood, help you to adopt a positive mindset, alter your perspective to make you appreciate that which you have and also open your eyes to the countless opportunities which we are presented with every single day. There are no downsides to expressing gratitude.

Different approaches work for different people. One method which I have recently seen on Instagram involves a jar, a pen and a notepad. Every time you feel that you have something for which to be thankful, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, read each of those notes to remind yourself what a positive year you’ve had. Once a year is not frequent enough for review and reflection, as we need these opportunities to refocus, gain perspective and receive a boost of positivity a lot more often. Sticking with the jar approach, you can empty it out on a weekly or monthly basis and revisit everything which you have to be thankful for so far.

Some people prefer expressing gratitude with posts on their social media platforms, while others prefer to share it with a loved one in conversation.

What work best for me is a method which I learned from Darren Hardy, the author of Success Magazine. Several years ago, on Thanksgiving, I read a post in which Darren introduced the idea of a daily gratitude journal.

The gratitude journal idea, which he introduced, is very simple. Every day, for 21 days, write down 3 things for which you are grateful in your life. Try to avoid repeating the same items day after day. I tried it, enjoyed it and by the end of the first week it had become a habit.

Personally, I prefer to grab a pen and keep track of my gratitude in a notebook. This makes it easy to revisit previous weeks and months, to see how my blessings are multiplying as I make progress towards my goals. Better still, research has shown that when you use pen and paper, you tend to think more carefully about what you are about to write, as you can’t just hit a delete button. So, for me, it’s the perfect approach as I love to reflect and write.

The best time to do this is either in the morning soon after you wake up, or just before bed. In the morning, it will put you in a positive frame of mind to attack the day ahead. On the other hand, if you do it at night, it can relieve the stresses of the day and lead to more restful sleep.

All of this is great, but what do you actually write? What does it look like? Well, you pick a style that you are comfortable with, whether it be bullet points or more detailed descriptions. I’ll leave you with my gratitude journal entry for today;

Sunday 21st January 2018

I am grateful for;

  • My health. I am grateful for all of the treatment, help and support which has helped me to regain my health and fitness after a sudden and serious illness.
  • My blog. I am grateful for this opportunity to reach people all over the world with my writing, in the hope that it might make a positive difference.
  • My job. While I am far from happy there, and doing all I can to move on, I am grateful for the fact that I actually have a job. I am grateful for my colleagues who are lovely people, and I am grateful for the pockets of time which I am able to carve out in each workday to focus on my goals and landing my next role.

I have only included the first 3, so as not to bore you. As you can see, it is very simple. Bullet points, with the object of my gratitude in 2 or 3 words, are followed by a short explanation. Not only does the explanation force me to reflect for longer on that particular point, but it also becomes so much easier to make sense of it when I revisit my gratitude journal entry for that day.

 

Thank You

Gratitude is heaven itself

William Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gratitude (Edgar Albert Guest)

Be grateful for the kindly friends that walk along your way;
Be grateful for the skies of blue that smile from day to day;
Be grateful for the health you own, the work you find to do,
For round about you there are men less fortunate than you.

Be grateful for the growing trees, the roses soon to bloom,
The tenderness of kindly hearts that shared your days of gloom;
Be grateful for the morning dew, the grass beneath your feet,
The soft caresses of your babes and all their laughter sweet.

Acquire the grateful habit, learn to see how blest you are,
How much there is to gladden life, how little life to mar!
And what if rain shall fall to-day and you with grief are sad;
Be grateful that you can recall the joys that you have had.

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 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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.