Your Job Is Never Done

Maybe that’s enlightenment enough; to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go

Anthony Bourdain

Life is a journey of never-ending learning, growth and self discovery. There is always more that you can learn, another skill you can pick up or something new to strive for. This is the perfect antidote to complacency and boredom, as it keeps life more interesting and exciting. Never lose your inquisitive nature, and never stop seeking to become and learn more. This is the key to a happy, fulfilled life

Onward….March!!

Change is difficult. Change is scary. Change can be painful, but change is also a very important part of life. In fact, it’s essential. Without change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we stagnate, and that’s how we end up living lives in which we feel bored, unfulfilled and having fallen short of our potential. The apathy and frustration leads us to give up hope of a better life, so we accept the status quo and just live day to day, never pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.

Life is not about getting up and doing the same thing every day. Life is about each and every one of us pushing ourselves to become the best possible version of ourselves, before helping others to be able to do the same. Life is all about experiences, from which we learn about ourselves and the world around us. It’s about self discovery and growth. Life is a journey, and on this journey it’s only natural that as we change, we outgrow that which we currently know. Don’t fear the changes which are a necessary part of life, embrace them and learn from them.

Recognise when a phase, job, a life stage or a relationship is over and let it go. Allow yourself to gracefully exit situations which you have outgrown. Moving on doesn’t have to be catastrophic, dramatic or associated with intense pain. It’s all a matter of how you frame the event in your mind.

Reflect on what you have learned and gained so far, but then accept the fact that in order to continue to grow, you may need a job which will offer more of a challenge and the opportunity to increase your knowledge and skill set. Accept that, while a relationship might have been wonderful so far, there is the possibility that you become different people who want different things. That is not to say that you MUST change everything, but be aware of when a change is necessary for your personal or professional development.

Humans generally fear the unknown, but that’s not a good enough reason to hold on to that which you have outgrown or which might be hindering your progress. Let things, situations and people go if you have to so that you can move forward. Embrace the unknown because that is where opportunity lies. Move forward with valuable experience, knowledge or skills. Above all, though, move forward with peace and clarity.

You can move in any direction, as long as it’s forward.

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.

 

 

Going All The Way..

If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?!

Joe Namath

As Sunday draws to a close, our batteries are recharged and we gear up for the week ahead, I wanted to share the above quote with you. Why? Because too many people still play it safe, and are denying the world all that they have to offer. You could have it within you to become a great artist or musician, teacher or doctor, but unless you actually do something about it, nothing will happen.

Playing it safe exposes you to less risk, requires less physical or mental energy expenditure and frees up time to focus on things which bring instant gratification. This could manifest itself in the form of a steady job which pays the bills, mortgage and holidays. Or that you willingly avoid relationships. Or perhaps spend your evenings and weekends socialising, watching tv or just doing whatever you regard as fun. Whatever it is, the result is almost always the same. While it could lead to more time for fun, and experiencing less stress now, there is a price to pay, and that is frustration and the feeling of unfulfilled potential later on.

The best way to avoid this is to change your mindset. Go from being satisfied with mediocrity, to constantly seeking improvement. Seek to make small improvements in your life every day, and watch those small steps lead to massive success if you keep going.

This really is as easy as it sounds. Identify what areas of your life you would like to see a change in. New job or career change? More money? Better health and fitness? Now, think about where your strengths and weaknesses lie in relation to your goals. What are you good at and could be doing more of to make quicker progress? What areas do you need to work on improving? Are there skills which you need to learn or gaps in knowledge which need to be addressed?

This is different for everyone, so you need to do the reflection yourself. There is no one-size-fits-all formula to do this because we are all unique and each of us has different wants, needs and reasons for wanting that which we crave. We all know that there are no shortcuts to success. It requires lots of hard work and perseverance. When it all comes together though, and success comes knocking, it feels all the sweeter because of the effort which it took to reach your goals.

There are 24 hours in the day, and this is the same for every one of us. No exceptions. The only difference between the most successful people and everyone else, is largely a matter of how they use their time. For example, they spend less time watching tv and more time reading. Furthermore, they are more selective in what they read. They read to gain knowledge and understanding, which could potentially help them.

Have a think about how you spend an average day. Outside of work, how much time do you spend on positive activities such as exercise, networking, reading, studying or listening to audiobooks or podcasts? How much time do you spend out with colleagues with friends or watching tv?

What changes can you make in how you spend your free time? Can you turn off the tv one hour earlier and read in bed instead? Can you use your morning commute to listen to podcasts or read? Can you give up one or two nights a month to attend networking events?

Small changes to your daily routine (we love routines!) can add up to massive progress over time if we are consistent. In this way, with baby steps and small daily sacrifices we can turn the potential which is within us into a reality.

Perseverance Pays…

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time

Thomas Edison

How many social media posts have you read by “gurus” claiming to have the secret to success?! Yep. They’re everywhere. Everyone seems to be super-successful, and keen to share their secrets with you . All you have to do is just buy their book or join their programme. Thing is, the world of social media is no more real than a Disney movie. It’s entertaining, but it’s also make-believe.

To be fair, some of these people are expert storytellers, and their books make for great reading. BUT when you buy the book or the course, you are not looking to be entertained. People part with their hard-earned cash because they want help getting started on the journey towards their goals, or have reached a plateau and need some help to get to the next level.

Reality check time. There is no secret, magic potion, silver bullet, book, online course or any other shortcut to success. Anyone who claims otherwise is either deluded, a liar, a charlatan or a fraud.

Success is achieved when you decide what you really want, identify your strengths which you can take advantage of, and the weaknesses which you need to address before taking determined action. Small steps every day which take you closer to your goals, learning and growing all the time.

If, however, there was to be one key ingredient to success, I would argue that this must be perseverance. Given that absolutely anybody can decide what they want and take action, why aren’t more people massively successful?! The “P” word. Perseverance.

Perseverance is what separates the successful few from everyone else. Those who persevere are the ones who keep going when progress slows down. These are the people who take a positive view on failures and setbacks, treating them as opportunities to learn from what went wrong wrong, adapt their approach and then try again. Whether things are going good or bad, they keep going and are always learning, adapting and growing.

Most importantly, those who persevere and achieve their goals are the ones who don’t look to others for validation or permission from others. They understand that everybody has an opinion on everything, and you don’t have to give your time and attention to all of them. Some will doubt you and others will openly laugh at your dreams. This is perfectly normal, and not to be taken to heart. Believe me, all of your doubters will change their tune once you prove that it can be done. Don’t let their limitations derail your efforts.

In order to persevere and ultimately succeed in your endeavours, the only opinion you need to pay attention to is your own. You need to believe in yourself and your ability. You need to be confident that achieving your goals is a matter of “when” and not “if”. This will keep you going when times get tough. This is what separates the successful from the mediocre – they keep going and never give up. They keep going when nobody else believes in them or shares their vision. They keep going when times get tough. They keep going when they don’t feel like it. They just keep going until they achieve whatever it is that they desire. They persevere.

 

Invest In Yourself

This is arguably one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received, and something that everybody could and should be doing. We set aside money for clothes, food, bills and entertainment so why shouldn’t we also put some money towards improving our lives? This is an investment of time and money that can offer lifelong benefits.

Before we go on, please allow me to clarify what I mean by investing in yourself. What I am NOT referring to are the seemingly endless supply of motivational books, online programmes or conferences. For me, these do not have a lasting effect, other than to provide a quick motivational boost. A lot of people do find value in them, and I respect that. All  I am saying is that there is something better to invest your time and money in, and the benefits would be much longer lasting.

One shortfall of much of the personal development and motivational material available is its the rose-tinted view of the world which it portrays. They tend to follow a similar pattern. Tell the audience that they have the power within them to achieve anything they desire, and back this up with examples of people who have succeeded against all odds. The recurring message tends to be the power which you have to achieve whatever you want. You can do it. The world is yours. These people have achieved massive success, and so can you. Motivating people is great. We all need a confidence boost at times. Thing is, these books and courses only tell half of the story. They provide the spark or catalyst to take action in the direction of your goals. They fill you with confidence to take those vital first steps. BUT they don’t spend enough time advising how to maintain your motivation once the initial excitement wears off, or how to deal effectively with the setbacks and problems which you encounter. The cynic in me believes that there is a reason for this. It’s good business sense. After all, when someone reads your book and goes after their goals with a vengeance, the moment that their progress slows or they hit a roadblock they will return to your books and material for advice about how to get back on track. After all, it was your material which helped them to get started in the first place.

I’m not saying that the above material should be avoided, because it is a wonderful motivator and confidence builder. All I am sharing here is my belief that your time and money could be put to better use and the benefits would be longer lasting.

Of all the things which formal education prepares us for, there are some huge gaps. These gaps can be summed up as life skills, and without a good understanding of them they can place a person at a huge disadvantage, potentially sabotaging your success. I strongly believe that more time should be devoted to;

  • Bank Accounts. How to open an account, and understand the different types of bank account and the benefits of one over another.
  • Budgeting. How to develop a habit of organising your finances in order to be able to pay rent, a mortgage or bills while leaving enough money available for food, petrol and entertainment.
  • Loans and Credit Cards. Understanding the interest rates and repayment terms. How to work out how much you will end up repaying.
  • Pensions and Taxation. How to understand the deductions that will be taken from your paycheck and how they might affect you.
  • Savings and Investments. How to make the most of your money, as opposed to leaving it in a low-interest current account, and the risks involved.
  • Effective communication in both your personal and professional life.
  • How to network. Do certain situations have unwritten rules which you are expected to follow? If so, what are they? What if you are naturally shy or an introvert? What strategies could be employed to overcome this?

The above list is by no means definitive, but covers the essentials. They sound far less interesting than some book titles, but without even a basic understanding of them, there is a real risk of missed opportunities, debt accumulation or being taken advantage of by others. I have lost count of the amount of people I have met who have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous loans and credit card companies, or have suffered at the hands of an inept financial advisor. To a certain extent, they could have protected themselves better and avoided much of the misfortune which visited them if they had been more knowledgeable of what they were getting into and its consequences.

The good news is that there is a lot of help and advice available. There are plenty of books on the above subjects, but there are also a number of debt charities who provide free resources, advice and guidance to anybody who takes the time to visit their website or give them a call. Some banks even have trained specialists to guide you through any of the above topics, and it’s free. All you have to do is just book an appointment.

Instead of the latest offering by a self-help guru, why not pick up a book or book a course which can help you to better understand and manage your finances? It’s a less exciting read, but the benefits will be huge. After all, no matter how much you earn, if you don’t have a good grasp on your finances you will always struggle. Furthermore, the more you understand and are able to do yourself, the less you will have to place in the hands of others.

 

 

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!!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My near-death experience and what it taught me

My last post was a short apology for not posting due to illness, and a promise to start blogging again once i’d recovered. Well, things went quiet after that and for a good reason. My condition had deteriorated so quickly that I was rushed into hospital, where I fought my toughest battle yet. For 3 weeks.

Having been suffering  from flu-like symptoms for a while, and over-the-counter medication not working, I went to the doctor. Here, I was told that I had a chest infection and was given antibiotics. 2 days later, I was found unconscious at home and rushed to hospital where I was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent to the Intensive Care Unit.

For the first few days everything seemed to be going well. Then my condition took a sharp turn for the worse. While being treated for pneumonia, I was struck by sepsis. This is when your body responds to infection by attacking your muscles and organs. My health deteriorated so sharply and so quickly that the doctors had to inform my family on no less than 4 occasions that they feared that they might not be able to do anything for me.

I was placed in an induced coma for several days, during which my condition stabilised. Once the doctors were confident that I was no longer in danger, I was brought out of the coma.

This was a very difficult time. I awoke unable to speak as i’d had tubes in my throat which had irritated my vocal chords. With my hands swollen, i couldn’t communicate by writing either, so this was a very frustrating time. Furthermore, I had wires and IV lines attached everywhere and couldn’t move. Worst of all, though, I struggled to breathe and started to panic.

The doctors and nurses, however, were fantastic. I was confused about why they were so happy and positive with me though. At first I thought that perhaps they were just a very happy clappy group of people, but then I asked what the positivity was all about as it was starting to get a little annoying. They explained about the severity of what I had endured, and that they feared that they would lose me on 4 occasions. Then they told me about how pleased they were with my progress, and that I should be talking again very soon as my throat recovers. When I asked about all of the tubes and machines, I was told that due to the severity of my illness, the iv drips and machines were necessary as I had to be closely monitored. Most important of these was the dialysis machine which I was hooked up to, as my kidneys had been severely damaged.

Slowly but surely, my condition improved and I was slowly weaned off the huge amount of antibiotics , iv drips and other medication which i’d been on. The wires and tubes were also gradually removed.

A hospital cannot discharge you directly from Intensive Care. You must be discharged to a general ward first. When this time came, I was delighted as it meant that I was one step closer to going home. On the new ward, I didn’t get the comfy bed or 1-1 care which i’d experienced in the ICU, but I was still well looked after. From here, I made quick progress. Within 3 days, I had been weaned off the oxygen, my catheter had been removed and I was able to move about unassisted with the help of a walking stick. With all of my medication stopped, I was discharged and sent home.

This whole experience, while scary when I reflect on it, was actually a blessing. It is sobering and scary to think that 4 times I came close to death, with the doctors feeling powerless to save me. However, I prefer to look for the positives.

Unable to sleep due to all the noise and constant observations, I had a lot of time on my hands in hospital and plenty of time to think. I had 2 visitors a day, my fiancee and my mum, but between visits all I had was a National Geographic magazine which i’d read cover to cover a number of times. So I reflected on my life and what had happened.

Having survived this health scare, I couldn’t help but feel lucky and that i’d been given a second chance at life. I could’ve become depressed at my weakened state and loss of independence, but I have never been one to feel sorry for myself.

I used the free time to reflect on my life so far, my relationships, achievements and how much I still had left to tick off on my bucket list. This reflection filled me with motivation and determination, not only to become a better person but also to challenge myself to achieve more in life. I cheated death, and now have no time to lose. I am keen to improve my relationships, do more for others and achieve more professionally than i’d previously thought possible. Time to stop playing safe and living in the moment.

Back at home and continuing my recovery, I have carved out time in my day for further reflection. If there is one thing you take away from this, it is that TIME IS PRECIOUS AND SHOULD NOT BE WASTED. 

Now that the tremors in my hands have stopped, I am able to put my reflections and resolutions in writing. This is important as it makes them more real, and more urgent. It also means that I now have no excuse not to take action.

I am one of life’s optimists, and always prefer to look at the positives wherever possible. It is for that reason that I chose to view my experience as a wake-up call and a second chance at life. After many hours of reflection, I resolved to;

  • Fix my personal relationships, and do my best to become the best fiancee, son, brother and friend possible. Reflecting on my relationships helped me realise that i’d been taking my fiancee for granted. Living in the moment had blinded me to how I was behaving towards the most important person in my life. Hopefully, it’s not too late to reverse the damage.
  • Make a career change, to something which will challenge me to develop, grow and challenge what I believe myself to be capable of.
  • Take control of my finances and become more responsible.
  • Stop wasting time and playing it safe. Take more risks, learn more and push myself harder

 

Thank you for reading. I hope you found something of value in my experience and reflections

Stop waiting, and start creating

“Purpose is that feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Purpose is what creates true happiness. JK Rowling got rejected 12 times before she finally wrote and published Harry Potter. Even Beyonce had to make hundreds of songs to get to Halo.The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail. Ideas don’t come out fully formed, they only become clearer as you work on them. You just have to get started.”

Mark Zuckerberg

 

I love the above quote, as it contains so much wisdom in a short call to action. Zuckerberg wants us to just start doing whatever it is that we are contemplating. This could mean writing a novel, making music or starting a business.

Most important of all, though, the above quote describes the process which we must undergo if we want to create something meaningful and achieve success. It is commonly accepted, but often presented in a different order, that there some unmistakable ingredients in the recipe for success;

  • Purpose. This is your WHY. Having a clearly defined purpose will keep you inspired and motivated, even when things do not go according to plan. It also ensures that your work, or message, is consistent. Reflect on who you are and what you value in life in order to discover your own purpose.
  • Embrace failure. Failure feels like a kick in the teeth. It makes us question what we are doing and why. It hurts. We tend to take it personally and feel that we are not good enough. We get tempted to give up before we embarrass ourselves any further. Failure, however, doesn’t have to be fatal to your progression. It’s all in the mind and how you view it. Failure can actually be a very valuable learning experience. Painful as it may be, when you reflect back on the actions taken and decisions made when something goes wrong, you will likely find some valuable indicators as to how you can improve. Whether it be through addressing your decision making process, seeking information or learning a new skill, take that lesson and act on it to move forward stronger and better equipped for success.
  •  Ideas and their development. Overnight successes do not exist. They are a myth, used to sell books, magazines and expensive training programmes. The truth is that before a writer, artist or entrepreneur tastes success, there will have been plenty of drafts, plans, sketches or ideas which fell short and probably didn’t see the light of day. The end product or service, which propels its creator to stardom, is usually the result of learning, adapting and improving after much trial and error. So, be realistic about your expectations.
  • Get started. Once you have the purpose, plan, strategy and ideas you have to take action. There is no right moment or perfect time. You just start. Then, you learn, adapt, develop and grow. This is the process, and it doesn’t start until you take that first step.

To this I would just add reflection, which is priceless in personal development. If you are serious about learning, growing and leading a successful and fulfilled life then regular reflection is essential. After all, you won’t know where you are going or how you will get there without self-awareness.

We all have ideas, passions and a purpose. Without action, they are merely desires or dreams which will lead to disappointment and unhappiness if left unfulfilled. So, as the father of Facebook advises, take action. Learn, adapt and grow but most of all enjoy the journey. Who knows where it may lead?!

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.

 

Be mindful of the company you keep

“If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room”

Michael Dell

We tend to surround ourselves with what is familiar. We know what we like, and search for it. Why? Because it’s easy, comfortable and makes us feel good. This applies to the people who we choose to spend time with too. If you really want to lead a successful and fulfilled life, though, you need to step outside your comfort zone. Too many of us still fear the unknown and avoid it wherever possible. What they don’t realise, however, is that these unknowns have within them the opportunities which could transform their lives.

Growing up,I was taught that there is always someone in life, there is always  someone better than you out there. The key is to be humble, seek out these people and learn from them. In order to really develop and grow both both personally and professionally, you need to spend time around people who are more successful, more intelligent, more experienced than you.  It may seem daunting and scary at first but these are the people who will challenge you, stretch you, motivate and inspire you. Not to mention the fact that they may have the knowledge, skills or networks to help you overcome a particular challenge which you may be facing.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t devote time to your family and friends. These are the people who bring joy and meaning into our lives. Even if they don’t challenge us, the love, understanding, friendship and support which they offer us is a welcome support. You can still maintain your relationships, while also seeking out new groups which will help your professional development. There are a number of ways in which you can do this with minimal impact to your personal life.

For those who lack confidence in social situations, there are countless forums and groups on social media with a common interest, such as business networking, which can be joined. Or you can search for the nearest networking event or meeting taking place on a topic which interests you, and attend. In fact, many universities and colleges host such events which are open to the public and free to attend.

Alternatively, look to join a group with which you share a common interest and which holds regular meetings. Personally, I benefited most from joining 2 cigar clubs in London. Cigars are my guilty pleasure, which I allow myself when I have cause for celebration. After a bit of research I picked 2 clubs and joined, each of which meet once a month for tasting sessions, for the experience. The aim was to learn more about, and try, more cigars in a relaxed friendly atmosphere. This I definitely got, but there was something else which these groups gave me. I gained the opportunity to meet and learn from new people. On attending the first meeting of each of these clubs, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was in the presence of entrepreneurs, successful businessmen and women, diplomats and creators of government policy to name but a few. That said, the atmosphere is always relaxed and friendly when we meet as everyone has  a shared interest, which in this case is the humble cigar. In the time which I have been a member at both of these clubs, my professional network has grown as have my opportunities for personal development. Better yet, as the groups only meet once a  month, I have plenty of time outside of these 2 meetings to spend with the people who really matter, my nearest and dearest.

I am not saying that everyone should now start smoking cigars. Some would even argue that it’s a filthy habit. What I would suggest, though, is joining a group based on something which interests you. An increasing number of workplaces have groups which meet on a number of subjects, so find the one which interests you the most and give it a go. Universities have societies for virtually everything you can think of, and allow you to create your own if you can’t find one you like. You never know which doors it might open for you.

Your family and friends, whether they challenge or comfort you, are important and should never be neglected. That is not to say, however, that you can’t find a group or society to join which will give you the challenge and motivation to keep learning and developing.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17)

 

 

 

 

 

Tabula Rasa..

..or a clean slate, as it is otherwise known.

We have an awful tendency to dwell our our successes and failures, both of which are damaging. Of course our wins should be celebrated, but as with everything else, there should be moderation. Celebrate too long and you begin to lose perspective, as well as any advantage you may have over your competitors. It is easy to begin to overestimate your skills and abilities when you focus too long and hard on your successes. Your ego, however, needs to be kept in check. It is important to understand that life is a continuous process of learning and development. Whatever comes to pass, whether good or bad, has within it a lesson. Identifying this lesson and learning from it is the surest way to continue your personal development and avoid stagnating.  In short, if yesterday was successful, don’t sit back and relax but rather take advantage of it by learning from, and acting on, it in order to continue your progression.

The same rule applies to those times when things are not progressing well or according to plan. It’s too easy to become disheartened and demotivated by focusing on the negative aspects and what went wrong. Left unchecked, negativity and pessimism start to take hold. This can then turn a bad day into a bad week, month or year. Perspective is again important. Amid all the doom and gloom, take a moment to remind yourself just how much control you have over your own life. You control your decisions and actions. Therefore, to a certain extent, you also have a level of control of what happens. So, if you had a bad day, don’t dwell on it but rather use it as a learning experience. Remind yourself that you have the power to turn your fortunes around. Try and identify where it went wrong for you; was it a lack of knowledge or experience? Or was it perhaps a decision which didn’t produce the expected results? Reflect on any  lessons to be learned, so that you can move on wiser as well as determined to get back on track. Learn for the experience and bounce back before negativity sets in and a bad day becomes a losing streak.

Regardless of whether yesterday was good or bad, start each day afresh. Wake each morning with the determination to improve yourself and take steps in the direction of your goals.

 

The Pain and Pleasure of the job hunting process: After the Interview

Arguably the most nerve-wracking part of the job hunting process comes AFTER the interview. This is because it is now out of your hands, and all you can do is wait for the outcome. So far, there was plenty of research and preparation which could be done, but now all that is left is to reflect on your performance.

In the aftermath of an interview, I would suggest some quick and honest reflection. Pick up a notepad, and write down how you felt that it went; what went well and what elements you could’ve handled better. Don’t overthink it, just write whatever comes to mind. If you can remember them, also make a note of the questions which were asked of you. This will help you to prepare for future interviews.

Read and reread the above, and highlight the areas which you can work on and improve. Also note your strengths. It is useful to have a reflection on your interview, so that you can learn from the experience.

While it’s useful to have your own reflections on the event, there is a second element which needs to be added. This is the feedback from the panel. This may not be offered when you get the call which informs you of the interview outcome, and if it isn’t just ask for it. Most interview panels are very happy to provide some short, constructive feedback after an interview’s outcome has been determined. When this is added to your own feedback, you will gain a clearer idea of where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what areas need more attention.

If you are unsuccessful, rather than dwell on it, get to work and fast. Search for more vacancies and start applying. This will keep your mind busy, and ward off the temptation to start feeling sorry for yourself and lose motivation. Furthermore, from your reflections and the feedback from the last panel, you have plenty of information which can help you to create a very interesting personal statement. Obviously, this is done with the aim of securing another interview, for which you will be in a much stronger position because of everything which you have learned during your recent experience.

If, however, you are successful take a moment to enjoy your achievement. Then revisit your reflections to determine what you need to work on in order to be successful in your new role. This will help you to hit the ground running, and make a positive impact very quickly.

After an interview, relieve some of the anxiety by reflecting on the event. Request some feedback from the interview panel too, once a decision has been communicated to you. Finally, act on this reflection and feedback regardless of the outcome. If you got the job, use it to start your new role strongly and make a positive impact. If you were unsuccessful, act on the feedback to improve your personal statement for future applications, and better prepare yourself for future interviews.

In the wake of an interview, do something. The time will pass anyway, so rather than worrying try to reflect on the experience and see what can be learned from it

Less Searching, More Experiencing

Advice on personal development and leading a more fulfilled life is often confusing and full of contradictions . Of these, one of the biggest inconsistencies revolves around taking action. If you were to look back through some of the posts on this very blog, you would be forgiven for spotting potentially opposing advice.

There seem to be two schools of thought on this subject. The practical side will preach the importance of taking action, learning from your experiences and adapting along the way. The theoretical side, however, will stress the importance of reflection, setting goals and making plans. Surely, one of them must be right, but which one?!

The reality is that both of the above are right. Together, they both highlight the key stages in the personal development process. Not all of the stages are relevant for everyone, and there is no set order in which they should be followed, though. I put reflection at the top of this list because that is my starting point, which works best for me.

  • Reflection. This is the ideal starting point, as you identify your strengths and weaknesses, your interests, what drives you and what you hope to achieve both personally and professionally.
  • Goal Setting. With a good understanding of your situation and circumstances, the next logical step will be set goals, both short and long-term. Goals are a great way to keep you motivated as you have something to strive for which is broken down into small steps. Furthermore, goals are an indicator of what progress is being made, and whether you are staying on track.
  • Planning. The planning stage is more a matter of personal preference than a necessity. Some prefer to take action once their goals have been set, but others prefer to plan and strategise. In this instance, some find it helpful to set out how they will use their resources in order to reach their goals, and what knowledge or skills they may need to acquire.
  • Action. Arguably, the most important stage of all. After all, without taking action in the direction of your goals, you won’t achieve very much, if anything. It is by taking action that we gain the experiences from which we learn and grow.
  • Review. As you take action in the direction of your goals, it’s important to regularly review your progress. This will help you identify gaps in your knowledge and areas to be addressed, as well as highlight what has been working well. The review process also gives you the opportunity to amend and update your goals as you meet them.

As with everything else in life, both sides are right but balance is essential. In this case, you need to find a healthy balance between reflection, planning and taking action. If you spend too much time thinking, planning, searching or strategising, you won’t have enough time left to actually take action and so will get nowhere. On the other hand, if you just jump straight in and get to work without a plan, it becomes incredibly difficult to judge what it is that you are actually achieving.

Through reflection and planning, you gain an understanding of who you are, what you have to offer and what you would like to achieve from life. When this is coupled with action, you then get to experience life in all its glory. The lessons gained from your experiences help you to understand what happiness and life itself mean for you.

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.

You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life

 

Why are we still so quick to label and judge people?!

As a society we are still too quick to label people and judge others. As discussed in the last post on judgement, this can lead to missed opportunities for learning, development and discovery. The worst part of this is that it is all completely avoidable. Humans are not robots made the same way in the same factory, but we are all individuals. In our own way, we are all unique but when we come together and share our experiences and knowledge, the world becomes a much richer place. We must, however, set aside our judgements and preconceptions in order to approach people with an open mind if this is to happen.

Recently, while re-reading 2 excellent novels, it dawned on me that there is one paricular group of people who have so much to offer but are being held back by the labels, judgements and limitations which society places on them.

The two novels in question are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes. While the stories and settings are very different, both novels are narrated by teenage boys on the Autism Spectrum and provide a fascinating insight into how they both make sense of the world. In The Eagle Tree, the narrator March Wong is described as being autistic, but in The Curious Incident it isn’t clearly stated. There is no label attached to Christopher John Francis Boone in the latter, but it is hinted that this may be Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism. Christopher, though, just describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties”.

I won’t bore you with my attempt at a book review, as there are already a number of excellent reviews available online, but I would rather share with you what I came to realise through these novels. Both novels, while raising awareness of what life is like on the Autism Spectrum, primarily deal with perception and how we view the world and the people in it. March Wong and Christopher Boone are both very gifted, highly skilled and intelligent teenage boys, with an incredible amount of self-awareness. Reading both novels, I couldn’t help but wonder just how much each of the boys would have to offer in the real world, and whether they would be given a chance.

Of course, the novels are fictional, but the issues and questions which they raise are very real and relevant. The stories of Christopher and March show us the dangers of labelling and judging people. In the real world, we don’t get the same insight into a person’s thoughts and feelings that we do when we read a novel. I have yet to meet anybody who walks around narrating their daily life out loud. The only way we get to know, and better understand other people is through communicating with them and understanding them.

Herein lies the problem. Instead of approaching all others with an open mind as to where an interaction may lead, we are still too quick to label and judge other people before deciding whether to speak to them. People are labelled throughout their lives, particularly at school. These labels which are placed on them, and the ones which they choose for themselves, have a lasting impact. How many people have the potential to really make a chance in business or philanthropy, but instead find themselves held back by the labels and judgements placed on them?!

Each and every one of us is the same, and by same I mean human. A person’s mind and their view of the world is shaped by the influences that they are exposed to early in life, and the influences which they choose later in life. Some people, however  view and experience the world differently and they should be embraced rather than marginalised. By approaching all people with the same open mind, tolerance and understanding we can gain perspective and so much more.

We all have unique personalities, but unfortunately some of us get labelled, judged and cast aside. This just begs the question, why not celebrate the individual and the unique and varied gifts, talents, abilities, skills and views which they have? There is an incredible amount which we can learn from each other, if we only embrace others rather than label or judge.

Simply put, our attitudes and perceptions need to change. Rather than label another person and jump to preconceived notions or conclusions, treat them instead with empathy and try to understand them. Just because somebody experiences and views the world differently to you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from each other, and help each other. Who knows where life may lead you when you approach other people with an open mind?!

Circumstances and taking control

“Man is not a creature of circumstances, but a creator of circumstances. He makes his own circumstances, his own opportunities”

Napoleon Hill

 As we head into the weekend, and prepare to switch off and unwind for 2 days, I thought it would be appropriate to share the above quote with you.

I love it because it really speaks volumes. It reinforces what we all know, deep down, namely that we each control our own destiny. If you know yourself well enough to know what you want, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, then good things will come your way if your put in the hard work. Through your consistent efforts, you lay the foundations for future success.

You can’t do it without hard work though. Of course, the easier option would be to sit back and wait for success to come knocking at your door. The problem with this, however, is that I am yet to meet anybody for whom this approach has actually worked. In fact, this is the quickest path to disappointment, disengagement, despair and even depression.

The hard truth is that if you really want something, you have to put the work in to get it. In being proactive, you take a certain amount of control over your circumstances. When you do this, you will notice that opportunities suddenly start to seek you out. It’s almost as if the universe has seen the work which you are putting in, and decided to give you a helping hand. This is a far better approach than the reactive one, in which people wait for things to happen to them before even thinking about doing anything about it. This second approach is lazy, and laziness will not help your personal or professional development. Lazy, not just in their reluctance to take action, but also lazy in how they react when circumstances  do not work in their favour and opportunities seem to never present themselves. This is because they simply choose to blame others or lady luck herself, rather than do anything which could help to improve their situation.

So, the next time things do not go your way and you stop to curse your bad luck or start telling yourself that you can’t catch a break, ask yourself this simple question;

“Am I really doing all I can to move forward in the direction of my goals or could I do more?”

Mistakes and Imperfections

All experts, leaders and gurus were once beginners. Like everyone else, they had to start from somewhere, and undoubtedly made mistakes. It would be fair to say that many of them would’ve been far from perfect right away, but they persevered and learned from their mistakes. They acted on what they learned, increased their knowledge and sharpened their skills, eventually achieving the successes for which they are known today

The same, then should be true for us. We should have the courage to take action in the pursuit of our goals. If mistakes are made, they should be seen for what they are; proof that we are trying to improve our lives and also an opportunity for learning. Lessons could then be learned, if we reflect on our mistakes instead of shying away from them, allowing us to move forward wiser and stronger.

Should…Could….

There is, however, a problem. Too many people want to wait for the right time or perfect circumstances before they take action. They wait and wait for a golden opportunity to present itself, but miss out on so much while they wait. Even when they finally summon the courage to act, they lose heart at the first sign of trouble.

The problem lies in our obsession with perfection, to the point that it seriously hinders our progress. We fear that if we fail to attain perfection, we will be ridiculed by others. We will be seen as incompetent, a fraud or an impostor. Our mistakes are, therefore, not learning opportunities to be embraced but rather sources of embarrassment to be covered up. Perfection, however, doesn’t really exist. It’s a myth.

Despite its bad reputation and negative associations, imperfections are actually very good. They show that we are only human, and that like everybody else we also make mistakes. This makes us more likeable and can help us to connect with others, increasin the size of our networks.  Imperfections, more importantly,  provide a learning opportunity which can lead to greater self-awareness.

It’s perfectly acceptable not to have all of the answers right away. Just as its ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. When you find yourself in this situation, here are a few suggestions as to how you can move forward;

  • Re-evaluate the situation and your goals. Where do you find yourself right now? How can you move forward? What led to this mistake? What lessons can be learned?
  • Seek help. If you’ve identified a gap in your knowledge or skills, seek help from a friend, a mentor or a coach.
  • Be patient. While you seek to address one area in which a learning need has been identified, do not put everything else on hold. Continue to push yourself, ask questions and pay it forward by helping others.

Life is a journey of continuous discovery, learning, development and growth, after all.

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.

Coaching and Mentoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On confronting the past and learning from it.

America has recently seen a number protests and debates taking place regarding the removal of Confederate statues, and it gave me food for thought. It’s about time that the issue was brought up and discussed because this is a conversation which is painful and uncomfortable, but necessary. Why am I writing about this, though?! I felt compelled to write about it because we are all fighting a similar battle in our own personal lives. Everybody has a past, and within it there are many instances which we now look back on with regret, embarrassment, anger or disgust. The question is; do we confront these events and look at what led to their passing so that we can learn from them? Or do we simply pretend as though they never happened at all?!

With regards to the statues, I understand both sides of the argument, and both parties have valid arguments. Those who want the statues removed argue that they are a painful reminder of a very dark period in America’s history. The interests of the rich and powerful led to a race of people being brutally enslaved and suffering unspeakable pain and suffering. Greed and the pursuit of money took priority over empathy. Furthermore, there are a minority of warped individuals who glorify and celebrate the atrocities of this period, and actually believe in racial superiority. Words fail me as to how people like this still exist, but they crave attention and we mustn’t give it to them. The other side of the argument is that the statues provide a warning and a lesson. The Confederates fought to preserve the status quo and protect the oppressors committing these unspeakable acts on other humans for a profit, so their statues are painful to see in public places. It is important, however, that every trace of them is not removed and forgotten about, because as long as the statues remain their victims have a voice and are remembered. They provide a warning as to the dangers of prioritising profit over people, something which is still relevant today. They also serve as a memorial to those who suffered during this brutal period.

The past is often littered with painful reminders but I don’t believe that shying away from them is healthy. They needs to be confronted if we we are to make sure they never happens again. If we are able to look at a particular period in a nation’s, or our own personal, history and identify the actions and decisions which may have led to whatever happened, we become better equipped to ensure that it never happens again. We become aware of certain triggers or warning signs, which we can act on to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself. Failure to confront it only leads to the same issues potentially arising again later.

It is important not to dwell on past events too long as this will hinder us as we try to move forward. We do, however, need to reflect on our past before we try to bury it and move on. In this way, we move forward stronger and wiser.

In order to provide the best future for its people, a nation must confront it’s past, no matter how painful.or uncomfortable. There are valuable lessons to be learned. Much is the same with us and past events. Doing our best to forget about the bad times, or pretending as though the events never happened, is certainly the easiest path to take but it really doesn’t help us to learn and grow. If we want to lead fulfilling and successful lives, we need to confront our pasts and learn from them. In this way, we learn from our mistakes so that we can avoid repeating them in the future.

Forget the mistake but remember the lesson

 Authenticity and Integrity

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”

Coco Chanel

We all want to stand out and to be seen as unique or original. The irony is, that in order to achieve this, too many people simply adopt a new persona based on how they’d like to be seen by others. Or they copy those celebrities whose lifestyles they wish they had. However, in going down this path we end up, unintentionally at first, becoming part of a group and blending in, achieving the complete opposite of what we intended. Once this persona has been adopted, we find comfort in the company of like-minded people and further mould our identity to conform with this new group. All the while, we suppress and hide who we really are, our true selves, for fear of getting expelled from our group. So we persist with the act and lead, what amounts to, a double life. In private, we lead our lives on our terms. Until we are next with our social groups and the herd mentality kicks in. We find ourselves spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need in order to maintain the respect of our peers, when we would much rather have invested that money in ourselves to take us closer to our goals. We say and do things that may go against what we truly believe, for fear of expulsion from the group. We stop doing what makes us happy and our focus shifts to gaining the acceptance of others. All in the hope of being regarded as unique or original. This is tiring, to say the least.

This begs the question…Can you be unique or different without compromising who you really are?!

Of course you can. By staying true to yourself, you are already standing out from the crowd. Have strength, courage and confidence enough to resist conforming to the expectations of others or following their lead. Stay true to your values and your beliefs. Do what makes you happy and takes you closer to your goals, instead of trying to please others. Have the self-awareness to know who you really are and the self-respect to live accordingly. These are just a few of the ways in which you can be different, but in a good way. 

 People are very good at spotting a fake, so drop the act. Instead, make it your goal that there be congruence between your true self and your outward words and actions. In other words, just be yourself. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws, so embrace them. They are what make you who you are. Reflect on these long enough and you will become more self-aware. Once you have a good idea who you are, what drives you and what you are passionate about, adjust your life accordingly.

If you want to be different, unique or stand out from the crowd…just be true to yourself and live your own life, not anybody else’s. People will recognise and respect you all the more for it. Give it a go and see how happy you become as a result, you won’t regret it.

“Today you are you,

that is truer than true.

There is no-one alive

that is youer than you”

Dr Seuss

How to keep on winning..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The untapped potential of your morning commute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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