All Experiences Are Good Experiences

In life, we say and do things all the time. Some of these we regret, and wish that we could undo or erase them. Others, we wish we could relive a million times. But, all of our experiences, both good and bad, make us who we are. In the end, they shape every detail of our lives. Good experiences bring pleasure, but they also show us what we like and what we are good at. Bad experiences, missed opportunities, failure and mistakes, on the other  hand, tell us just as much about ourselves. They force us to question what we are doing, why we are doing it, who we are and what we want from life. These negative experiences are even more important than the good times, because it’s in challenging times that we learn, develop and bounce back back wiser and more resilient. If you were to undo or erase anything from your past, you wouldn’t be the person you have become today.

You are the person who you see in the mirror today, as a result of your past experiences, decisions and actions. Understand this truth, and embrace it. Everything that you have been through so far has led you to this point. You have discovered who you are, what you enjoy and what you are good at. You’ve even determined what your values and priorities in life are.

However, you life is not set in stone and you are not the finished article. You never will be, because life is a process of constant and never-ending learning, growth and development. So, if you are unhappy with your current circumstances, good. You have the power in your own hands to do something about it. Always seek to become more, and do more. Let comfort and complacency be your enemy.

So, just live your life as best you can. Make mistakes, have wonderful experiences and make incredible memories. Most of all, though, never second-guess who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve experienced or where you are going

Legacy

Everything you gain in life will rot and fall apart, and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart

Jim Carrey

All day, every day, we are bombarded with messages about what we lack in our lives. Some are more subtle than others, but the message is the same; buy this and feel happier, look younger, become irresistible to the opposite sex… Simply put, buy stuff to feel better and be better liked by others. Too many people buy into this idea, and end up short of money but also feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.

It’s time for a reality check. A materialistic mentality will negatively affect your quality of life, because you will never be happy. Technology is constantly being updated, new car models are released every year, and there will always be someone with a bigger house, nicer watch or more expensive suits than you. So, when you tie your happiness and self-worth to things, you will never be happy.

Say, for example, I buy a Maserati GT today. This is my dream car, and I would be over the moon. Driving it will leave me grinning every time, because I finally have what I always wanted. But..2 years later, there’s a redesign and the newer model is released. Suddenly, my car is an older version and not as sleek as the latest release. So, now I need to find another £100,000 to change my car. And then I become happy. Until they release another update. And so it continues. You get the idea.

Material goods do not last, because newer versions will be released or someone else will come along who has more than you. So, any happiness will be short lived. Before long, you will again find yourself unhappy and wanting more.

It is far better to learn to be happy with what you have, and what you have gained through your own hard work. You will stop comparing yourself to others, and live with less. Manage this and you will find yourself happier than ever.

The best way to cure yourself of the curse of materialism? Gratitude. Every day, for a month, take 10 minutes to list 3 things, just 3, for which you are grateful. After a few days, your outlook changes. Instead of looking to outside objects to bring you happiness, you understand that you already have plenty to be happy about in your life. So, you gradually begin to see objects as just that. Objects. Then you slowly stop making pointless purchases. You understand that a car is not going to make you happy or define you. It will just transport you from one place to another. Once you separate emotions from objects, you will find yourself feeling unburdened and happier than ever.

So, when making plans or setting goals, don’t focus on what you need to buy to feel happier about yourself. Do you really want, at the end of your days, to just be remembered as someone with an expensive car? Or would you rather be remembered and respected for your positive influence on others, and your artistic, philanthropic or business endeavors? For me, at least, the choice is clear.

Please do take a moment to reflect on this. Ask yourself;

  • How would you like to be remembered by your family and friends?
  • What kind of legacy would you like to leave?

Contemplating these questions, and expressing gratitude for all the positives which we have in our lives, is a great way to re–calibrate your inner compass. It offers a little perspective, and suddenly that new watch or handbag no longer seems more important than earning the right to be called a good parent, spouse and friend.

So, when your race is run and your eulogy is being prepared, what would you like it to say? Answer this honestly, and adjust your life so that you can live the rest of your days accordingly.

Never Stop Being Yourself

“That was what made traveling appeal to him – he always made new friends, and he didn’t need to spend all of his time with them. When someone sees the same people every day, as happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own”

Paulo Coelho ~ The Alchemist

You are the only person who gets to decide whether you need to change anything in your life, and if so, what and how. It is your life, after all. Some people are genuinely happy as they are, and for these people we should accept them as they are and be happy for them that they are at peace with themselves.

Change, after all, comes from within. No matter what external driving forces or potential rewards for change, if you don’t want it for yourself, you won’t commit to it and your efforts will eventually come to nothing.

Our friends and family are the greatest external drivers of change. Social groups are slightly different – they put pressure on us to conform and change but this is a decision we make with our eyes wide open. We are well aware that we need to fall in line to remain part of this group, so any decision to change which we make is a conscious one. We make the changes, and stay part of the group. OR…we do nothing and find a new group to join.

With friends and family, it’s not so easy because we believe that they are pushing us to change because they care and that it’s in our best interests. Maybe they can see something that we can’t?! Maybe they’ve been in a similar situation and have benefited form the changes which they want for us?! Or…maybe…and this is the part which we are reluctant to consider…maybe they are pushing us to make changes which are in their best interests, not ours.

The only way to know whether a change is in our best interests is to take some time to reflect on where we are right now, whether we are getting any closer to our goals and whether we are happy with our lives. Then reflect on the changes we are being asked to make. They may very well be for the best. Or not, but this is our decision to make.

In life, we learn and grow through the lessons we learn from others as much as what we learn through our own experiences. So, you should never dismiss another’s advice. Whether you apply any of it or not, though, is up to you. They may be advising a positive change which could really make a difference in your life. Or, they may be providing a warning that it’s time to change your surroundings and who you surround yourself with. So, hear people out and judge for yourself. Any change made should be one you want to make, and not just something you’re doing to please others.

One Door Closes..Now What Do You Do?!

When one door closes, another opens. This is more than just a popular saying, it is a universal truth and part of life for all of us. We’ve all experienced some part of our lives come to an end, whether it be a relationship, job, hobby or anything else. This is usually followed by a period of hurt, confusion, soul searching and reflection until we are struck by something else to focus our attention and efforts on. So, with one door having closed, another one has opened in its place. We don’t know where it will lead or how long this new adventure will last, and that is part of the thrill.

The time between one door closing and the next opening varies massively. It depends on the type of door which has closed, because a broken heart will take longer to heal than a broken ankle which forces you to give up competitive sports. It also varies depending on the individual. Some people have a hard time letting go of the past, and instead of trying to heal and move on, would rather keep replaying their glory days or the good times in their heads.  Instead of looking for what they can learn from the experience, they punish themselves and curse their luck that it ended. This refusal to accept situations as they are is incredibly damaging to any potential progress.

When your focus rests on the past and what was once great, you give all the power and control to an ex partner, an old boss, a former friend or anyone or anything else which no longer is relevant to your life. The past takes control of you and prevents you from learning, growing and seizing the next opportunity. Too often we beat so long on the closed door that we can’t see the one which has opened up for us instead.

Is there anything that we can do to avoid getting stuck in the No Man’s Land of despair and regret when a good thing comes to an end? While this depends on the individual and how they perceive that which has ended, I would argue that there are a few things which we can all do to speed up the healing and learning process, and get us into a position to identify the next opportunity which comes along.

The temptation, when a good thing ends, is to lock yourself up and wallow in self pity. This time is spent between replaying a highlight reel in your head of all the good times, and chasing after something which is clearly over, trying to reopen that closed door. The hardest thing to do when one door closes, is also the best thing to do..

That “thing” involves changing your surroundings and perspective. Get outside and go for a jog in the park. Visit a museum. Meet a friend for a drink and a chat. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get outside and do something to take your mind off of that which has ended. Change your surroundings and gain some perspective. Take yourself away from whatever it is that has ended and is troubling you, and any reminders of it. Do something interesting or fun for a while, and when you return to contemplate it, you will be able to look at it objectively with a fresh pair of eyes.

The power is in your hands, and the decision is yours. Understand that when something ends, you are not helpless, and do not have to wallow in self pity. It’s within your power to take yourself away and do something different for a while, which could in turn help to clear your mind and offer a fresh perspective. With fresh eyes, you will then be better able to identify new doors which are opening, and the opportunities which they could offer.

True freedom is understanding that we have a choice in who and what we allow to have power over us

Meryl Streep

 

 

Happiness Is Your Choice.

If you find yourself unhappy with your life right now, rest assured that you are not as helpless as you may feel. The power to change your circumstances is in your own hands. It just takes a little courage, and some difficult decisions, that’s all.

Too often, we stay in jobs, relationships, places and friendships long after we have outgrown them. They are familiar, and familiarity makes us feel comfortable. Letting go of them would launch us into the unknown, and this is a very scary place. So, even though we are no longer happy, we keep our mouths shut and carry on, hoping that the people in our lives or our surroundings will change for the better. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t. Take personal relationships of all kinds, for example. If someone is making you feel unappreciated or unloved, but they are doing it unintentionally and are unaware of how they are making you feel, waiting for them to change is never going to end well. How are they supposed to know that they need to address their behavior if you don’t address this with them? They may very well be laboring under the assumption that all is well. In the meantime, you become increasingly unhappy, possibly even resentful, until it all gets to a head, a massive fight ensues  and you go your separate ways. This is not good, and it is avoidable.

Unhappiness, restlessness and frustration are all warning signs. They don’t mean, however, that you should just drop everything and run away. They are warning signs that you are not living in accordance to your values and priorities. You are living in a town which you don’t like, because your friends and family live there too. You stay in a relationship because being single terrifies you. You keep friends around who you no longer share much in common with, because you don’t want to become a loner. You are unable to live your life as you would like to, because you are too busy accommodating others. Feelings of unhappiness are a wake-up call, reminding you that you have stopped putting yourself first and need to take back control of your life.

I am not, for one moment, saying that all of life and everyone in it should conform to your wants and needs. Life is about learning and growing, and as we do this we change. We outgrow some people and environments, while others need adjustment. Therefore, it is essential that you know what you need to walk away from, and what areas you need to compromise on. After all, you will never have everything your way. Even if you did get your way all of the time, that too would eventually become boring and make you feel miserable.

The only way to truly know why you are unhappy and unfulfilled is through reflection. There are plenty of great ways to do this, but this works best for me;

  • Determine you ideal method for reflection. This can be done on a note-taking app on your phone, but I prefer good old pen and paper. The process of putting pen to paper is a much more powerful process than tapping letters into a phone or computer. My journal of choice is a Moleskine notebook.
  • Clear your schedule and surroundings. Try and find somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted. Turn your phone on silent and put it away. Now, you can think and reflect, without being disturbed. On a good day, i’ll do this in the park or in the garden.
  • Write freely. This is the most important part of the whole process. Just put pen to paper, or stylus to screen, and write without taking a break for 10 minutes. Don’t think about it, just let the words flow.
  • Read and reflect on what you have written. Having written everything down quickly, you weren’t able to overthink anything or censor it. So, now you have in front of you everything which was troubling you. Read through it carefully and see what lessons you can draw from it. Is it that you no longer enjoy your job? Is it a friend or partner who no longer makes you feel valued? Whatever it is that is troubling you, you will discover it here.
  • Ask yourself why. Now that you have identified the source of your misery, ask yourself honestly why this is a problem and what can be done about it. Is this a situation that requires walking away from, or can it be salvaged with a bit of work? Is it that your values or priorities have changed?

You can’t change everyone or everything around you, but you can change the environment you choose to spend time in. Life is too short to waste your time on people who do not respect, appreciate and value you. Spend your time, and life, with people who make you smile, love, feel valued and feel loved. Only you can decide what happiness looks like to you, and only you can do something about it. So, will you choose to be happy, or just accept things as they are and remain miserable?

Live Your Life Inside – Out

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life…Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it

Viktor Frankl

Everybody is unique.  Everybody has different drive, purpose, passion, wants, needs and desires. That is what makes life so beautiful. Most of the time. Different people coming together and living happily. Think about how boring life would be if we were all the same and lived the same way? Boring, to say the least. We would cease to be human, and become living, breathing robots.

So, now that we agree that we are all different and this is a good thing, that raises another question…Why do we try to copy others and live their lives? Or, why do we let others dictate our lives (parents, friends, partners…)? It makes no sense. You can study Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or anybody else as much as you like, but no matter how hard you try you will never be able to copy their lives and achieve what they have. What worked for them will not work for you, because you are different people and your circumstances are different. While it’s great to study successful people and look for lessons which you can apply to your own life, blindly copying them will only lead to frustration and failure. The same is true when it comes to letting loved ones influence or dictate our lives. Live your life as they want you to, and the only person who you make happy is them. Instead, learn from their experiences, and see whether you could apply any of it to your own life. Rather than waste your time and talents trying to become somebody else, why not look inside yourself, figure out who you really are, what drives you, where your passion lies and what your purpose in life is?!

Live your own life, and live it as best you can. Compete against yourself only, aiming to become better today than you were yesterday. That is the key to happiness. Living somebody else’s life will only lead to disappointment.

It’s easy to read these things and nod, but what does this mean? In order to live your own life, you need to really know who you are. This starts with some honest self-reflection. Ask yourself;

  • What do you value?
    • Family and Friendships
    • Integrity and Honesty?
    • Health and Fitness?
    • Accomplishment and Success?
    • Influence?
  • What are 3 non-negotiable things which you need to do every day in order to feel happy and a sense of achievement?
  • What does a perfect day look like to you?

This is just a start on the road to self-awareness, but an important first step to discovering who you really are and what you have to offer the world. Once you know who you are, you can start living accordingly. Most of all, self awareness allows you to take control of your life by taking responsibility for your decisions and actions.

Taking responsibility for your own life, or being proactive, is how you discover more about yourself. It’s also how people become successful, because they don’t wait for good things to come to them, they get out there and work for them. Every day. When you take responsibility for your life, and become proactive rather than reacting to situations and circumstances, you gain a clear idea of what you want to become and do in life. Moreover, you better understand that the power to make this happens really is in your hands.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognise that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life, and he can only answering to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible

Viktor Frankl

The Time Is Now

Time passes so quickly, that you don’t even notice it until it begins to show. We forget this, though, and live as though we have all the time in the world to accomplish everything which we desire. We put things off, and tell ourselves that we will make them happen when the time or conditions are right.

The only thing that this attitude will achieve is to erode your confidence, stall your progress and leave you feeling unfulfilled and dejected. This is because there is no such thing as the “right time” or a perfect situation in which to make your move. This is a lie peddled by the lazy, fearful, those low on confidence and the unmotivated to justify to themselves why they are sitting on their arses eating pizza rather than working on their personal and professional development and chasing after their goals.

Those who sit around and wait for the right time to take steps towards their goals, are the same who curse their bad luck when others around them are progressing in life and having fun. “Why am I stuck in the same spot? Why is everyone else doing well, but not me? Why? Why? Poor little me…blah, blah, blah… It’s not rocket science, so quit the pity party and open your eyes.

Those around you who are experiencing success are doing so because they are putting the time, effort and work in to make good things happen. You’re stuck in the same spot, because you are sitting around and waiting for the planets to align and inspiration to strike. See the problem? People who take control of their lives and take action are rewarded for their proactive approach with success. Eventually. Those who choose to sit around and wait, taking a reactive instead of proactive approach to life…they stagnate, and only have themselves to blame.

The only way to achieve anything in life is to work for it. Stop waiting around and procrastinating. Start, instead, taking baby steps every day which will get you closer to achieving what you want and becoming the person you really want to be. This is especially true if you lack confidence. Waiting around and overthinking will only make it worse. Action is the only way to build confidence. Small actions completed successfully every day will help to build momentum, which in turn builds confidence. Everybody is afraid before starting on a big project, but those who conquer that fear and achieve great things are those who take action, no matter how worried they are. So;

  • Have a think about what you really want.
  • Make a list of all the resources you have, or the people who could help and support you
  • Make a plan of action.
  • Go for it. Schedule in regular checkpoints to stop and reflect on your progress to that point
    • What has worked well so far?
    • What have I learned during this process, and what can I apply from my learning?
    • What hasn’t worked as well as it could? Why?
    • Going forward, how can I adapt my approach to bring even more progress and success?

Don’t wait for the perfect, or right, time to do that which you want to do. Wear those fancy shoes you’re saving for a special occasion, take that trip, eat the donuts, watch the late movie, read that book and take more chances.

The time to live your life is now. Stop putting it off until an unspecified later date. Tomorrow is promised to no-one, so make the most of the time which you have.

Keep Smiling

Just because you fail once, it doesn’t mean you’re going to fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on and always, always, always believe in yourself because if you don’t, then who will? So keep your head high, keep your chin up and most importantly keep smiling because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.

Marilyn Monroe

We all experience failure, loss and hard times, some of which hit us harder than others. When failure does strike, the first thing we tend to do is to lose perspective. We stop looking at the bigger picture and just focus on the failure itself, blowing it out of proportion.

The easiest thing to do is also the hardest thing to do in these situations. We all know that we need to take a step back, look at the positives, look at what we can learn from the failure and then get up and get to work again. The problem is that this is easier said than done.

This is why I love the above quote by Marilyn Monroe so much. There is so much truth and wisdom in it.

Personal experience has taught me that the best way to recover from a failure and regain your perspective and mojo is a change of scenery. After all, how can you be reminded of the beauty of life of you are sat looking at the same 4 walls and feeling sorry for yourself?!

The temptation when things go wrong is to slump on the sofa and binge watch Netflix, or seek some other form of escapism. Short-term this may numb the pain, but it doesn’t solve your problem.  I fell into this trap more times than I care to admit.

This changed when, after one particular setback which hit me hard, a friend forced me to get up, get out of the house and go for a walk in the woods nearby. The effect was magical. As my body moved and loosened, my lungs filled with fresh air and my mind cleared. We keep walking, and as we did, I felt better and better.

By the time we went back home, I felt refreshed and happy. I’d been forced out of my pit of misery and been reminded about the beauty of nature which is right on my doorstep. Most importantly, I felt like there was no time to waste and that I needed to address this failure. So, I grabbed my journal and a pen and started reflecting on what happened and breaking it down.

I had recovered from a confidence-sapping failure, and all it took was a walk outside. A change of scenery led to a change of perspective and the way I was looking at the problem. Instead of wallowing in self pity, i’d been reminded of the beauty of life and that had got me back on my feet after a fall.

Of course, there have been other failures since. Each time, though, I forced myself to do something; bike rides, gym, museums, rugby games…whatever took my fancy. I took myself away from the problem, and by the time I returned I did so mentally refreshed and with fresh pair of eyes.

Telling someone who is enduring a tough time to change the way they are looking at the problem doesn’t help. Neither does telling them to reflect, regroup and go again, because at that moment they are suffering from tunnel vision. All they can see is the problem, nothing else.

So, my advice to you is to get up, get out of the house or office, and do something else for a while. Get active, get busy doing something you enjoy or spend time with family or friends. This is what will help you to pick yourself up after a fall, after which you can go back to the problem, conduct a post-mortem, learn, adapt, grow and go at it again.

 

 

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.

 

 

When Bad Can Actually Be Good For You

You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to

Robin Williams

Humans love comfort and familiarity. We do whatever it takes to bring joy and happiness into our lives, and will go out of our way to avoid pain, discomfort or anything we consider to be bad. This approach, however, can actually be holding people back in their lives.

Failure and painful experiences, two of the things which many people fear above all else, can actually be good things. They are also some of the scariest things imaginable, because failure and negative experiences can lead to feelings of loss, unhappiness and uncertainty. In order to avoid these negatives, we become risk-averse. In real terms, this means that we become less willing to take calculated risks in our lives and really challenge ourselves. Instead, we seek the security of the known and the familiar. This is fine if you are happy with the life you create for yourself through this approach. After all, isn’t that what we truly want – to design a life for ourselves and become the kind of person who makes us happy? The problem arises when people are unhappy with what they have become, and the life they now have, through playing it safe.

Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing amount of business and entrepreneurship literature which points to the positive side of failure and bad life experiences. As with everything else, it’s not the event, situation or circumstance which we need to pay attention to. We often have no control over that. For example, a business fails because one of the partners have been stealing money, or we are struck down by a sudden and serious illness. Very little, if anything can be done about that, so it doesn’t help to focus on it and become stressed, upset or give up.

Rather than focus on the issue itself, be mindful of how you are reacting to it. This is at the heart of maintaining perspective and developing resilience, two traits which are shared by many of today’s most successful people.

Mindfulness is not a fancy buzzword, but an essential part of living a happy life. At its core, mindfulness is about self awareness. It’s about having a good idea of who you are, how far you’ve come in life and how far you still have to go. It’s being aware of your own set of values and beliefs, and what is important to you. It’s knowing what you are, and are not, prepared to accept in life, what is non-negotiable and which areas are open for compromise.

Beating yourself up after a failure, or when you find yourself in a painful situation, will get you nowhere. It leads you to curse your luck and seek to lay the blame elsewhere for what went wrong. It can eat away at your confidence and stop your progress in its tracks.

This is where the shift in perspective comes in very handy. Shift your thinking away  from failure, pain and loss being negative. Instead, frame it as a learning experience, as pain is the best teacher of all.

Failure, pain and loss should, ideally, lead to reflection. If it’s something which we attempted but ultimately went wrong, reflect on what went wrong and why. Ask yourself, what, if you were to attempt it again, you would do differently. Look for lessons to be learned and changes you could make in order to bounce back stronger.

Pain and loss are different, but can still be formative experiences. Take losing a loved one, for example. While we come to terms with the loss, we are also forced to face our own mortality and accept that nobody lives forever. At least not in body. When doing this, ask yourself;

  • Are you happy with where you are in life right now? If yes, why? If no, why?
  • Are you living according to your beliefs and values?
  • What can you do to improve the quality of your life?
  • What is stopping you from achieving or experiencing more of what you want in life?

Bad things happen to everyone, even good people. For some, they can be crushing events from which they never fully recover. For others, they can be the catalyst for real, meaningful change. The deciding factor lies in the space between our ears. Our “little grey cells” as Hercule Poirot often called them determine how we view and react to everything which we experience, good and bad.

Our grey cells might be relatively “little” but they are incredibly powerful. They absorb everything we see, hear and experience before determining whether it is good or bad, positive or negative. In plain English..it’s up to each individual how they perceive the world around them. This is why we need to be self-aware, because once we know what we want from life, and what we attach importance to, this helps to provide a reference point to which we can compare everything that life throws at us. In this way, we know if we are truly happy at any given time, or not. It’s easier to remain positive in the face of adversity when we know that this bad situation will have no real impact on our lives and the direction in which it is headed. That way, we save our worries and energy for those things that do involve us.

How Will You Respond?

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom

Viktor E Frankl

Life is a rollercoaster ride, full of ups and downs. All of us experience good and bad times, without exception. You would be forgiven for thinking that the most successful people are that way because they have more luck and less misfortune than the rest of the population, but that is simply not true. They experience failure and bad times too. The only difference lies in the way that they react to it.

Social media has a big part to play in this misunderstanding, because people mistakenly believe it to be a reflection of real life. In fact, the majority of successful and influential people are not using social media platforms to document their daily lives. Instead, they are using these accounts to show you only want they want you to see, that which can raise their profile and those things that paint them in the best light. Think of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc as simply a highlight reel.

Some celebrities and influential people, however, have stopped reading from this script and are indeed using their accounts to show the realities of life as an entertainer, sportsperson or entrepreneur. They share their real lives, good and bad, and let us see that they are vulnerable and human too. They too experience difficult times and have their own demons to battle, and in doing it in the public eye they are providing true inspiration. In sharing their journeys with us, they send a message that we all have bad days but what counts is how we frame those bad experiences and react to them. We certainly need more of this, and less showing off.

Of course, some of these famous people were given a boost because they went to the right schools or were part of the right social circle. But they are the exception to the rule. The majority of those who have reached the highest heights in their chosen arena, have done so through hard work and perseverance. They haven’t necessarily had more opportunities that anybody else, but they just made the most of those which came their way. Luck didn’t have much of a say in the matter either.

Neither did they have a Midas Touch which ensured success at whatever they attempted.  They just kept going when their progress slowed to a crawl, and they started to experience difficulties. Essentially, they developed personal resilience. Armed with this, they bounced back when life knocked them down, and persevered until they tased sweet success.

In order to develop personal resilience, it is first important to identify your beliefs and values. Grab a pen and paper and select your top 10 personal values from this list. If you can, listen them in order of importance too;

  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Affection
  • Competitiveness
  • Co-operation
  • Creativity
  • Security
  • Family Happiness
  • Freedom
  • Friendship
  • Harmony
  • Health
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Personal Development
  • Spirituality
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

Now, think about your empowering beliefs. Write down your top 3.

Here are some examples;

  • I like myself
  • I am good enough
  • My future is full of interesting possibilities
  • I always find a way
  • I’m always lucky

Lastly, pick your 3 limiting beliefs. This is when that little voice pipes up to sap your confidence, and stop your progress in its tracks. What stories does yours tell you?You could have;

  • I don’t like the person I have become
  • I am not clever/ good enough
  • Life is meant to be difficult
  • People are basically only out for themselves
  • You get rich by exploiting others
  • I can’t afford to take risks

The purpose of the above is to help you become a little more self aware. Once you know who you are, what you believe and what you value, then you will start to live in accordance to your beliefs and values. This is the first step towards becoming resilient.

Now that you know that you know what you value and believe in, have a think about your desire to change;

Ask yourself;

  1. How committed are you to taking action to change your life?
  2. What are 3 key things which you would like to achieve within the next 3 months?
  3. What would your life look like and feel like if you achieved them?
  4. What would you have to do or become to make them a reality?
  5. What are 5 resources which you possess?

Lastly, having determined that you have the will and resources to change for the better, it’s time to think about what is holding you back.

  1. What 3 things are you tolerating in your life right now?
  2. What do you gain from these things?
  3. What have these things cost you in your life?
  4. What do you gain by to changing?
  5. What would you have to do to make decisive change?
  6. What would it cost you to make these changes?

What has all this got to do with the way in which successful people have achieved so much in their lives?

As we have touched on above, people become successful when they become resilient and work hard. In order to develop resilience, however, they need to become self-aware, know what they believe in and value and be committed to constant improvement in their personal and professional lives. This helps them to develop a strong belief in themselves and their abilities, ignoring negative influences and persevering when times get tough.

This is something that takes a lot of hard work, but anyone can do it. Those who stick with it and do become resilient, are the ones who will see positive changes in their lives. Consistently. Because they know who they are, what they want in their lives, what they are prepared to accept and what they will not. Most of all, though, they understand that it’s their perspective and reaction to outside circumstances that determines how far they will go in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Let Others Treat You?

Our attitudes and behaviours are the biggest factors in determining how we are treated by others. Whether we realise it or not, people look to you for signs as to how they should behave around you.

People read each other all the time. We regularly monitor the facial expressions and body language of others, as well as what they say and do. From this, we determine if they are happy, angry or sad and in need of help or support. We determine whether a stranger may be potentially friendly or hostile. We read moods, and so much more, so that we can adjust our behaviour towards others accordingly.

This is why self awareness is so important. Once you know who you are, what you want and what you will and will not accept from others, you begin to live according to these values and principles. This causes a subtle shift in the messages you send to others around you through your words and actions. Your interactions with others will change as they begin to adapt their interactions with you accordingly. Self awareness leads to self control and self discipline. You no longer stumble through life, but instead everything becomes more deliberate. When you know who you are and what you want in life, you act accordingly. When you become disciplined and your actions become more deliberate and carefully considered, people treat you more respectfully. In fact, they often turn to you for guidance and advice, through which you become able to positively influence others. When someone can see that you conduct yourself with respect and discipline, their approach to you changes. They are unlikely to try and impose their will on you, but rather try and discuss everything with you as an equal. Try it. Stand up straight, and talk more confidently in your next interaction. No matter how long you have known that person, chances are that you will notice a change in their behaviour.

The opposite can be true if you lack self awareness and self respect. Without knowing who you really are, you are at a greater risk of being led astray by others. Even if they don’t lead you astray, you will likely find yourself following their lead in life, regardless of whether it goes against everything that you want for yourself and takes you in completely the wrong direction. When another person views you as indecisive or suggestible, they tend to become more domineering, taking control of conversations and decisions. After all, if you don’t respect yourself, they won’t feel compelled to respect you either.

That is not to say that everyone is cold, calculating and manipulative. Far from it. It’s just that we tend to watch others for clues as to how we can behave towards them. This saves a lot of guesswork, because all we have to do then is treat them in a way which they are likely to find acceptable.

A lack of self awareness is not the only reason why we let people treat us the way they do. Sometimes, we consciously allow others to treat us in ways which we don’t appreciate. This, we do out of fear. We let a partner disrespect us because we fear that if we don’t, they will leave. We also tolerate behaviours from family, friends and social groups because we fear being frozen out. While this might make others happy, we become miserable. We hate the way others treat us, yet we feel powerless to address this as we don’t want to lose them.

This brings us back to self awareness. When you know who you are and what you want, you not only adjust your body language and actions accordingly, but you also review the people who you allow into your life. Be bold and be honest when doing this. Some people you may have outgrown and need to let go. There may be others with whom you need to spend more time. As we develop and grow into the people we were meant to be, it’s only natural that our social circle will change in order to reflect who we are and where we are going in life. After all, like attracts like.

You teach people how they can treat you. If you are unsure of what is acceptable from others, put the work in to rediscover who you really are. Note down;

  • How you would describe yourself
  • What legacy you would like to leave
  • What makes you happy
  • What you enjoy doing,
  • What you would do with your days if you won millions playing the lottery and no longer had to work?
  • Think about where you would like to be in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time.
  • What films and music do you enjoy?
  • What does a perfect weekend look like to you?
  • What are 3 things which you need to do every day in order to feel as though you accomplished something?
  • What is important to you and non-negotiable?

This list is not exhaustive, but answer the above points honestly and you will have a good idea of who you are and what you hold dear. Once you know this, reflect on your body language and words, and whether they reflect your true self. Then, look the people you allow into your life and ask yourself whether these are positive influences or not. If anything leaves you feeling unconvinced or uncertain, do something about it. Don’t be afraid about making the changes which could improve your quality of life. Instead, be afraid of doing nothing and remaining the same.

What Conversations Are You Having With Yourself?

Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears

Laird Hamilton

How much attention do you pay to your self-talk, and that little voice in the back of your head? More importantly, what does it say to you? Does it remind you of how far you’ve come and what you are capable of, or does it scream at you to play it safe and avoid taking risks?

Of all the things which can be blamed for sabotaging our progress, this is the biggest, but it’s also the one you can do something about. You can’t control the financial or employment markets, for instance, but you can change the way you talk to yourself. It’s not easy, but it is one of the best things which you can do for yourself, both personally and professionally.

We read, we study, we network and do whatever it takes to get us closer to our goals. However, this all counts for nothing if, when all the knowledge gathering and preparation has taken place and it’s time to take action, fear gets the better of you and you convince yourself that you just can’t do it.

Much the same as with perception and its power to determine your outlook on life, self-talk can either be a force for good or your biggest hindrance. It all depends on you. Sit back and do nothing, and you will find yourself going round in circles, getting all the preparation done, only for fear to take hold and it all to come to a screeching halt before it has even started. When you take a more proactive approach, though, and take control of what you are telling yourself, good things will happen as you proceed with confidence. It is often the case that you hit a wall in pursuit of your goals not because you lack knowledge, skills or experience, but because your confidence has been eroded by your fears and insecurities.

Changing the things which you say to yourself is just as difficult as changing the way in which you see the world and your place in it. The payoff for managing this, however, cannot be understated. Self belief, and feeling certain that you have whatever it takes to accomplish that which you set your sights on, is incredibly powerful once mastered. It’s a positive cycle;

  • Decide what it is that you want to achieve and break it down into goals and a plan of action.
  • Acquire the knowledge or skills required to accomplish that which you desire
  • Proceed with confidence in your ability, telling yourself that you already have everything which you need to succeed. Even if you don’t fully believe it, keep talking to yourself positively and confidently.
  • Learn from any setbacks, celebrate small victories and just keep going
  • As you accomplish your goals, replace them with more challenging ones and start again. When you start again, your recent achievements will leave you feeling more confident and more positive.

The more cycles you complete, the more positive and encouraging your self-talk will become. As you continue to learn, grow, develop, achieve and become more, you will notice how that little voice gets louder while at the same time becoming more supportive.

Pay close attention to what you are telling yourself, and if it’s not as positive as it should be, take action.

  • Carry a notebook and pen with you for a week (of course, you could do this digitally, but pen and paper is much more effective).
  • Every time that little voice speaks to you, no matter when or what about, write it down in your notebook.
  • At the end of the week, sit down with your notebook and revisit all that you have been saying to yourself. Is it largely positive or negative? If it’s overly negative, try changing the language which you use, and re-framing the situations. For example, you might not have got the job, but you were shortlisted for interview above hundreds of others  and have gained valuable interview experience which will stand you in good stead for next time.

When we love, care about or really like someone, we find ourselves naturally supportive of them and this is reflected in the language we use towards them. Starting today, make an effort to care about yourself just as much as you do about others, and adjust your self-talk accordingly.

 

Where Does Your Focus And Attention Rest?

Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say “so what?”

Andy Warhol

There is no magic combination of personal circumstances (relationships etc), finances and career that automatically lead to happiness. It’s up to you whether your life is one that makes you happy or miserable, because it’s a matter of perspective. It comes down to your life experiences, needs, wants, desires and how they make you feel. In short, life is what you make of it.

This really is as simple as it sounds, but we often forget it. We forget the power we have to forge our destinies and shape the world around us. Instead, we look to outside sources for inspiration or guidance on how to be happy and lead a fulfilled life. We seek advice or support from family and friends, and look to social media for an idea as to what we should have in our lives, or what we should be aiming for, in order to feel happy and accomplished.

It’s never a bad thing to seek the advice, or be inspired by, others. We shouldn’t, however, rely on it completely or follow their lead. We have to listen to ourselves first and foremost. The problem of looking to others for guidance or approval is that we assume that we can automatically replicate their results by copying them and following their lead. This is pure fantasy, though, as there are factors such as circumstances, opportunity and timing which are not taking into account. Most importantly…Why on earth would you just want to copy others and live as their clone? Would you rather not just be yourself, and live your life in a way which makes you happy?

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is perspective, not the truth

Marcus Aurelius

The above quote should be displayed everywhere, so we never forget this simple truth. Social media is make-believe. It’s simply not real. People show you only what they want you to see. As for our friends and family, all advice and guidance from others is never impartial, it’s a reflection of their own experiences, fears and insecurities. That is why the path to happiness lies in self awareness, learning about who we are and what we really want and adjusting our perspective accordingly.

In my life, I have met people with very little, struggling to support themselves and their families. They were genuinely happy, though. Speaking to them, I learned that they were happy because they felt loved by their families and friends, they were grateful for the little that they had and they felt blessed that they had opportunities to improve their circumstances if they worked hard enough. I have also met people with the best educations and careers, able to afford anything their heart desired, who still feel unfulfilled and unhappy. Their unhappiness largely lies in where they let their attention wander. Rather than practice gratitude for what they achieved this far, they focus on what others have and that they lack. So, they constantly postpone their happiness until they have a bigger house, faster car or better job. In this way, they will never be happy because they are always comparing their lives to others and always one step behind in cha. sing after what they have

Do you sit and beat yourself up about not having a big house, flashy car or millions in the bank? Or are you grateful for what you have, and constantly striving to become, and achieve, more? It’s a question of where you let your focus rest. This is why it’s important to reflect regularly on what we have in our lives for which we are grateful. It serves as a reminder of how far we have come,and what we have to be thankful for. It also grounds us and stops us from getting carried away by social media’s distorted reality. It reminds us who we are, what we have achieved so far and what goodness we already have in our lives. From here, we can focus on what we still need to improve the quality of our lives, and go after it.

Don’t Compromise Your Creativity and Imagination.

Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model

Vincent Van Gogh

One of the most courageous things you can do in this world, is to be yourself. Open yourself up authentically and vulnerably. Discover what you were meant to do with your life, and do it. Don’t look to anybody else for permission or inspiration. Speak your mind and be honest. Do what makes you feel alive, and happy. You only have one life, so live it however you want. Provided that you are not hurting anybody else, there is no reason why can’t do this. The alternative, of course, is to live somebody else’s life for 50 years and then spend the rest of your days looking back with regret on missed opportunities and deferred happiness.

Resist the urge to conform and fit in. Resist the pressures to change or compromise, which society and social media will inevitably subject you to. If you need to change who you are in order for others to accept you, then that is a clear sign that these people are not meant to be in your life. The universe has something else planned for you instead.

Staying true to yourself and embracing your creativity can often leave you feeling rather lonely and questioning whether you are doing the right thing. Have faith in yourself, and trust that if you keep working hard and persevere through the challenging times, great things will happen.

Offices, warehouses and countless other workplaces are full of people who traded their creativity and their dreams for a steady paycheck. Talk to a few people in your own workplace, and you will encounter people whose real passion and talent lie in writing, painting, singing, dancing, acting or anything other than what they are actually doing for a living. That’s not to say that a good job with a steady income is a bad thing. Far from it. We all have financial commitments and bills to pay, so having a regular paycheck helps you to ensure that your bills are always paid on time and that you can manage your finances in order to live comfortably. However, if you are to trade your imagination for a steady, secure job, be sure that it’s your own choice to do so and that this is not a decision which has been forced upon you.

The happiest people in life, are also the most authentic. They are the ones who have held on to their creativity and imagination, and also live life on their own terms. It’s not easy, at all, but when you live your life as you want, you will find that life becomes infinitely more enjoyable. Why is this, I hear you ask? Well, living life on your own terms is empowering. You realise just how much control you have, and how it’s your own thoughts, decisions and actions which determine your future.

Stop limiting your talents, and putting your life’s direction in the hands of others. Take back control, and live the life you want, as you want to

Make Yourself A Priority

Don’t be too eager to please other people, no matter who they are. This can be easier said than done, though, as we are social creatures who are driven to help and support others. Helping others is definitely not a bad thing, but far too many of us do this while forgetting to help ourselves first. Ideally, there needs to be a balance between the amount of time spent working on yourself, and the amount of time you donate to other people.

Be clear on your priorities and the things which are non-negotiable in your life. Once you know what these are, start saying no to requests and other commitments which get in the way of your priorities. Work through your own to-do list before you help anybody else with theirs. This is essential in order to feel happiness and fulfillment.

When you prioritise the requests of others over your needs, you make them happy, while simultaneously making yourself miserable. They get what they want or need, while you miss out. Your gym session gets missed because you were helping a friend with their tax return and ran out of time. You can’t make it to the game because you stayed late at work to help a colleague with a project which they’re working on. And so on. No matter the scenario, the result is always the same. The other people enlist your help to get their to-do list completed, making them happy. You find yourself with less time or energy to do what you value. Any positive feeling you get from helping others is erased by the disappointment and frustration of not being able to do those things which are important to you.

So, learn to say no to others. There is nothing wrong with prioritising your own wants and needs. If you have enough time for others, then great. If not, at least you have done the things which are important to you, in the time which you had available. People will understand. And for those that don’t, that’s just selfishness on their part. We spend far too much time and energy chasing the approval of others, that we forget to seek the most important approval of all – our own. Before you start listening to others’ demands on your time, ask yourself if you have completed all the tasks which you set for yourself today. If you have, that’s great because you’re free to help whoever you like. If, however, you haven’t that means that you still have work to do..on yourself.

When you prioritise yourself, people will respect you more. This sounds counter-intuitive, but people will value your time and help more when it’s not so freely given. When you choose the needs of others over your own, on the other hand, you end up being treated like a doormat. The more you sacrifice your own wants and needs to help others, the more they will expect or demand from you, as you become a tool to help them lighten their load. You almost end up living the lives of others, and that is never going to be healthy.

When you put yourself first, you not only become more productive but also happier. You do more and learn more, and thus feel the warm fuzzy glow of accomplishment. Needless to say that the more knowledge, skills and experience which you acquire through working on yourself, the more you will be able to do for others.

So, before you do anything for anyone else, make sure you have taken care of all of your priorities first.

 

Your Way Is The Only Way

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

There is no perfect, or right, way to do anything in life. Yet, it’s this fear of failing to achieve perfection, or do things exactly right, which paralyses so many people. We hold off on taking steps towards our goals or doing what we really want to. We spend too much time researching what others do and how they do it, and end up going nowhere fast ourselves.

Life is all about learning. We learn new skills or acquire new knowledge. Then we apply what we have learned. When things go well, we learn what we need to do more of. When they don’t go according to plan, we learn from this too and adapt our approach. Simple really, when you think about it. Feed your brain lots of good quality information, apply that knowledge by putting it into action and let the results inform you of the best way to complete the task at hand.

Also worth bearing in mind is that we are all unique. We have all been shaped by different circumstances and, as such, all view the world slightly differently. It stands to reason, then, that when we undertake a task, we all do it slightly differently. This is also true of situations when the steps and actions required to complete the task are all the same. Some will change the order in which the steps are tackled, spending more time on some than others. Some will even look at the whole process and question whether there is a better, easier or more efficient way to carry out the task.

Take, for example, an essay writing task given to a class of 14 year old schoolchildren. As a class, you study the instructions and the process together. Every single student is as clear as they can be on what they have to do and how. Yet, when it comes to actually planning and writing the essay, they will all tackle it in their own way. This is completely natural. They work to their strengths in order to produce the best result which they are capable of.

As adults, we can learn an awful lot of good things from children, and this is among them. We need to spend less time looking at how somebody else completes a task which we are attempting, and more time just putting the work in.

In short, you just need to take action and learn from the experience. Stop researching the details or trying to plan for perfection. All that really matters is the work. Take the task at hand and tackle it in your own way. Work to your strengths and make it yours. If you conceive a more efficient solution, try it. If it fails, just go back to square 1 and start again. If it succeeds, however, people may start adopting your approach.

You will never paint like Picasso, write like Hemingway or sing like Whitney Houston because you are not them. You can study their processes and copy them, but you will never produce the exact same results. Focus instead on yourself, and what you can do. Then, do it to the best of your ability, consistently. That is the way to get things done. Your way.

 

Focus Only On That Which You Can Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defeat Imposter Syndrome By Building Your Confidence

Imposter Syndrome, where you feel inferior to others, or that you lack the experience, knowledge or skills to do something, is a lot more common than you think. We all experience it. In fact, everybody would like a little more confidence or self esteem. Many of us go about it the right way, by stopping to regularly reflect on our lives and take a long hard look at ourselves. This is a great thing and everyone should be doing it. It’s how we determine whether we are heading in the right direction in life or whether we need to make an adjustment. BUT we are our own worst enemy and doing it all wrong. The problem is that we tend to see the worst in ourselves every time.

  • We make up imaginary “what if..” scenarios and fear what people might say about us if we attempt to do the things which we truly, in our hearts, wish to do.
  • We reflect on our goals and dreams, only to tell ourselves that we can’t do it.
  • We tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough
  • We tell ourselves that it won’t be worth the hassle
  • We tell ourselves that our circumstances are different to everybody else’s, that they are harder and nobody would understand.

We are all experts in identifying what’s wrong, only to follow it up immediately with the excuses and justifications which we need to hear, in order to convince ourselves of the pointlessness of  doing the work to change it.

We are led to believe that things are the way that they are, and we should just accept them and feel great about ourselves. But even when we do learn to accept things as they are, we still don’t feel great. The problem is that we are being told that feeling great about ourselves is a right, and correcting the issue is as simple as saying “I love myself”.. This is the biggest load of rubbish.

Think about it. Why would you have self esteem, self worth, self belief and confidence if all you do is skate through life doing nothing, contributing nothing, impacting no-one and living with no purpose? Anyone who thinks that they can develop these qualities and feel amazing about themselves by sitting around and watching Netflix, is clearly deluded. The truth is that;

  • Self esteem is earned
  • Self worth is earned.
  • Confidence is earned.
  • Self belief is earned.

These are not gifts or traits which you are either born with or inherit. These are assets which are earned through hard work. It’s this work which silences the negative inner voices, and helps you to become more confident.

If you want more self esteem, self worth or self belief, you need to do the difficult things which scare you. Keep doing them until they no longer make you break out in a cold sweat. They build confidence and they build character.

It’s natural not to feel great about all areas of your life. We all have our doubts, fears and insecurities but some of us hide them better than others. To tackle this, and build genuine confidence, you need to put the work in to push your limits and challenge yourself. Every single day.

Life’s Two Groups

There are two groups of people in this world. One group’s members will endure a lifetime of frustration, missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. The other will achieve more than they ever thought possible. So, what are these groups and which of them do you belong to?

Group 1 believe that their success is purely a matter of luck. They see social media posts of people who’ve become successful in their chosen arena almost overnight, and become encouraged that their time will come too. They fail, though, to take into account the years of disappointments, rejections and failures which these people have battled through in order to finally achieve fame and fortune. They regard these people as lucky, and reason that it’s only a matter of time before Lady Luck magically showers them with everything great in life. So, they sit around and trawl the internet for the quick and easy way to success, and wonder why success eludes them.

In group 2, however, people work relentlessly, and have faith that their desired results will come over the course of time. They work as hard as they possibly can and do EVERYTHING they can to forge the life that they want. Day and night. They study, they read, they listen to podcasts, they network and do whatever it takes to get them closer to their goals. One step at a time. They have faith in their ability, and believe that their efforts will pay off, even though it may not be going accordingly to plan right now. This is the group who lead a more productive, meaningful and fulfilling existence. They live with purpose, constantly striving for improvement in their personal and professional lives and as a result, achieve greatly.

Both groups have one thing in common, and it’s that they believe in an unseen force at play. So, what separates them? Work. Relentless, hard work.

One group depends on luck. They believe that they don’t have to do much at all, other than wait. Sounds too good to be true. Do nothing, and wait to get lucky. When this doesn’t happen, they just wait longer for it. As a result their time and potential gets wasted and they lead a mediocre life. There is only one way in which blind luck will make you rich, and that is by winning the lottery. You buy the ticket, and if your numbers come up, you hit the jackpot. No effort required. For everything else, you need to be more like the other group.

The other group are more proactive. They actually set goals and get to work. These are people who understand that they are in control of their own destiny, and do whatever it takes to get them closer to their goals. To them, sitting around and just waiting for it to happen is unthinkable. They have faith and belief in their abilities, but they also have a very strong work ethic. The faith and self-belief is what supports them through the challenging times and keeps them going when things go wrong. So, while they also believe in something unseen, in their case it provides a source of strength and helps them to become resilient and bounce back from setbacks.

The good news is that, even if you’ve spent a lifetime in group 1, all is not lost. You can change at any time. All you need to do is;

  1. Set aside some time for serious reflection. Be honest about where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what you truly want from life.
  2. Set goals. Once you know who you are, what you want and the resources at your disposal, set some clear goals.
  3. Plan. So, you’ve become more self-aware and have set your goals. Now you need to clarify how you will get to these goals. What resources will you be using? What gaps in your skills or knowledge will need to be addressed? How will you achieve this?
  4. Action. Now that you know who you are, what you want, and how you will get to it, all that is left is to put this into action. Enjoy the rollercoaster ride, but never stop learning and growing. Strive for constant improvement, and when things go wrong, learn from the mistakes and failures before picking yourself back up and trying again.

Which group are you currently in? If you are in Group 2, keep up the great work. If you find yourself in the group of dreamers, however, it’s time to get to work.

Talk Less, Listen More

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new

~ Dalai Lama

There is a good reason why we have 2 ears, and only one mouth (aside form the obvious physiological reasons, of course). It’s so that we can listen more to others and talk less. This is easier said than done, because humans are social creatures and we love to talk.

Talking is great. We share our experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings with others in order to impress, inform, persuade, gauge their reaction and so much more. The problem is that we love to talk about ourselves and our lives so much that we forget how to listen properly to others. It’s this inability to really listen when someone else is talking that impedes our ability to better understand, and forge closer relationships with, others. Not only that, but when we listen we can learn so much from other people and also have our beliefs and preconceptions challenged. Good conversations are the gateway to learning, understanding and growth. The great thing is that this works both ways, and you could be the one to help someone else by sharing you experiences and beliefs. However, if you’re not listening and paying attention to what they are saying, you won’t be able to help them because you won’t know what they need.

There are different types of listening, and nowadays it’s mostly done on a surface level. Too many people, when in a conversation, don’t give their full attention to whoever is talking. They hear only a fraction of the conversation because they are too busy thinking about what they are going to say next. But how do you think that makes the other person feel, when you don’t want to listen, but talk at them instead? Whether you realise it or not, when you do this, you are sending a message that you don’t find anything which they have to say to be interesting or important.

When in a conversation, you need to put your ego to one side and actually listen to what the other person has to say. Stop letting your mind wander onto what you want to say about yourself next, and just focus on understanding what you are hearing. This is how you forge closer and more meaningful relationships with people, by showing an interest in what they have to say and giving them your undivided attention. Your body language and your responses make it obvious when you are paying attention and when you are not, so don’t think you are fooling anybody by pretending to listen.

When you listen to somebody, you get a unique opportunity to view the world through their eyes. Everybody has something to teach us, whether it’s through their achievements or life experience, so approach conversations as an opportunity to learn. It may even be the case that you become the teacher, helping the other person to re-evaluate their ideas, or the inspiration for them to take their lives in a new direction.

Instead of merely exchanging pleasantries, or just talking at people, try to engage in meaningful conversations. Listen to, and try to get a better understanding of, the other person. Then, respond accordingly. Conversations are not one-sided lectures, but they are about sharing, discussing, challenging each other and learning. Effective conversations can help to forge deeper bonds with others, but also to challenge what you think to be true.

It’s no coincidence that those who are able to listen well, and hold effective conversations, tend to be the most successful. Listening and communicating effectively can make a person more likeable and help to grow their influence. After all, people like to feel appreciated so will seek out the company of those who they feel will listen to what they’ve to say. This can lead to better job and networking opportunities, but also forging stronger personal relationships.

So, the next time you are having a conversation with someone, try to listen twice as much as you are talking, and see what happens.

The Joys Of Solitude

The more you realise things, the more you want to be by yourself. Not a lot of people will understand the depths of your thoughts

~ Elvis Presley

Humans are social beings. We have an inherent need to interact with others, and in doing so we learn so much and greatly enrich our lives. That said, we also need to get comfortable with spending time alone. Ideally, there should be a healthy balance between time spent with others and time spent alone. As we are all unique and have different personalities, this balance will vary from person to person. You just have to experiment until you find a split which works for you.

Periods of solitude sound scary, but they are actually very important for your mental health. It sounds counter-intuitive, but spending quality time alone can actually make you a better person, and better company to be around.

Those who willingly spend periods of time alone, tend to be viewed with suspicion, but we can learn a lot from a particular group of them. There are two different groups of people who willingly spend time alone, though. The first are those who appreciate the power of time spent alone to boost your mental health. These people spend their alone-time gathering their thoughts, reflecting or working on their personal and professional development. The other group can be found binge-watching Netflix series while mindlessly surfing the internet. Needless to say, it’s the first group who have a lot to teach us. They tend to be the most self-aware, authentic and happy people you are likely to meet.

Spending time with others benefits our lives in so very many ways, but it also comes with its pressures. We feel pressured to conform to the expectations of others in order to be accepted. We feel pressured to sacrifice our free time to do things we would rather not, for fear of missing out. We spend all of our free time with others who do nothing to enrich our lives and waste time doing things which take us no closer towards our goals. We do this so that we don’t get left out, or left behind. The problem is that this fear of missing out and of being rejected drives us to become someone who we are not. We forget who we really are, what we value and what we want for our own lives. While this might bring some fun and enjoyment in the short-term, over the long-term it can seriously damage your mental health as the strain of putting on an act takes its toll.

I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve stayed in toxic relationships, and spent my time living other peoples’ lives. While I was rarely alone, I was also never truly happy. Over time, this contributed to the slippery slope towards depression which I found myself on last year. The ensuing illness which nearly cost me my life is also a godsend, as it finally opened my eyes to what I was doing, and what I had been neglecting.

In that hospital bed, all I had was time so I used it to reflect on my life. After my discharge, I cut off toxic people and re-evaluated who I was spending time with. I even called off my wedding and left my fiancee, which is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do. This was extremely difficult, but necessary. Soon, my insecurities vanished and were replaced by a sense of calm. Best of all, though, I rediscovered the joy of my own company.

I used to love time spent mountain biking or running in the wooded areas near my home. I also used to be a voracious reader, and journalled religiously, but as the demands on my time grew, all of this got neglected.

Freeing myself from certain people also freed me from the insecurities and pressures which came from spending time with them. It also freed up time. Lots of time. This is time which I then invested in reading, running and cycling in nature. Or spent journalling and reflecting on who I am, what I want from life and what my values are, all of which are important for my personal and professional development. Ever since I reminded myself of the power of time spent alone, I am happier, my mental health is better than ever and I am more productive than ever before. Naturally, I still socialise plenty. It’s just that I now guard my time spent alone, as I appreciate how important it is for my happiness and mental health. As with everything else in life, there needs to be a healthy balance between the time you spend working on yourself and the time which you spend in the company of others.

 

Solitude is dangerous. It’s very addictive. It becomes a habit after you realise how peaceful and calm it is. It’s like you don’t want to deal with people anymore because they drain your energy

~ Jim Carrey

A Black Dog Named Depression

Depression is your body saying “Fuck You, I don’t want to be this character any more. It’s too much for me” You should think of the word DEPRESSED as DEEP REST. Your body needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play

Jim Carrey

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad and helpless for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a real illness with real symptoms, but being a mental health issue, it’s difficult to recognise. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a serious condition of which, thankfully, awareness is increasing. It is also treatable. There are still some, however, who refuse to accept its severity and potentially devastating consequences. They play it down by telling sufferers to “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together”. This is about as helpful as treating a broken bone with a band-aid plaster.

The best way to treat this disease is through talking. Anti-depressants don’t work. They simply numb you, while the underlying causes of your illness go unchallenged. When you’re living with the black dog that is depression, talking and opening up about your illness is the scariest thing imaginable, yet it’s the only way to overcome it and regain control of your life. All sorts of questions go through your head, as you weigh up whether to tell someone else;

  • What will they think of me if I tell them? Will they see me as weak and pathetic?
  • Will they understand?
  • What if they no longer want to know me after I told them?
  • What if they tell others, and I become a laughing stock?

Experience has taught me that these fears couldn’t be further from the truth, and people will surprise you with how caring and supportive they can be once you open up to them. You just need to think carefully about who it is that you are confiding in, and be sure that you can rely on their confidence.

Depression doesn’t distinguish between social status, race or age. It really can happen to anyone. I’ve suffered with this debilitating illness on and off for a while, but had never really done much about it. Just ride it out when it strikes, then brush it under the carpet and move on. Until last year, when it nearly cost me my life. I don’t suffer from drug or alcohol addiction, in fact I am teetotal by choice. My childhood was one filled with love and happiness, and I have performed well academically and later, professionally. I am one of life’s lucky people, and last year, I was preparing to marry my fiancee and buy a house together.

It should have been the happiest time of my life, but I was in turmoil. I felt overwhelmed. Demands were being placed on my time, and I had to forego the things which I wanted to do, and which made me happy. I was expected to behave in certain ways, and pretty much become a different person according to the company I was with. My focus was on keeping other people happy and tending to their needs, all the while neglecting my own. I barely slept, exercised or ate and was under constant attack by the grey matter between my ears. As my mental health deteriorated, so did my physical health and immune system, so that a simple flu led to pneumonia, sepsis and a fortnight fighting for my life in hospital.

I survived, but the road to recovery was a long and painful one. I finally accepted that I was suffering from mental health issues and asked for help. The friends and family in whom I confided were an amazing source of support and encouragement, but it was counselling that made all the difference.

Psychologists come only second in scariness to dentists. Still, I was determined to cure myself of this terrible disease once and for all, so I faced my fears and started counselling.

This was the best gift I could have given myself. Working with a psychologist forced me to confront my fears and insecurities, but also determine who I am. Not who society, family or friends expect me to be. I worked to understand what I hold important in my life, and what I need in order to be happy. I also worked to understand who I really am and what it is that I want from life.

All of this served to help me become more self-aware and more confident. As a result, I am able to identify the triggers that used to start me on an downward spiral, and tackle them before they take hold and cause me any harm. I have re-evaluated who I spend time with and what I spend my time doing, ridding my life of negative people and their influences. It caused a lot of problems, as some people reacted very badly to me taking control of my mental health and my life. As soon as I realised that they weren’t angry at me as a person, but that they were angry because I was no longer conforming to their expectations, I cut them off and felt instantly relieved.

I now live my life as I want. I still treat all others with kindness and respect, and strive to become the very best version of myself BUT I am careful about who I spend my time with, and what I spend my time doing. Is it making me happy? Is it helping me to grow as a person, or professionally? I no longer dance to the tune of others, and I have never been happier. Of course, I adapt and compromise wherever necessary, but I will never again sacrifice what I hold dear just so that others might accept me.

I’m not playing down depression, or saying that tackling it is easy. I’m not saying, either, that it’s just caused by trying to live up to the expectation of others. There are many causes, and mine was trying to live up to the expectations of others while neglecting myself. I only hope that this will help to increase awareness of the condition, and give others the strength to seek help.

Depression is one of the biggest killers of young people, but it’s treatable. We just need to find the courage to speak to someone. Most of all, though, we need to find the courage to be ourselves and live our own lives. Marketers and social media outlets bombard us with messages constantly about how we should live our lives and we feel compelled to pay attention. After all, we don’t want to miss out and be left behind. This becomes a problem, though, when we set aside our own values, forget who we are and become someone else just so that we can be accepted by others.

If you want to achieve anything in life, you need to pay close attention to your mental health. Like a bonsai tree, it can be very delicate and in need to of time and attention. Take good care of your little grey cells and they will take very good care of you on your journey through life.

 

It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction

Malcolm X

The Secret Ingredient To A Happy Life? Love!

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

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.