Going All The Way..

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

Joe Namath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Man Who Thinks He Can (Walter D Wintle)

If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t;
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the word we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will,
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outcasted, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.

Book/ Film Review: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Having read the book a while ago, I stumbled across the film on Amazon Prime and decided to give it a go. I am not a fan of the book, at all, and was curious as to whether the film would be any better. No is the short answer. I would urge anyone contemplating this book to save their money. There are countless other titles in the bookstore which are more deserving of your time.

This long-lost secret simply deals with the Law of Attraction, and while there are a few decent parts in both the book and film, the majority of what you will read or absorb is just a mixture of half-truths and bullshit. Here are two of the best examples of bullshit you will come across;

  • The Law of Attraction means that whatever you focus on will come to you.  This is both bullshit and a half-truth, because it over-simplifies the process. There is no mention of the work and effort required to achieve that which you focus on. Nothing about reflection or goal setting. Nothing about overcoming difficulties which you may experience. Instead the audience is given the impression that you can just close your eyes, focus on something and in time it will come to you.
  • Disease can be overcome by positive thinking. This goes beyond bullshit to pure ridiculousness. While there is evidence from medical research of placebos being more effective than some medication in tests, and some stories of people defying medical diagnoses to recover from serious illness or injury, these are the exception. To offer such a broad statement is just plain stupid, and both denigrates and belittles the medical profession. I am particularly angry at this statement because I know from experience that no amount of positive thinking could have saved my life recently, but it was the medical expertise and hard work of a team of doctors and nurses which did.

The film itself is just boring. Its nothing more than a series of people, from authors to physicists offering a series of statements. It all seems very superficial with very little depth or substance, which is the same impression which I got from reading the book.

Fair is fair, however, and if I am going to highlight the negative aspects of both book and film, It’s only right that I mention the good elements too;

  • The Law of Attraction, and visualisation. I know that i’ve highlighted this above as bullshit, but that referred to the way in which it was presented. The Law Of Attraction is the first step on the path to achieving whatever it is that you desire. You determine what it is that you want, but that alone is not enough to make it a reality. There is a process which works for me (see below), which basically involves reflection and hard work. Without these 2 elements, the Law of Attraction is just wishful thinking.
  • The power of a positive mindset. This I really like. A positive mindset improves your mood and just makes you happier. Furthermore, with a positive mindset, you are more likely to be able to recognise and take advantage of opportunities for personal or professional progression which may come your way. This is due, in part, to the fact that a positive mindset increases your self-belief and gives you the confidence that you can succeed.
  • Gratitude. Important in helping to develop a positive mindset, gratitude is something we should all practice. In a society which tells us that we should always crave more, gratitude helps put things in perspective as we remind ourselves of everything we have in our lives which we appreciate. Practice gratitude and see your mood and mindset change for the better.
  • “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling today is creating your future”. In other words, we control the direction which our lives take. Our thoughts and feelings determine our choices and actions which in turn dictate the path we take.

The truth is that there is no secret to success, even though this book and countless others will try to convince you otherwise. I wouldn’t take the authors at the word, though, as self-help and personal development books are big business. From experience, and from what I know, in order to be successful, it could help to follow the below and adopt that which you may find relevant;

  • Reflection. Before you get started, you need to figure out who you are, what you want from life, your strengths and weaknesses, and the resources at your disposal.
  • Goal Setting. Once you are clear on what you want from life, the next step would be to define the goals or steps which will get you there. Break them down into small goals, because this will help keep you motivated as you achieve them in turn.
  • Action. Now that you know what you want and how you will be going about it, take action. If you don’t, your goals will remain nothing more than a daydream. The things you want will not come to you. You have to work for them.
  • Reflection, pt 2. Having started to work towards your goals, you will need to reflect some more. Reflect on what you have learned from your small victories, and also what you have learned from overcoming any problems experienced.
  • Next! As you meet your goals, don’t spend too much time congratulating yourself, but keep the momentum going. Move on to your next goal, or if you have accomplished what you set out to achieve, return to the first step for some reflection before setting new goals.

There are some good bits in both book and film, but not enough to justify spending any time or money on either. This, of course is just my opinion and if you disagree, I would love to hear from you and discuss this further.

Profiting from your passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discipline

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

Harry S Truman

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Ego

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The shortcut to greatness. ..

…is a myth. There is no secret, special formula or anything else. Sorry to burst your bubble. This may come as a surprise, because we are constantly being told that there is. Then again, those who usually claim to have all the answers usually have a book or a training course to sell too. Coincidence?!

The hard truth is that, in order to achieve success and greatness in your chosen arena, there must be hard work and effort. An awful lot of it. You have to do what others are not willing to. Consistently. Sacrifices and compromises will need to be made, and you will need to become resilient and persistent if you hope to persevere and overcome the obstacles and problems which you will encounter.

If you can do this, you will make progress. Progress not only with regards to your goals, but also your self awareness. You will, through all of the ups and downs and lessons learned, grow as a person.

Business publications and social media would have you believe that success can come quickly and bring tremendous riches. All that they are showing, though, is just the glamorous and appealing  end result and not the journey or the process itself. This is a shame, as the journey and process are what truly matter. This is where we are challenged to learn and grow, and discover who we truly are and what we are capable of. Gary Vaynerchuk tells us that “life is a marathon, not a sprint” and I couldn’t agree more. If you are going to be successful in pursuit of your goals, you will need patience and dogged determination. And you absolutely must fall in love with the journey and the process. 

Procrastination; Friend or Foe?

Procrastination has long had a bad reputation, with those who engage in this practice traditionally dismissed as being lazy, disorganised timewasters. The internet however, is awash with vlogs, blog articles and TED talks which aim to show procrastination in a positive light. Which brings us to the question; does procrastination deserve a second chance?

Procrastination, as I have discovered through personal experience, has the potential to be a very positive practice. At its best, it affords you the opportunity to complete small tasks which you may have been putting off. Stress levels can also be reduced, as you switch your focus temporarily from something challenging to something more enjoyable or relaxing. Following this, you might find yourself returning to the original problem or task refreshed and with a renewed  determination. This can in turn reduce wasted effort and increase focus and, ultimately, productivity. During this interlude and shift in focus and attention, you might find yourself learning something new or finding inspiration.

Furthermore, and this is my particularly true in my case, some people thrive under the pressure of a tight deadline which drives them to produce their best work. So, again, shifting your focus temporarily from the task in hand temporarily to something else could be a good thing if it serves to recharge your batteries and you subsequently return to the original task determined to succeed.

There are, however, an awful lot of if, buts, maybes, coulds, shoulds and woulds at play here. Procrastination’s ability to serve as a force of good or bad is really a question of potential. It has the potential to improve your life and make it easier, but it also has the potential to breed lazy, unmotivated, uninspired timewasting clockwatchers. The deciding factor? The individual.

As with anything else, it’s what you make of it. Procrastination can either be good or bad, positive or negative and it all depends on your attitude and behaviour. On the one hand, it can present an opportunity to reduce stress levels, get your creative juices flowing and provide a source of motivation and inspiration. On the other hand, though, it can breed laziness, disengagement and drain motivation.

If harnessed correctly, procrastination can be a powerful force for good on your journey towards success. It is, nonetheless your choice  as to where it leads, and if left untamed and allowed to run wild, it has the potential to seriously derail and undermine all of your efforts and good work to-date.

Procrastination. Good or bad, it’s up to you what you make of it.

Gratitude

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

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

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

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

Resilience

We recently added optimism to the list of elements which can help us on our journey of self discovery and growth. But does it not sound a little too simplistic?! So far we have learned that we should adopt a growth mindset and an optimistic outlook before setting goals and taking action if we want to succeed. As for failure, which is inevitable in any undertaking, it should not be feared but rather welcomed as an opportunity to learn and grow. So, armed with all of the above, you should confidently go forth and be rewarded with the life of your dreams, right? The problem is that if it was as easy as that sounds, we would all be entrepreneurs, actors, singers or astronauts.

So, what is it that high achievers do or possess that allows them to achieve their goals and ambitions? This element goes by many names, such as resilience, perseverance, mental strength or persistence. There is also an excellent book on this subject by Angela Duckworth, which defines it as grit.

Resilience, or whichever definition you prefer, is a passion and perseverance for long-term goals but means different things to different people. For some it is a stamina, which gives the strength to rise from setbacks and finish what they started. For others, it is the knowledge that, as long as you keep learning and putting in the work, you will get back on the right track. In other words, it is a belief that failures and setbacks are just a bump on the road towards success. It is the drowning out of the negative comments and misgivings of naysayers, no matter how good their intentions, and having confidence and faith in your own ability.

Resilience is not something you are born with, which you either have or don’t. The good news is that it can be worked on and developed, and here are some of the ways which work for me when  things don’t go according to plan and failure pays a visit;

  • Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. This is where optimism, a positive outlook and perspective really help. Keep reminding yourself of your purpose and why you are doing this. What do you want to achieve? What skills and behaviours do you want to foster and develop? What kind of person do you want to become by the end of your journey? How is this done, though? ⇓⇓
  • Reflect. Remind yourself, ideally in a reflective journal,  of what you are grateful for, and the progress which you have made so  far. This will help steer you back towards a positive mindset. Once you have rediscovered your optimism, it’s time to look for reasons as to why a particular setback happened. This is healthier and more productive than making excuses and becoming disheartened.
  • Evaluate. With things back into perspective, your optimism returned and an awareness of what went wrong, it’s time to bring it all together with an honest evaluation. This is where you determine how you will be getting back on track and moving forward. What resources do you have available to you? Are there any gaps in your knowledge which you can address? Most importantly, though, you now have an opportunity to challenge yourself, venturing once more outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself to do something which you think you can’t.

Obviously, this list is by no means exhaustive and others may use methods and strategies which work just as well, if not better. If you are one of these people, I would love to hear about your experiences and what works for you.

Resilience means different things to different people, but at its core it’s the faith that setbacks are only temporary, and actually offer an opportunity to learn and grow. Furthermore, it is the confidence that you will soon be back on course, stronger and better informed.

Optimism

Recently, we have looked at how setting goals, feeding your mind with positive input and taking action can help you on your journey of self discovery and achievement . There is, however, something that has the power to throw a spanner in the works and halt your progress, and that is pessimism. Pessimism is an attitude in which a person has the tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen. Its opposite, optimism, is what we should be striving for, defined as hopefulness and confidence about the future.

Unfortunately, you can’t just push a button and suddenly become an optimist. It takes hard work, but there are steps which we can take.

As a starting point, we need to look at reducing the negativity in our lives. This can be done, to a certain extent, by turning off the news and choosing positive sources of information which can take you closer to your goals. Avoiding gossip, while being easier said than done, is another important step which can be taken. Instead of complaining when things don’t go your way, get in the habit of looking for a solution.

Once you have started to minimise the negativity in your life, it’s time to think about how you can become an optimist;

  1. Practice gratitude – By practicing gratitude, we are reminded of the positives which we have in our lives, and it helps to put situations into perspective. You can practice gratitude by simply making a list of 3 things, every evening, of which you are grateful for. Over this time, this can be developed into a gratitude journal.
  2. Become better informed – Read books or journals, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, watch vlogs and youtube videos or seek networking opportunities. This will help increase your knowledge on a particular subject, potentially taking you closer to your goals if you use that knowledge.
  3. Take action – Identify one area in which you want to improve or which may be troubling you. Next, identify what you can do to make progress or solve the issue. Now make a plan to do 1 thing every day which will take you closer to your goal. In doing this, though, don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

 

In short, achievement and personal development occur when you foster the right attitude, namely one of positivity.

You are what you read

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

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

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

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

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

Goals are not just something you see in sports

Goals are not just something a football player might score, but a valuable tool to guide us on our journey towards success, self-discovery and achievement. Without goals, there is a danger that we might find ourselves just drifting through life lacking purpose, direction and focus while falling far short of our potential. The real benefit of having goals and striving to achieve them, however, is not in the goal itself but in what we learn along the way and how we develop and grow on this journey.

“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s as simple as that.”

Earl Nightingale

In short, goals give us the power to take control of the direction of our lives, force us to learn and grow and provide a tool to measure success and achievement.

There are 2 different types of goals, long-term and short-term and both are essential. Long-term goals are sometimes referred to as BHAGs (Big, Hairy and Audacious Goals) and should be challenging yet achievable. Your long-term goal is your overall vision of success. However, your long-term goal comes at the end of a journey of hard work, consistent effort, self-discovery and achievement. Along this journey, there are a number of sign-posts and checkpoints. These are your short-term goals. Short-term goals are the stepping stones which lead you towards your long-term goals, so it is essential that they are related to one another.

Before you start thinking about potential goals, define what success will look like to you. Carefully consider what it is that you want to achieve long-term and how you will do this through smaller short-term goals. Be honest and realistic about the resources available to you, and try to identify the behaviours and skills which you will need to develop in order to achieve your overarching goal.

A goal must be important to you, and be related to your priorities. There must be value in achieving your goals, as this helps to increase motivation and commitment, provide a sense of urgency and get you back on track after a setback. Essentially, you should be taking each short-term goal in turn and considering why it is important to you, what value it offers and how it will help you get closer to achieving your long-term goal.

“Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.”

Les Brown

Business literature, journals and the internet are full of recommendations as to the many different ways in which goals can be set. One of the most popular and highly recommended is the process of setting SMART goals, and it is on this process which we will be focusing. An effective way to create short-term goals is by making them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound).

Specific. There should be clarity in the definition of your goal. Goals are like signposts on the road to success, guiding you on a journey of self-discovery and achievement.

Measurable.  Be precise when determining how success will be measured (ie. generate ‘x’ amount of sales by ‘y’ date). With a way to measure your progress towards your goals, it becomes easier to identify and celebrate your successes while also identifying any areas for improvement.

Achievable.  As good as it may be to have a goal which stretches you and takes you out of your comfort zone, you must be realistic and honest with yourself about whether it can be done. Too challenging, and it could negatively affect your confidence and halt your progress.

Relevant.  There should be a clear link between your goals and the direction in which you want to steer your life. Your goals should be building blocks or signposts towards success

Time-Bound.  There must be a timeline in which you want to achieve your long-term goals, with deadlines for the short-term goals along the way. This helps to create a sense of urgency.

With your goals, both long and short-term set, the next step is to write them down. A goal becomes real when you put it before you in writing. I choose to write mine in a series of positive statements starting with “I will…” and ending with a deadline “by….”

Accountability can also be helpful and provide extra motivation. This is not for everyone, but your goals can be shared with trusted friends or family. Some people find that this is another helpful way to create a sense of urgency and keep you on track. Others, however, prefer their privacy and would rather work in silence.

Simply stating that you want something to happen is wishful thinking or dreaming. For it to become a reality, you need a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and why. Then comes the goal-setting process, before planning and taking action, celebrating victories and reflecting on what you’ve learned along the way.

Lights, Camera…ACTION!!

Having reflected on your current situation, and come to the realisation that change is necessary in order to grow, it is important to set appropriate goals. If possible, also identify the skills and behaviours which you will need to improve or develop.

From there; research. Whether reading, watching or listening to blogs, vlogs, books, audiobooks, podcasts or whichever medium you prefer, researching and gathering information is the logical next step. All the best plans and research, however, will come to nothing, unless you act upon them.

Knowledge is, of course, important, but it can only lead to meaningful change and progress if you act upon it.

Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do”

 –  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

A simplified way to look at the process above could be something like this;

  • Determine which areas you would like to make changes in
  • Set your goals and identify the steps which will take you closer to them. This includes identifying and working on the key behaviours and skills which will help you on your journey.
  • Do the preparatory work; read, research, plan and gather resources which you feel you may need.
  • Take action
  • Document your journey, paying attention not only to successes but also the lessons learned along the way. This is essential as it offers a blueprint as to how to maintain your momentum or recover after a setback.

There is no such thing as the perfect plan, or the perfect time to act upon it, so don’t waste time hunting for it or waiting for inspiration to strike. Just act on the plan which you have. This can lead to gaining momentum, courage, experience, confidence and motivation. It is far easier to get started and keep going if you take baby steps. Experience is key, as it is an excellent teacher. If things don’t turn out as you would have liked, learn from the experience and try again.

Furthermore, y taking action, you embark on a voyage of discovery. What works for me is to break my goals down into small actions or steps and work on one or two each day.

Failure, or more precisely the fear of failure, is what stops a lot of great people in their tracks. It is, whether you like it or not, an inevitable by-product of taking action. Not everything will work out the way you envisaged. Don’t let this deter you from taking action towards your goals, though. When failure comes, embrace it like you would an old friend. Treat it as a learning experience. Reflect on it and see what you can learn from it in order to move forward wiser and better informed.

“The possibilities are endless once we decide to act and not react”

 – George Bernard Shaw

As always, thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave a comment or share. The next few posts will be looking at the dangers of lists and looking for shortcuts, and also embracing failure

Visualisation and the Law of Attraction

Now that we have touched on the brain and how we learn, it’s time to look closer at the mind and what it is capable of. When exploring the power and potential of the mind, it is inevitable that the Law of Attraction will be encountered, alongside the power and benefits of visualisation. Well, what are they?

The Law of Attraction is a universal law which states that everyone has the ability and potential to attract things into their life through their thoughts, intentions and actions. In short, you attract whatever is on your mind. You will hear this expressed in many different ways, among them;

  • As you think, so shall you become
  • You attract what you feel, fear and think about
  • What consumes your mind, controls your life

Essentially, you have the potential to become or attract whatever you focus on. As the second point above hints at, however, the mind has the potential to attract negativity as well as positivity.

Visualisation is a similar concept, in that you first decide what you want to become or have, then focus on how you are going to achieve it before picturing it clearly in your mind. This vision will then become a reality. In other words, if you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand.

Does that not sound a little to easy or simplistic? Yet that is what endless self-help articles, books and programmes will tell us, and we love to hear it because we live in a time where hard work is shunned in favour of quick fixes. And hard work is definitely needed in order for visualisation or the Law of Attraction to actually produce positive results.

As we have seen, the Law of Attraction and Visualisation both work in a very similar way; you decide what you want, focus your mind on how it can be achieved or obtained and it will happen in due course.  There are 2 essential elements to their success, however which have been overlooked.

The first oversight is a person’s mental attitude. If you have the power to attract whatever you focus your mind on, then it stands to reason that there exists the potential to attract negativity into your life if your mind is filled with fears and insecurities. Therefore, optimism or a positive mental attitude is essential. After all, a negative mind cannot attract positive results. How does this work? Well, a positive mind leads to positive thoughts and positive behaviours which have the potential to attract positive results. Likewise, a negative mind affects our thoughts and behaviour negatively and can potentially lead to undesirable results. So, before anything can be visualised it is important to confront any fears and insecurities which could potentially derail the process.

The second oversight? Work. Yep, the dreaded W. As with anything else, having a positive mental attitude and visualising success is just the first step. You have to put the hard work in. It’s not enough to just believe and live as though you have already achieved your goal, but you also need to ACT. This is the final step and where a lot of people fall short. You do the initial work which leads to a more optimistic and positive outlook. From there, you decide what it is that you want and how you can get it. At this point, that which you are focusing on is merely a dream. It is only when you start to take action that your dream becomes a goal which can be achieved. Until then, it is merely wishful thinking.

In short, optimism plus a clear idea of what you want to achieve and the hard work needed to make happen is the recipe for success.

Thank you for reading. As always, please feel free to leave a comment or share your thoughts and experiences

The power of peace and quiet

Humans are social beings, and therefore hardwired for communication. Add to that the “Always On” culture in which we live today and we are surrounded by the endless noise of daily life wherever we go. While this is all good most of the time, we need to make space in our day for some quiet time or risk being sucker-punched by stress or burnout.

This, however, is easier said than done as silence is something that people tend to fear or avoid. In some cases, we can also feel guilty during quiet times, as though we are forgetting or neglecting something and feel awkward when surrounded by silence.

Making space in your day for quiet time not only offers an opportunity for quiet reflection and increased self-awareness, but can also help to reduce stress, improve concentration, gain focus and gain mental clarity.

Personally, I set aside an hour every day for uninterrupted silence, preferably outside in a park or wooded area. For me, this opens up my senses to the outside world while blocking out temporarily the pressures and stresses of daily life. I stop to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of nature, from the birds singing to the smell of freshly cut grass. and this helps me to relax and refocus. At the same time, I also become more self-aware through reflection which now comes naturally to me in these situations.

More often than not, I spend my quiet time in a park with a coffee, a good cigar and my Filofax in which I write down whatever is in my mind at the time, whether it be a song lyric, quote or simple musing. This later feeds into my journal entry for that particular day. Coffee and a good notebook are obvious companions in such an exercise, but why a cigar?!

One of my guilty pleasures, which I enjoy in moderation, is a good cigar. I usually save these for my quiet reflective moments, and enjoy pairing them with anything from coffee to whisky and experiencing the way in which the flavours compliment each other. My Instagram (@Christosmaximus82) profile documents the many combinations I have tried while deep in reflection. Most importantly, a cigar is enjoyed at a very leisurely pace. This encourages you to slow your racing thoughts and take some time to reflect on your day. With most of my cigars lasting an hour, I know that by the time I have finished it, my hour of quiet reflection is over and I can get on with my day refreshed and refocused.

Naturally, cigars are not for everyone. Neither is coffee or whisky, but these are all besides the point. These are just the treats which I enjoy during some of my quiet, reflective periods.

The best way to find out what works for you is to just set aside some time for uninterrupted silence in your day. It might feel a little odd at first, but you will soon get used to it. And when you do, you can also experiment with different quiet spaces, times and activities to discover what works for you.

I hope that this has given you some food for thought and if you are already doing this, feel free to share your experiences.  Or, if you thinking of giving it a go, good luck and let us know how you get on.

Reflection

Having touched on the importance of the mindset, and the 2 different types as defined by Carol Dweck, this brings us to the next topic which i’d like to touch on; reflection.

We all have a desire to live a fulfilled and meaningful life, and dread reaching old age only to rue missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. That is why we adopt a growth mindset, set ourselves goals and targets and set off on our journeys of self discovery and personal growth. This is where the importance of reflecting on our decisions and choices comes in.

Reflection allows us to analyse our thoughts and feelings, as well as choices made, decisions taken and opportunities missed. It helps us to identify what worked well, what didn’t, what we should be doing more of and what we should try to avoid. Contemplation is a great way to review what has been experienced and learned.

Moreover, it is a great way to monitor our goals and progress towards meeting them. Through reflection, we revisit our goals and are able to identify what progress is being made. This is a great way to identify strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures and identify the best way to move forward. And once a goal is completed, reflection helps to identify new challenges to be tackled in order to continue on the journey of growth.

Reflection, however is more than just the tracking of our progress towards our goals. It helps us to learn from our mistakes, but more importantly, it helps to increase our self awareness. Through the regular exploration of our thoughts and feelings, we learn what motivates us and makes us happy as well as identifying our fears and insecurities. It also sheds light on our decision-making processes, helping to identify why we made certain decisions and what we would do differently if faced with a similar situation in the future. This helps us to identify the person we want to be, and what steps we need to take to make that a reality.

Reflection is deeply personal and only you can decide what frequency and format works best for you. Myself, I reflect at the end of every day before bed and I do this in a journal. I recap my day and some of the areas I revisit are the decisions I made, the interactions I had and whether my actions took me closer towards my goals. I look at how productive my day was overall, and what further action I can take in the coming days.

I would love to hear from you about your views on reflection and whether it offers any benefits.  In the next post, we will be looking at journaling, what it is and what benefits it offers.

Mindset

In my first post, I would like to take a look at the Mindset,  and what it is, inspired by the excellent book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck.

Mindset is defined in the dictionary as the established set of attitudes held by someone. In the aforementioned book, the author describes how a person’s mindset can either be defined as a fixed mindset or a growth mindset,

In order to highlight the differences between the different mindsets, let us look at how they impact on an individual’s understanding of, and attitude towards, SKILLS, CHALLENGE, & EFFORT. Taking each attribute in turn, we will see how an individual behaves when in possession of a fixed or a growth mindset.

SKILLS

In a fixed mindset, there exists the belief that skills are inherent, that is to say something that you are born with and is fixed. You cannot change it or do anything about it. This simply isn’t the case, as research has shown that skills can be learned and perfected through many hours of purposeful practice (10,000 hours to be precise).

In a growth mindset, however, there is recognition that skills can be learned or developed through hard work and that there is always room for improvement through purposeful practice. Improvement, therefore, is dictated by a person’s will, determination and use of the resources available to them.

CHALLENGES

In a fixed mindset, challenges are often viewed with caution due to the risk involved. Of course, if a challenge is met with successfully, this highlights a person’s skills and abilities. However, not all challenges are completed successfully and it is the fear of failure which holds back those in possession of a fixed mindset. In a fixed mindset, failure is viewed as final, fatal and a reflection of a person’s lack of skill or ability.

In a growth mindset, challenges are embraced, and regarded as an opportunity to grow and learn. Therefore, people with a growth mindset are more likely to seek challenges, despite the possibility of failure.

EFFORT

Fixed mindset holders can have the view that effort is unnecessary, as they are already naturally talented .However, with a growth mindset, effort is regarded as an essential step on the path to self-mastery and achievement.

Possessed of a growth mindset, people believe that everything can be achieved through hard work and that there is always room for improvement.

With regards to people being born naturally talented, this is simply not the case. Every successful person has at one time or another failed, some having done so many times. What separates them from the rest is their perseverance, because through refusing to give up, embracing challenges, using their skills and putting in the required effort, they learned, grew and became successful.