Glass Half Empty or Half Full?!

Glass half full? Glass half empty? How often do we get asked this pointless question. The glass is, basically, a metaphor for our lives. If you are a “glass half full” person this is supposed to indicate that you are one of life’s optimists, with a positive mental outlook and a belief that you have lots of goodness in your life, but room for plenty more. If, however, you identify with the “glass half empty” mentality, you are a pessimist who views and approaches life with a more negative mindset. Personally, I wonder why we even bother to focus on the glass at all. It’s all a load of rubbish, anyway.

Who cares how full or empty the metaphorical glass is?! If you like what’s in it, add more. If you don’t, pour it out and start again. Whatever you do, though, don’t just sit around and moan. Take ownership of your life and do something positive with it.

Enough metaphors now. They are making my brain hurt. To put it simply, if you are happy with your circumstances and your life in general, do more of what you are doing and build on what you have. If, on the other hand, you are unhappy, unfulfilled or dissatisfied with your life, stop moaning and do something about it. Decide what it is that you would like to change, and get to work.

Each of us is the master of our own destiny and in control of our lives. The beauty of life is that we can hit the reset button and start again whenever we need to. We can change direction whenever we want. It’s up to each of us what future we create for ourselves. Nobody else is going to fix your life for you, because they are busy enough with their own. The perfect life is not going to fall out of the sky and land in your lap, and neither is it to be found in the latest superstar self-help guru’s book or seminar. It’s up to you. Ask yourself… What is it that you really want? How deeply do you want it? How hard are you prepared to work for it? How much are you prepared to sacrifice in the short-term, in order that you can live out the rest of your life feeling happy and fulfilled? Answer these questions, and they will give you an idea of what you need to do in order to be living the life of your dreams. Turn these ideas into clear goals and a plan of action. Then put the work in. Every day. Even on those days when you least feel like it.

Stop looking for metaphors or excuses and start, instead, building the life of your dreams. Little by little, every day. Or, alternatively, do nothing and stay as you are. The choice is yours alone, but if you choose mediocrity over greatness, you lose the right to whinge about it. So…let’s have less whining and more work. Or less work but no whining. Choose wisely.

Your Life Is Your Responsibility Alone

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

Tim Grover

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

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

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

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

Prince Ea

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Reality Check

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and take control

Yesterday, we looked at the dangers of blaming others for our misfortunes or lack of progress towards our goals. It is quite worrying that we are so quick to seek a scapegoat when we fall short of our goals or are dealt a bad hand in life, but reluctant to look at ourselves and how we might be responsible.

The truth is that, aside from your family and closest friends, nobody really cares whether you thrive or merely survive. This is because everyone is fighting their own battles and chasing their own goals. So, stop making excuses for your circumstances. Stop pointing the finger of blame at anybody else, unless you can be absolutely certain that there was nothing that you could’ve done to prevent the current situation in which you find yourself.

Your progress, development and ultimate success or failure depend on you, and you alone. Nobody will give you your true value, until you work for it and earn it. Take an employer, for example. Employers want value for their investment (your salary, training costs and bonuses) and will attempt to squeeze as much work out of you as possible. If you let them, they will have you working as many as 60 or 70 hours, including evenings and weekends. It’s up to you to protect your health and personal life. Most companies do offer benefits such as gym memberships at reduced rates, cycle to work schemes and the opportunity to work remotely, from home, but you have to go and get it if you want it. You will not be chased to take advantage of what is on offer. If you sit back and wait for an employer to come to you with offers of better pay and other perks, you will be waiting a very long time. Bear in mind that it is ultimately your responsibility when your health and relationships start to fail, not your employer’s, as you neglected both.

One of the big goals shared by an increasing number of people, is to achieve financial freedom. The popular misconception, though, is that in order to achieve this sacrifices must be made. So people sacrifice their health and happiness in the hope that all of the extra work will allow them to achieve financial freedom and independence. It goes well for a while, until they wake up one morning to realise that they have a healthy bank balance and nice things, but little else. The tendency is to blame their employer for this, but the reality is that this is merely the result of the choices which they made.

As with any other goal, if you want to achieve financial freedom you have to work for it. This does not mean giving up on your personal life in order to give everything for an employer. It means working on yourself, otherwise known as working smart.

Work is not limited to the 8 or 9 hours you give to your employer daily in return for your salary. I find it odd that so many people work all day long for somebody else, but do nothing to help themselves in the evenings and at weekends. It is as if they expect opportunities to simply fall from the sky into their lap. Unfortunately this is not the case.

How deeply do you want to become successful? If you really want it, you need to put the work in, as this is the only way to get peoples’ attention and raise awareness of what value you have to offer. It stands to reason that you can’t do this while at work, and on your employer’s time. So you need to be prepared to give up the box sets or nights out with friends.

Success is not an overnight process, and may take months of hustling in silence during those times when you’d rather be resting or enjoying some downtime, but this is the price that you have to pay if you really want it. After you have finished your day’s work for your employer, you have a duty to work on your personal development. Fail to do this, and you only have yourself to blame when you stagnate and stop making progress.

 

The Blame Game

This has to be one of the most popular games in modern times. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the quickest and easiest ways to ensure that we never fulfill our potential. The game itself is easy to follow and there are very few rules. In order to play, you must simply list everything in your life which has not gone according to plan, which you consider to be unfair or which makes you unhappy. It’s best to list these on paper so you don’t lose track. Once you have your list, you then take each item in turn and list who or what it can be blamed upon. You must not list yourself against any of these items and doing so will result in instant disqualification. Don’t worry about situations, circumstances or causes, all that matters is that you have a scapegoat. The quickest person to find a scapegoat for all of their issues is the winner.

Sounds ridiculous, right?! Of course it does, yet countless people do this, whether they realise it or not. When things go wrong, we take the easy route and look to assign blame for it. I say “we” because I am far from perfect, and just as guilty of this as everybody else. This route is attractive because it requires minimal effort and absolves you of all responsibility for what happens in your life. This is the passive approach, waiting for things to happen, before bemoaning your helplessness and giving up. It’s also the approach favoured by low-achievers. With this being the easy route, it stands to reason that there must also be a more difficult way to deal with our issues.

The difficult route is the one which requires hard work. It can be uncomfortable, but also offers the greatest rewards. The easy route appeals to us because it simply requires us to determine who or what else is at fault for our problems, convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do about it and then give up. The difficult route, on the other hand calls for reflection and action.

The difficult route is the route of responsibility. When things fail to turn out as we had liked, the first thing to do is carry out a post-mortem. Carry out a thorough investigation of the circumstances which might have led to the situation in which you find yourself. Look for clues which could reveal errors in decision making or missed opportunities. Revisit your strengths, and determine how they could’ve been better used to succeed. Also look at your weaknesses, and determine where the gaps in your knowledge or abilities lie, before taking action to remedy them. In time, if you choose this route often enough, you will adopt a more proactive approach to life. Rather than waiting for things to happen, you will go out and make them happen. You will discover just how much power you have over the course which your life is to take, and do everything within your power to ensure that you fulfill your potential and live the life you crave.

Stop blaming others for your circumstances. Your actions and decisions have led you to the point at which you find yourself. There are, of course, some things which are out of our control, and can’t be helped. Stop dwelling on these but focus instead on what is within your power. There is no limit to what you can achieve when you stop feeling sorry for yourself and instead feel driven to succeed in the face of adversity. Adopt this mentality and mindset,and you can start taking ownership of your life. Adversity and failures will then stop halting your progress. Instead they will just be another challenge to be overcome through persistent effort and hard work.

Once you change your perspective and approach, you will realise just how much control you have over your life. More importantly, however, it will become clear that if you are wasting your talents, skills, knowledge and opportunities, you only have yourself to blame.

The good thing about bad decisions…

..is that they can provide a valuable learning opportunity. IF you heed their lessons, that is. As with failure in general, bad decisions should be regarded as a necessary inconvenience which have in them the power for good. This is all on one condition though, that you not only learn from these mistakes but also put that learning into practice so that it doesn’t happen again.

Hence the importance on reflecting on your journey, and the direction in which you are headed. When you have a positive outcome, reflect on the decisions, actions and behaviours which led to the successful result. This will allow you to identify which aspects of the decision making process and behaviours to continue, or seek to improve, in order to prolong success. On the other hand, reflecting on what may have led to a negative outcome is just as valuable. It highlights flaws in the decision-making process and behaviours which can be avoided in the future. Rather than just blaming everything on bad luck, ask yourself if there was anything you could’ve done differently; are there resources at your disposal which you could’ve used to achieve a more favourable outcome? Could you have devoted more time, attention or effort? Are there warning signs which were missed?

Reflection is not easy, especially after a negative outcome, but the benefit is immense. When you are able to identify areas for improvement in your decision-making process, and address them, you develop a more proactive approach to life. Life is no longer something which just happens to you, and to which you react. You have, to a certain extent, ownership over your future and no longer leave everything to chance. In turn, you become resilient and feel in control of your destiny. You also feel better able to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Self-awareness also increases as a result of reflection. You become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. Not only that, but with time and effort, alongside the ability to identify decisions which were good or bad, you also come to understand what drove you to make those decisions. This stops your ego from driving you to continue chasing losses or making bad decisions.

Improving your decision-making process is as important in business as it is in our personal development. Don’t just take my word for it though;

Part of making good decisions in business is recognizing the poor decisions you’ve made and why they were poor. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’m going to make more. It’s the name of the game. You don’t want to expect perfection in yourself. You want to strive to do your best. It’s too demanding to expect perfection in yourself

Warren Buffett

If you don’t take control of your life..

…someone else will. This is why I feel so strongly about why we should become more self-aware, set goals in life and pursue them. It’s why we need passion, purpose and drive, or else life can become uneventful, dull and repetitive.

That is not to say that we need to have it all figured out, but we do need a certain level of direction in our lives. We need to know, roughly, where we are headed. With this awareness, we are less likely to be led astray or manipulated by others. We become stronger mentally, more focused and wiser. We are, essentially, better able to position ourselves to live the life of our dreams.

We also need to have interests which we are passionate about, as this gives us a break from the stresses of life. Being in control of our lives means that we will be immune to the doubts and criticisms of others, and have the strength to do whatever it is that makes our hearts sing. After all, when we follow our passion and share that which we create, we are inspiring others to have the courage to do the same.

Humans are creatures of habit, though. We like that which we know. Hence we develop routines which feel safe and also provide a source of comfort. We also don’t need to think too much when something is familiar. But there is a downside to the comfort of habit and routine, which is best summed up in a quote from the inimitable Charles Bukowski;

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”


The unconquerable spirit

We all face challenges and go through difficult times. It’s a hard fact of life, but also a formative opportunity.  The way in which we respond to adversity can forge our character and make us stronger.

The truth is that each of us, alone, is responsible for our own life and the direction it takes. The power really is in our hands, and the sooner we realise this, the better. I’ll say it again; you are in control of  your life. When you realise this, wonderful things happen. Chief among these positive changes is the shedding of the victim mentality. You no longer feel helpless and powerless in tough times, and that things just happen to you. Simply put, you gain a new perspective. You become stronger mentally, more resilient and more confident. You then begin to see challenges as a small bump in the road which you will overcome.

When I am going through tough times, I revisit one of my favourite poems, Invictus by William Earnest Henley, which I would like to share with you below. Invictus itself is a Latin term and means to be unconquerable or unbeatable. It’s about an indomitable spirit and a refusal to accept defeat. It is also strength and perspective in the face of adversity, which makes it perfect for times when you find yourself lacking courage or strength after a setback. Take ownership of, and responsibility, for your decisions and actions…..then watch the magic happen as your life changes for the better. Things do not simply happen to you. Understand that you make things happen. You have the power. Use it wisely.

Invictus 

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.   
   
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.   
   
Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
  Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.   
   
It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul

	

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.