What Are You Counting?

Ever since the invention of the Abacus, humans have been passionate about counting. We count everything.

If you are going to count anything, though, let it not be your calories or the inches around your waist. Nor the bad things which you’ve experienced or seen.

Instead, count your blessings, count your achievements, count the good people and positive influences which you have in your life.

Count your fondest, and happiest memories. Count all off the times you showed kindness to another person or creature, and how many times you received it unexpectedly.

Count the times you saw another human being do something beautiful, and which moved you.

Some things in life are worth counting. Others are not. Choose wisely.

The Power Of Forgiveness For A Positive Life

Let It Go, Let It Gooooooo….

Elsa (Frozen)

Forgive. Let things go. Don’t dwell on past pain and suffering. Reflect on what happened, learn from it and move on. We’ve all heard this advice. We all understand the value in it, but how do we actually do this? This is what the books, podcasts and blog posts often forget to help us with. They offer the platitudes but not the all-important “how to”. That’s only half the work, and really doesn’t offer any benefit for those who are stuck and looking for help.

When somebody does something that negatively impacts us, whether intentionally or not, our natural instinct is to look at ourselves. We wonder what we did wrong to that person that they had to treat us badly. We blame ourselves and beat ourselves up. STOP. JUST STOP. When we do this, we are hurting ourselves unnecessarily.

By blaming ourselves for the wrongs others have inflicted on us, we are forgetting to take human nature into account. This is the first step to mastering the art of forgiveness; perspective;

  • Learn to understand that we are all human and make mistakes. Some of those mistakes will hurt or upset others. Others’ mistakes will hurt you, and you will also make mistakes in life that will hurt others.
  • Very rarely does somebody actually set out with the intention of hurting anybody else. We all have a moral compass, but some work better than others. Sometimes you will get hurt because somebody else is so focused on what they want, and know that you are the key to them getting it, that they fail to stop and consider any consequences. Accept that most people are driven by their own wants or needs. We become so focused on what we want, that we forget to stop and think about how our words or actions might affect others.

The point i’m making here is that it’s not about you. It’s more likely that the other person was going after what they wanted with tunnel vision and couldn’t see the damage that they were causing. Or, perhaps they just made a mistake. It is, thankfully, incredibly rare that one person would intentionally aim to hurt another. We are human. We make mistakes. We don’t always think before we act. I know this for a fact, because I have been here more times than I care to remember. I have hurt people who I loved and cared for deeply just by being thoughtless or through poor judgement.

You can’t dwell on the bad things that you suffered, though. All that this achieves is to slowly erode your confidence. The more you focus on the negative things that you have done or have been done to you, the more your mindset becomes negative. This, in turn, invites self-doubt, pessimism and cynicism into your life while also negatively affecting your relationships. As this all takes hold, you lose focus and direction in life, and opportunities pass you by. In short, by dwelling on past pain, you sabotage your personal or professional development while robbing yourself of happiness.

This is a battle which takes place in your head. Those that have wronged you, are likely carrying on with their lives, oblivious to the pain which they have caused. You, on the other hand, are constantly replaying what happened and beating yourself up. You do need to play it back, but you need to do it with a purpose or else you are just beating yourself up for no reason. This is the second step to mastering forgiveness; reflection;

  • You are going to replay the situation in your head anyway, so you might as well get some use out of it. Revisit as much as possible.
    • Try to think about the lead-up to the event; what conversations were had, what was done and how it affected you. Did you become angry? Anxious? Happy? Reassured? Hopeful? Nervous?
    • Then the event itself. What happened? How did it affect you? How did you react? Did you discuss this with the other person?
    • Now, the analysis, which is all about self-awareness, and determining whether you could make any changes to your own behaviour to stop something similar happening again. What lessons can you learn from the experience? If faced again with a similar situation, how would you react next time?

People will say and do things that will hurt you. They are human, and make mistakes. Sometimes they will let their emotions cloud their judgement, and they will not stop to think about how their words or actions will affect you. How this all affects you, is all down to you, and you alone. You can let it eat you up and negatively affect your life, or you can learn and grow from the experience before letting go and moving on.

Happiness, And How To Find It

Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to “be happy”. One the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically…

…Once an individual’s search for meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering

Viktor Frankl

Everybody wants to spend the majority, if not all, of their time in a state of happiness. Which stands to reason. Releasing those pent-up endorphins and experiencing genuine happiness is one of the most powerful feelings available to all of us. In that time during which we are happy, our mood and mindset is positive, the world is a wonderful place and nothing can bring us down. But how do we find genuine, lasting happiness?

Social media and marketers constantly bombard us with messages about the products or holidays which we need in order to be happy. So we fall into the trap, buy their stuff, become happy for a while, but then we see something better which we want. So the happiness wears off and we need to spend more money buying more stuff. All this leads to is a situation where we have lots of stuff, but a lack of money, and feeling anything but happy.

We also seek happiness with other people, which is a dangerous game to play. At its worst we find ourselves compromising our beliefs and values just to be accepted by others.

Increasingly, though, people are turning to self-help books. These books claim to offer us the blueprint to happiness, the shortcuts to success and the guide we need so that we can start living the life of our dreams right now. Well marketed but lacking any real substance, most of these are best avoided. There are some exceptions to the rule, though, and I would highly recommend the work of Tony Robbins among others.

The above, however, is all a lie. Permanent happiness and an easy life is a myth. Life is often referred to as a rollercoaster ride, and I couldn’t agree more. Life is not straightforward, and it doesn’t follow a formula, but it has ups and downs, twists and turns. That’s what makes it so exciting. The experiences. The good times give us pleasure, joy, happiness and good memories. The bad times teach us valuable lessons. It’s important to embrace both equally.

Happiness, then, is not about material goods or fitting in with people who are not right for you. It certainly won’t be found in a “how to” book. After all, we are all different, with different hopes, dreams, strengths, weaknesses and drives. Happiness is internal. Only you can make yourself happy, and you do this through your own perspective; how you view the world and your place in it.

This is why it’s important that you become clear on your life’s purpose and the reason why you are here today. We are not put on this Earth just to waft aimlessly through life before fading away, like a fart. Each of us has their own contribution to make and their mark to leave on the world. It could be that you make your impact as a spouse and parent, raising, supporting and providing for a family of your own. Or, you may be destined to make your mark in the art world, the music industry or in business. Or perhaps philanthropy, conservation, politics…

Reflect on who you are, what you want from life, what you hope to achieve, what your strengths are, where your weaknesses lie, what you value and where your priorities lie. This will help you to identify your purpose. This will give meaning to your life, and once your life has meaning, it all makes sense. A life with meaning is more focused, as your thoughts and actions become geared towards living in accordance with your purpose and working towards it. Most of all, though, when you have a purpose and your life has a meaning, you experience true happiness which lasts. And it doesn’t cost a a thing.

Happiness need not involve spending a penny. It’s not about having nice things and lots of money. In fact, some of the happiest people you will ever meet are those that have the least. They are happy, however, because their life has a meaning. They know what they want and are striving towards it. They also know that when things go wrong and they suffer, they are going through hell for a reason. For instance, parents will gladly endure whatever hardships life can throw at them, for the sake of their children. And a husband will endure a job which he hates but pays well, so that his wife can work part-time while raising their children. They are happy because their life has a reason. In the same way, a struggling actor or actress will juggle several jobs and live hand-to-mouth while performing in small productions. They will struggle in this manner and remain happy, because they know that this is all helping to get them closer to where they really want to be in life – Hollywood. Essentially, when your life has a meaning, even the most challenging of times can be a source of happiness.

If you want to be really happy, genuinely and deeply happy, figure out what your life’s meaning or purpose is. Once you have determined this, live according to it. That’s the formula which works. It takes hard, introspective, soul searching and reflection but in the end it’s all worthwhile as your perspective shifts and your quality of life improves for the better.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

Thank You

Gratitude is heaven itself

William Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Dream (Edgar Allan Poe)

In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed-
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.

Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?

That holy dream- that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.

What though that light, thro’ storm and night,
So trembled from afar-
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth’s day-star?

 

 

My near-death experience and what it taught me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Make criticism your friend

Today, something interesting happened to me which i’d like to share. After posting 95 times on this blog, I finally got my first negative comment. It appeared in my spam box, but before I had the chance to respond, it had disappeared. This is not an attempt to boost my ego by bragging, but I am writing to share the experience and what I learned from it.

The funny thing is that, despite its content, this message energised me. I felt a surge of motivation, which turned to disappointment when the message was no longer there. The message itself simply stated that reading one of my posts had been a waste of time, as it lacked information. The thing is, this person was right. That particular post had been written to inspire readers to question their situation and take action. It was motivational, rather than informative. I should have made that clearer in my writing.

It is very easy to be discouraged and disheartened by one bad review or comment. It has happened to me plenty of times in the past. This time, however, was different. It made me question what I am doing, and how I could do it better. It also made me realise that our response to criticism is our choice. It’s all about perspective and mindset. It’s easy to accept criticism as fact and give up, but this fails to take into account that another person’s criticism is simply their opinion and not a fact. Another person might see or read the same thing and enjoy it.

When I post on this blog, it is in the hope of providing value in one of two ways. The first type of post aims to provide value through sharing experiences, advice and information. The second type of post, however, is written as a call to action.

This was the first criticism which I have received while blogging, and if the author is reading this, thank you. I appreciate all feedback, and this particular piece motivated me to revisit my writing style and ensure that I am writing to the best of my ability each time. The aim is that this review and reflection leads to better quality writing, while providing more value for all readers. My only regret is that the comment has disappeared and I am unable to share it here.

I welcome, and enjoy reading, all feedback. While positive feedback lets me know what you find interesting or useful, negative feedback is a powerful tool which can help me to provide even better material for your reading pleasure. So, please keep sharing and I will do my best to keep improving.

As far as any lessons which I have to offer, it is that your response to criticism is your choice. You can let it get you down, or it can fuel the fire within you to keep growing and improving. It’s easier said than done and requires practice, but criticism can be a force for good when it spurs you into action. Use negative feedback to review, reflect and improve your offering. I chose to be motivated by criticism to improve my blog. When criticism comes to you, how will you respond?

Regret

“When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.”

Jeff Bezos

When you reach a ripe old age and are reflecting back on your life, what would you rather be filled with; the satisfaction of a life well-lived and full of achievement? Or the regret of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities?

Regret is a very powerful emotional state, but also has within it the potential for good. It is far too late if you wait until you are approaching the end of your days to reflect on how your decisions and choices affected your life. Regret, in this case just intensifies as hindsight reveals missed opportunities which time has now left you unable to take advantage of. If, however, you are self-reflecting regularly as you go through life and setting goals to be aimed for, then regret can be used to your advantage. 

When you reflect back at regular intervals (monthly, for example) on your progress, it is inevitable that you bring to mind elements which fill you with a sense of regret. These could range from a missed business opportunity to an interaction which you could have handled better. Regret is uncomfortable, and our default reaction is to pretend as though it never happened. You can, however, choose to confront the source of your regret. In this way, regret is a positive force as it can spur you into action. It provides a learning opportunity, so that you may handle a similar situation better in the future, but it can also motivate you to search for a way to rectify the error or salvage the situation. The key message to take away here, is that you have a choice whether to let regret motivate you or defeat you.

The life we ultimately lead is the result of our choices and the limits that we have placed on ourselves. Of course, there are always outside forces and unforseen circumstances which may force us to change direction. It is, however, up to the individual whether they allow these challenges to derail their progress and force them to give up, or they find instead the courage to keep going. 

Reflecting on your life’s direction regularly and taking action is one of the most effective ways to fight off regret in later life. Stop letting outside influences dictate how you live your life, but rather make the choices and decisions which take you closer to your dreams, ambitions and goals. If your reflections do reveal sources of regret, don’t shy away from them but muster up the courage to challenge them.

Perspective

Too often, people unwittingly sabotage their own success and fall short of their goals. They fail to fulfill their potential, but the problem is that most don’t even recognise that they are doing it. This is because the cause is not openly visible for them to see. The sabotage comes from somewhere internal and hidden from sight; the mind. Your own worst enemy can often be found in the space between your ears.

The mind is as wonderful as it it complex. In good times, its positive voice can keep up the momentum and keep us motivated and inspired. It can identify opportunities for more success, or just identify things which we should be grateful for. In short, when times are good, our mind instills in us a positive outlook and we become happier and more determined to do well. This has the ability to attract more positivity and good results into our lives. Today I would like to focus, however, on the negative voice which can sometimes take over and bring our progress to a screeching halt.

When things are not going so well, though, our mind can also work against us. We find ourselves almost paralysed by fear or insecurity, being held back by thoughts of what others will say or do. We also tend to dwell on our misfortunes, or get so accustomed to a certain lifestyle that we are filled with terror at the thought of losing it.

The difference between these 2 scenarios is perspective, and the ability to take a step back and look at the overall situation, not just the snapshot in which we find ourselves. Whether times are good or bad, we should still be reflecting on our journeys. This helps us to keep everything in perspective. In times of success, maintaining a sense of perspective is what keeps us focused and motivated, but also humble. We realise that, in order to maintain our momentum and stay ahead of our competition, we need to keep learning from our experiences, putting in the work and taking steps forward.

In bad times, a sense of perspective is what can help us to turn the situation around. Again, you need to reflect on your current situation and identify opportunities for learning. Ask yourself where it went wrong and what you could’ve done better. Identify areas of weaknesses which need attention, and areas of strength which need to be taken advantage of. Use this reflection as an opportunity to learn, but also as a chance to rediscover your hunger, motivation and passion. This is how you put a setback into perspective, by using it as a chance to learn and bounce back wiser and hungrier to succeed.

Focus on the important aspects, such as your journey and progress, and not on things which you can’t control, from the approval of others to the lifestyle you wish you had. This is how you will develop the ability to put situations into perspective, and stop a bump in the road from totally bringing your progress to a halt.