Keep Smiling

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

Marilyn Monroe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The World Breaks Everyone

The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places

Ernest Hemingway

Bad things happen. We all know that. But so do terrible things, unimaginable things and things from which we doubt we will ever recover. As with anything else in life, it’s our response to these heartbreaking, soul sucking and demoralising experiences which  determine the quality of the rest of our lives. In short, these testing times can either make or break us. Whether it does the former or latter, is simply a matter of how we frame the incident, and how we respond to it.

We hear and read this everywhere, but the fact that our response to circumstances determines our quality of life, is not something that I fully appreciated until last year. Of all the things which I had worked on over the years for my personal and professional development, resilience and my response to negative situations was never one of them. As a result, for much of my life I would take 1 step forward and 2 steps back in everything I did. By this, I mean that I would research, plan and act upon something and really build momentum only for it all to fall apart at the first hint of a problem.

Something bad would happen and I would reason that I had done everything I possibly could, so the problem must be down to outside circumstances and bad luck. My confidence would take a beating, and I would give up, telling myself that I was a fraud and that I was not good enough and would never amount to anything. I would then work to repair my confidence, and try the same project again or attempt something else. All would go well until the first problem was encountered. I’d lose hope and confidence, and find myself giving up without a fight. This was a vicious cycle which I was well and truly trapped in. Everything bad which happened was exaggerated and became the worst thing in the world, and I was the victim of a cruel and vindictive world.

Then, last year, my world fell apart. For real, this time. Within a few short weeks, my dog was put to sleep and my fiancee left. Just when I thought that life couldn’t get any worse, I was hospitalised with pneumonia, developed sepsis and had to be put into an induced coma in order to stabilise my condition and save my life. I cheated death 4 times. I made it through, but my physical condition was so bad, that I had to learn to walk and talk again. I had gone from an independent and healthy 35 year old to someone who could barely do anything for himself. I spent my days in a hospital bed twisted like a pretzel. I couldn’t relax as I had to be positioned in a certain way because I had tubes in me, all the way down from my neck to my thigh, and because I couldn’t relax I found myself unable to sleep other than the odd nap here and there.

These were some of the longest days of my life. I couldn’t read because I wasn’t able to pick anything up or hold it. I literally had nothing to do. I couldn’t even chat to the nurses, as I couldn’t talk. All I had to look forward to was visiting time.

So, basically, all I had to do all day was think and reflect. Normally, in a bad situation my mind would go to war with me, and this was the worst situation I had ever faced. But..something strange happened. I reflected on my life to this point and how it had fallen short of what I want for myself. I reflected on why, and realised that the only thing that really held me back was myself. I wasn’t where I wanted to be because I had developed a habit of giving up as soon as times got tough. Most importantly, though, in that bed I never once saw myself as a victim of bad luck.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt grateful. I was alive. I had survived a serious illness, and was in the best place to fully recover. In my head, I had been given a second chance which should not be wasted. I was spared for a reason. My work here on Earth is not done. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I started to feel excited for the future.

I also discovered who my real friends are, and this was sobering to say the least. Much of my support came from the least likely sources. Overall, I felt blessed and as though my eyes had finally been opened. I realised that I had been a people-pleaser and prioritising others above my own needs, most of whom deserted me when I really needed someone.

I left hospital feeling grateful, confident and positive about the future. I may have lost everything I once held dear, and had my savings replaced with a mountain of debt, but nothing was going to stop me. I had amazing family and (real) friends, a job to eventually return to and a roof over my head. I was luckier than many people in the world today.

The recovery was very slow and tough, but I persevered. Not only that, but the months following my discharge from hospital last November have been some of the best of my life, and continue to get better the harder I work.

I share this today in the hope that it might help someone else who might be stuck. I learned, firsthand, that by switching your focus and perspective, you can change the course of your life. Even though i’d hit rock bottom, I spent my days in the hospital focusing on the positives – everything which I had to be grateful for, the lessons I can learn and apply from what happened, and the potential for my future if I put the work in consistently. This shift in focus led to a more positive outlook. In turn, this new outlook has helped me to keep going whenever I faced a challenge.

Before, I would give up and feel sorry for myself. Now, challenges get my adrenaline levels up, because I see them as opportunities to learn and bounce back stronger. I am more confident, more resilient and happier than ever. Of course, bad things happen, it’s just that I view and respond to them in a very different way now.

Please don’t think that I became an overnight billionaire and married a Hollywood actress with my newfound mindset, confidence and resilience. I am just a normal (I hope), mid-thirties guy who is passionate about learning and development, and what separates high-achievers from those who fall short of their goals. I have discovered the power of reflection, developing self awareness and resilience, and changing the way you view the world. Putting it all into practice has made 2018 a year in which my goals have been tumbling thick and fast as I approach them with a newfound confident and resilient attitude.

I want this for you, and that is why I share my story today. If I can do it, so can everybody else. I didn’t need any books, online courses or any other shortcuts. It took a lot of time and work, but my life changed for the better when i focused my attention on the things in my life which I am grateful for. It opened my eyes to the support and resources which I have available to me. Most importantly, I finally understood that the things which had been holding me back from living the life I wanted were not important at all, such as the opinions of others.

Bad things break us. All of us go through this, but it’s up to you how you frame the experience and how you bounce back from it. Play the victim, or use it as fuel for a bright and happy future? The choice is yours.

 

 

What Conversations Are You Having With Yourself?

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

Laird Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Don’t worry, be happy is the name of an old song by Bobby McFerrin. I have it on vinyl and it’s my go-to song if i’m having a bad day because when I put it on, I can’t help but smile. Once that smile takes hold, my worries fade away and I am happy again. Why do I love this song? It’s uplifting, but more importantly it has a very important life lesson which I sometimes need to be reminded of. That lesson is that we all endure tough times but worrying about them just makes everything worse.

We worry about our finances, health, relationships, careers and everything in between. Worrying comes naturally to an overwhelming majority of people, and it’s not always bad. On occasion, worry can provide the motivation for us to take action and rectify a bad situation, or better yet, preventing it from happening at all. It can prevent procrastination and inspire us to work harder and smarter than ever. The problem, however, is that there is a fine line between worry which is motivational and transformational, and that which is destructive and ruinous.

At it’s worst, worrying can destroy your confidence, rob you of your happiness and fill your mind with doubt and negative self-talk. This, in some cases, can be the start of a slippery slope which leads to anxiety and even depression.

Worry, however, is all in the mind. It’s the fear and anticipation that something could go wrong. We fixate on a potentially negative outcome or situation , and in doing so we assign much more importance to it than we should. It gets blown out of all proportion. Most of the time, when a situation actually arises we realise that it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated and that we worried needlessly. Our confidence took a beating and we lost sleep for no good reason.We need to stop doing this to ourselves by shifting our perspective.

We actually have the power to choose whatever it is that we focus on. It takes a bit of work, but the quality of life you will enjoy afterwards is worth the effort. By focusing on things that could go wrong in the future, we deny ourselves the opportunity to be happy and enjoy the present moment. This negativity affects our mindset and, as a result, other areas of our lives suffer. Nothing good can be gained by focusing on things which you have no influence or control over.

So, it stands to reason that if you want positivity and progress in your life, you need to focus instead on the things which you can control.

  • If you currently worry about ever meeting that special someone, quit worrying and take action. Work on your physical and mental health, striving to become the best possible version of yourself. Do that and “the one” will eventually find you.
  • If you worry about your finances, audit your spending habits. Worrying about bills doesn’t help, you have to take action. If you are being careless with your money, then more money won’t solve anything. You’ll just have more money to waste. Track your spending in an app or a journal, every single penny, and regularly revisit it to identify spending habits. You will become more aware of areas where you are spending money unnecessarily, and the knowledge that you track all your spending can also help you to avoid making impulse purchases.
  • If you worry about career progression, there is so much you can do to improve your prospects. Read or complete a distance-learning course that can help you to gain knowledge and acquire new skills. Network. Undertake a project which could provide value to the organisation and also help to get you noticed by the relevant people.

If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.

~ Ernest Hemingway

Worrying is a choice. Successful people have the same concerns and fears as the rest of us mere mortals, but it’s what they do about it that sets them apart from everyone else. Rather than fixate on what could go wrong, they focus on themselves and what they can do to ensure the best chance of success. Is there knowledge which they could acquire? A skill that they could work on? Instead of worrying unnecessarily, they focus on becoming the best version of themselves. This, in turn, attracts positive outcomes and helps them to develop a positive mindset. Worry is replaced by personal and professional development. which leads to fulfillment and happiness.

As a wise man once said “Don’t worry, be happy”

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…

 

See It Through (Edgar Albert Guest)

When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it’s vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer,
See it through!
Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don’t let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you’re beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don’t give up, whate’er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!

To Hope (John Keats)

WHEN by my solitary hearth I sit,
And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;
When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moonbeams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof!

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbidfancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed—
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Life (Charlotte Brontë)

LIFE, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall ?

Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly !

What though Death at times steps in
And calls our Best away ?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway ?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!

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.

IF (Rudyard Kipling)

Today, as we hit the midpoint in the week, I have yet another of my favourite poems to share. My hope is that it will encourage you to keep working hard at your goals and personal development, and finish the week strongly.
In the anticipation of motivating and inspiring you, I have chosen If by Rudyard Kipling. Widely quoted, it was written in 1909 and the tone is very upbeat and positive. Despite using words such as man and son, this is a poem for everybody. To me, the poem is a reminder of the amount of potential we all have within us to succeed in life.
Kipling advises the reader that they will face adversity in life, but then proceeds to offer ways in which these challenges can be overcome. Furthermore, he tells the reader that it is not only possible to overcome adversity but that they could go further, thrive and achieve success. Again, Kipling offers his advice as to how this can be done, and implies that the choice is theirs as to whether they make it happen or not.
What I love most about this poem, though, is the use of “if”. In reading these 2 innocent letters, we become aware that the life which they lead is our choice. It’s up to each of us if we succeed in life or not. The potential is within us, but the ultimate outcome depends on what we do with that potential.
If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

A Psalm of Life (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Another day, and I have another poem which I would like to share with you. Also known as What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist, this poem brims with optimism. This is the perfect tonic for daily life, which can at times feel heavy and as though it is weighing us down.
The poem below, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is a reminder that life is full of possibilities and opportunities for those who work hard and are patient. Essentially, the poet tells us that we can make progress from day to day, and achieve our goals, if we make the full use of our time. That said, our time has to be used wisely, by working hard, but we should also never lose faith in the power and potential of life.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this poem as much as I did after I was introduced to it for the first time. Most of all though, I hope that you heed the poet’s message, that we should all aim to make the most out of this life.
Instead of just watching life pass us by we should take action, as life is full of possibilities. So, if you have a talent within you aching to be released, stop wasting time and just express yourself. Draw, paint, sing, read, write….whatever it is that makes your heart sing, start doing it today. Likewise your dreams, ambitions, goals and plans. We all have something which we want to do or achieve, and now is the time to start working towards making them a reality. Slowly, one step at a time and one day at a time.
Have faith, work hard and make the most of life’s inherent potential.

Coaching and Mentoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

	

Taking responsibility.

Also referred to as accountability or taking ownership, taking responsibility for our decisions and actions is crucial if we want to lead lives which are happy and fulfilled.

There are times when we find ourselves in bad situations only to realise that, after some honest reflection, that those circumstances were a result of our decisions, actions or lack thereof. These instances, although less than ideal, have the power to become a force for good, IF we act upon them. Firstly, we need to accept responsibility for what has happened. This should then be followed  by some introspective reflection,  exploring where we may have gone wrong and what lessons can be learned. Then comes action. Having turned the undesirable situation into a learning experience, we take action to address it and get ourselves back on track. Sounds simple when described in those terms, but there is a lot of hard work involved as well as difficult questions.

Today, however, I would like to discuss taking responsibility for times when bad things happen through no fault of out own. Unfortunately, it happens and there is little we can do about it. Sometimes it happens as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, sometimes we become the victims of the manipulations and machinations of others. It’s our response to when things go wrong which are not our fault, that shape our character and determine whether we will make progress towards our goals and a fulfilled life.

The truth is that when these setbacks are viewed with a pessimistic eye, or we adopt a victim mentality, it breeds further unhappiness. We become disheartened and our progress towards our goals screeches to a halt, which can create a cycle of negativity, potentially ushering in anxiety and depression.

On a brighter note, research has shown that there is an alternative. A very good one. This one involves a combination of positivity, hope and confidence that you have the strength and ability to overcome this setback. When you realise that failure is not permanent or fatal, unless you refuse to take action, you are on your way to making a comeback. Buoyed by this realisation, as above, the next step is to reflect on yourself and your goals and plan your recovery. Finally, you need to take action, which will get you back on track. In this way, the setback becomes not only an opportunity to learn from, and reassess your efforts, but it also builds resilience. Overcoming one obstacle gives you the strength, courage and wisdom to either avoid further obstacles on your journey, or bounce back from future bumps in the road.

What happened to you is often not your fault. How you respond to it, however, is your choice. You can choose to stay down and blame everyone and everything else. OR you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and fight back.

Which will you choose when the time comes?

Hope

We need hope. Hope is not just a wishy-washy self-help concept without substance, but rather it is a powerful force for good.

Hope is more than just an optimistic view that everything will turn out for the best. It is a deeply held belief that you have the will, skills and tools with which to overcome any hurdles as you work towards your goals.

With hope, people become more resilient in the face of challenges, setbacks and temporary defeats. To a certain extent, it can also help people to combat anxiety and negative self-talk.

This is supported by modern research, which is increasingly finding that hope offers much more than just comfort during difficult times.

Hope means having a strong expectation that, in general, things will turn out right in life, despite setbacks and frustrations.

The power of hope is nothing new, and was first introduced in Ancient Greece , through the legend of Pandora’s box. 

When Prometheus stole fire from the gods, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora, along with a sealed box, to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus for marriage. Despite being warned never to open it, Pandora opens the box which contained  death and many other evils which were released into the world. She hastens to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom. One thing which could remedy all of the ills which had been unleashed on the world – Elpi, or hope as we know it.
Hope has long been viewed as an antidote to the world’s ills, but I would like to leave  you with one of the best definitions I have found which is also much more recent.

Albert Bandar,  the eminent Stamford psychologist states that;

“People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. Ability is not a fixed property, there is a huge variability in how you perform. People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failures. They approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong. 

If you want to be happy, be true to yourself

Recently, we have looked at authenticity  and being yourself from several different angles. Why do I feel that it is so important to address this issue? In short, I am sharing my reflections on authenticity because I strongly believe that knowing who you are and behaving accordingly has the power to lay the foundations for happiness in your life.

Too many people live in fear of the judgement of others, be it the disapproval of a parent or sibling, or a negative comment on social media. As a result, people live their lives seeking acceptance and fearing rejection. In effect, people are allowing others to dictate their lives, and their happiness. This breeds frustration, misery and inner conflict. 

The time has come now to stop complaining and making excuses for your unhappiness and why your life may not be  progressing as you’d like. The truth is that you alone have the power to address this. Once you have progressed far along enough on your journey of self discovery to have a good understanding of who you are, act accordingly. There may be some resistance from friends and family at first, but that will fade and they will accept the new, happy you. If social groups reject and ostracise you this is a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, but another group will welcome you with open arms and accept you as you are. After all, as one door closes another will open.

We only have one life. Wouldn’t it be a terrible shame to spend it living up to the expectations of others while denying our true selves?! This has the potential to breed regret later in life, which is a powerful and painful emotion. The good news is that this scenario is avoidable if you can find the courage to be yourself. It’s not easy, discovering and accepting who you truly are, but the rewards make the  effort and hard work worthwhile.

I’d like to end this post with some food for thought from the philosopher Carl Jung;

Whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.

“Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious” (1935). In CW 9, Part I: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. P.43

Just be yourself

In the last post we looked at being kind, and being yourself, online. Today I would like to explore further the topic of authenticity.

Everywhere we look today, clever marketers and social media influencers are trying to manipulate us, albeit subtly. We are constantly bombarded with messages about how we should be thinking, acting, dressing and working. And we follow blindly, without stopping to question why we are being gently coerced in a particular direction. 

The alternative, authenticity and being yourself, has been heavily criticised in numerous blog posts and journal articles but I for one strongly believe that this is the most appropriate way to lead your life.

Everyone seems to be “faking it” until they “make it”. At the same time, they also strive to stand out from the crowd and be the exception. How is this supposed to work? They are complete opposites. You either join everyone else in faking it, in which case you will just be another body in a sea of fakers, or you stay true to your beliefs and values, be yourself,  and be the exception to the rule.

Faking it does have its merits, though. The commonly held belief among young people today is that, in order to succeed or gain approval, they must alter their behaviour and effectively become someone else. In this respect, faking it is a successful defence mechanism. After all, fear of rejection is no longer an issue when you conform to the expectations of others. It is, however, a less than ideal blueprint for how to live your life.

Of all the definitions of authenticity (and there are so very many!), the one that rings truest in my humble opinion is that of Aristotle. Aristotle, the great philosopher,  advised that we should strive to find the “Golden Mean”. This is the perfect balance of honesty and discretion, which are reliant on the context and circumstances in which you find yourself. 

In this respect, authenticity is about resisting the urge to become someone else, while staying true to your values. It’s also about self expression, but in moderation. That is where discretion comes in. Others do not want to hear all of your opinions and justifications, and everything that pops into your head. You can be yourself AND be discreet. It all depends on context and circumstances. 

I’ll end here with a quote which is particularly relevant;

In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act”

– Caroline Caldwell

Be kind online

We live in a digital, connected, age and more of our lives are being spent online. For a growing number of people, this is their main source of communication, information or entertainment.

Please don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderful thing, and opens the door to an incredible amount of opportunities and experiences. There is, however, a dark side of which we need to be aware. Thankfully, with a little effort, we can do something about it. 

The problem stems from how we regard the time we spend online. For some it provides a space in which they can take a break from their daily lives and adopt a new persona, in effect becoming someone else. In person someone might be polite and respectful, only to adopt an online alter ego through which they vent their pent-up frustration anonymously. It”s the lack of empathy in these online interactions which is worrying.

It”s easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment but we must always strive to treat others with respect. Regardless of whether we are communicating and interacting with them online or in person. Growing up, we are taught to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. It is now more important than ever that we remind ourselves of this.

We all have the power to brighten up the world around us and to bring happiness, but it is through our interactions with others that we can achieve this.

We all have frustrations and annoyancestors which build within us, but there are better outlets for this, such as exercising or spending time outdoors in nature. 

Our ultimate aim should be to leave a positive impression on everyone with whom we interact. It is simply not possible to do this every single time, but that does not mean that we should not at least try. We should aim to;

  • Be mindful that there is a real person on the other end of every interaction or conversation. You are communicating with a human being who has feelings which can be hurt by your angry comments.
  • In your online interactions, only say that which you would be prepared to say in person, if the two of you were to meet.
  • Be yourself (unless, of course, you are an entertainer, actor, comedian, musician…). Drop the alter-ego and just be you. This opens the door for genuine interactions which could lead to wonderful new places.
  • Be kind. You have no idea what demons others are fighting, and how much of a positive impact they might experience after some positivity or encouragement from you.

One thing, above all, worth bearing in mind is the permanence of our online interactions. Increasingly,  a prospective client, employer, business partner or date will turn to Google and carry out a quick search of our name in order to get a feel for who we are before meeting in person. So don’t sabotage your future success by saying something online, just to vent your frustratons,  which you would never say in person.

Stop and smell the roses

Stop and smell the roses. For anyone unfamiliar with this idiom, it means taking time out of your day to notice, appreciate and enjoy the beauty of life. It involves a shift in your focus from all things work or business-related to the small things that often go unnoticed, such as the sights and sounds of nature as you cut through the park on the way to the office. It means developing a childlike curiosity which can help you to view the world from a different perspective, through new eyes. Furthermore, it can help you to rediscover how much life has to offer, and how much you appreciate it.

While smelling the roses may appear to run counter to the “Carpe Diem” philosophy recommended overwhelmingly in business literature, it can actually compliment it. We live increasingly busy lives, and are constantly reminded to “seize the day” and take action if we want to lead a successful and fulfilled life. While this is excellent advice and we should take action in the direction of our goals, there must be some moderation. We are so used to hearing that we need to work harder, devoting more time and effort to outwork the competition, that we often feel guilty when we do try and unwind. How often do we find ourselves reaching for a laptop, Ipad or smartphone to check our emails for something we may have missed while trying to relax?! This “always on” culture, worn by some as a badge of honour, can lead to stress burnout, loss of focus and drive and also damage our personal relationships.

This is where slowing down comes in. Smelling the roses, and taking some time out for yourself, can help to reduce stress and make us more appreciative of what we have. It also brings a sense of calm and relaxation. This can help to recharge our batteries so that we return to our professional lives and goals re-energised, motivated and with a renewed focus.

There is no need to pick one approach or the other in this case as they work so well together. Naturally, taking action in the direction of our goals will lead to a more fulfilling life, but there needs to be moderation and time out to appreciate everything which we have already and which life has to offer. Life is not about rushing from one goal to the next, but the journey itself and the process which helps us to reach our goals and become successful. There are so many wonderful experiences and valuable lessons which we will encounter on our journey, and this is why we sometimes need to slow down and take that break to savour them. It would be shame to miss out because we are in too much of a hurry.

 

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.

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.

Embracing failure

Embrace failure. This is the catchy message we are bombarded with through business books, articles and social media outlets. What does it actually mean, though?

Failure can mean different things to different people, as everyone has their own idea of what success and failure look like. The dictionary, however, offers 2 definitions of failure, as either “the nonperformance of an assigned or expected action” or “a falling short of one’s goals”. For the purpose of this post, we will be using the second definition.

Failure can come in many different forms, and when it does we need to take time to reflect upon it and put it into perspective. Failure itself can come in the guise of bad decision making, an inability to change or adapt to circumstances, poor planning or poor execution and everything in between.

The danger with failure is that it has the potential to lead to further failure, unless we learn from it and use it to inform the changes which will lead to future success. Failure itself has such a negative connotation that many choose to hide theirs rather than take ownership of them and embrace them. This is perpetuated by the misconception that in embracing failure you are admitting defeat or lowering your standards. This is very damaging to your progress , as when you adopt this thinking, you become oblivious to the fact that sometimes you need to go back to the beginning and start again, armed with new knowledge gained from this failure.

Failure makes us feel vulnerable, but when we accept that everyone fails and embrace it as a fact of life, it can benefit us in many ways, the following just a few of them;

  • Learning. Most of what we learn is through trial and error, with some of our best lessons being learned as a result of failure.
  • Inspiration. When we reflect on our failures, they can serve to inspire and motivate us to try again, armed with what we have learned from the experience.
  • Humility. Failure reminds us that we are not infallible, but human.
  • Lower aversion to risk. Having failed, learned from the experience and moved forward, you become less fearful of taking calculated risks.

When failure is embraced properly, you overcome the associated fear and disappointment. In doing this, you move from a negative mindset to a positive one in which failure is regarded as a learning experience.