Happiness Is Your Choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Your Life Inside – Out

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

Viktor Frankl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viktor Frankl

Glass Half Empty or Half Full?!

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

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

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

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

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

Where Is Life’s Reset Button?!

Sorry to disappoint you, but…there is no reset button in life. You can’t take anything back, and you can’t undo anything. Why? Because that would involve time travel, which is only possible in science-fiction books and movies.

We simply can not undo that which has been said and done. All of our actions have consequences, though, and the things which we say and do today could very well have a lasting impact on the rest of our lives.

We all need to understand this, and be aware of it when making our decisions. You, and you alone, are responsible for your life and the course which it takes. Naturally, things will happen which are beyond our control, but we determine how we react in these situations. Didn’t get the job? Your girlfriend left you? You could bemoan your bad luck, and drown your sorrows with a little alcohol, give up on your dreams and settle for less than you are capable of…OR…you can take back control. Do your family and friends dictate how you should live your life? You choose whether to listen to them, and do as they say, or whether to live your own life on your own terms.

We can’t erase the past, but every morning that we wake up, we have a golden opportunity to start again. Once a moment has passed, it becomes history and that is where it should stay. Constantly reliving past mistakes does more harm than good. The past is simply a lesson. You can’t go back and change it. You can, however, learn and grow from it. Which is great news, because we all make mistakes and failures which can actually prove to be a blessing. If things go wrong, reflect on it, learn from it, make changes to your behaviour and move on wiser for the experience.

If you make a mistake today, don’t dwell on it. Learn from it, make amends for it and grow from it. Don’t, however, beat yourself up. Whatever it is, it happened. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Learn from it and move on. Life moves forward, and that where your focus should be – the future and the life which you have ahead of you.

You Want Something To Change? Do Something About It Then!

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek

Barrack Obama

Whether it’s our finances, health and fitness or personal relationships, we all want to change something in our lives for the better. Most of us even know exactly what it is that we want and how we can achieve it. Yet, with all the information at our fingertips and opportunities available to those who seek them and put the work in, nothing seems to happen for an alarmingly high percentage of people.

The will is there. They know what they want and how to get it. They have the knowledge, skills and contacts to at least get started on their journey towards change for the better. So, why do they seem to be standing still instead of moving forward?!

Simple answer? A lack of self-belief. Too many people don’t have the confidence they need to take action towards their goals. So, they wait for the right circumstances. They wait for the right time, to lose a certain amount of weight, to save a certain amount of money…the list goes on, but it all boils down to one simple fact. With a lack of self-belief, people wait for conditions to be met before they take action to bring about change in their lives. This waiting does more harm than good, though, because it just wastes precious time.

The truth is that you don’t need to waste time and energy waiting around for the planets to align or anything else to happen. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, who you are and what you want from life. Decide what you want to change in your life, and turn this into a series of goals and a plan of how to achieve them. Then, get started. You have enough within you already to get started on your journey.

Once you do take those first steps, set yourself some regular check-in points at which you can reflect back on your progress so far. It could be weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Whatever works for you. Personally, I do my reflection on a Sunday and log it in my journal. This sets me up nicely for the week ahead. It gives me a clear idea of what has worked and what needs to be adjusted, and also gives me an opportunity to update my goals if I am close to achieving any of them.

As with opportunities and luck, change only presents itself after you decide what you truly want and take action. Put the work in, reflect on your progress and make adjustments as and when you feel necessary. This is the key to change. You don’t need to actually wait for anyone or anything. Once you know what you want to change, take action. That action might simply involve seeking advice, but you need to start somewhere. Just do something every day, no matter how small, and in time you will experience the change which you desire.

Stop waiting, and start creating the change in life which you so badly want. The power is in your hands, use it wisely.

Mind Your Own Business

Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others

Confucius

 

Minding your own business is one of the keys to a successful, happy and fulfilled life. Of course, we all want to help others and contribute to our families, friends and communities, but..You must focus on yourself, before all else. When you manage this, then you can focus on serving others. Reflect on who you are and what you want, find your purpose, define your goals and take action. Simple, right?! No. Not quite. Unfortunately, life is rarely this straightforward.

Life has its downs as well as ups. In order to do the above, you need to be in a good place mentally. This is easier said than done because we all have our demons to face. These may be fears, or negative behaviours caused by trauma or loss. Or perhaps something that, left unchallenged, has worsened without you realising. Whatever the pain or trauma that you carry within you, you need to face it and deal with it, or else it will always rear its ugly head at random intervals to sabotage your progress.

The easy option is to bury your head in the sand and pretend that there is nothing wrong. Better yet, focus on the faults of others to deflect from what is going wrong in your life. Thing is…taking this route may make you feel better in the short term, but bottling up whatever is troubling you will only make it worse. At its worst, it could damage your relationships and send you on a downward spiral through depression.

Why wait till you hit rock bottom and lose everything before you tackle whatever it is that is hurting you?! Take action now. Just as you do when you set yourself fitness, career and personal development goals, identify the evil which ails you, and do whatever it takes to tackle this source of emotional trauma.

While you can set personal development, fitness or career goals mostly by yourself, when it comes to tackling whatever ails you, I would strongly advise seeking help. I found myself in this position as recently as last November. Previously, i’d tried tackling the trauma within me by myself. It would work for a while, but then stop and send me back to the start.

This time, however, I sought the help of a psychologist. The transformation was incredible. The simple act of talking to someone helped me to put everything into perspective and make sense of the thoughts and feelings which were so harmful to me.

Naturally, a psychologist can’t do everything for you. They are not magicians, but rather highly skilled mental health professionals. They can help you to understand and become more aware of what is happening within you, and what triggers negative thoughts and emotions. The hard work, however, is something which only you can do.

In my case, I did all the reflective work, and logged it in my journal. It was tough, but also rather exciting to be facing my sources of pain head-on. I still have my moments, when the fears and pain threaten to return and take hold again, but now I am able to identify the warning signs. I know what is coming if I don’t act, so I put on some music, go for a walk outdoors, read a book or phone a friend because these are the little things which keep all the bad stuff away.

Since taking action to deal with the evil within me, life has been wonderful. I am full of drive and positivity, which helps me to keep taking meaningful steps towards my goals every day, constantly learning and growing. I no longer look for the bad in others, in order to feel better about myself. I don’t judge others, or measure my life against theirs.

While you reflect on what you want in life, and how you plan to get it, take some time too for reflection on what you need to rid yourself of. I sought the help of a professional, and was able to rid myself of judgement, jealousy, self-doubt and pent-up anger. Since then, I have a new lease of life and have achieved an awful lot in a very short time.

I want this for you. As you chase your goals, put some time and effort into cleansing yourself of the bad thoughts, feelings or behaviours which are sabotaging your progress. Your future, massively successful, self will thank you for it.

 

Your Life Is Your Responsibility Alone

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

Tim Grover

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

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

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

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

Prince Ea

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Power of Apologising and Taking Responsibility

More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.

Greg Lemond

Mistakes, in life, are inevitable. We try our best to avoid them, but they happen. Even when our intentions are noble, our thoughts measured and our actions carefully considered They are a part of life, and a very valuable learning experience if we reflect on them. The fallout from a mistake can be painful, but the long-term benefits can far outweigh the negatives. It’s really about the mindset you adopt when viewing the mistake. A negative mindset will blow a mistake out of proportion and could lead to self-doubt, self-loathing, loss of motivation and the fear to take risks in the future. With a positive mindset, you look for lessons to be learned, and are more likely to take risks again in the future, armed with the knowledge gained from the previous experience.

Sometimes, however, our mistakes affect other people. This is what I would like to discuss today. When things go wrong and it’s largely us who are affected, we can perform a post-mortem, determine what we can learn from the experience and then do our best to bounce back. When other people are involved, that’s a different matter.

Very rarely do we set out intentionally to hurt or upset another person. Especially if we value the relationship we have with them. But it happens. We set out upon a course of action, only to completely misjudge what would happen or how it would affect other people. So, while we acted with the best of intentions, we ended up with the most undesirable of outcomes. In this instance,the first step should be to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong, provided that it was your fault. Next there should be a genuine heart felt apology and, if possible, an explanation of what you had set out to do. It is important to communicate to the other person what you were trying to achieve so that they can understand your reasons and intentions. Share what you have learned from experience with them too,  if you get the opportunity.

This is no time for bravado, ego or empty words. Be humble, and take responsibility  for what you did and didn’t do. Apologies must be followed by action to rectify or improve the situation. Without action, all that you are offering are mere words and platitudes. Prove how sincere you are, and don’t just say it. Tell the other person how sorry you are (and make sure that you mean it!!) but then show what you are doing to either fix the problem or to ensure that it never happens again.

Why talk about this subject on a blog about fulfilling the potential we hold within ourselves? Simple answer? Because of what it teaches us.

Apologising is not a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t make you any less of a person. When we own up to our mistakes and apologise either to ourselves or to others, we take responsibility for them and this is a mark of maturity, honesty and integrity. These are traits which are respected by others, and can actually strengthen relationships, both personal and professional, as well as reputations. In business, people want to know what type of person they are dealing with, so being known for honesty, integrity and trustworthiness is never going to be a bad thing.

Most of all, though, we will never reach our potential or get anywhere near it until we take responsibility for our lives. I have read countless quotes about how the circumstances in which we find ourselves today are a result of decisions we have made and actions which we have taken in the past. So very true. If you are not where you hoped to be in life, you need to look at where you went off-track. That’s not to say that you should just beat yourself up and give up hope, though.

Take responsibility for where your life choices have led you to so far, and learn as much as you can from this reflection. Once you have learned all that you can, it’s time to start looking forward. Time, now, to take responsibility for your future, and make sure that the decisions you make and actions you take today will be steering your forward towards the life you want.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
George Bernard Shaw

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and take control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Blame Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Circumstances and taking control

“Man is not a creature of circumstances, but a creator of circumstances. He makes his own circumstances, his own opportunities”

Napoleon Hill

 As we head into the weekend, and prepare to switch off and unwind for 2 days, I thought it would be appropriate to share the above quote with you.

I love it because it really speaks volumes. It reinforces what we all know, deep down, namely that we each control our own destiny. If you know yourself well enough to know what you want, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, then good things will come your way if your put in the hard work. Through your consistent efforts, you lay the foundations for future success.

You can’t do it without hard work though. Of course, the easier option would be to sit back and wait for success to come knocking at your door. The problem with this, however, is that I am yet to meet anybody for whom this approach has actually worked. In fact, this is the quickest path to disappointment, disengagement, despair and even depression.

The hard truth is that if you really want something, you have to put the work in to get it. In being proactive, you take a certain amount of control over your circumstances. When you do this, you will notice that opportunities suddenly start to seek you out. It’s almost as if the universe has seen the work which you are putting in, and decided to give you a helping hand. This is a far better approach than the reactive one, in which people wait for things to happen to them before even thinking about doing anything about it. This second approach is lazy, and laziness will not help your personal or professional development. Lazy, not just in their reluctance to take action, but also lazy in how they react when circumstances  do not work in their favour and opportunities seem to never present themselves. This is because they simply choose to blame others or lady luck herself, rather than do anything which could help to improve their situation.

So, the next time things do not go your way and you stop to curse your bad luck or start telling yourself that you can’t catch a break, ask yourself this simple question;

“Am I really doing all I can to move forward in the direction of my goals or could I do more?”

Profiting from your passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good thing about bad decisions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warren Buffett

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

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

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

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

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

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


The unconquerable spirit

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

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

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

Invictus 

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

	

Duty

“Man’s happiness lies not in freedom, but in the acceptance of a duty”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Duty is a word which we often hear in our daily lives, from the workplace to the church and everywhere in-between, but struggle to define. What actually is it? It’s sometimes interchanged with the terms purpose or responsibility, but is it really the same ?

There are a lot of similarities. Responsibility, as with duty, can mean being accountable for someone or something. It can also mean an obligation to successfully carry out an action. While there is a lot of interchangeability here with duty, the difference is that I regard duty as being the more powerful driving force of the two. Duty is intrinsically motivated. With a sense of duty, you become involved in an activity not out of self interest and gain, but rather out of compulsion, commitment and a drive that comes from deep inside. Duty is stronger than purpose too. Purpose illuminates the path towards a goal or aim, on which you will focusing your thoughts and actions. Purpose helps you to remain focused when things are going well and to get back on track when faced with challenges. A duty, however, runs deeper.

Duty is something which we feel morally obliged to do, but it is born within us only after we become more self-aware. In essence, duty comes from a clear understanding of the principles by which you will live your life. To be able to fully understand and define those principles, however, you must first have a good understanding of who you really are. If you truly hope to embark on a journey of achievement and discovery, at the end of which you fulfill your potential, inward reflection is the logical starting point. Once you have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses, what drives you and what you hope to achieve from life, you are then in a good position to define your goals, purpose, duties and responsibilities.

In defining our duties and devoting ourselves to them, we can find fulfillment and a sense of inner peace. Subordinating and sacrificing ourselves to our duties can also give a deeper meaning to our lives, or simply make us happier.

 

 

 

 

Ego

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

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

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

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

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

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