Track the journey.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was starting up again with my health and fitness regime after a period of slow but steady weight gain. I have been reading up on success strategies with following through after setting goals because that’s where most of the challenges seem to lie.

Setting goals is easy as we all know deep down what we want and what we feel will improve our lives. Once they are set, everything is exciting because we feel we have made some major progress. However, the reality is that just setting goals is not going to make any difference at all until we start to take action on those goals.

So how do we start to make progress towards our goals? One thing that I have really responded well to is tracking your results and getting some accountability even if you are being accountable just to yourself.

I use a website called irunurun.com. This is site is excellent for this activity. It creates data for you and tracks your progress using a points based system.

This has really helped me to stay on track and to keep streaks of activity going for far longer than usual. I have used it so far to track my eating habits, my physical exercise and writing on a daily basis.

Another big tip is to make the action you want to build into a habit very easy and build up to a higher level over time. Don’t set a daft goal that is setting you up for failure. Keep consistent with an activity until that level feels really easy and then raise your standards with the same target.

I’ve done this with my training to great effect. I have wanted to start the habit of daily cardio for years but could never get myself to do it. I solved this by slashing the time of my cardio down to 10 minutes a day to start with. This felt easy to do, attainable, and something I could turn into a habit and I have. So far I have completed my cardio session for 18 straight days with two planned rest days. I have also raised my cardio up from 10 to 14 mins already. The trick is in the consistency. The 14 minutes feels exactly the same as the 10 minute session did I when I started. I will gradually raise my time up to around 25 minutes and keep up the daily frequency. This would be a huge increase in daily cardio output, but is easily attainable with this approach because the habit would be well and truly formed by then. I try to do my cardio at the same time each day and have dragged myself out even when I haven’t felt like it or I have been very tired.

If you want to form a habit or make a change in your lifestyle, these skills are transferable. Find a way to track and monitor your efforts in some way. You also need to try and set an action that seems easy to start with and focus on consistency. Once the consistency is there, then you can ramp up your output and quickly accelerate your results.

Tracking the journey is a skill and habit of the successful. Adopting this idea might be the missing piece in your habit forming puzzle that allows you to make any action you would like to develop become a permanent one.  I am sure that it will if you execute these ideas properly.

I wish you the best.

The real reasons I gained weight and the real solution to it.

The real reason I’ve struggled with weight gain

For the last year since my daughter was born, I’ve watched my weight steadily increase. I’ve been disappointed about this and annoyed, but in the cold light of day I cannot be surprised. People often come up with lots of weird and wonderful reasons why their weight has increased and how puzzling it is to them since they hardly eat anything.

I for one am not that naïve. I know exactly why my weight has been creeping up and up. There are two main reasons.

  1. I used to rely on exercise to help keep my weight down and I don’t have the time to exercise for as long anymore.
  2. My diet has been inconsistent.

It really is as simple as that. I have been blissfully unaware of how poor my eating habits had gotten, thinking to myself in a state of grand delusion, that I could just stop and start dropping weight whenever I wanted.  The only problem with this thinking was that it was not true. I was eating so much that I was craving the feeling of being really full. Every time you go for that you have to eat that little bit more.  A twelve inch pizza becomes a 14 inch next time. A 50 gram bag of crisps becomes 100gr and so on.

I was completely in denial as well. I had deliberately not weighed myself thinking that would make things easier to cope with, but the body never lies. I could feel that I was heavier, and my clothes all of a sudden felt like they had been shrunk.

I could have gone blissfully unaware but eventually, I had to face reality. I braced myself and faced the music. The results were not pretty and I underestimated my weight by a few pounds as well, but it was the reality. I felt better knowing exactly where I stood and what would be needed to make improvements to my weight.

One thing I have learnt to do during this time is accept myself for the person that I am. My thinking has shifted from you will be happier when you are a particular weight to be the best you can be on this day at this size. I’ve realised that I will only get to live this day once, so I want to make the best use of it that I can. Stressing over what has been or what may be is a waste of energy that could be put to better use.

Focussing on being the best I can be for that day makes sticking to healthy habits easier. I have found that setting large goals in the past has been difficult because I get daunted by the journey and worry that I might not be able to make it. Instead of that, focussing on the present moment and the day breaks the goal down into small manageable chunks. Setting the goal and working towards it daily feels like a good approach. You need the long term vision to see the overall direction, but then need to become adept at winning each day as it comes.

So what tactics am I going to use in order to get my health back on track?

  1. Consistent diet.
  2. Regular strength training.
  3. Daily movement and general physical activity.
  4. Lots of water
  5. A good dose of micronutrients daily (vitamins and minerals)
  6. When possible, get earlier nights for better sleep and reduction in stress.

I’m sure it will work if I remember to focus on each day as it comes and win enough little victories to create consistent healthy habits that last years.

I wish you the best.

Speed up

I have always turned planning my next week at school into an all weekend affair. A little bit on the Saturday afternoon, and then loads of work on the Sunday. Not the ideal way to end a relaxing weekend. This week I set myself a challenge. I gave myself two hours at work and challenged myself to get my planning done for the following week. Not only did I manage to do all my planning for every subject, but I also managed to get other things done as well in the time and had time to do extra paperwork. I couldn’t believe it. I had managed to sit down and dominate my workload in a very short period of time. The question is how did I manage it?
I realised I was a ditherer quite late in life. A job that could have taken 20 minutes would take me 40. I would blame this on being a perfectionist and to an extent that was true. I would allow my desire for a perfect outcome to delay me from taking action. Sometimes this delay would be permanent. When I realised that aiming for perfection was utterly ridiculous, I let it go and things started to speed up big time. This has value because we then create time in other areas and can enjoy more activities because we are taking care of business quicker.
I now make a conscious effort to get jobs done as quickly as I can! Think about how much time you can save if you get your jobs and tasks done as quickly as possible. It is the main reason I can now post blogs so often. I know I can create posts quickly and I am getting quicker with more practice. Also, working on the same thing often creates more ideas and insights that lead to even more things to work on. I have got more blog ideas than I have ever had before and want to get them all down on paper.
Now this all sounds so simple and it is. But it isn’t easy. There are some things that have to be in place so that the process can happen. Here are some of the things that have helped me speed up. All of the tips work on a basic but powerful principle: You need to be completely focused in order for this to work.
1. Make sure the job you are doing has big value: Nothing is a bigger waste of time than working on jobs of low value. It means we have been very busy and worked hard but have got no closer to our goals. The fab five method helps with this because the night before you reflect on the jobs that will provide the biggest return on your time.
2. Set your own personal noise level. People always say to work in silence, but I disagree with that. I believe you need to find your own personal noise level. When I work best is when I have headphones in that block out the environment I am in. This allows me to home in on what I am working on very quickly. However, I need to choose what I a listening to very carefully. I listen to either, motivational audios that I have already heard or music with no singing or lyrics in. These two styles work best for me, but you must find what works for you.
3. Get off the internet unless it is needed. The internet is a little like T.V in that it can fill your time if you let it and you won’t have achieved anything. When I used to have Sky T.V, I would browse through all the channels looking for something to watch. If I didn’t find anything, I would browse through again, or browse through the recorded programmes I had on my hunt. So before watching anything, I had already wasted loads of time. I see people doing this on the internet all the time and I am guilty of it as well. You don’t have to log in every time you get an email or someone posts a picture on Facebook. Stay away from it, as you cannot focus on two things at once.
4. Find your time limit for concentration and take a break when it is near its end. Rinse and repeat if the job isn’t done. I’ve found that about 45 minutes is my sweet spot for staying focussed on one task. This has built up over time and I see focus like a muscle that need to be conditioned. After this amount of time I need a small break and I schedule little treats to keep me motivated. I could browse the web for five minutes, or have a snack or whatever it is that you would look forward to after your period of time is over.
5. Make sure you have a clear workspace before starting. Having a clear workspace means that you are able to focus full yon the task at hand and stick to it. Make sure you also have all the things that you need to complete the task before you start so you are not constantly looking for things to complete your work.

There are other things that can be done that may also help to increase productivity. I have listed some of my favourites here. What ideas have I not mentioned that you think are powerful tools to help you speed up when doing work?

Remember that your time is your life. So finding any way to save time is an awesome thing to do because you can then spend the time you saved on other things that will make your life even better than it already is.

Let’s pick up the pace!!
I wish you the best
Shaun

I come first!

This will be a short post that addresses one of the main challenges that I have been working with since the birth of my second child.
When Ava was born, I naively thought that I could keep all my routines the same and still have the same amount of free time. I have learned that we can all have our own time if we want it, but you will have to make adjustments down to your unique life situation.
I remember reading an interview with actor Mark Wahlberg years ago when he talked about how he would hit the gym at four A.M before the rest of his family was awake. When I read that it seemed a little bit over the top. Now that I have children, my paradigm has changed and it makes perfect sense.
When I start my day by looking after myself, I feel better equipped to take care of all the other responsibilities I have in my life.
I like to have between 30 minutes and an hour in the morning before anyone is awake to do the following things.
Exercise
Read
Visualisation exercises
Meditation
I start my day in a much better state when I manage to do some or all of these things. Now sometimes, this time does get interrupted. Usually by my younger daughter who is only ten months old. Because I accept this and am prepared for it, it doesn’t upset me. Life cannot be so predictable and rigid and so neither can I. Trying to not see things in absolutes is one of the mental challenges I am working on in order to control my state of mind and level of happiness.
This sense of control then stays with me throughout the day, making me a more effective employee, family man and husband. I am also kinder to myself and catch myself when I fall into the trap of negative self- talk. I don’t let the misery man of the mind get his own way. I challenge him and tell him to shut up when I can feel him taking over and starting to make me worry and stress about the unimportant.
There is real value in looking treating yourself well and taking care of the things that will enhance you.
What habits do you find are your most valuable and cherished?
Are there any habits you would like to develop so that your life is better?
I wish you the best
Shaun

Do the right thing

I have been thinking about the times when I have been the most productive and what I was doing that led to me doing so well. Having powerful habits running in my life is one of the key things that matters.

When I’m making the correct moves, I just feel better about myself. This carries over into all other areas of my life. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change. Sticking to just one decision can be enough to make a huge difference in your life. Charles Duhigg in his book ‘The power of habit’ calls them key stone habits. This refers to those few major habits that you consistently perform that dictate many of the results you can get in your life. What’s great about these habits is that they start to impact other areas of your character. Everything is connected. My exercise routine is great for my health, but it also impacts on my discipline, mental toughness and well-being. Therefore it is an essential choice to make in my life because of the synergistic nature of the task itself.

There are other habits that I need to adopt that could have similar carry over effects in my life. I am looking closely at my life to see what those things are and how to start making progress on them straight away.

What key stone habits could you try to adopt in order to make huge progress in your own life?

I wish you the best

Shaun

Self-acceptance is more important than self-improvement?

I have always been very passionate about the role of self-improvement in my life. The name of my blog shows that I believe in a holistic way of life. Self- improvement has served me well in that capacity because I believe I am more effective now than I was in the past.
However, there was always an idea that puzzled me. It was a paradox in my thinking.
If I’m always striving towards new goals, when will I get the feeling of being successful? When will I enjoy the fruits of all the work I’ve done on self-improvement?
The missing piece between success and self-improvement is self-acceptance. I now realise that without self-acceptance, there is the danger that you will never be happy with your success. Success isn’t a tangible thing. It’s a feeling, and that feeling is relative. If you took two people with the exact same circumstances in life, one could be the happiest person alive and the other person the most miserable. The way they perceive what they have and their level of identification with those things, will determine whether they feel successful.
When I have felt successful in life has been when I have cultivated that state internally. It is the journey towards the goals as well as the end point that can create a feeling of success.
I am working on self- acceptance because I realised I was playing a dangerous game where I was losing the ability to be happy in the present moment because I was forever chasing goals. The goals were not the problem, it was my identification with the result of attaining them. In short, because I was obsessing over achievement, I would have been dissatisfied with my level of income, health, relationships or career. I was making the false assumption that those things are who I am. I cannot wait for the ideal of everything before I become happy. That is not true living.
Self-acceptance is the subtle art of knowing yourself internally so that you don’t have to rely on the external things around you for identity. I understand why people chase success symbols like cars, huge houses and other similar things. It is almost a way of measuring your level of success in the world. However, this measurement system is fundamentally flawed because it does not go deeply enough. It also cannot measure the intangible elements that really make us who we are. Here are some of them.
Our core values
Our purpose
Being happy
Having the ability to immerse fully in the present moment
Love.
A connection to a force that is greater than our-selves.
These things are the timeless.
Let go of the idea that your external possessions are who you really are. Become in tune with the concept, that everything you need for life you already have inside of you. Look within. Here is a resource to help with this.
http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-Self-Acceptance-Can-Crack-Open-Your-Life This is a ten day programme of activities that are designed to help you start thinking about self acceptance. I have found some of them useful especially day one. It was really challenging to think that deeply about myself and it did give me some perspective on who I really am. I really liked this paragraph to explain what self-acceptance means:
Self-acceptance is the process of befriending the Unconditioned Self—the part of you that is more than just your name, your history, your story, your failures or your successes. You are more than just your experiences or how other people see you or the clothes you wear.
I wish you the best.

Post 020: Are old habits holding you back? A tactic for spotting them

I made a rookie error a few weeks ago at work. You know what it’s like when you are busy. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep all the plates spinning and before you know it, some of them fall out of your attention and crash to the floor. I had neglected some of my important actions thinking that I didn’t have the time to focus on them. My meditation time became non-existent, I didn’t keep my classroom tidy like I had promised myself, and I haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Simply put, I had fallen into old habits. Another word for habit is programme and I prefer this because it cuts to the core of what is happening. I was not consciously making choices, I had become a robot following the engrained habits that I had fallen back on in the past.

These choices were not serving me well at all. One wake up call was when my boss called me out on the state of my desk. At first I was defensive and dismissive of the importance of a tidy desk. He didn’t understand how much I had on my plate. He could have cut me a bit of slack. However, driving home that night, I realised the truth. He was right. I was running a programme that allowed me to ignore the mess and pretend it didn’t matter. That desk represented my internal state-a big mess that needed sorting out. 

I try to meditate for 10 minutes when I have put my boy down to sleep for the night. I lay on his floor, the lights are out and he is peacefully sleeping so it’s a great time to reflect on things undisturbed. I asked myself this question: What is that messy desk trying to say to me? Where is this behaviour coming from? I then saw that this pattern was showing up in other areas as well. They all had a common theme of stopping me from taking action on my goals. I would become so engrossed in sorting out the mess in my mind, that I was not able to get clear and get decisive. That was the moment when the importance of the desk became clear. I had lots of  crap that I had to let go of. I was holding onto the mess out of fear.

Another wake up call was a meeting with my mentor. He asked what I had been doing to maintain and improve on my state since the birth of my daughter. I tried to come up with some things that I had half heartedly done, but had to admit in the end, that I had no been looking after myself mentally as well as I should have. This was when it hit me. In times of stress and big change, we need to look after ourselves the most. This is the times in life when all the positive rituals we are trying to develop really pay off. I had allowed my old behaviours to stunt my development because I had been asleep with my eyes open. I had started to procrastinate on my exercise, positive eating habits, writing and career development. I started telling myself that I didn’t have the time to do the things that would have served me so well. This was a lesson well learned. It hurt to realise that I had neglected myself, and in turn, dropped off in my performance in work. However it is empowering to know that just as quickly as you can fall, you can also rise. I have re-committed to all my goals for the year and I am thankful for the feedback I recieved from my boss. It reminded me that I’m in control of my own destiny, and I have to accept 100% responsibility for all results that I get.

Here are some tactics you could employ to ensure that you are not letting old habits run your life for you.

1. Accept 100% responsibility for all results you are currently getting. Good or bad.

Once we accept responsibility, we can see the steps needed to get back on track. If you need help with this, ask someone for honest feedback and act on the useful comments you are given.

2. Make time for the important things in your life.

Don;t kid yourself that you don’t have enough time. We all get the same 24 hours in a day and although we may have different circumstances, our choices are the biggest determinant of the success we will have on any given day. I know that I must make time to meditate, even if it’s for a couple of minutes a day. It is the aspect of my character that needs to develop the most, therefore it is a priority that I give it my full attention.

3. Be aware throughout the day.

Check in with yourself throughout the day and check your state of mind. A nice way to do this is simply to close your eyes for a few minutes and allow your focus to go inwards. Try to become very aware of your breathing and any feelings you have in your body. You will find that with practice, this gives you enough mental space to tap into how you are feeling and break any habit that is running if you so choose.

4. Be wary of history repeating itself.

If there is a behaviour that you have tried to stop that keeps re-surging, then some more internal work needs to be done. History will repeat itself until your sub-conscious and conscious mind are on the same page. There have been times in my life where I have said I want one thing, but then acted in a way completely opposite to what I claimed to have wanted. This is a clear case of a divided mind. You have to go deep to the root of the behaviour and ask yourself, what am I getting from not giving this up? The deeper you go with a response, the more success you will have with changing the behaviour.

Learning from these lessons will inevitably lead to growth and success. I can’t wait to get back to my desk bin bag in hand to finally get rid of all that rubbish and clear my space physically, mentally and emotionally.

I wish you the best.

Post 019: How to create momentum.

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I have been testing a new habit building technique in an attempt to finally drink enough water during the day. I came across a fantastic video by you tube strength expert Eliot Hulse where he describes the power of three technique.

The principle behind it is that you set yourself a goal and try to stick to it for three days only. Once you master that, you congratulate yourself for completing it and then try to stick to your habit change for three weeks. The momentum built during this three week period means that you are much more likely to stick with the habit once this period is over. After the success of going for three weeks, then you can start the process of maintaining the same habit for three months. Once that 3 month period is over, the habit will be fully formed.

I am three weeks into this technique with drinking at least three litres of water a day and I have found it to be a very successful technique. It has worked well because instead of thinking about having to maintain a habit forever, you focus on maintaining within phases of time. This has been easier for me to cope with mentally and feels much more likely to be a success. The three month phase that I have just started just feels like more of the same. I am already fully in the swing of keeping the habit going so it’s just a case of seeing it out to the end.

To help with this, I have used a calendar app called streaks that allows you to tract your consistency with your goals. When you achieve your goal for the day, you can put a red cross onto your calendar for that day. This is very satisfying and visual. More importantly, once you get a good run going, you feel more committed to not breaking the pattern you have started. I have found using these two techniques together has resulted in me being very consistent and I have not dropped a day since starting.

Every two weeks, I then set up a new habit to track and maintain. This means that I can get all of my goals up and running quite quickly without trying to do everything all at once. I tried that last year and felt overwhelmed with the task.

The snowball effect is working well for me so far. Hopefully it will allow me to create some excellent habits to take me forward during 2014. It might be a strategy you have never considered before that might help you find success.

Expect the best!

Post 015: Forget new years resolutions! Do this instead.

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Seven rituals I’m going to maintain for 2014.

I used to make New years resolutions on the 1st of January and inevitably I wouldn’t keep them. I was puzzled as to why they didn’t work. I think now that the behaviour changes that I had proposed were not in alignment with how I viewed myself. Therefore the changes didn’t feel natural. Yet again, the new-year feeling is going to be hitting everyone. This is the only time of the year when most people take stock of how they have been doing and make an attempt to make things better for themselves. I will set some goals, but I am more focussed on developing powerful rituals that will lead to success, balance and happiness in all areas of my life.

1: Become focussed on constant improvement.

When I’m making progress with something, I feel better. I’ve noticed that focussing on becoming better in all areas is what leads to satisfaction. My goal is to think of small improvements that I could make in my health, relationships, family life and career and to start implementing them.

2: Give attention to all aspects of myself.

When I take care of all aspects of myself, I am a better person to be around. Developing my spirit makes me more appreciative of everything I have and my place in the world. Developing my mind gives me more information that helps with my decision making. Developing my heart allows me to see the true path that I should be following. This in turn affects the choices I make and the standards I set for myself. Developing my body gives me vital energy and strength. If I can be faithful to myself during the course of 2014, I will make tremendous progress with my goals.

3: Create the image of the person I want to be and be it now.

Counter intuitive as it sounds, acting as the person I want to be who already has all the things that I want will have a profound effect upon the choices I make and the way that I approach all situations. It sounds strange, but I need to see the world in the way I want it to be for me, which will then allow me to become that person. If I can’t see it first, then it will never become a reality. Seeing myself as a writer led to me starting this blog. Seeing myself as a loving husband and father allows me to focus on balance in my personal life. Seeing myself as financially free has made me start small steps towards that goal already.

4: Become in tune with my feelings.

Antony Robbins believes that all feelings that we have give us messages and clues that we need to take some action of some kind. When I ignored my feelings in the past, they didn’t go away but became gradually stronger. They started as a whisper, then a shout and then a scream that forced everything else out of my head and took all of my attention. I don’t want that happening again, so I now choose to acknowledge my feelings and heed the message that my intuition is giving me.

5: Use my voice.

In the past I have been someone who hasn’t always expressed themselves. I sometimes did this through fear of my ideas being rejected or because I didn’t want to come across as confrontational. When I think of the person I want to become that will lead to having the things I want to have, using my voice is an essential aspect of that person. I have come to accept that not everyone will think the same as me and that’s ok. There will be times when people are going to doubt my view and doubt me. I now realise that other people’s opinions of me is of no concern of mine. When you can let go of caring about what everyone thinks of you, you feel so much lighter and free. In the past I have been so shackled by the opinions of others that it has stopped me taking action. This can happen no more.

6: Being awake and aware.

Everything we need is all around us if we just look. I have sometimes said to some of the children in my class that they are asleep with their eyes open. What I mean by that is that they are not fully engaged with the activity that is happening around them and as a result have limited returns from their learning. I have been guilty of this sometimes in my own life. I have been somewhere physically, but have not engaged fully with the environment or people around me. This tends to be when I am lost in my head over thinking things. I am going to really focus on developing my awareness of what is happening around me and the messages I am being sent. Feedback is only as valuable as what you do with it. The most successful students I have had take on board my ideas for how they can get better and develop rapidly. I want to model that student teacher relationship with experiences in my life. I want to become aware of the possibilities that are available to me, and being more conscious and in control of my state.

7:  Counting my blessings

I live an awesome life. As I write this, I have a beautiful wife, an amazing young son, a baby on the way (any minute now) and I have a career. I know what direction I want to take my life in the future, and I am willing to make the necessary changes to myself in order to get closer to my goals. I must never forget to appreciate my life. My mindset is one of appreciation and gratitude. Money will come and go. There will be good and bad times. Right now, things are awesome but I know the seasons of life always change. Some events will be so bad, that I will want to give up. I know this and accept it and will do everything in my power even within those hard times, to count the blessings that I have at that point and to persist.

I hope that these rituals will help me to manifest everything that I want for myself and my family in 2014 and beyond. When I approach my goals with these rituals in place, then my chances of success are far greater because of the person I will become.

Best wishes for the end of 2013 and the start of 2014. Are there any goals or aspirations that you are aiming for this up and coming year?

Go for them with enthusiasm and intensity.

Here’s to your success.