The happiness menu

The happiness list

Can you name 10 things that would make you happy instantly?

This idea I took from the Chimp Paradox. It is a way of giving yourself options in order to raise your happiness instantly. What small things could you do at any moment to raise your level of happiness?

I chose things such as

*Being outdoors.

*Listening to some of my favourite music.

*Reading a great book.

*Counting my blessings.

*Smiling

Knowing what things can make you happy instantly is powerful because it allows you to be in control of your state and to choose what action you are going to take in order to feel better. We can be far more active in our level of happiness and sometimes feeling happy requires on our part.

Once you have your instant happiness list, you can also create a list of things that you could plan that would raise your happiness. Again, the point is to include simple things that are easy to do and that you will look forward to in the near future. Things like having a meal with friends, date night with your partner, or going out on a trip with your children. Once you have established what those things are that truly make a difference in your life, then plan for at least one of those things to happen.

Taking the time to know what activities will make you happy allows you to plan these things into your life. I see the instant happiness list as a way to boost my mood if I am struggling to stay positive or I am annoyed about something. We all have those moments, so it’s good to have a trick up your sleeve when you need it.

I would suggest going away and really thinking about how much effort you put into making sure that you are happy.

Have you ever considered what the simple pleasures are in your lives that make you happy?

Are you making time for those things?

Remember a good life is a balanced one. Your happiness and state of mind is just as important as a good career and good physical health.

I wish you the best.

How to master the mind.

The Chimp Paradox

Ever wondered why you sometimes do things that don’t make any sense?

Do you ever catch yourself saying “Why did I do that!”

I have just finished listening to the Chimp Paradox for the third time.  It is a phenomenal book that I would recommend to anyone who has ever  wondered how the mind works and how to get the best from it. Steve Peters has the fantastic ability to take a hugely complicated subject and transpose it onto a clear working model.

The characters that he created also make the model memorable and unique. The basic premise is that your psychological mind is split into three parts: The Human, The Chimp and the computer. The Human is who you really are. It is the logical, positive accepting part of your psychological make up. The Chimp is also part of your psychological make-up, but is not you. The Chimp is very emotionally driven with a tendency towards catastrophic thinking, black or white decision making, sabotaging your efforts and other unhelpful behaviours. The computer is where all your programmed reactions and behaviours are stored. Both the human and the Chimp can store things into the computer. These things then become your default reactions to certain environments and situations.

The most powerful parts of the book for me were the working model of the mind, creating my own stone of life, a new way to create goals, a powerful and true distinction between goals and dreams, and a new perspective on confidence that really resonated with me.  I will briefly share some insights from each part, but in order to get the full picture of your “psychological universe”, you really need to read the whole book for yourself.

*The working model of the mind

D.r Steve Peters describes the psychological mind as a universe with different planets. Some of the planets also have stabilising moons. This was so valuable because it allowed me to see all the aspects of the mind that D.r Steve Peters considers important. It allowed to highlight which planets I had been neglecting and some that I were never even aware of.

*The Stone of lIfe.

This document is so important that if you gain nothing else from the book, you will learn how to make your own Stone of life. I read mine every day and it allows me to really anchor my mind at the start of the day and keep in mind the thoughts and ideas that make managing your mind-set so much easier. Your stone of life consists of your truths of life, values, your understanding of your own mindset, what is truly important to you (60 sec deathbed activity) and who the members of your troop are.

  • Goal setting

I realised that my goal setting formula was fundamentally flawed after reading this book. I was only considering the human when I was setting goals and neglecting my chimp. This is almost guarantees sabotage and frustration. Learning how to get the Chimp onside was really powerful information that I will apply when I next review my goals. It also highlights the importance of using visuals and having something to measure and track.

Goals and Dreams.

This really made sense to me. You need to understand the difference between goals and dreams to ensure that you are not setting setting your dreams as goals. This is not very helpful for you or your chimp.

Dreams are defined as something that you want to make happen that is not totally in your control. It is something that you would love to have happen but other factors and circumstances can control the final outcome. A goal is something that you have complete control over. Goals make dreams more likely because they are the actions that get you closer to realising your dream.

Example: Dream : To win a race. This is a dream because you cannot control the performance of the other runners in the race. Therefore the end result is not 100 % in your control. What you can do is create goals to get you closer to your dream becoming a reality.

Dream: To win a race.

Goals to support the dream: Regular training, excellent diet, practice with a coach.

Focussing on what you can control, what is in your circle of influence as Steven Covey describes it in the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, allows you to feel confident that you have prepared as best as you can, and allows you to accept the outcome a little easier as well. If the dream was also your goal, there is so much pressure to achieve, that the anxiety could hamper your performance.

  • Confidence

I really resonated with this section because my confidence was very Chimp based and this was very draining psychologically. The key to your confidence is your perception. How you perceive your efforts makes a huge difference to your confidence levels. What most people (including me) do is we link our confidence to being able to complete a task successfully. So if you were placed in a situation where we felt we could not successfully complete the task, then our confidence would be low. I had always based my confidence on this reasoning. It made sense to me. I couldn’t see any other way to measure confidence. However, there is an alternative.

D.r Peters recommends basing confidence on doing your best. It’s simple but a massive shift in thinking. In every situation, we can focus on doing our best on that day for that particular task. By taking your focus away from performance outcome, you allow the human to stay in control of the performance. If you feel anxious and pressured in a situation, the chimp takes over and this can sometimes lead to you not performing at your best. This thinking has allowed me to realise that there is a way to be more confident in all areas of life. By allowing yourself to focus on doing the best you can, you can get satisfaction even when the outcome was not exactly what you wanted or planned for.

There is so much more fantastic content in the book. I have found it to be amazing for my understanding of how my mind works, and how others can feel when facing their own challenges. I now understand that the Chimp is a part of me, but is not the real me. I now also understand that the Chimp isn’t good or bad it’s a chimp and will act accordingly.

Read the book, master your mind, understand and work with your Chimp.

smiling chimp

Mine is called Austin.

I wish you the best.

My terrible phone, the matrix and the ultimate upgrade

I.O.S Infinity- What my phone taught me about personal development.
Last week, I tried to download a new app for my phone. It looked really interesting and I was looking forward to using it. The download failed. Usually this happens because I have no memory left on my phone but this time it was down to the fact that my operating system (O.S) wasn’t up to date. Frustrated at my phone’s need of an upgrade I abandoned downloading the app. Although I had the capacity to download the app, I did not have the operating system needed to run the programme needed effectively.
This then got me to thinking about the mind. I have read and heard of the brain being compared to a computer several times. Maxwell Maltz describes the brain in this way in his great book Psycho Cybernetics. He refers to the way that the mind acts completely in accordance with your image of yourself. Steve Peters refers to one part of the mind as the computer in his book The Chimp Paradox. He describes how we store patterns of thought and behaviour in this area of the brain that are stored for later use.
Peter Diamandis, creator of the Xprize and a full time bad ass, shared an analogy on Tim Ferriss’ podcast that I wanted to share and expand with you.
He described the mind as the operating system and apps as the skills that we go away and learn. A bit like how Neo has skills downloaded onto his brain during the film ‘The Matrix’ but in reality it takes a lot longer obviously.
Neo sits in a chair and has a giant cable stuck into the back of his head. He then has different martial arts downloaded directly to his brain. If only it were that simple. It is a powerful metaphor though that helps us to see the brain as a mechanism that can be changed, programmed and developed. Here’s the scene for those who have never seen the film. There is bad language in the clip. So if that offends you in any way, just skip it and keep reading.

Now here’s where the analogy gets interesting. Peter made a really interesting point. He said that people are always thinking that they need to go and learn a new skill or tactic to make progress. The thinking is that downloading the new app is going to solve everything and make things better. People believe this leads to happiness, progress and everything else in life. But how often do we look at the O.S? Until the operating system changes, the way you operate in the world will not change. Think back to my phone. That app was available to me as it is to everyone else, but the limitations of the phone blocked my ability to have it.
One of the most dramatic O.S upgrades I had was when I became a father. In an instant, the way I saw the world had changed. The choices I make, the actions I take and my level of focus were all permanently altered.
We have all had moments like this when life can never go back to the way it was. Some experiences would have been good, bus some may have been very traumatic. Another O.S upgrade that I received was when my father died. It was so painful, and I did not come to terms with it until five years later. Therefore, the growth I received from that experience only came when I was ready to receive it.
When we think about our minds, the operating system is the most important aspect of our ability to make progress and be successful in life. What parts of the mind make up our operating system?
Our experiences.
We learn from our experiences all the time. Our mind is constantly linking our experiences to pleasure and pain and has a library of reactions stored and ready to roll out when needed. Our O.S is designed to keep us moving towards pleasure and moving away from pain. Therefore, if you want to make progress in any area, you need to make that thing seem appealing and pleasurable. In this way we can change the meaning of our experiences in order to empower us.
I used this insight taken from Tony Robbins and Marisa Peer. You need to frame whatever you want to do and have in a pleasurable way. You need to explain to yourself how those things give you pleasure.
For example, I love exercising. It allows me to stay fit and play with my kids. It also allows me to stay in good shape and fit into my clothes.
I love staying up late to write. It allows me to create awesome blogs and work on my book that will one day be read by thousands of people. I enjoy reading the comments and feedback I receive and always look for ways to improve what I have written.
Linking these things to pain means that the mind will stop you from developing these things. This is a great way of thinking about the world and the only way to expand your comfort zone and capabilities. By positively framing actions that we don’t always want to do, our chances of performing them is massively increased.
Our self talk
What you say to yourself is like the programming for your computer. I mentioned this in my last post, and it is amazing how differently you feel when you speak to yourself differently. The bottom line is that you will be speaking to yourself all day anyway. So you might as well become aware of what you are saying and use it to your advantage. In Nichiren Buddhism, chanting is used to invite wisdom to the mind.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda on chanting daimoku:
“Being human, it’s quite natural for our minds to wander, for all sorts of thoughts and memories to surface. [. . .] There is no set form or pattern for how we should pray. Buddhism emphasises being natural. Therefore, simply chant earnestly without pretence or artifice, just as you are. In time, as your faith develops, you’ll naturally find it easier to focus your mind when you chant.
“It’s natural for prayers to centre on your own desires and dreams. [. . .] By chanting very naturally, without affectation or reservation, for what you seek most of all you’ll gradually come to develop a higher and more expansive life-condition. Of course, it’s perfectly fine as well to chant with the resolve to become a bigger-hearted person or for the welfare of your friends and for kosen-rufu – the happiness and flourishing of all humankind.”

Affirmations are words and phrases you say to yourself repeatedly to impress them on your subconscious mind. You can use affirmations in order to speak directly to the subconscious. This can then lead to action in that direction. Now some people say that affirmations are not as powerful as actions. However, I see affirmation as an action in itself. It is an intentional act designed to help develop your mind. Therefore, it could be one way for you to bring about the things that you want in your life. The key is to say them repeatedly and very frequently. Daily affirmations work best.
You can also spot people’s self talk in how they speak to others. Try to become aware of your own self talk. If you speak words of life, then it helps you to create a positive life for yourself. If you speak words of loss and death, don’t be surprised to find your life experience as negative. The mind casts no judgement over the information you present to it, it just follows your commands. Your mind is the engine room of the ship, but you are the navigator and captain. You must steer your ship with confidence in the direction you want to send it.
I am making the consicious effort now to not make judgements on my ability before I try something. For example, the words I can’t can be very damaging, so I try to avoid saying it not. I also try to avoid wishy washy middle of the road expressions like ‘I’m doing o.k.’ ‘Not so bad’ and things like that. I used to say this all the time when people asked how I was. Now I say things like awesome, brilliant and words that have very energetic upbeat connotations. It makes a big difference to how I feel, but also has a similar effect on the person who I’ve said it to.
Our vision of ourselves
How we see ourselves is an enormous component of how our operating system works. If you believe that you are a happy, successful, positive person then you will act accordingly. If you see yourself negatively, maybe as someone who has no personal power, or somebody who has always been lazy, then you are again going to act accordingly.
You need to start to see yourself in accordance with what you want to achieve. You cannot wait for the evidence to present itself in the world. Thinking that way will have you waiting forever or pausing waiting for the perfect moment. I procrastinated in this way on certain things for years until I realised that the perfect moment is the moment you take action. You can change the way that you see yourself very quickly by deciding on the person that you want to be. If you want to see yourself as successful, then your O.S must be alignment with that. If your paradigm of the world is not able to see the things that you want clearly, then your chance of receiving them are slim to none. Remember, the operating system is the most important thing that you have. It allows you to take on new skills and change your life situation.
Your why.
Your purpose needs to be clear to you. Without it, it’s so easy to become a passive member of society without any need of personal or professional development. In today’s world, there are so many things we can be distracted with. I find it very difficult at times to make the decision to write these posts and do the things necessary to create the life I want for myself and my family.
What pulls me back to those things of importance is my purpose. The things that I believe are worth working and striving for. My purpose is to reach my full potential and inspire others to reach theirs. I want to achieve my personal freedom. To me that means every day I’m spending time doing things that are important and meaningful to me. This means that I need to be constantly upgrading my O.S so that I have the capacity to learn more, do more and become more. This is the life I have chosen to live, but it is very hard to remember this without constant reminders. My journal helps bring me back to this purpose, and whenever I do not remind myself of this, I find I start to get distracted.
My why came to me after days of thought and reflection. I also have the desire to live a long and happy life around the people I love the most. This compels me to exercise, and to finally find a strategy to reach my ideal weight. (Still working on this one ha)
My mindset is so much stronger than it was several years ago. The way I see myself has dramatically changed, and I no longer have as many barriers to progress as I did. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and I still make loads of mistakes and fall down. However, I no longer define myself by these my mistakes and failures. I purely want to give the best example I can to as many people as possible in the time I have. I am now pursuing a state of being rather than a level of success. I want the ultimate upgrade.
O.S abundance!

Start upgrading today

I wish you the best
Shaun

The power of words.

positive talk
Do you ever find yourself beating yourself up internally, telling yourself you can’t do things or stopping yourself from attempting challenges that seem difficult?
This is a daily reality for people with low confidence and can become a real difficulty. I can speak with authority about this because I was one these people for so long. I inherited a very risk wary mind-set when I was younger. This is especially true of my mother. I love her dearly and I had a great childhood, but my mum would be the first to tell you that she was and still is a huge worrier.
Her worrying nature is now a part of me. I hid it well from everyone, but when I was younger, it made me not want to sing. I am a good singer, so the talent was always there, but before performances I would get extremely anxious. I would obsess over one part of the song and worry myself sick about getting it wrong. This catastrophic thinking led to me eventually finding it very difficult to sing when people asked me to.
The problem here was the power of the words I spoke to myself. They massively changed my state of mind. When I reflect on the things I used to say to myself, I realise it was the power of the words that had me literally choked up:
You will look like an idiot in front of everyone if you get this wrong.
What if you lose your voice tomorrow?
Everyone is going to be watching you.
What if you forget the words?
What are the words again?
These sorts of recurring thoughts killed my enthusiasm for singing and I shelved it for a long time. It was a decision that I never thought through, but when I went to University and no-body knew I could sing, I just let that part of me lie dormant. I never spoke about it so it was never really an issue.
What we say to ourselves is massively important. If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would have told him that I always have the power to change the words I speak to myself. Therefore I have the power to make myself feel immense:
No-body on Earth can sing quite like you do.
You have the ability to get up on stage and express yourself in front of 100’s of people. That is incredible.
You don’t even have to think about this. It comes as naturally as walking or talking.
Show everyone who you really are.
Be free.

Imagine how I would have felt saying those things to myself as a young man. I don’t think I would have ever stopped singing.
I am learning to change the words that I say to myself because they do have so much influence over what we do. How we talk to ourselves effects how we see the world around us. Of this there is no doubt. I now see the value of my voice as an expression of who I am. I let it lie dormant as I mentioned before, but I don’t regret this. If I had not gone through the process of learning how to manage my own state through the words I say to myself, then I would not be the person I am today. I would not be able to pass this lesson on to my children, and all those who may someday read these words. I’m grateful for the experience of discovering this process because now I can apply it to other areas of my life.
Do I still have a worrying nature? At times yes, and I think that will always be the case. However, it now does not have the power to paralyse me and make me second guess myself.
How do you speak to yourself? Is it positive and encouraging, or is it fixated on fear and loss.
Saturate your mind with positive words, images and thoughts and it will permeate your being and shine out from you. You deserve to have a mind that is working with you to build you up.
I now look forward to singing again with confidence and joy. I have been looking for a way to do this and think I have found one by joining a local gospel choir.

Look within. Wisdom from Kung fu Panda

I have been lucky enough this new year to spend lots of time with my family and friends. One particular morning, my son and I watched Kung-fu Panda. I have never seen it and thought it was a great movie that had some key principles that we could all try to apply to our lives. One which jumped out was the revelation of the secret ingredient.

This scene demonstrates beautifully the idea of belief. If we can generate a belief and hold onto it strongly, it can inspire us to greater things. The external search for that one missing thing to stop procrastination can never compensate for the internal feeling to act generated by belief. The realisation that Po (The Panda) makes is that he is good enough to fulfill his own destiny. He has everything he needs within and he just needs to bring it out.

A new year is a new chance for us all to aim for goals and dreams we have in life armed with the belief that we are good enough to attain it. Yes we will have to learn and make mistakes along the way, but those mistakes help us to grow and develop into the person we want to be.

No amount of hacks and special tricks from ‘gurus’ can compete with what we have within. We are all special and unique. Kung fu panda reminded me that belief in ourselves is an amazing source of power inside all of us.
Go for what you want today and claim your personal power!

Wishing you all the best for 2015

Shaun

Want to learn the skills of the world’s greatest persuaders?

Do you find yourself banging your head against a brick wall when dealing with other people? Maybe you would like to learn how to persuade people that you have a good idea. It might be that you want to convince your child that going to bed is a good idea, or trying to convince your boss that you are the right person for the promotion.
This book could save you many headaches. This book will provide you with many solutions if you follow it. I honestly believe that this book if studied and applied could give you the skills to negotiate any issue or situation that involves dealing with other people. The book I’m talking about is the classic novel ‘How to win friends and influence people,’ I’ve not been re-reading it for long, but there are some principles that just ring true with how things should be with your relationships with others.
You will find this book to still be relevant even though it was first published way back in 1936. Human nature hasn’t changed that much. I plan to produce a much longer study of the book in future posts, but here are some of my main takeaway points so far. If these sound like ideas you would like to explore further, then I strongly recommend you read or listen to the whole book.
Principle 1: Criticism is useless. This is a massive concept and a huge challenge to normal thinking. People revere critics and are encouraged to take on board criticism and take responsibility for mistakes. Carnegie argues that people very rarely blame themselves for anything. Now this isn’t the ideal, we are dealing with reality here and 9 times out of ten, wouldn’t you agree that this is true? The book explains an alternative to criticism. Hint: it starts within.
Principle 2: People only do something because they want to do it. This idea is so simple, and yet so true. We can be forced to do things in the short term and through aggression and fear. True leaders create great enthusiasm through the way they treat their employees. If you would like to learn the secrets of these great leaders, then this book has the answers.
Principle 3: Become genuinely interested in other people. This principle explains the uncanny ability some people have to gain rapport with others very quickly. If you would like to learn how these things are done, then you might want to have a look at this book.
I know I’m probably preaching to the converted here, because most people who seem to read my blog are interested in their own personal development and growth. If you want some fresh new ideas on how to really get people on your side, in a genuine organic way, then read this book. I absolutely love it and am trying to bring some of these key principles into my life right now.
Be awesome.
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

What is health?

So I was watching some you tube videos and reading some fitness articles online looking for some inspiration for my next cycle of training and nutrition. I had it in my head that I wanted to get really lean. I was willing to do whatever it took and sacrifice with my eating and my sanity to a certain extent. After about half an hour, I stopped and realised that this goal of being super lean was not a goal that was inspiring to me. In fact, I found the whole idea quite depressing. This was not a personal goal anymore. It was coming from a place of ego. I wanted to show the world what I could do and have everyone heap praise on my physique Why go through all that just to get praise from others? Would this really mean I was healthy?

This has been a question that I’ve been asking myself recently. I found myself plotting an elaborate fat loss plan in order to try and get myself to cut down and increase my lean muscle. I was planning to really intensify my efforts and reach a low weight and body fat percentage. Somewhere during all this planning, I stopped and scrapped all of it. I found a really simple yet extremely challenging workout routine that I can execute, and with my nutrition I am eating cleaner, but not desperately chasing some fat loss goal anymore. The truth is that at this moment in my life, I don’t want to be completely engrossed in fat loss. I only have a finite amount of energy, and there are other things at the moment that are far more important to me than being ripped to the bone and looking shredded to the max.

I had taken some time to sit back and think about what health means to me. Where had I got my frame of reference about health from?  When I reflected on this and I tried to visualise healthy looking people, I realised that my image of health was not realistic because I did not see many people at all who looked like my images in real life. I had the fitness model, super lean bodybuilder look as my image of health and realised that this is slightly warped. Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to look phenomenal in that way, but I’m not prepared to put all my energy into that one thing at this stage in my life.

Health used to mean a superficial image to me, but now I have had time to reflect, health is far deeper than that. I now see someone healthy as someone who has a vitality and energy about them. Someone who is rarely sick and can handle the stress and challenges of life well is someone who is healthy. People who eat natural whole foods most of the time are healthy. 6 pack abs and rippling muscles are possible indicators of good health, but not necessarily. Being healthy to me is also about the mind and spirit. If someone has the best looking body in the world, but they are depressed, miserable and hate themselves, could you really say that they are a healthy individual?

I wonder how many other people are going through life with a superficial idea of what health means? I feel liberated because I now know that I am already healthy and could easily stay the way I am now and be very happy with it. I have started to appreciate myself for the level of vibrancy and health I already have. I’m not ripped, I don’t have six pack abs, and may never have them and that’s absolutely fine. I am healthy, very healthy and that allows me to live a life I enjoy and appreciate.

These are the rules of health that I committed to and will be following.

* Your food should be natural most of the time.

* Drink lots of water, and the occasional beer.

* Exercise should be challenging, fun and supportive to my life.

* The mind dictates health as much as the body.

* Handling stress is a big component of good health.

What are your health rules? Have you ever sat down and thought about what health means to you? If not I think it is a very valuable exercise.

P.S Here’s the link to the workout I will be doing.

http://www.t-nation.com/workouts/10000-swing-kettlebell-workout

My insights from “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.” by Robin Sharma

Image

 

I’m indebted to my good friend for this blog post. He was the one who bought this book for me as a gift on my birthday. He had told me how much he enjoyed it and so I looked forward to seeing what I could take from it. There are some major principles to be found in this book that will have a major impact on your life if you take the advice on board.

Principle 1: Control and cultivate positive thoughts at all times.

“Enlightened thinkers know that their thoughts form their world and the quality of one’s life comes down to the richness of one’s thoughts. If you want to live a more peaceful, meaningful life, you must think more peaceful, meaningful thoughts.” Pg 52

There are several quotes throughout the book that point to the power of the mind to create the world around you. This comes from the paradigm that your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. Therefore negative thoughts create a negative environment internally which creates negativity externally. One action point suggested is to replace any negative thought instantly with a positive one. I’ve found this to be challenge at times, but its getting easier and definitely helps with keeping things in perspective. A good example would be if I am fed up with a child in class, if I have a negative thought about that child, I then think about what good I could do for them if I maintain a positive attitude and focus only on helping them improve. I think the trick is to see the reality of the situation, but see it from a positive perspective. Kidding yourself with fake positivity doesn’t work.

Principle 2: Kaizen: Constant and never ending improvement.

“You practice the art of Kaizen by pushing yourself daily. Work hard to improve your mind and body. Nourish your spirit. Do the things you fear. …………………….. Do the things you have always wanted to do but tricked yourself into believing you were too old, too rich or too poor. Prepare to live a soaring, fully alive life. In the East they say that luck favours the prepared mind. I believe that life favours the prepared mind.” Pg 100

This is a powerful principle. It could be the most poignant within the whole book for me personally because it sums up beautifully the pursuit of personal development or progress in any area. We all long to improve and get better. This principle tells us that fear and doubt are the blockers of progress. If we are to truly progress, we must eliminate the bottleneck of fear that can stand in our way. I am now at war with my fears. I pick a fear, and will focus on trying my best to eliminate that fear from myself. For example, although I am a good singer, I developed a real fear of singing out and showing off my voice. I think that fear is linked to a host of other ideas such as fear of being humiliated in public, the fear of making a mistake in public and the fear of being rejected. What a list! To combat this, I am going to be singing the first dance song for my best friend’s wedding at the end of May. This will be in front of all my friends and family. Am I scared? Absolutely! But I now recognise that growth lies on the other side of fear. If we can master our fears and see them as obstacles to overcome, we can reach personal greatness far faster as nothing will be able to stop us.

Action point: Try to identify some of your fears and then go to work on eliminating them when you are ready. This is challenging and takes serious self-reflection but I believe the rewards are more than worth the initial effort.

“When you conquer your fears, you conquer your life.” Pg 101

Principle 3: The power of rituals.

“You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, you sow a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap a destiny.”

Robin invites us to start cultivating certain actions into our lives that will help to improve the quality of your life experience. They are all powerful ideas. The synergy of these rituals is what makes this a highly effective book. Each idea flows well into each other. So when you read them, you will see that it wouldn’t be as challenging to incorporate all of these ideas into your daily life as it might sound. For the sake of brevity, I will just list the rituals very briefly.

1: Solitude – silence and peace

2: Physicality – movement and breathing

3: Nourishment – live healthy foods

4: Life-long learning – commitment to reading

5: Personal reflection

6: Wake up early

7: Music – raise your spirits

8: Using mantras

9: Congruence – when intent and action match up.

10: Simplicity – “Reduce your needs…… unless you reduce your needs you will never be fulfilled.” Pg 135

Action point: If you are interested in taking on some of these ideas, then do an audit on yourself and see where your biggest gap lies. The chances are, that you will be partaking in some of these rituals anyway, but there may be something missing that might just complete your wellbeing jigsaw. For me, I had never tried mantras before and I have started trying to use these in quiet moments of reflection. One mantra suggested in the book to try is: “ I am more than I appear to be, all the world’s strength and power rests in me.” Pg 153.

Principle 4: Live with discipline.

This concept isn’t new to anyone and is so simple to say, but challenging to do. Mastering our will and doing things that are important but not urgent is the cornerstone of this principle. Learning to delay gratification and keep the bigger picture in mind is something that I battle with daily. Just half an hour before writing this, I had been tempted to watch the T.V for an hour or so instead of finishing my blog post. What is helping with this is my raised level of awareness about what I am doing and the consequences it might have. I judge the value of my choices much more than I used to and this helps to develop my discipline. I have a long way to go with this, but I can see improvements.

Principle 5: Value your time. It is all you really have.

“ The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savour it fully.”

Another powerful concept and one that is persistent in many books I have read recently is the importance of time and understanding how important it is. Sharma talks about the need to keep life simple in the aims and goals that you set for yourself. He also talks about having the courage to say no when it is appropriate and people are trying to take your time away from you in a way you don’t like. I have been guilty of this in the past and now make a conscious effort to speak out when I feel my time is being wasted either by a person or an activity. I also try to stay conscious of when I am wasting my own time. I have developed a little mantra for this that I say to myself. Make each day memorable. I try and make sure that within each day I search for the things that make that day unique and special. Today it was taking some children after school for football training. We all had a great time and the children are developing their skills. Watching one of the children charge through some nettles to get one of the balls back was a memorable moment for me and a painful one for him! It’s the little things that count. It doesn’t have to be a grand Hollywood moment every day.

Living for the day used to have connotations of recklessness for me, and for some that may be how they choose to interpret it. For me it means being engaged and connected to the world around you. Taking time and energy to fully invest yourself into whatever it is you are doing, and making sure your life is full of awesome memories. I live for the day when I play fight with my son, or take a moment to just breathe and take in my surroundings. I appreciate where I am and who I am with. Living for the day means mind body heart and spirit are awake and engaged. It is the best way to live.

“ Today is the day to live fully, not when you win the lottery or when you retire. Never put off living.” Pg 184

Action point: I have started a journal that I write in for five minutes at night before bed. This action alone is powerful in helping you to remember key moments and insights from the day. It allows you to also learn from the lessons that are staring you right in the face. Try it for 20 days and see what you can learn about yourself.

Principal 6: Serve the world.

This was a powerful insight for me. This quote sums it up and there isn’t much more to say beyond that as it is perfect:

“The quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution.”

I am proud of the blog I have created because I made a conscious choice to share my thoughts with others and give them new things to ponder and think about. In my own little way, I am sending out a message and it feels good to do that. Therefore the quality of my life feels better. There are so many ways we can do this in our day to day lives.

Action point: Think about what you can contribute to others that is of value. Contribution adds to your sense of belonging to the world and massively benefits those who receive your kindness.

These are the powerful ideas that I took from the book, but there are many more in there as well. I would invite anybody to read the book who is looking for a refreshing way to view the world and our place in it. I would also suggest that people who seem out of balance or overwhelmed give this book a try. It could help them to see that they need to take the time to care for themselves before they burn out and forget how to enjoy life.

Choose success

 

 

Hang in there!

Back in January, I blogged about the day my boss took me into his office to have a talk about some issues that I was experiencing in school. I won’t go over all of that again, but I will say that the experience was painful and shocking. He brought up many things that he was dissatisfied with and basically said that I was under performing. As someone who takes personal development and improvement very seriously, this meeting cut me to the core. I felt isolated, scrutinised and unhappy. I contemplated many things on the way home that day. Thoughts that people in high pressure jobs have surely had themselves

Maybe I’m not cut out for this work.

Maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was.

I can’t do this.

It’s not worth this.

I need to escape.

As I walked back to my classroom to face my class after the meeting, I found it hard to look anyone in the eye. My confidence was destroyed and I just wanted to get home to my family.

I walked through the door and collapsed into a heap of tears as soon as my wife asked me about my day. Tears were flowing freely and I couldn’t control it. Having to hold all that anxiety and pain inside all day had been to much for me and I was overwhelmed emotionally. My son made his way over and asked if I was ok. I tried to bury my head in the sofa, but being a curious two and a half year old, he started yanking my head up to look into my eyes. When I saw him look at me two things flashed in my mind.

1. I love my boy so much.

2. If you show him this hurt, he will hurt too. Deal with it.

I managed to compose myself and get myself together. Boy I was looking forward to my self therapy session laying by his cot that night while he slept. I already mentioned in a previous blog the ideas that I came up with, but I also made a decision that night that has made a massive impact on my life since.

I made a decision that I needed to stop chasing external validation for the sake of my sanity, and look within for self validation.

I realised that the reason I had experienced all the pain that I did from that meeting was because I was seeking acceptance and validation from my boss. In other words, I had handed all my ability to feel worthy to his opinion. Never again! I learnt an amazing lesson in that meeting that has only become more apparent since I have lived for a good month with this adjusted mindset. I now make the time to consciously validate myself and my worth to myself. I remember to tell myself that I am unique, special, powerful and capable. I remind myself that I am blessed every day with family, friends and have a clean bill of health. I take the time to appreciate my good points and my areas for development without becoming emotionally attached to either, and I disregard what others have to say about me. I realised that what others think of me is irrelevant and should never have the power to change what I believe about myself. I validate myself. I cultivate my own self belief. I understand my own capabilities, and refuse to be cut down or built up by the opinions of others.

Paradoxically, since having this change in attitude, I’ve found my work has improved dramatically in all areas. I’ve stopped second guessing my decisions and wondering what people will think of my choices. I am taking risks again and making adjustments as I go. It has made a big difference to my working performance.

My boss had another meeting with me today. It was like speaking with a different person. The room was the same, the meeting time was the same, but everything else was SO different. He thanked me for everything I had done to improve and said he had noticed a tremendous improvement in my performance and the performance of my class.He waxed lyrical for a while and was clearly very impressed.  I thanked him for his comments and as I left the room, said a quiet well done to myself in my head. I deserved the praise, but refused to be defined by it. Now that I am holding myself to my own higher standards, self satisfaction is far easier to come by.

The message I want to share with this post is the importance of hanging in there when things are tough and not allowing others to define your worth. Create your own inner riches and show your best side. Tough times can bring the best out of us and force us to grow stronger and more resilient.

I wish you the best.