5 Reasons You Should Take Action on Your Goals NOW!

fiveTaking action on our goals doesn’t only provide the benefit of seeing our goals brought to fruition and the joy we will feel when we reach that point.  Between the start and the end, or, between now and then, there are many other excellent reasons and/or benefits which we can enjoy en route that will help to fuel our resolve to keep going.  Let’s take a look at five of these reasons.

1.  Your positive motivation will spill over into other areas of your life!

Yes, that’s right!  Once you pull yourself up off the sofa and start doing something, anything, towards your goal, you will find that your overall energy will increase.

There’s a general belief that we don’t have enough time and energy to cram anything else into our lives and so setting and pursuing a goal will only add to the sense of overwhelm we already feel.  But, the opposite is actually true!  By doing some work on one of our goals, we will feel more energised and this will provide the additional energy, and by default, time, that’s needed to help us keep on top of all the other ‘busy’ work we need to attend to.

2.  You will feel a sense of relief

If you’ve had a goal in mind for quite some time, even if you haven’t properly articulated it, if you haven’t started to take some action, then somewhere in your mind it’s drawing upon your energy and making you feel bad about yourself.

It’s that nagging feeling of dismay or disappointment you feel at the end of the day when you realise, once again, that you allowed all your other daily activities to take priority over something you really, really know you want to progress.

How would it feel instead to reach the end of the day knowing that you have taken a tiny step closer to your goal?

Try it, you might find you sleep better and wake happier!

3.  You will be happier and will respond better to your loved ones

This might seem like a big claim to make, but think about it for a moment.  Quite often between family commitments and the demands of work, we suppress our own needs and drive them to the bottom of the pile.  Inevitably that will mostly mean that we never get to them.

This can create an unconscious feeling of resentment, towards our partner, children, friends and work as we count up the many things we give for little or nothing in return.  We feel that our efforts are taken for granted and then we get angry or bitter and these feelings eventually spill over into our relationships.

But what if we took some time for ourselves by allowing a little time to pursue our goals?  In doing so, we create a little personal oasis that is nurturing to ourselves simply because we have allowed ourselves to look after our own wellbeing.  Ironically, this doesn’t distract from our other relationships, instead it makes us happier and therefore allows us to be happier and more generous to others.

It’s counter-intuitive, but is this not a win-win situation?  If you’re not used to carving out a little time for yourself then you may find your subconscious works against you initially and you’ll experience feelings of guilt.  But, keep with it and you will soon see the beneficial effects on your relationships.

4.  You will become more creative and resourceful

…or in other words, we grow!

When we start out on our goals, we often don’t know how we will reach our desired outcome.  We may have some idea of how to get to the next milestone, but beyond that is a mystery right now and this can be a little scary and off-putting.

But, being bold enough to take those initial steps will help us to grow in confidence, which will then release our creative juices.  We will find new avenues open up to us and we will become more imaginative and start tapping into the new resources that are coming into our lives.

5.  You will be acknowledging and looking after your future self

Sometimes when we’re in the depths of our daily lives, we somehow forget that what we are experiencing now will pass and that soon we will be living a different life.  Our children will grow past the toddler years, our jobs may change, we will age, we could experience health challenges, new demands will come our way and other demands will be released from our lives.

In other words, this too shall pass….

But in the melee of our everyday lives, it’s easy to forget that our future self is already being shaped out of the deposits we’re making in our lives now.  We are indeed creating our future selves with each action or failure to act that appears in our lives now.

So, is it not imperative that whilst we live our lives now, we would also benefit from having one eye on the future self we want to be?  In the future we may want…

  • Good health
  • Financial security
  • Happy relationships
  • Fulfilling hobbies
  • A promotion at work

…etc, but in order to achieve these things, we must acknowledge the inevitability of our future selves and factor in the work required now, albeit in a small but consistent way.

So there you have it, 5 excellent reasons why getting moving on your goals really is in your best interests!  If any or all have resonated with you, write it down somewhere where you will see it regularly as a reminder and motivator for those days when you just can’t seem to get moving.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences!  Hit the ‘Leave a reply’ button and share your thoughts!

Photo: losmininos

What if…?

daydreamerAre you a daydreamer?  Do you ever wonder ‘what if I…?’ and then fill in the blank with wonderful images that float around your head?  Do you let these images grow and enthuse you or do you quickly pull yourself back down to ground level and keep a realistic outlook on life?  Or, maybe you just find it difficult to daydream because your mind is so full of all the things on your To Do list or your commitments to other people so that there is just no room for daydreaming?

Wherever you sit on the imaginary daydreamers scale there can be no doubt that it can have both positive and negative effects on our lives.  But, taken in moderation, and used appropriately, I believe that daydreaming can have a very positive effect on our lives.

The key of course is to not spend all our time daydreaming at the expense of doing.  Instead we must follow up by actually identifying those parts of our daydreams which seem to re-occur to such an extent that they appear to be sending us a message…a message that says I’m waiting for you to do something about this!

But sometimes we block out our daydreams by replacing this thinking time with an endless stream of distractions, though usually this isn’t deliberate.  Instead we just seem to become oblivious to the constant chatter or pictures that run through our heads and then we just forget to tune in occasionally.  Worse though is when we allow ‘gadgets’ to occupy all our mind-time.  Things like tv, social media, music etc.  Of course, none of these are inherently bad, but as Lee Loevinger puts it…

Television is simply automated daydreaming.

So does this actually mean we are allowing others to do our daydreaming for us?  There’s quite a strong argument that this view could hold some water.

We perceive viewing television as something which is essentially benign entertainment, but, how often have you been watching television with intent, ie, you made an active choice to watch the program, but then, you were lulled to such an extent by the gentle familiarity of the run of programmes that you continued to sit watching even though you originally had no intention of doing so?  It’s a very familiar scenario, and to a large extent we believe ourselves to be blameless since tv viewing (or web surfing or social media) are so easy on our senses.  After a particularly difficult day it can be as soothing as sinking into a warm bath to just let others not only do the work of entertaining us, but, and more seriously, let others make our choices.

But let me just re-iterate: there’s nothing wrong with watching tv, web surfing or social media, as long as the time spent following these pursuits is deliberate and intended, rather than an avoidance technique.

But putting aside any tendency we may have to allow tv to do our daydreaming for us, how can we make daydreaming work for us instead?

Well, we could use our daydreams to help us identify those areas where we seek changes or improvements in our lives.  Our daydreams are unlikely to be completely random, although they could be symbolic and therefore potentially confusing.  However if we take the time to analyse our thoughts we will probably find a theme of some sort recurs on a regular basis.  Maybe this is a holiday destination, accepting an award, appearing on stage, falling in love…etc… and, bearing this in mind, Bo Bennett advises us that:

Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.

So, if this is the case then instead of just allowing our daydreams to be completely aimless we can actually put some boundaries around the things we want to daydream about.  This could be something that we already see as a goal, but as yet have not progressed.  In this case, we could use daydreaming to help us identify a useful starting point if we haven’t yet worked out where we want to start.  Alternatively, if starting is actually the problem and we lack motivation, then by daydreaming of seeing ourselves starting and progressing on our goal, there’s a very good chance that we will be compelled to get  up and get going!

Similarly, where we already have a good idea of our goals we can use daydreaming (or visualisation) to help us grow and expand our goals beyond their current limitations.

So with this in mind, if you notice someone daydreaming, should you disturb them?  Well according to Graeme Roberts, the answer is no..

If a writer is daydreaming, leave them be. They could be plotting their next great story.

But don’t be fooled into thinking this quote applies only to writers, after all we are all writing our next great story.  If we allow them, our goals can be the next great story of our lives, and our daydreams can be the authors of those goals.

So are you a daydreamer?  If so has it helped you identify or progress your goals?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post…click on the comments and share your thoughts!

Photo: Christopher.Michel

Failure is a Necessity!

lfetSome of my most popular Facebook updates recently have been around the perception of fear.  It seems that many people are fearful of starting a new venture.  Taking steps outside our comfort zones can create anxiety and distress, and the further we wander from the perceived boundaries of our comfort zones, the worse this anxiety becomes.

In today’s post I’m going to take a look at some of the fears that may be holding us back from reaching or even starting our goals.

I guess one of the major reasons we’re afraid to fail is because we think we’ll look stupid – to others, but, more importantly, to ourselves.  For many of us, we tend to be our harshest critic and not only berate ourselves internally with tough and unkind words, but often we go on to verbalise not only our dislike of our failure to those around us, but also our dislike of ourselves for having failed.  In doing so we ensure that we have garnered support for the critical bombardment with which we are punishing ourselves.  In this context, is it any wonder that we fear starting a new project which could end in failure?

But there’s another side to this argument in that we also criticise and berate ourselves for not embarking on our goals!  How many times have you found yourself condemning yourself for having eaten some high calorie treat, or for not going for a morning run, or for not having made a start on that assignment?  It seems that we are ‘damned if we do and damned if we don’t’, because whether we progress our goals or not, we will ultimately punish ourselves for not reaching some level of perceived perfection!

So how can we get beyond this negative self-sabotage and move on with our goals?  There is no single definitive answer to this question, but for me, one of the most important arguments for accepting that it’s ok to get moving on our goals and it’s ok to fail is the acceptance that failure is a normal part of success.  Indeed, without failure(s), we make no real progress!

This quote from Richard Kiyosaki appeared on my Facebook Page last week and was very popular:

“In school we learn that mistakes are bad, and we are punished for making them.  Yet, if you look at the way humans are designed to learn, we learn by making mistakes.  We learn to walk by falling down.  If we never fell down, we would never walk.”

It’s easy to understand why so many of us felt an affinity with this quote.  How many times have we been punished for our mistakes?  Directly and/or indirectly?  I have absolutely no doubt then that attempting to live beyond this early conditioning by not only allowing ourselves to make mistakes, but actively seeking them out as a means of learning becomes a monumental task for many of us.  Nowadays we may not be punished in the punitive sense of the word, but derision from others acts as a similar and equally strong barrier to our ability to break free of the failure chains.

And this is such a strong force to be reckoned with that Matthew J Kirby states:

“Sometimes, when we want something so badly, we fear failure more than we fear being without that thing.”

Can this be true?  Are we really so afraid of failure and what that truly means to us that we are willing to actually do without the thing that we most desire?  Well, it appears so.  After all, how many of us are struggling with an inner dispute which inspires us to seek out the fulfilment of our goals whilst simultaneously compelling us to stay exactly where we are?  We mentally mock ourselves with knowing that we want our lives to change and at the same time wanting everything to remain the same!

But we cannot stay as we are!  We are all fully aware that even if we try to remain the same, the world around us changes and thereby conspires to change our circumstances.  And if that is the case then, isn’t it in our own best interests  to do the best we can to ensure that those changed circumstances are as near to the life we want as it can possibly be?

We must all face this dilemma, for, whilst we may have courage to embark on goals in some areas of our lives, it’s unusual to feel this enthusiasm and confidence in all areas…but…

You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won’t happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.” Joel Osteen

And move on we must, or accept that others will move us along, with or without our consent.

And so, having made the scary decision to embark on our goals, we must actively encourage ourselves not only to keep going, but also to take time to celebrate the learning in our mistakes.  For mistakes we will, and must, make.  Taking an unknown path will lead to us needing to learn many things, and so, by definition we must sometimes make mistakes…also known as fail!

To close this blog, I have two more quotes for you which I hope will help to persuade you that mistakes and failure are a natural and required part of progress.  The first is from Jason Mraz:

“You’re not obligated to win. You’re obligated to keep trying. To the best you can do everyday.”

And the second is the very famous quote from Winston Churchill:

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

So you see, if you’re feeling brave enough to embark on your goals, and you make mistakes and fail now and then on the journey, it seems to me that (a) you’ll be in very esteemed company, and (b) you’ll be making progress.  What could be better?

In my own case, fear of failure, or more specifically, fear of looking like a total idiot, held me back for many years in the pursuit of one of my goals.  But, once I accepted that failure was a necessity in order for me to reach the pinnacle of my goal, I actively sought out the opportunities.  I am now well on the journey, and yes, I have absolutely made mistakes and looked an idiot!  But, I’ve learnt and grown and I can now count myself up there with those who have walked the path ahead of me…and that’s an honour :)

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories….please leave a comment!

Photo: Terry Whalebone

Bravery v Conformity: Where do you fit?

5486393061_f7bf0e18f7Bravery…it’s a peculiar concept.  The word conjures up images of brave knights and shining armour, of soldiers going into battle, but is it more than this?  This vague and narrow application of the word bravery has been perplexing me somewhat this week, because we see bravery in so many more guises, but often they are quiet and easily missed, or, most often, just dismissed by the person who is demonstrating this sentiment.

I’m thinking of the people who face incredible health challenges in their lifetime, but learn not only to live with the difficulties, but also who go on to challenge the definition of their illness and achieve astounding accomplishments in their lives.

Or those who are willing to stand up to adversity on behalf of others and protest in the face of opposition from people, companies or even governments.

These are indeed brave actions.  Sometimes the mantle is given to us with little or no choice as is the case with illness, and other times we can be moved to action by the unfairness of a situation.

But what about those times where taking action by the individual might seem easy and ordinary to the outside observer, but to the doer it might require them to call upon a level of confidence which they don’t feel they currently possess?

In saying this, I am reminded of an excellent quote by Jim Hightower:

The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity.  Even a dead fish can go with the flow.

But is this true?

Can we call it bravery (or courage) when we choose to move outside the bounds of ‘acceptable behaviour’?  Can being rebellious ever be construed as bravery?  ‘Acceptable behaviours’ and ‘rebelliousness’ are both very emotive words as well as having an inclination towards ambiguity in this context, after all, acceptable behaviour could be construed as good or nice behaviour or could also be associated with conformity.  On the other hand, to be rebellious has negative connotations; behaviour is no longer acceptable and in many cases will not only be negatively judged but also punished.  But in another context, some rebels are admired and in the extreme become leaders.

But for the most part, as individuals we don’t want to be labelled as conformists, a word that can be quite controversial.  It’s my belief that we prefer to show a little rebelliousness in our attitude now and then to show that we know our own minds and we do our own thing.  But, do we actively ‘rebel’ or just step outside the realms of the ‘ordinary’?

We are, after all, social creatures and so naturally to fit in we have to conform to the spoken and, more likely, unspoken rules of the group we choose to belong to.  Failure to conform would put us outside the ‘norm’, and we wouldn’t fit in any longer.

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However, if we felt that the group was no longer meeting our needs, but we didn’t feel brave enough to leave, where would that leave us?

Well, it would probably leave us feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, so maybe taking a stand and making a change would be the best way to go, even though in the short term this is likely to feel very uncomfortable.  But, the thing we need to remember when we find ourselves in this sort of situation, is that whilst initially it might feel like we are isolated and maybe even lonely, it will only take a short time before we will find that we are part of a new, different group as we will be attracted (pulled) towards people who are interested in the same sorts of things as we now are.

And this is the dilemma we can find ourselves in at any time when we’ve reached a point in our lives where we want to make some kind of change, but, in order to remain with our existing crowd we must continue to fit…or conform.

Take a look at these words from a well-known non-conformist:

In fact, my courage and my bravery at a young age was the thing I was bullied for, a kind of ‘Who do you think you are?’

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s quote is suggesting this idea:  in her little school world, she was different and so didn’t comfortably fit into the school yard ‘cliques’.  Consequently she was bullied for being different.  In the adult, and wider world however, even though she remains dissimilar to the masses in her tastes and her vast amount of drive to succeed, she is accepted and even celebrated within the music world and by her legions or adoring fans.

For Lady Gaga then, despite the pain of being bullied, she would not or even could not conform and this was therefore a kind of bravery.  She challenged the acceptable and the ordinary and grew beyond it, and in that way used her rebelliousness to create something different and thereby became a leader within her now (conformed) group.

So, let’s not forget, that:

It requires bravery to do something no one else around you is doing. 

Amber Heard

Sometimes the things we stretch ourselves to do may be ordinary in and of themselves, but, they are perceived as extra-ordinary within our existing group.  So, no matter what the size of the change we want to make, it will still require a level of bravery on our part.

It’s difficult to step outside the acceptable behaviour of our existing group of friends or even our family norms.  In doing so, we will be challenged and sometimes coerced into re-conforming to the normal behaviour of the group.  But, if we aspire to grow or have already grown beyond the boundaries of our established group, then we will need to find the bravery to not only step outside, but to keep going until we find a new group to belong to.

A final point to bear in mind: sometimes we’re not the one making the change.  Instead we’re the person within the group struggling to come to terms with the changes our friend or family member is bringing about.  We may inadvertently be undermining their attempts at growth as we cling to wanting to keep things the way they always were.

Remember they will be calling on reserves of bravery to make the changes they need and this bravery will likely be fragile.  What could you do to help and empower them?  Their gratitude in your support will ensure your friendship grows too, rather than it being weakened by clinginess…

Do you have a bravery story to tell?  Or maybe you’ve helped someone to grow and leave your group?  Please share your story!

Photos: mac-filko, _dakini_

Why it’s Good to be Making Messy Progress!

8265824612_b77814f5f5Set the kind of goals that will make something of you to achieve them.  Jim Rohn.

When we set goals, and then set about achieving them, we usually feel a certain amount of resistance at some point into the proceedings because we will be stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zones.  This is a natural feeling, although for a lot of people, the experience can be so uncomfortable that they give up on their goal believing that they are not doing the right thing for themselves (it just feels all wrong, they say).  However, this just isn’t the case.  As Jim Rohn points out in the quote above, in progressing and achieving our goals, we will actually become a different person.  We will know more, we will have experienced more, we may have had to make some tough decisions about things which need to be dropped from our lives etc.  Is it any wonder then that we initially feel uncomfortable with the changes?

As we know, change of any kind can be difficult to accept and then to integrate into our lives.  Sometimes change is imposed upon us, and whilst we may fight for things to go back to how they were, this might not be possible.  There could be unwelcome changes in the workplace resulting in a new boss or a change in our responsibilities, perhaps the children leave home allowing us far more time to ourselves and it feels strange, or maybe the perfect relationship we thought we had with our partner isn’t what it seemed and suddenly and unexpectedly it’s over.

In contrast, there will be changes which we will want to welcome into our lives, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the resulting adjustments that we need to make to accommodate the change are easily negotiated.  A new baby in the family, a promotion at work or moving to a new locality can all bring tremendous changes to our lifestyle.  The event itself is welcomed, although the resulting changes will change our day-to-day expectations compared to pre-event.  Making these alterations may be difficult as each affected person attempts to re-negotiate their place within the new arrangement.

And so it is with the goals we actually plan!  Our goals are set as desired outcomes that we want for ourselves.  They are good, positive intentions and we therefore believe that we will be able to accept the resulting changes into our lives with ease.  But for the most part, this just isn’t the case!  I think this is because we want to get from A to Z without negotiating all the other letters of the alphabet on route.  But the reality actually requires that we meticulously work through all the life lessons that each letter (task) will require of us so that when we actually reach our goal, we will have grown into the person who achieves that sort of goal!

Imagine this:  your goal is to become the editor of a famous magazine.  In order to do this you will have to work through a series of tasks, experiences and life changes until, by the time you reach your goal, you will know how to live your life as an editor of a famous magazine.  This potentially long journey will be messy at times and you will want to give up, but instead you persevere until you reach success.

Now, imagine instead that you set the same goal of becoming the editor of a famous magazine and tomorrow morning you wake up and you are that editor!  Would you know what to do?!  It’s very unlikely that you would and in fact, despite wanting this exact outcome, arriving at the destination without the necessary experiences required to live this new life successfully would be overwhelming and stressful.

So, whether we like it or not, we each have to make the journey to our goals, one messy step at a time!  The personal growth which results from overcoming the difficulties which arise on the journey are not only there to test our resolve to continue, but also to mould us into the kind of person who can cope with the demands of the new life position we have achieved.

So with these thoughts in mind, does this strengthen your resolve to undertake what may be a lengthy journey to the successful completion of your goals?  I hope so and I also hope that when you reach the messy, scary, demanding, unfulfilling and frankly tedious parts of the journey that you don’t think to yourself, ‘well, I must be doing something wrong because it feels so difficult’ and so you choose to give up.  Instead, be assured that you are doing the right thing!  It’s meant to be difficult and you are meant to grow as a result of the challenges presented to you.

Resolve to work through the difficult times and achieve your goals.  In doing so you will make something of yourself and you will rise above those who have chosen to return to the comfort zone.

Go for it!

Are you in the middle of the messy part of your journey?  Or maybe you’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel?  Where ever you are in your journey I’d love for you to share your experiences…please leave a comment and let us all know how you’re doing!

Photo: Alicia Nijdam-Jones

Who will rescue me?

3526643917_40303bec80_nI’ve caught myself out this week…I’ve been caught behaving in a way that my higher self disapproves of, and for very good reasons.   But it’s not as if I’ve become this way on purpose.  Instead, it’s gradually crept up on me, quietly and stealthily and I’ve given in to the feelings it has created without so much as a minor challenge to the validity of this behaviour or these feelings.

The frustrating thing is though that in response to the feelings that this behaviour has brought about I’ve felt out of control and consequently unhappy.

You see, due to a series of less-than-positive life events, I’ve succumbed to the expectation that someone will come along and rescue me from my current unfortunate circumstances.  In effect, I’ve allowed myself to drift into a thought pattern that fixes me as a victim.

Succumbing to victim mentality is a real frustration for me.  Some years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would not attend my personal pity parties and that instead I would find solutions to the problems and obstacles that were threatening to stop me living the life I want to lead.  There was a particular incident that led up to this promise which had affected a close member of my family.  I remember thinking at the time that the situation was extremely unfair and that in the future I, or my family would no longer to ‘held hostage’ (this was how I saw it at the time) to the whims of other people or organisations.

I still feel exactly the same now about my promise, but for some reason, over the last few weeks, I have been attending my little self-pity party and hadn’t even noticed!  I’ve been fed-up with how slowly things have been moving along and instead of taking an overview and looking for places where I could move forward, I’ve been stuck, as if under the cloud line and unable to see clearly.

The problem with self-pity and waiting to be rescued is that we abdicate the power to improve our lives to someone or something else.  If only I could win the lottery… If only he still loved me… If only they would give me a chance…  The trouble is, we have no control over these if onlys.

So instead we should be looking at those areas where we do have control:  what could I do to increase my income?  I am lovable, it’s time to look for someone else who appreciates me for who I am.  What do I need to do so that I get the chances I want?  (More training, maybe?)

This is all about taking 100% responsibility for our lives.  No one is going to come along and make my life easier, happier, more abundant etc.  That’s up to me to do.

The payoff to finally emerging from the dismal self-pity party is that I’ve rediscovered my energy and with it, my head seems to have cleared and I can see new directions which will allow me to progress my goals beyond the obstacles that have recently presented themselves.  That’s not to say that these obstacles have been overcome, indeed, there is still work to be done, but instead I can now see other areas which can be developed while I wait for the road jams in other quarters to begin to disperse.  This is often the way with problems.  Sometimes we’re so focused on what we can’t do that we become blind to those things we could be getting on with.

Our journey to our goals is multi-dimensional, so, whilst one area might slow or stall, we sometimes need to just change focus for a little while and look for things that we can progress at that moment.  I sometimes see this in my mind as series of lines, some short some long.  The length of the line represents the distance we have travelled on that particular task.  Since we will have many tasks to carry out in order to achieve our goals, there will be many lines.  If one line (task) stalls or stops for a time, then we should look to what other lines (tasks) are falling behind and see what we can do to bring them forward.

Sound simple?

Of course, the concept is, but living this kind of clarity day-in, day-out requires that we regularly check in with our feelings and actions and confirm to ourselves that our actions are actually in alignment with our values.  And that’s the trick which can help to keep us on course.

When we’re not behaving in line with our values, we will feel a level of discontentment.  This can be anything from an underlying feeling of dissatisfaction to much stronger feelings of unhappiness, but whenever we are feeling these negative emotions without really knowing why we feel dissatisfied we should spend a little time in introspection to determine where we’re out of alignment.  And the sooner we can find the perpetrator and take remedial action to amend our behaviour (or our perceptions about the situation) the sooner we can get back on course.

So what about you?  Are you waiting to be rescued or will you take back control and rescue yourself?  Both behaviours are difficult but for very different reasons.  Having languished in the former camp for a few weeks, I’m very happy to be back in the driving seat of my life.  And, whilst I still have to wait (patiently ;) ) for things to move along in some of the slower areas, I’m not going to let this result in a total breakdown in all areas of my life.

I’d love to hear your experiences of running into roadblocks and how you’ve managed.  Did you run out of steam for a while, hoping that someone or something would come along and save the day?  How did things turn out for you?  Over to you!

Photo:  Evil Erin

Get Real!

redheadHave you ever heard the phrase about ‘being true to yourself’ or ‘acting authentically’?  When I was younger, I was confused by the idea of acting authentically.  I didn’t really understand the meaning, let alone know whether I was someone who acted authentically.

As time has passed, I’ve come to understand the phrase and, more importantly, its importance to our personal sense of wellbeing.  However, living up to the condition of being my authentic self is still something which often eludes me.  And I think it’s fair to say that consistently acting authentically is something that a lot of people struggle to achieve.

Strictly speaking, living authentically would mean that we would behave exactly in line with the beliefs and values we hold.  But, in actuality, this probably isn’t possible if we want to live a life where we can be accepted within a group whose beliefs and values might be slightly different to our own.  As we know, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but sometimes, when that opinion is different to those around us, we keep quiet in order to maintain the peace and remain part of the group.  In this situation, I guess being part of the group means more to us than venting an unwelcome opinion.

But could a lack of authenticity in such a situation be perceived as dishonesty?  It’s a difficult question.  To some, it would appear to be dishonest to withhold your true opinion in favour of acceptance, but could it also be conceived as maintaining the greater good?  I.e., the stability of the group?

I don’t know of any easy answer to this question, but I know from experience and from observation that it’s the way of the world that we learn from a very young age to ‘fit in’ and in doing so, we are not living our authentic life.  Obviously from a social point of view, this is desirable.  Most people are very uncomfortable living in isolation, and indeed, those that do are either viewed with pity (no one loves him) or derision (she’s strange or weird).

And so, we learn to and prefer to be part of the crowd.  But, it can be difficult to keep parts of our personality a secret from others as ultimately we want to live as the person we really are.    As I’ve already mentioned, keeping secrets implies that we aren’t acting authentically and this can be a burden that can make us unhappy, or, at the very least, frustrated.

This unhappiness or frustration, of course, is the price we pay for our conformity, our middle-of-the-road behaviour which keeps us in a less than fulfilling job (we wanted to be a dancer, but instead we work in insurance claims because it’s secure and steady), an unhappy relationship, bored with our so-called hobbies or just generally restless with no real idea of what the problem is.  If we’re not prepared to step out into the unknown and try something new and/or different then the only alternative is to continue with our average but unsatisfactory circumstances.

But why don’t we step out of our comfort zones and away from the herd?  I love this quote from May Sarton which, I believe, gives us a little clue about why we’re so attached to out current circumstances:

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

The first point is a given, I believe.  Being frightened of change is a normal human reaction and something we observe over and over again, but the second point about being strange is interesting and of course comes back to the idea of fitting in.

No one wants to be labelled as ‘strange’, but the reality is, when you rise above the limits of the crowd, then, technically you will be different…or strange, compared to others!  I guess whilst we’re on the path to achieving our goals, then ‘strange’ could be an apt description.  However, once we reach our goals, then the description of ‘strange’ is likely to change to ‘successful’, which is not only socially acceptable but also revered!

As I watch the Winter Olympics in Sochi, I’m struck about the amount of life these athletes have had to dedicate to achieve the pinnacle in their sport.  They have moved away from the behaviours of the crowd and set themselves apart.  I watched Lizzy Yarnold take the gold in the Skeleton and then heard the back story of the ‘different’ life she’s had to live over the last 4 or 5 years to achieve her success.  This is life lived authentically!

But we don’t need to be making grand or magnificent goals in order to live our authentic life.  A long time ago, at the commencement of this website, I wrote a post about the importance of living for and striving for the goals which are important to you.  Indeed, the strap line for my blog is ‘Live your life your way’!  This means living authentically and being the person you really are, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s view of who you should be.

So how can you live an authentic life?

Well, we all need to be in tune with our feelings throughout the day.  Quite often, rather than knowing that we’re not being authentic, we tend to feel it.  It’s that feeling you get when someone pushes in front of you in a queue, but you say nothing and then simmer resentfully for the rest of the day not only for the injustice you felt, but also because you didn’t feel empowered to stand up for yourself.  It’s the feeling you get when your partner suggests you go to the cinema but you’d rather go out for a meal, but you go along with their suggestion because you don’t want to appear unappreciative, or maybe it’s giving up or delaying an important personal goal because you lack the self-confidence to walk away from the crowd….

How do you feel in these situations?  If something feels amiss, then your authentic self is calling out to you to take action.  And perhaps it is time to listen, because as Eckhart Tolle tells us…

“Only the truth of who you are, if realised, will set you free.”

Is the real you being crowded out by other (non-authentic) commitments and obligations?  Do you smother his/her voice and ignore the call?  Or, when have you listened and reaped the rewards of being authentic?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Photo: mendhak

I’m Ready…!

2148690460_8a9ffb206a_nToday I’m taking a light hearted look at being ready to strike out on our goals.

Quite often this is the most difficult step for most people to take because they know only fear.  Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown.  But whoever we are and wherever we live, these fears are something we all experience…or maybe not…!

“I’m ready, I’m ready…”,  sings SpongeBob Square Pants, the happy little guy from the popular cartoon series of the same name.  If you’ve never seen the cartoon, then this little animated sponge character is the most happy-go-lucky creature!  He’s always willing to help, always goes the extra mile and is always willing to give new things a go!  He works hard and plays hard and his favourite activity is jelly-fishing!

On the negative side though, Spongebob is also naïve and has a childlike outlook.

But, there’s a lot we could learn from this character’s way of life, because we often feel that we are ready to make a change, we talk about making the change, we challenge others to make the change with us, but, when it comes to stepping out, we freeze.

The point is that being ready often times will not mean that we know the details of the path we need to follow.  What we will know however is the destination we want to arrive at.  With any journey, there will be many routes we can travel to reach our destination, and sometimes the route we choose will be a dead end or include a very inconvenient detour which could have been countered by taking a shorter route.

So, whether we are ready or not, and regardless of the pieces of information which are currently not available to us, we will need to take a leap of faith and trust that the further we advance on our journey, the more relevant information will be made visible to us.

This may sound a little like SpongeBob’s naivety, and maybe this is true, or maybe SpongeBob just has sufficient faith in himself or those around him to believe that in the end, things will turn out just fine.  If you’ve ever heard the adage ‘things have a habit of turning out just right…’, then maybe that’s just the kind of nonthreatening attitude we should foster so that we will at least give things a go!

I guess when we say ‘I’m ready’ what we’re actually implying is: ‘I’m prepared’, but in reality none of us are ever fully prepared when we embark on a goal which we have never previously undertaken.

And if we need any further encouragement, Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that…

We are always getting ready to live but never living.

This must feel like a miserable place to be…always on the brink of taking some action, but never quite being brave enough to step into the unknown or willing to commit to the work or dedication required to realise our most cherished dreams.  To live like this requires that we fool ourselves that we are happy with our current circumstances and that we need or want no more.

Is this true for you?  Have you achieved all that you’ve ever desired in life?

I hope your answer is the same as mine…a resounding NO!  I definitely haven’t yet achieved all the things I want to achieve or experienced all the things I desire to encounter in my life, but I am making progress – strong progress in some areas and not-so-strong progress in other areas.  However, I fully acknowledge that I want these new things in my life and this helps to pull me towards the outcomes I desire.

I have no more courage than the next person when stepping into the unknown, and maybe I’m overly optimistic or perhaps a little naïve like Spongebob, but, where the alternative is a life spent missing out on the experiences I desire, for me it’s definitely worth taking a chance.

So what are you waiting for?  Let’s go jelly-fishing!

Are you like SpongeBob and ready to take a chance or is something holding you back?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Photo: -l.i.l.l.i.a.n-

Lessons I Learned in 2013, Part 2

7800147562_661f5bd5f9_nThis is part 2 of a two-part review of my life lessons from 2013.  If you haven’t already, you can read part 1 here.  The focus of Part 1 was the personal development I experienced during the year, Part 2 focuses on the challenges I faced during the year and the lessons I learned from those challenges.

If you read my blog or check in to my Facebook page regularly you will already know that in the summer of 2013 I experience two major setbacks.  The first was a car accident that left me unable to drive or be driven with any confidence in my own safety (and the emotional effect this had on me) and the second, my husband having a heart attack.  I was away from my blog and Facebook for quite some time after these events, but eventually I found my way back.  Inevitably life events such as these change and shape us, as they did with me….

I’m stronger than I thought…

…maybe.

The reality is that when faced with the situation, everything that was not important just fell away and my focus was concentrated only in the places where it was really needed: the care of my family.

It was sometime after the events of the summer that other people kept asking me how I was managing to keep things together and also continue with my goals.  I don’t think I really saw things in this way, I was just doing what I needed to do.  Writing for me is a form of ‘looking after myself’ and therefore it was just as important as looking after my family.

Whether this is strength or not, I can’t tell.  It was just what I needed to do.  I guess what it has taught me though is that if needed, I can put my focus in the right place, and that is a strength I guess.

Meditation keeps me grounded

I’m a relative newcomer to meditation and consider myself a novice even now.  It’s taken me quite some time to find the quiet space (time) to meditate, and for me that has turned out to be very early in the morning, usually well before 6am.

It feels good to know that at that time of the morning I’m free of commitments to anyone or anything else and I therefore feel no guilt for taking this time for myself.

The benefits I have felt at keeping up this daily ritual have been remarkable and have been a key element in helping me to cope with the challenges each day was throwing at me.  I don’t think I really noticed how much it was helping me unless I failed to follow my morning ritual for a day or two and then previously manageable emotions would feel less manageable and the day would feel more difficult in some way.

Do it now!

Thankfully, we don’t know what life may throw at us in the future, but one thing we do know is that time and life won’t wait.  Our only time is now and now is when we need to get into action.

If you’ve been waiting all your life to have or achieve something, why wait any longer?  Our circumstances can change so quickly and easily and our chance to get what we want can be taken away.  So don’t wait…do it now!

And so it’s farewell to 2013, and welcome to 2014.  I’m looking forward to the promise of a new year with the lessons of 2013 firmly fixed in my mind.  I already have some big plans for 2014 and am looking to make it a year of change, which will no doubt present challenges, but, I’m not going to procrastinate because my time is now…it’s time to get going!

Photo: Jody Roberts

Lessons I Learned in 2013, Part 1

6610800077_aff525ae5c_nMy goodbyes to 2013 were bitter-sweet.  It was a year of much change for me, both good and challenging, and I wanted to write about the things I’ve learned from a year that has allowed me huge personal growth whilst also testing my resolve with huge personal challenges.

This blog is in two parts as there was quite a lot to say and today focuses on personal growth.

If you want to learn, teach

I have no idea where this saying comes from, but this year it has really become true for me.  I’m not suggesting for a moment that I’m a teacher of course, but, through the process of writing on my blog, my understanding of my own personal philosophy has become clearer and clearer.

There’s no doubt that in trying to explain new (to me) or complex ideas that you really need to understand what you’re writing about or it makes no sense!

By writing my thoughts on a particular idea or philosophy I have also found that I have become more resolute in the pursuit of that particular characteristic in my own personal performance and therefore in wanting it to become part of my authentic personality.  I think for the most part, I probably knew that I was ‘this’ or ‘that’ kind of person at heart, but I wasn’t actually living authentically, which for me means living in alignment with my true beliefs.  Having said that, it’s not always easy to live to your true beliefs as sometimes these will not be the ‘norm’ of the majority and you can therefore feel isolated or a bit weird!

I’ve had some real a-ha moments in 2013, times when I’ve been writing and suddenly the idea has really taken hold in my brain and it’s as if someone else is writing.  It’s a great feeling!  Some of these ‘a-has’ are mentioned below whilst other ideas are still developing and will probably be written about in the future.

Accountability

I’ve written about personal and public accountability in my blog in a few different settings, but for me, it was making a decision to ‘go public’ on my goals that brought me to where I am today.  The changes in my personal development and growth over the last year have been huge and I credit that progress solely to the decision to ‘go public’ with my goals!

It all started in December 2012 when I came across a ‘Transformation Challenge’ being run by ‘Early To Rise’ a website I subscribe to.  The challenge required that you signed up to a 90-day goal challenge in the areas of Health, Wealth and Wisdom.

I turned out to be one of over 40,000 people who signed up for the challenge worldwide.  I dutifully set my goals for the 90-days and then conscientiously entered my progress every day.  The accountability made my progress quicker as I was determined that I would have some progress to report every day, no matter how small.

It was as a direct result of this challenge that my website was born…just three days before the end of the challenge!

I’ve made some wonderful new friends from around the globe because of this challenge too and we continue to be in contact.

So the major lesson here is if you want to progress your goals, be brave and be publicly accountable!

Personal Responsibility

In a world where blame-culture is the ‘norm’, taking personal responsibility seems to be rare.  I have been as guilty as anyone else of this blame mind set, often looking for someone else or circumstances to blame for my current reality, but 2013 has been the year I’ve fully appreciated and learnt the power of being responsible for my own circumstances.

An affirmation, a truth really brought it home for me:

‘Everything I experience today is the result of choices I made in the past’

For me, this was as true for any actions I’d taken in the past as for anything I’d chosen not to take action on.  And truthfully, it was the things I hadn’t taken action on that were really significant and that I found myself looking to change.

A further development of the idea of personal responsibility came when I accepted that if I controlled my reactions to less-than-desirable circumstances I found myself in, I was less likely to back myself into a corner by making sweeping statements which I could then not back down from without losing face.

This is by no means an easy choice to make.  Sometimes I really want to vent my annoyance, anger or disappointment, but, I now try to remain rational until I find myself in a calmer place and able to respond in a more measured way.  This remains a work in progress however, and something I will need to improve probably for ever more ;).

Choosing to Keep Going

Linked to personal responsibility, I have also made the decision not to allow difficult, annoying, disappointing or downright frustrating events to derail my goal action plans.

In the past I have allowed myself to be the victim of whatever mood I was experiencing.  To make matters worse, I allowed my moods to be swayed by the moods of others or the circumstances I found myself in.  So, if a shop assistant annoyed me, for example, I’d let the resulting bad mood affect my output for the rest of the day.  What a waste of time!

Looking back, this has been one of the biggest hindrances to my productivity.  But somewhere in the last year a change happened and now, even though I may still feel annoyance, frustration or other negative emotions, I choose to keep going anyway.  That’s not to say that I can laugh at the frustrations that come my way, after all, I’m not immune to these emotions.  However, I have now decided that I will not let the random effect of circumstances or others’ emotions determine how my day should look.

In effect, my process is to acknowledge, do what I can (if anything) to help, and then return to my original plan for the day.  In other words, I have chosen to take personal responsibility for my reactions to people and circumstances.

The effect is liberating!

So there it is, part one of my life lessons from 2013.  Next week I will focus more on the challenges that 2013 sent my way and the things I learned from those challenges.

I hope you enjoyed my latest post.  What has 2013 taught you?  Were you challenged?  Did you experience a period of personal growth?  I’d love to hear your experiences too…please leave a comment!

Photo: Traci Gardner

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