Midweek Mini: why I don’t use the term ‘Self Help’.

‘Self Help’ is one of a few terms that are used interchangeably to describe the field that this blog concerns. Others are ‘self-improvement’, ‘personal development’ and ‘personal growth’. You might think that these all mean pretty much the same thing. I respectfully disagree.

All of the two-word terms I mentioned just now may look similar, the first half of each of them are certainly interchangeable, but does ‘help’ have a different connotation to ‘improvement’, ‘development’ and ‘growth’?

I think so. ‘Help’ implies that you’re in trouble, that you need ‘saving’. Whilst this may be true for some seeking to change for the better, it doesn’t have to be.

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In fact I’d argue that if more of the principles of personal development, growth or improvement were taught to children at a young age, there would be less adults in the world who feel they need ‘self-help’.

What do you think? Am I on to something? Or am I talking out my arse again?

Three Ways you can Re-purpose your Free Time to Unlock your Potential

Look, I get it OK? After a long day at work, looking after your kids or (and I really feel for you poor sods) someone else’s kids, you just want to put your feet up and relax. Maybe you’ve got the dinner to make as well, or a couple of chores to take care of. Before you know it the sun is down and you’re beat.

So what do you do? Watch some TV or a film? Play some videogames? Anything to just switch off for a while before it gets to that point where you know if you don’t go to bed in the next 30 seconds you’ll be useless when tomorrow rolls around and you have to do it all again. I know this routine well. I lived it for a good few years and, every now and then, I start to slip back in to it and it’s really easy to do that.

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This routine, whilst it might be attractive on the surface, isn’t likely to be doing your mind or your body a whole lot of good. I’m not saying don’t watch TV or that videogames rot your mind, what I’m going to take you through here is 3 ways you could use some of that time differently to provide long term benefits.

Before I do though, I want to talk about this tendency people have towards ‘switching off’ and why it doesn’t make as much sense as you might think it does. To do that, we’re going to use an analogy we can all relate to – phones. Yes, that insidious little shit you carry around with you all day that will gobble up all your free time if you let it. But that’s for another day, right now I just want you to think about what you do when it runs low on battery.

If the answer is ‘switch it off’ then we’re pretty much done here. Literally no one does that because then you wouldn’t be able to find out what your friends have been up to for the past 4 minutes or who is going to be in the celebrity big brother house this year (spoiler alert: a bunch of people you’ve never heard of and a porn star you almost certainly have).

No, you charge it up don’t you? When your phone is going to run out of power you recharge it. Why do we not instinctively do the same thing when we are running out of power? That’s a big question which we’re not going to answer here, my point is that we should. Surely this is better than switching off when our power is at its lowest ebb?

I’m using the word power in an abstract sense here, it may be easier to think of it in terms of mental ability or even spiritual energy. If you just recoiled in disgust at the two words at the end of that sentence then I have this to say to you: get with the fucking programme mate because it’s 2018 and you don’t have to be a monk or faith healer to be thinking about your spiritual energy. It’s a thing.

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And it’s a thing that deserves some investment because that investment can pay huge dividends down the road. Again, I’m not saying that you can’t have free time or time to switch off any more. There are people out there who never switch off, they live in a constant cycle of exerting huge amounts of power, recharging, then exerting huge amounts of power, then recharging again and so on. These are the people that are changing the world. We’re looking at this on a much smaller scale.

‘So what are these three things that can recharge your power?’ I hear you ask (having fully embraced the concept of spiritual energy as you undoubtedly have).

Sleep

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Kind of an obvious one this but a lot of people severely underestimate the value of getting their 8 hours every night. OK, 7 might be more like it for most of us but if you go much below that on a regular basis then you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of problems. I have some super cool and definitely very interesting facts about what a lack of sleep can do to you;

  • Being awake for 18 hours straight has the same effect on your brain as necking a pint of beer. Except you’re not down the pub, you’re on your own in your living room when you should be in bed.
  • Not getting enough sleep throws the chemical balance of your brain out and one possible outcome of this is that the chemical that tells you to stop eating because you’re full stops being produced, opening up the risk of unhealthy weight gain.
  • Your sex drive drops through the floor when you’re overtired. Which is obviously not ideal.
  • An overwhelming amount of medical evidence points to a close link between insomnia and depression and 90% of insomniacs suffer from a second health condition also.
  • During sleep is when your brain clears away protein and other waste produced by the day’s activities. Not getting enough sleep is like not cleaning your kitchen after using it. Sooner or later, someone is getting really nastily sick.

Arianna Huffington is great in many ways, but one of my favourite things she’s for is sleep. The first step in her 12 steps to Thrive is go to sleep half an hour earlier. What’s half an hour? So you miss The Big Bang Theory, so what? It’s shit anyway.

Meditation

If you had said to someone ten years ago that you’re thinking of getting in to meditation they would probably have looked at you like you’ve gone mad. Times have changed though and you know something is mainstream when there’s an app for it. Or, in the case of meditation, about 1,000 different apps.

From personal experience I can recommend 2 of these as god places to start if you are going to give it a go. ‘Calm’ which offers meditations for a wide range of things including stress relief, confidence building and anger management. It’s free to download but for full access you’ll need to pay a subscription. The other is Headspace which offers a simpler interface with daily guided meditations, a wide range of more specific ones and even some designed specifically for kids.

I am not affiliated with either of these, I just think they’re good, especially if you’ve never tried meditation before.

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Meditation is not necessarily about achieving Nirvana or learning how to punch holes through rocks, it can just be about having 5 or 10 minutes in the day when you allow your mind to be free and clear and quiet. It’s an experience I wouldn’t want any of you to pass up so please at least give it a go.

Interestingly, it’s a combination of this and the first thing on this list, sleep, that form what some think is our ideal rest cycle. There’s a great little TED talk on the subject from Jessa Gamble that explains this in more detail, I’ll put a link to it at the bottom of the article. It’s only 4 minutes long and packed with info, well worth a watch.

If you’re still really not keen for whatever reason then I’d encourage you to try just having a little break for yourself and some quiet reflection. Go have a sit down, do it outside if it’s nice, and just sit and listen and resist the urge to whip out your phone. Do this for as long as you want, but at least a couple of minutes.

The effect of quietening your mind is that is improves your ability to calm yourself and it allows your subconscious to sort through the stuff that is clogging up the conscious mind and adding to your overall stress levels. This is a great way to recharge your cognitive batteries, and if you can keep to it regularly, you should notice a big difference.

Be creative

Or, as those lovely chaps from N.W.A. put it ‘express yourself’! Actually on that track Dr Dre also says that “some don’t agree with how I do this, I get straight and meditate like a Buddhist” – so, y’know, Dre was literally all over this spiritual energy shit. As if you needed any more convincing that it’s cool now.

Being creative doesn’t mean you have to produce masterpieces or that you should be put off doing anything because you’re not ‘good’ at it. It’s less about the end result of your creativity and more about just being creative.

You can stick to the conventional forms of creativity like writing, be it a diary or a blog or some erotic Power Rangers fanfiction, whatever you’re in to. Drawing and painting are both excellent, as are other forms of art like music and singing. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re ‘good’ by any standard, that’s not the point.

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My whole life I have been a horrible singer, but that doesn’t stop me busting out the odd rendition of ‘The Other Side’ with my 5 year old and loving every second of it. If you don’t care, no one else will.

There are less conventional forms of creativity you could explore as well, and some of these are being used to great effect in business today. Lego, for example, is not only great for building spaceships when you’re 8, it’s apparently also great for management training when you’re 38. You think I’m joking? Put ‘Lego Serious Play’ in to Google and realise that I am not. I am serious. So is Lego.

Creativity can take up a little or a lot of your time. Personally, I lean towards a little alongside a little more sleep and a little meditation. I could do more, I probably should do more. I encourage all of you to do at least a little. It really is an investment in yourself that’s worth making.

If you can get yourself to bed a little earlier and take half an hour away from other activities, you’ll find yourself enjoying the remainder of your free time a lot more, and your mindset and attitude throughout your day-to-day will massively improve too.

Link to Jessa Gamble’s TED Talk: HERE

 

Midweek Minipost – Choose your Problems Wisely

So I was chatting with a good friend of mine recently, we were at his daughters birthday party and he and his family were in the middle of moving house, his wife had recently decided to work freelance and he had no idea what he was going to do for work once their house move was complete. This would be enough to send most people in to a spiral of panic.

He was a picture of calm in telling me all this though. Not concerned about the fact that he didn’t know where his next pay check was coming from. Excited at the thought of getting to spend more time with his kids. He had problems coming out of his ears but he wasn’t letting them get the better of him. Why do you think this is?

Let’s rewind a few years first and see what problems he had back then. He was a successful and high flying engineer working for one of the most prestigious consultancies in the country. He was swamped with work, was left unfulfilled by what work he was doing and struggled with personal issues as a result.

What’s the difference between who he was back then and who he is today? In both cases he was, like the rest of us, up to his eyeballs in problems. The difference is a simple one, back then his problems were negatively impacting his life and his happiness, whereas now he has swapped those problems for ones that he has chosen.

This is something that many of us don’t realise is even possible. We will always have problems in our lives, no one gets a free pass. The key to being happy is ensuring that your problems are ones that you choose and that you want to solve. Ones that you love to solve, even.

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Personally, I have chosen to solve the problem of brining in enough money to sustain my family every month. I have chosen to take on the problems that come with raising young children. I have chosen to tackle the problem of finding meaning in ones life. I wake up each day ready to face these problems because I chose them.

If your problem is that you’re struggling for motivation at work, perhaps you could swap this for the problem of starting out on a new path? If your problem is that your partner isn’t giving you what you need, maybe instead have a potentially problematic conversation with them and be ready for other problems like what the hell do people do on first dates these days and which pictures should you put on your Tinder profile?

You don’t necessarily need to be trapped by your problems but at the same time you’re not getting through the rest of your life problem-free. Realising and accepting these things will prepare you to be able to consider things and choose which problems you want to deal with. And that, my friends, is a big step forward for anyone.

Flip the Script – Change the Game: Value-Orientation and the Fear of Failure

Why are some people able to go out there and make their dreams come true and others are stuck in dead end jobs, seemingly with no way out? Well, lots of reasons to be honest, the world is grossly unfair and generally quite shitty sometimes. People at the top are not always the nicest and the amount of potential that is wasted every day is probably enough to cure the worlds ills many times over.

One major problem that’s all too common involves fear of failure and people believing in how important it is that, if they do put themselves out there, they had better not make a hash of it or everyone will think they’re stupid and worthless. This post is going to try to de-construct that belief and hopefully help some of you that may be struggling with these types of thoughts.

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This is potentially going to be a tricky one for some of you. It involves a seismic shift in perspective and flies in the face of something that many of us are taught from a very young age. Before we fully submerge ourselves in this delta of discovery, let’s talk a little bit about scripting.

Scripting generally refers to a behaviour or series of behaviours that have been learned in response to certain situations or circumstances. There are many popular examples of behaviour scripting; the act of going shopping triggers a series of learned behaviours, as does doing to the doctors or meeting someone for the first time.

Scripts can be useful as they help our brain sleepwalk through routine activities like going shopping while we also plan exactly how we would survive if the zombie apocalypse broke out, right now, in the cereal aisle at Tesco (comment below with your top tip for surviving the zombie apocalypse! #engagement).

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Here I am referring to a very particular type of scripting, one that Professor Steve Peters describes in his excellent book, The Chimp Paradox. He talks about variation on scripting which he calls autopilots, meaning learned behaviours and beliefs that are deeply ingrained in our subconscious, the result of repetition many times.

Like scripts, autopilots can be very beneficial. They can also be quite damaging if they’re based on the wrong principles. If left unchecked, the latter can drastically influence our thinking in not-so-fantastic ways.

The example Prof. Peters gives is one of a child presenting a piece of work to their parents and the parents giving them praise for it. This happens a lot in parent-child interactions. “What a lovely picture!”, “you’re very clever for making that!”, “I’m so proud of how well you’re doing with your interpretive dance lessons, Gwendolyn!”

What we, as parents, are teaching poor little Gwendolyn and her chums here is that if you do or make something, you get praise. Not such a bad thing right? Look at it from another angle though…

The only way to reliably get praise (and therefore feel valued) is by making or doing something praise-worthy.

If you stop and think about that for more than half a second, that’s not a healthy lesson for them at all. In fact it’s a pretty fucked up thing to teach your kids. But the more fucked up thing is that we ALL do it.

It doesn’t stop at the example above, how often does it happen in work? If you bust your ass getting a project in on a tight deadline, or come up with some magical new marketing gimmick that lands a bunch of new clients, that’s great isn’t it? The results you got were stellar, well done. Do it again.

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Advertising is an absolute bastard for this as well. Take jewellery, women are advertised sparkly things on the basis that if their partner really cares, he or she will buy them the sparkly thing. The sparkly thing denotes their value.

Another example, cars. Men, if you want to be cool and have a great life that involves hitting the beach with your hot wife then driving up a mountain and jumping off it then you need to be driving the new Range Rover Dickthrust!

Everything I’ve talked about above (apart from the zombies bit) places value externally to the individual. External value-orientation is the belief that what you produce, buy, or have, determines your value as an individual.

This. Is. Not. True.

I don’t think anyone should to go through life feeling like this. A piece of jewellery is an accessory (an often grossly overvalued one at that), a car gets you from A to B. Everything else is surface level and, in the grand scheme of things, meaningless.

You are enough without any of this. No amount of stuff will make you content if you define your value as a person in these terms. Marisa Peer tells a story about a Hollywood start that she worked with. She doesn’t name him, but feel free to throw some guesses out there.

So this guy came to her in quite a state. He’d cheated on his wives all his life (he was on number 3 or 4 by this point), had houses across the globe, all the cars and other shit you could ever wish for. And he was miserable.

Marisa saw very quickly that this guy had been searching for happiness and meaning in things all his life. She needed to make him see that he didn’t need it. So what did she do? She told him to take his wife’s lipstick and write “I AM ENOUGH” on every mirror in the house, so he’d read it whenever he saw himself. Over time the message sank in.

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The thing I want you to understand here is that you are not your stuff. Nor are you the work you produce. You are not your behaviours and you are not your failures. You are enough.

I could devote several posts on this blog to the genius that is Tyler Durden from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, but just one line is needed here;

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis”.

Tyler gets it. Tyler knows that living your life by the things you have, deriving your value as an individual based on whether you shop for groceries at Aldi or Waitrose, whether you did well in school or dropped out, whether you live in a big house or a shoebox, is the road to misery.

Let go of that and realise that you alone have the value and the potential. Just don’t go full Tyler and try and blow up half a city.

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“But what does this mean, being enough? If I’m enough then no can moan at me for sitting around all day playing COD or watching Jeremy Kyle (Jerry Springer – for any Americans reading) and eating my bodyweight in cookies, right? I have value just doing this so why get off my ass?”

OK let me stop you there – yes you have value just doing that but what a waste! All that potential just sitting there doing nothing! This is not an excuse for anybody to sit around doing nothing and feeling smug about it.

Remember when I said that you are not your behaviours or failures? That means you don’t have to be worried about failing. That means you can get off your ass and give something a go and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t pan out because if you have a perception of value that’s internal – all that failure means is you need to tweak your methods a bit and try again. You learned something. Good fucking job! You’re now beating most of the rest of the population!

Don’t keep your potential to yourself. It’s meant to be used and shared with other people. No, you won’t get it right first time (probably), but if you see your value as internal, inextricably linked to you as a person, that really, really doesn’t matter. What matters is you try, without fear, and know that you will come out the other side in tact, whatever happens.

How to set better goals and actually achieve them.

Setting goals is another absolutely foundational pillar of self-improvement, but it’s something that a lot of people get wrong. It’s a huge kick in the balls to set yourself a target and then feel like you’re falling short from the get go, no one needs that. How many times have you made New Year’s resolutions and not kept to them? Or have you ever decided to make a change and then done little to absolutely nothing about it after that? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Chances are you’re making one of three mistakes that I’m about to teach you how to avoid making again, so next time you set yourself goal, you can smash it out the park.

Mistake number 1: setting the wrong type of goal.

Right we’re starting out at ground level here. Did you ever stop to consider that there are different types of goals that might require different types of approach? Do you know what these different types of goal are and which one you want to set yourself? The type of goal you set can hugely impact your chances of success. There are two main types that we’ll be looking at here, let’s call them open-ended and outcome-based. Open-ended goals are just that, ones that don’t have a fixed end point. This could be something like “I’m going to transform my body in to the perfect human specimen”, or “I want to help all the homeless cats in the world” or “I want to unravel the darkest mysteries of the universe”.

Needless to say, these goals are BIG and are going to require BIG action on your part to hit them. Not only BIG action but ONGOING, CONSISTENT action. Forever. If you stop for a minute and have an honest word with yourself, is this the type of goal you want to have? Are you passionate enough to pursue it, come what may? Do you have the self-confidence needed to deal positively with failure? If the answer is yes then fair play, crack the fuck on, you absolute legend. For the rest of us, there’s absolutely no shame in starting off a bit smaller.

Outcome-based goals are smaller, more manageable. They have very obvious criteria for success and it’s always a good idea to put a time limit on how long you allow yourself to achieve them. “I want to drop a dress size by the 1st of June”, “I’m going to start donating to a charity for homeless cats”, or “I’ll finally take that evening class when it starts again in September”.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? These goals are, in the grand scheme of things, fairly small, especially when compared to their counterpart open-ended goals (we’re talking about millions of cats vs about 0.7 of a cat, probably) but it really doesn’t matter how small they are. No really, it doesn’t. What does matter is that they are far less scary and fear-of-failure-inducing than the first lot but they count for just as big a WIN for you once you nail them. Maybe even a bigger win in fact.

Someone who sets themselves a huge goal and pours their heart and soul in to it can achieve incredible things, but for someone to pick themselves up after months, perhaps even years of feeling like they shouldn’t even bother trying, actually have the self-awareness to set an achievable goal, one that strikes that balance between comfortable but not so easy you could piss it in your sleep, well, you sir or madam have my respect for sure. Bravo.

The rest of this post is going to be mainly focused on how to achieve these smaller goals, but don’t worry, we’ll come back to the big ones in a later post.

Mistake number 2: saying it yourself only once.

So you’ve set the right type of goal for you, excellent, we’re off to a winning start. I’d hate for anything to go wrong at this point so do the write thing and right that bad boy down. Shit, I meant do the RIGHT thing and WRITE that bad boy down. Good job I wrote that sentence down and didn’t just say it and assume that would be enough, eh? Write it down on a piece of paper and stick it on the ceiling above your bed, write it in the notes app on your phone and set it is your wallpaper, tattoo it in braille on your arse (assuming you can read braille and regularly feel the need to caress your own bottom) if that works for you, but do it one way or the other and refer back to it often.

Reading it aloud works best but if you don’t feel comfortable with that then just reading it is great too. It may take a week or two but you will find that this simple habit helps the goal seem more and more achievable and even starts to guide your thoughts and actions towards achieving it. We’re trying to internalise the goal here and keep it in mind even when we’re not working to achieve it. Keep that up and you’re already halfway to avoiding the next big mistake a lot of people make…

Mistake number 3: not having a plan or tracking your progress

Napoleon Hill in his seminal book Think and Grow Rich, first advocated the practice of writing goals down and repeating them and I agree 100% with him on this. Here is where he and I deviate slightly though, and it’s worth remembering that he’s mostly talking about the big, open-ended goals and we’re focusing more here on the smaller, outcome-based goals.

Good old Napoleon tells us that the practice of repeating goals to ourselves over and over again will lead to the subconscious formulation of a plan, or series of plans that we need to follow in order to achieve our goal. A bit like an early form of brain-hacking. For outcome-based goals I personally advocate getting the rest of your brain involved as well.

Let’s say your little goal for yourself is to drop 20 lbs in weight over the next 6 months. Thanks to the wonders of the modern world you can look up advice on healthy eating and download fitness apps to help you track your progress. Make notes in your diary to exercise on the reg and do your best to stick to these appointments. Carve the time out of your schedule. Get up a bit earlier or skip whatever shit you planned to watch on Netflix a couple of nights a week and hit up a local gym. Can’t afford a gym membership? Reddit is a fantastic source of free info on bodyweight exercises and other forms of low-cost fitness.

Keep it simple though, your plan to achieve your goal should fit in to a space no bigger than your phone’s screen so you can see the full picture at a glance. Refer back to it regularly along with your original objective and update your progress. Don’t wait for motivation or inspiration, they’ll come later I assure you. And accept that the first few weeks are probably going to be pretty frustrating with little to no progress at first. You’ll probably find yourself worrying that you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s OK, very few people actually do.

Bonus tips: Because you deserve them

Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ll have shit days, days where you feel like you’re going backwards and days where you have to fight the urge to give up completely. Keep going, but give yourself a break once in a while, especially if you’re new to this. It’s about progress over time, not struggling against yourself every hour of every day.

It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. This is about you. Everyone is different which means that no one is operating under the circumstances you are. Comparing your progress to others is pointless and will do nothing to help you.

I want to hear from people what their goals are, whether you’re working towards them now or wanting some advice on how to start. Tell me, I’ll do my best to help.

Mindset: The Basics

Mindset is, for me, one of the absolute foundations of improving yourself. By that I mean your mindset can determine how successful you are in pursuing any avenue of self-development, and setting out with the wrong mindset will scupper every effort you make to learn and then act on that learning.

Why is mindset so important? The answer starts to make sense when you look at the two different forms of mindset commonly referred to in this field – fixed and growth. Can you guess which one is the one we want to adopt for ourselves? No prizes for getting the answer right. Let’s look at the other one first though, see if anything sounds familiar.

A fixed mindset is just as the name implies – a mind that is fixed in its definitions of things (like ‘success’ or ‘happiness’ for example) and also fixed in its understanding of itself and others. Someone speaking from a fixed mindset might say something like “there’s no way I could do that”, “I’m just not a creative person” or “Dave was an absolute melt back in school, how’s he running his own company now?! Some people get all the luck! I’m so unlucky, nothing like that will ever happen to me”.

What makes this mindset so dangerous is that it fits with how we see the world, often through the lens of social media where everyone puts their best self on show and we compare that to how we’re doing that day and think we come up short. We’re also heavily influenced by the world in how we define success and force ourselves to measure up against that yardstick. Very often, deep down we will have a different definition of success but we keep quiet about it because it’s clearly the wrong definition and we don’t want to look silly in front of the actually successful people. The other thing with a fixed mindset is that it’s self-fulfilling and therefore hard to break out of. We assume our lack of creativity is hardwired, so we never bother trying to train ourselves to be more creative. What would be the point of that, right? Might as well train ourselves to levitate or shoot lasers from our eyes! Pointless.

Bollocks, say I (and many others). What if, going back to the questions from a couple of paragraphs above, there was another way to view things? What if we asked different questions like “if I was to do that, how would I go about it?”, “why can’t I be a creative person?” and “I should get in touch with Dave for a catch up, I’m interested to find out how he got to where he is from being a complete and utter twonk back in school”. OK, that last one isn’t a question, but you take my point. This is how the growth mindset thinks and sees the world.

The growth mindset is not interested in limitations, it is unfazed by the achievements of others and it is constantly looking for opportunities to learn and develop. What’s more, the growth mindset is backed by a strong belief that, with the application of effort, you can achieve whatever goal you set yourself, you can learn any new skill if you put in the time and focus and that others can do the same. If you can adopt a growth mindset you will be forever open to new opportunities to see, do and learn something new. You’ll have the confidence to set goals, plan your way to achieving them and then put that plan in to action. I’m not saying you’ll immediately be the next Elon Musk, but you will be a step closer, if that’s what you ultimately want.

Where a fixed mindset is frustrated by your lack of natural talent for something, the growth mindset looks for a way to learn to be talented. All talent is, really, is a skill that someone has developed through hard work and practice, you just don’t always see the hard work and practice, just the end result. Yes, some people are gifted at certain things, but without hard work and long hours, they will never rise to the top of their field among the most talented.

In fact some of the most ‘gifted’ figures in history were forged through many long, hard years and countless knock-backs before getting to where they wanted to be. Einstein hated most of his school years and failed on his first attempt to study physics at University. Morgan Freeman, a ferocious natural talent, had to put in decades of hard graft before hitting the big time. Or how about Steve Jobs getting fired from Apple in 1985 to then be re-hired to save the company a full 12 years later?

Granted, not all talented, successful individuals have quite as bumpy a ride to the top, but I promise you that each and every one of them possesses the growth mindset, and that this mindset has been fundamental to their success. If you don’t feel like you possess it, but you want to, then I have good news – you can. It probably won’t happen overnight, but here are a few exercises you can do to start shifting your focus;

  1. Ban the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. There is a way. “Can’t” means you choose not to. Also, if you choose not to do something, that’s OK. Make peace with your reasons and move on.
  2. Ask yourself more questions that start with words like “how” or “if”, as in “how can I be more independent?” or “if I was going to start a business, what would it look like?” – do this the next time you start wishing for something. Stop wishing, start planning.
  3. If there is something that you’ve been wanting to do but telling yourself you can’t – set some time aside to practice. Perhaps you want to create something or learn a new skill. Consider what would be a realistic amount of time that you could devote to it, an hour one evening maybe, and keep that appointment with yourself. Tell your husband, wife, brother, mother, cat, whoever you live with, so they can help make sure you get that time.
  4. Remember there is no pressure from anywhere to do any self-directed learning. It’s entirely down to you making that investment in yourself.

That’s it for this post, it’s a bit longer than I planned it to be, sorry. Next week we’ll talk about setting goals and where a lot of people go wrong. Thanks for reading, see you soon!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

The title of this post is perhaps one of the most well known quotes in human history. It is often wrongly attributed to Confucius when in fact it came from one of his peers, Laozi. It has stood the test of time because it is both intrinsically true and because the lesson it teaches us is of great value. Whatever the task ahead of you is, the only way to start is simply to start.

Perhaps I should start here with a few caveats to set expectations. I’m not an expert in the field of self improvement, I think of myself rather as a keen student. I’m not a writer, I honestly can’t remember the last thing of any real value that I wrote voluntarily (meaning it wasn’t a response to a message from someone else or a work email). You can’t count my tweets or Facebook posts, they’re mostly nonsense. I’m not a high flying business owner or entrepreneur, though I do just fine and have bags of time left over after work to spend with my family and do my own stuff.

This just so happens to be the first time I have felt like I have something worthwhile to share whilst also possessing the will to translate that something in to action. That feeling of having something worthwhile is as much down to self-confidence as it is faith in the material, I might add.

Action is going to be a common theme in my posts on this blog. Clue’s in the title. Being a student in the field of self-improvement, I know how easy it is to sit and watch hours of TED talks and other seminars, read book after book and try and absorb the wisdom of all the social media posts of all the top influencers in the field. I also know how it feels to then go merrily on my way with every intention of putting it all in to practice, only to slip back in to the same old behaviours and the same old mindset, all that advice melting in to the background. I can’t imagine for a second I am the only one to have experienced this struggle.

It took me a long time to be able to put in to action the things I learned from reading and watching and listening to all the advice about how to be a better me. Still longer to see actual results. Longer still than that to be able to join up the results to the teachings and start forging my own path through all the noise. It’s an ongoing project to this day, nearly 2 years in. Perhaps you think I’m not far enough along yet to be of any real value to you or anyone else, but I believe otherwise.

My intention here is to distil some of the things I have learned across many different areas of self-study including, but possibly not limited to; mindset, personal development, professional development, mental and physical health, psychology and philosophy.

I’ll also do my best to give you a takeaway from each post that you can put in to action straight away. This blog is for everyone. Whether you want to improve the quality of your relationships with others, enhance your career prospects or refine a particular aspect of your character.

If you’re looking for a takeaway from this post then let it be this: absolutely everyone has the capacity for self improvement. It doesn’t need to be a daunting task and you don’t have to be the CEO of a Silicon Valley start up to make self-work worthwhile. Whatever your goal is to improve yourself and your life, the only way to start is simply to start.