Aaaand we’re back

A few weeks ago now I stopped blogging with a view to going away, rethinking a few things and coming up with some ideas to improve the blog and perhaps add some features.

I started this to try and create something that was accessible and that might help people. I’ve learned a lot about self improvement and personal development over the last couple of years but I know there’s a lot of wishy-washy ideas out there and more than a small amount of bullshit floating around the space.

One of the first things I realised when I took a step back was that I hadn’t done ANY of that and had in fact mostly regurgitated a lot of ideas that, while good in theory, do not accurately reflect how I live my life. Do you know what that makes me? A big fat hypocrite is what it makes me. I think my heart was in the right place with it, but I also think I can do better.

Here’s something I didn’t do during my time away from blogging – come up with some new features. Well, I did, but I ended up throwing them all out in favour of this. This being the new name and theme of the blog. A busy father’s struggle to be better.

Now I know this isn’t going to be for everyone, but it is going to be for some of you. From now on I’ll tell you stories about how I’ve struggled, mostly failed, but occasionally succeeded to fit ideas and approaches to self improvement in to my otherwise fairly hectic life. You may not learn a whole lot, but maybe you’ll get a laugh or two out of it.

As for how often I’ll be posting – as often as I feel like it. I’m busy, you can’t expect too much.

Mindweek Mini – Scheduling Update and Thoughts on Flow

Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who is following, reading and sharing the blog. It means a lot to have this support and I’ve really enjoyed hearing about some of the things I’ve helped inspire people to do. Please keep feedback and comments coming!

Today I want to let you know about some changes I’m making to the frequency and nature of the posts on here. The ‘Midweek Mini’ will be replaced by a couple of slightly longer and more detailed posts at the start and end of the week and the longer form posts will come every couple of weeks rather than weekly.

The thinking behind this is that it will allow me to cover more topics in reasonable detail and elaborate on the most interesting and helpful stuff with less time pressure to put out 2000+ words a week. We’ll see how we get on though!

The other topic I wanted to broach with you today is flow. I’m not talking about flow in the sense of what Biggie, Eminem and Jay Z can do with their mouths, I’m talking about a concept that has been around for thousands of years.

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Flow is described by the man who literally wrote the book on it, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as “A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter”.

Those who have achieved a state of Flow report that it produces a feeling of intense concentration, effortlessness and control. They say they get immediate feedback on the task at hand with a reduced sense of time passing and any self-doubt or self-consciousness disappear. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

I’ve been aware of Flow in this sense for a while but keep hearing more and more about how it has helped sports stars, business people and artists get ‘in the zone’ and tap in to unrealised potential to maximise their performance.

As I’ve heard it talked about more and more, I’ve gotten more and more interested. The more I learn about it, the more interested I get. I’ll go in to more detail on this in my next post.

How Mindset, Perspective and Focus can dramatically increase your motivation to get healthy

I used to work out a lot when I was younger. My goal was to look the way Brad Pitt does in Fight Club. I never managed to do it, probably because I’d go to the gym for a few months and then get side-tracked, feel like I wasn’t putting on muscle fast enough or decide that I needed that gym membership money for delicious, delicious beer instead.

Recently though, I’ve gotten back in to it with a completely different perspective. I’m a Dad of 3 and they’re all boys and they won’t stop getting bigger and stronger. So I’m back in the gym, making sure I can keep up with them.

I’m highly motivated and feel stronger and happier in myself than I have for a long time. My perspective on the gym is totally different now than when I was a younger man and I want to talk to you about why that’s a good thing and what I’ve learned from the experience.

Modern society is obsessed with looks. We might not want to admit it, but we are. I do love the Marvel films (and to a far, far lesser extent, the DC ones) but can’t deny that the superhero movie genre has helped to promote an image of both men and women that is far removed from what most of us will ever achieve.

On our TVs, reality shows and music videos are filled with buff dudes and women that look like they need a slap and a burger (to use my wife’s phrase), with the songs themselves littered with references to various body parts being somehow described as both “tight” and “thick” at the same time. Like a well-wrapped gammon joint?

One of the most popular shows in the UK (and a few other countries too, thanks ITV) is Love Island. The show consists of a bunch of single men and women, all near perfectly proportioned, being thrown together on a hot island somewhere, wearing very few clothes and awkwardly trying to fuck each other for a few weeks. I don’t watch it, but I think that’s the gist.

If you’ve ever Googled anything about exercise of gym memberships, chances are every other ad you see on Facebook or YouTube will be someone who looks like they were carved out of solid marble telling you about their way to look like they do, whether it’s CrossFit, calisthenics or that awful Huel stuff. You know why they call it Huel don’t you? It’s meant to mean Human Fuel. That’s right – IT’S MADE OUT OF HUMANS.

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So what do normal folks like us do in the face of all this human ‘perfection’? We look at them and we look at ourselves and we think “I should look like them”. So we join a gym or get some workout videos to do at home or try and go for a good old fashioned run. The most popular of these options would be joining a gym.

Fun fact: in the UK alone we waste over £500m every year on unused gym memberships. 11% of people with an active gym membership say they haven’t been FOR A YEAR. Over 20% say they’ve been 3 times or LESS in the last year. It’s worse in the US where one article I found suggested that a whopping 67% of gym memberships in the US have NEVER been used at all.

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Clearly there is a problem here. Huge numbers of people who sign up with the best intentions waste a lot of money and probably end up even more despondent about their looks than they did before. Why does this happen?

Well, the most common reasons include; not getting the results they want (be it losing weight, tightening up or putting on muscle) self-consciousness, boredom and lack of energy and enthusiasm. What do these reasons say to you? That exercising is hard and people are lazy? Whilst I’m not going to disagree with you, I think these reasons tell a different story. I think people are signing up to gyms for the wrong reasons.

I’m going to propose that there are two main categories of people that sign up for gyms, and if you’re in the first category then you could well end up being amongst the ones that waste their cash on unused memberships. If you’re in the second category, however, you’re much more likely to stick with it in the face of any of the aforementioned circumstances.

The first category of people sign up because they want to look different, more like the sculpted and airbrushed versions of people they see everywhere they look. They buy in to the fact that if they follow the latest fad diet or work out like Chris Hemsworth for 4 weeks then they’ll be sorted. This doesn’t happen, obviously. It was never going to either because they have jobs or families or other real life shit going on and can’t train 16 hours a day and buy all the ‘magic Hollywood syringes*’ they want. And then they give up.

*Disclaimer: I am not accusing Chris Hemsworth of anything other than being the buffest cyclops since that one at the end of Hercules.

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The second category of people approach exercise differently, and I’ll reference one of my earlier posts here about Mindset. These guys have a growth mindset towards exercising. They are not training just to lose weight or look like a superhero, they are training to run a marathon, to get promoted from the reserves to the first team, to be healthier, live longer or just for the pure enjoyment of it.

Compared to those training for looks, people who are training for growth reasons give only tiny fractions of shits about how they (or other people) might look, because they are much more focused on their journey than anything else. Training for aesthetic reasons places your focus on the wrong thing. Rather than train parts of your body, you’re much better off training your determination, your strength, speed, agility, endurance, grit, focus and commitment instead.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to exercise just because you want to look different. I’m saying that it’s much harder to maintain this type of training over time, and refocusing on progression and self-improvement makes it less likely that you’ll give up for the reasons listed.

Let’s have another look at the reasons for quitting I listed earlier and think about how they are perceived differently when your focus is on improving in a non-aesthetic way.

Not getting the results you want

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OK I’m not going to beat you over the head too much more with this but it’s worth saying again that if you’re training to look different and you don’t look any different after a month, you’ll probably want to throw in the towel.

The wonderful thing about training an aspect of yourself though, whether it’s your strength, your speed over 5 kilometers or how many sit ups you can do before you shit yourself, is that you can measure exactly the results you are getting, and you have the ability to step away from it if you’re not moving in the right direction and think about what else you could try.

When you ask yourself “what else could I try?” you’d rather the answer wasn’t “liposuction” right?

Self-consciousness

Training for growth or progression really helps to minimise the extent to which you feel self-conscious about training. Trying to exercise when you’re surrounded by people who look more like how you want to look than you do can really bum you out.

But exercising around a bunch of people who can’t possibly know how you are performing vs yourself from last week means you don’t really give a shit how they look or what they think. You’re focused on you, not them.

Boredom

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Every time you push that extra rep out at the end of a set, every time you feel strong enough to add another little plate to the bar, every time you shave a few seconds off your personal best, every time you sprint up a flight of stairs, every time you stop and realise just how healthy and confident you feel.

I’ll take “exciting little moments you can experience when training to get better at something” for 200 please.

Lack of energy and enthusiasm

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I’ll also take “moments that help maintain your enthusiasm for training” for 500! See above.

Enthusiasm shouldn’t be a big problem as you track and monitor your progress, but lack of energy could be an issue still. Not as much so if you’re training for looks, as this type of training can make you more likely to lean towards overtraining if you’re really going for it, but you’ll probably still feel knackered from time to time.

This is where the mindset and perspective of training for progression can benefit you. You can take a week off to recuperate and know that you’re doing it to benefit your overall training goals. You won’t experience guilt from not working out and you’re more likely to take the initiative on things like extra rest (going to bed earlier) or changing up your diet to increase your energy levels as those things also fall in line with your mission to improve whatever characteristic you are training for.

Here it is in a nutshell: if you are training to look a certain way then you are more likely to give up, but if you are training to be a certain way, you are much more likely to succeed. Competing against every idealised image out there is too big of a task for most people. It is de-motivating, bordering on depressing. Competing against yourself, by contrast, is measurable, focused and empowering. Plus you always win, one way or the other.

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So there you have it. If you’re wondering what my training programme looks like, it’s not complicated but it is highly focused. I do 15 minutes of cardio to warm up, 15 minutes of stretches for flexibility and preventing injuries, then I follow Joe Wendler’s 5-3-1 programme but condense it so I do two exercised per session over two sessions each week, rather than four sessions per week each focused on one exercise. Then some core work for stability and warm down and I’m out in about an hour and fifteen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you already use this approach to exercise or whether it’s something you think could benefit you. If you want to find more information on the Wendler programme I mentioned, you can find it here.

What to do when you Fall off the Horse (and you will).

Right, first things first, this post is late. It’s crashing through the front door at 3.30 in the morning when it promised it was only going out for “a couple of drinks with the work lot” and would be “back at 11 at the absolute latest I swear”.

Why is it late? Because I fell off the horse. No, I didn’t get smashed and come home in the early hours making shitty excuses like I lost track of time or my phone ran out of battery or they made me do shots, what am I supposed to do? Those bastards.

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I fell off the horse that I sat proudly atop when I started this blog. The one I’ve been carefully feeding and grooming and training for the past 2 years. That horse is my mission to constantly work to improve every aspect of myself.

Your horse could be a diet, an objective or outcome-based goal or a different attitude or outlook. Change and growth is not easy. Very few things worth doing in life are easy.

This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen off the horse and it won’t be the last. Chances are you’ll do the same thing a few times along the way too.

I’m going to share with you my 4 step plan for getting back on my horse, maybe there’s something there you can use if you have a shitty day, week, month or whatever to get back on track.

1. Allow yourself to fall off the horse

This is the most important thing, and it’s something I wasn’t always very good at. You’ve got to have some compassion for yourself and realise that you’re human and getting off track is just part of the journey.

If you can’t allow yourself the odd failure then you’ll end up allowing yourself to slump back in to inertia. Then self-doubt will creep in and strangle your ambition and you’ll end up going backwards.

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You’re better than that, as long as you want to be.

Chalk it up to experience (as they say) and resolve to get back on that horse as quickly as possible using the rest of the steps below.

2. Re-establish your mindset

So once you’ve made friends with yourself again you’ll want to re-establish your mindset. Remember the reasons why you started pursuing your goal or decided to try things a little differently. Write them down if that helps.

Compare the feelings you had before you decided to get back on the wagon (disappointment, frustration, fear) with the feelings you had when you were on it (excitement, enthusiasm, motivation). Decide which person you want to be and you’ll be ready.

3. Reinstate your routine

Just like when you first start out chasing ambition, don’t wait for motivation to poke its head out from behind a tree and blow you a kiss. Don’t let past behaviours or the opinions of others hold you back.

Maybe you used to get up and go for a run in the morning 3 times a week but haven’t done so for a month? There is no other option save just getting up and doing it again one morning. Your body will resist at first, sure. You’ll have to drag it kicking and screaming out the door the first few times, but it gets easier every time.

World's Toughest Rodeo
1/13/2012, Wells Fargo Arena

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Perhaps you’ve been dieting for months but had a blowout week or two? The office summer bash falling on the same week that Linda turns ‘Naughty 40’ AND your old drinking buddies are in town for the weekend? Yeah, you’re not getting through that lot without drinking enough to fill the Adriatic are you?

To be honest it’s probably done you some good blowing off steam like that, but once you start counting those calories and watching your booze intake again you’ll notice very quickly how much better you feel and why you’re glad you only see your old drinking buddies every 6 months now.

Or it could be that you’ve been doing really well managing stress, anxiety or anger issues but have let yourself regress to a point where you’re not in control of it any more. That’s fine too. You’re waging a titanic war and are bound to lose the odd battle here and there.

If this is the case, go back to basics with managing it and be honest with those closest to you so they can support you too. I’m not a mental health professional so I’m not going to go in to detail here but I do have to keep an eye on my anger and when I feel like I’m starting to lose control of it I focus on other things to try and direct that energy elsewhere.

For example – if I start getting angry at my kids, I try and focus on how much I love them and how amazing they are, so I start from there and any anger gets swallowed up by that love.

If I start to feel angry about stuff I feel I’m missing out on, I focus on feeling gratitude for what I have and the anger is dwarfed by that gratitude.

If I start to feel angry or frustrated about work, I focus on trying to make changes and helping those around me instead. If you’re in a job that’s making you angry and you don’t feel like there’s anything you can do to change things, then fucking quit and find another job.

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4. Shut the doors and windows

This is the final thing you need to do in order to get fully saddled up again. The phrase ‘shut the doors and windows’ comes from a great little book about selling called ‘The Wideboys Handbook’ that I read a few years back. Don’t let the title put you off, if you work in sales it’s definitely worth a look and you can probably pick it up for about a quid on Amazon now.

What I mean when I say ‘shut the doors and windows’ is that you should find a way to stop yourself falling off the horse in the same way again.

This may mean that you stop hanging out with certain people as much as you did before. It may mean you resolve to not keep junk food in the house. It may mean committing to developing a new behaviour to help train you out of old tendencies.

Do whatever you feel you need to do to minimise the risk of this happening again. This is a really positive step as it turns the whole episode in to a learning experience and can improve your chances of success dramatically in the long run.

So there it is, my 4 step plan for getting back on the horse. Again, this is almost certainly going to happen to you at some point if you’re pursuing a self-improvement type objective. It’s not the end of the world, you can jump back on and rejoin the rodeo in no time.

Now go ride ’em, cowboy!

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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

 

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.