And Relax

Having, over the past couple of months, gently cajoled you to move forward in your life, take the path toward your goals, to follow your dreams. I am now going to encourage you to stop, just for a while, and relax.
Have a break, have an unspecified chocolate bar!
The point is we can become consumed in heading toward our future that we sometimes forget to enjoy the moments right now.  We need to take time to live in the moment and relish those things that give us real pleasure in life.
When I say relax I do not mean getting home from work and vegetating in front of the television, I mean making time to get out and do something that really and truly soothes your soul and brings you joy.
Obviously for each of us that is different and for each of us there will be a combination of different things that bring us that joy. Maybe a long woodland walk, or a deep relaxing massage, maybe spending time with old friends or perhaps exploring new places or ideas. Whatever it is that brings you enjoyment, get out there and do it.
And while you are relaxing, fully immerse yourself in the activity, make a truly sensory experience. Focus on the expert touch of the masseur as they deftly work their magic on the tensions in your body, drink in the sights, sounds and smells of the woodland as you take that slow amble through the trees, bathe in the sounds of chatter and laughter as you catch up with your friends, let the taste of your favourite food flow over your tongue and ignite your taste buds.

Let go of the past, temporarily forget about the future and really, truly enjoy the moment right now.
Why? There are plenty of words out there about how our bodies respond under stress, we go into primitive fight or flight mode our bodies fill with adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones that often have a negative impact on our bodies because the stresses of the modern world are a little different from having to run for your life from a sabre-tooth tiger!
Finding the time to really relax and enjoy yourself helps fight the negative impact of these fight or flight hormones and also helps our bodies promote the production of the less publicised ‘happy’ hormones which give us those feelings of happiness and contentment.
As we throw ourselves whole-heartedly into that activity we enjoy, the worries and woes of the daily grind fade away giving our minds a chance to become refreshed. How many times have you worried over a problem but it is not until that problem has been forced from your mind that, suddenly, the solution seems obvious? If we make the time to get out and enjoy ourselves our minds will function better when we need them to.
And it is not just our minds, as our minds relax our bodies do to. The tensions inside you will ease away (more so if you’re visiting that expert masseur!), blood pressure comes down and the body is better able to heal itself. Have you ever felt that strange sense of relaxation running through your body after something makes you laugh suddenly?
Doing something that relaxes us has innumerable psychological and physiological benefits. If we want to live healthier, better lives then we need to ensure that those things that bring us joy, pleasure and relaxation are permanently built into our lives.
When we feel better, mentally and physically, we have greater strength to move toward our greater goals.
So make those plans today and build the anticipation of that total enjoyment you will get from that thing makes you so thoroughly relaxed.

Putting Off Procrastination

Procrastination: The action of delaying or postponing something.
In other words deliberately avoiding doing something. We all do it, we put off doing certain things for a variety of reasons yet, often, doing this ends up creating more problems than it solves. So we have to learn to first recognise procrastination and then take action to overcome it and move on with our lives.
The first thing to understand is that while we put off doing things deliberately, that does not necessarily mean we are doing it consciously. Our minds are very good at twisting the facts sometimes and while, on one level we are deliberately avoiding doing something, we are telling ourselves that we are not doing it for a variety of other reasons. Reasons that try to convince ourselves that whatever it is we are putting off is not our fault and we are not doing it deliberately.
“I haven’t had the time.” “Life is too busy at the moment.” “I have more important things to do at the moment.” Etc.
So whatever reason it is you are giving yourself for not getting on with your goal in life, or not making that change in your life or even just not mowing the lawn, it is probably not the true underlying reason.


One reason for procrastination is a lack of self-confidence or self-belief. We don’t think we will be able to do that thing either at all or particularly well. For example we may believe we lack the will power to diet or we may believe we are just to unfit to start exercise. Perhaps we believe we are just not clever enough to learn something new. In all such cases where we are not confident to get started try falling back on the old saying “you never know until you try”.
If you are putting off doing something because you lack confidence or belief in yourself, start in a small way. Build your confidence and belief gradually. If you want to diet start by cutting out one thing at a time, if you want to get fitter start by walking before you run, if you want to learn something new start by reading a book about the subject before signing up for a course.
Another reason for procrastinating is that we are not fully engaged with the thing that needs doing. We have all had times when we know we should be doing something but we just can’t get ourselves enthusiastic enough to undertake the task. Again we all know we should be fitter and healthier but it can all seem like to much bother to make the effort.
If you are feeling like this, take the time to write out the pros and cons of whatever it is you’re putting off. For example getting fitter, pro: being healthy con: being unhealthy (obviously there’s a lot more you could write). Doing this will help build that much needed motivation to start that thing you know you need to do.
We can, sometimes, be guilty of putting things off simply because we are not interested enough in the task. If this is the case we need to revisit why we are thinking about doing it in the first place. It may be social pressure – everyone else is doing so we suppose we should. It may be a relationship thing where your significant other feels something should be done but you feel less enthusiastic – in such cases remember everyone has a different way of looking at things in life so just because you don’t think something is important it does not mean your partner has the same view.
Obviously not everything we put off is procrastination, sometimes life really does get in the way. Prioritising should not be confused with procrastination.
Sometimes our mental health is such that we find things hard to get started. Where this happens we can make ourselves feel worse as we begin to feel guilty that we are not getting things done. Try to recognise when you are feeling stressed or depressed and try not to put yourself under too much pressure to get things down (easier said than done I know).
There are many reasons for procrastinating, to many to list in a short blog, but the basic thing is to recognise that you are putting off doing something, to acknowledge the real reason that you are not doing and to address that reason fully so that you can get on and move forward.

The Habit of Breaking Habits

In the last post I suggested getting in to the habit of breaking habits as a means to stretching the boundaries of your comfort zone but it is a thought worth exploring more because habits and habitual ways of thinking can impact on our ability to grow.
Now, as a general rule, habits and habitual thinking are a good thing. They are the brains way of creating shortcuts in our thinking because, if we had to stop and think about everything we did, we would never get anything done. Imagine getting yourself ready in the morning if you had to consciously process every step – “now I need to take toothbrush, now I need to open toothpaste and squeeze on to toothbrush, now I need to place toothbrush in mouth” etc. Being habitual means we save thinking time.
It is a bit like our brains having a predictive text system. Most of the time it works fine but occasionally it can all go a bit peer sheeped!
Obviously the mind is significantly more complex than predictive text yet there are similarities worth considering when talking about how we form habits. Predictive text starts by using socially accepted use of language that is the most likely words people will use in the context of what has been said before, the more it gets used the more it becomes individualised to a persons use of language based on what they have said before.
We form habits and habitual ways of thinking over many years, our upbringing creates some, our daily lives others, some come from the society we live in and others from our relationships and the people we chose to connect with.
It is very easy to become habitualised. How often do you find yourself saying something one of parents used to say to you repeatedly? Anything that we do, or happens to us, repetitively over time becomes habitual within us, neural pathways are formed in our brains to ease the need to think of everything. This can easily happen without us even knowing or realising, and it is not until we consciously catch ourselves acting in a certain way, like our parents for example.

The problem comes when those habits and habitual ways of thinking work against us. This can happen for a number of reasons, those habits and thoughts may not be appropriate for a new situation we find ourselves in, they could be holding us back from doing something different or they could simply be out of date.
Think about it on a wider social level. We often see stories that older people just don’t understand younger people today (and those stories have been running for decades!). Yet if we think about it when older people developed their habits and ways of thinking the world was very different from now and where younger people are developing their own habits and ways of thinking based on their society today. What was once the default way of thinking can often be defined as prejudice (or an ..ism) in the current way of thinking.
Coming down to the individual level we all have our own habits and habitual ways of thinking yet we need to question whether all of them are still relevant and still work for us in the best possible way. For example the way we do things at work might have been the ideal way of working a few years ago but as things around us have changed we may need to change what we do in order to perform at our best.
If we can take time occasionally, when we catch ourselves doing things automatically, we can review those habits and question whether or not they are still relevant to us. The next time you flick through channels, ask yourself why you don’t stop at a certain one. Is there someone or something you automatically avoid whenever possible? Ask yourself why and if that reason still applies now.
Habits and habitual thinking are, mostly, a good thing but some of those habits develop into bad ones or simply become outdated and not relevant to our lives right now. We may need to develop new habits and new ways of thinking to help us move on in our lives and to achieve whatever it is we have set our sights on.
Getting into the habit of breaking habits allows us to have a reality check on whether or not our automatic behaviours and thoughts are working in the best possible way for us right now.

Building Your Positive Mindset

If you are in a mid-life rut getting out of it and making changes to improve how you feel about your life seem difficult this is usually because at mid-life we have so many ingrained habits and set ways of thinking that change is harder than it was in our youth.
To successfully begin the process of change for the better we need to start building new habits and ways of thinking and that all starts with developing the positive mindset.
Positive Thinking plus Positive Action
Start by fixing in your mind what successful positive thinking is and is not.
It is not about looking at life through rose-tinted glasses, wandering through life believing that everything is okay with the world and you need to nothing is ultimately unrealistic. Similarly Positive Thinking is not simply trying to will good things into existence that, on its own, is just daydreaming.
Positive thinking is about focusing on ways to move your life forward. It is about having belief in yourself and your abilities to overcome those obstacles in everyday life that get in your way. Positive thinking is about having goals you want to achieve and faith in yourself to be able to actually achieve them.
Effective positive thinking needs to be grounded with realism, accepting that life will throw up challenges and problems. Yet rather than focus on those problems, as most people tend to do, we must focus on solutions and finding ways to move beyond those stumbling blocks. We all have it in us to either overcome the things life throws at us or seek out those who can help us do it.
Effective positive thinking also needs to be a little bit self-centred. We need to be focused on those things only we can have an effect on and not on the actions and deeds of others or events that are beyond our control. Obviously being self-centred doesn’t mean thinking about doing anything that would be detrimental to others but if we can be the best we can be then those closest to us will also benefit.
However no amount of positive thinking will come to anything unless we put those thoughts into action.

That, of course, is not always as easy as it sounds. Stepping outside of our comfort zone is often difficult for a number of reasons, not least because, as the name suggests, in our comfort zone we are comfortable therefore outside that zone is uncomfortable!
We come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid taking that step outside, we don’t have the time, we so many other things to do, we will get around to it but no just yet etc. Our habits and routines, our worries and fears and our beliefs about our abilities all trap us inside the comfort zone.
To build and develop our positive mindset we need to break down those barriers of the comfort zone in order to move forward in the direction we want to take in life. Obviously, as with all things in life, sometimes are easier than others to do this yet waiting until the time is right can just reinforce the comfort zone barrier as it is often to convenient to tell ourselves that we will wait just a little longer until circumstances are even better and that time never comes.
To develop a positive mindset we should start to break down the restrictions of the comfort zone and an effective way of starting that process in getting into the habit of breaking habits!
We all have our daily routines, so we can start by changing one thing every day. Maybe you could change the order of the way you do things when you first get up in the morning, maybe you could change the things you do on the way to work every morning or maybe in the evening you could turn the television off for half an hour an practice you positive thinking.
If we want to become good at anything it takes constant practice, building your positive mindset is no different. Training our minds to think differently, positively will help us break away from the comfort zone which so often holds us back from achieving success and fulfilling our lives.
Building your positive mindset will also build your self-confidence and self-esteem and create a positive cycle of thought, the more we build the stronger the positive mindset becomes.

The Delights and Dangers of What If

What If….
A small phrase but a powerful one. It can catapult us upwards to great heights of achievement or it can plunge us downwards into the dark depths of despair. It just depends on where we use it in our thoughts.
Our ‘what ifs’ can be located in the past, present or future.
If we use it in our thoughts of the past then it becomes a dangerous thing, especially in mid-life because when we use ‘what ifs’ in reflections of our past we are trying to change something that can’t be changed.
It would be a very unusual thing to reach mid-life without collecting a few regrets on the way and, as we reach a point where we are likely to reflect on our lives, it could be easy to add ‘what if’s’ into those thoughts. When you do that, it can lead to a chain of thought that impacts on you in the present.
Regrets in life are inevitable but they are the result of learning something new after the event. At the actual time you made the decision, or whatever it is you regret, you made the best choice for yourself with the information you had at that time. Regrets are important, they help us learn and make better choices in the future but when we focus on them and add in the what if’s. “What if I hadn’t have done it.” “What if I hadn’t said that.”, etc. we are starting to wish our lives had been different in the past, we can easily begin to resent what we have in the present.

The past can’t be changed (I can hear some clever soul saying “but what if it could”!), we can reflect on the past, we can learn from the past, we can use the past to influence our present and our future but we can’t change it. By imagining that we are simply damaging our present because we are focusing on regrets rather than what we can do to improve our lives for the future.
On the flip side ‘What Ifs’ in thoughts of the present or future will move us forwards. Not necessarily in a good way, there can be negative thoughts as well as positive ones, but they will drive our actions and deeds.
‘What Ifs’ have a tendency to spiral. So if we are in a negative frame of mind and we begin to speculate on ‘what ifs’ it can move us further into that negative mindset.
When that happens it can be difficult to break the cycle. It is all very well others saying “think positive thoughts” or telling us to “snap out of it” but it takes more than that. How we escape that cycle is a very individual thing but, a common thread you may recognise in these posts, the more aware we are of ourselves the better we can deal with these things. Once we recognise we are in a negative ‘what if’ cycle the easier it is to break free from it.
If we apply ‘what ifs’ to positive thoughts we can lift ourselves and our lives to new heights. Stretching our imagination positively leads us towards what we really want from life. Again these ‘what ifs’ tend to spiral, we need to be a little careful because we can just get caught in daydreaming mode. We need to ensure we have that positive mindset and ensure we take positive action to implement those ‘what ifs’.

A simple example, I want this blog to be a success and people to benefit from it. For that to happen I need plenty of people to read it. “What if,” I think, “I add a small paragraph on the bottom asking people to  share this blog.”  Then, as I am actually writing that I think “What if I write a post about What Ifs” again moving everything another step forward and, in turn, creating more ‘what ifs’ to be implemented soon!
‘What Ifs’ appear to be an ingrained part of human thinking. They represent the possibilities of what could have been or what will be but they are both potentially dangerous and delightful and we need to be able to recognise each, dismissing those negative thoughts and embracing the positive ones.
What if, right now, you think of a ‘what if’ that will take you toward success and contentment and implement that what if as soon as possible.

Recording Greatness

You may have noticed that a common thread that runs through these blog posts is self-reflection.
When we fail we should reflect on where we can correct any issues, when we succeed we should reflect on that success and how we can move on to greater achievement.
However, we have to be aware, we humans are exceptionally good at misleading ourselves about ourselves! There are both physiological and psychological factors at play which impact on how we think about ourselves.
The most obvious example, physiologically, would be how we think we sound. We all have that experience of hearing ourselves after being recorded and thinking “I don’t sound like that, do I”.
Psychologically out minds and memories can play all sorts of tricks on us.
Imagine a really good day at work. The boss is away, there is nobody demanding your attention and you get the chance to clear up lots of those niggly outstanding jobs that you have been meaning to complete for ages. You work through them methodically all day and get home that evening really satisfied with what you have achieved.
The next day is completely different. The boss is back and back with a vengeance. Work piles up, everybody seems demanding and wanting everything right now. The pressures and stresses pile up as you push through the mountain of work while, at the same time, trying to placate everybody who wants their things done first. You get home that evening stressed and exhausted and the first thing you do is turn on your computer and search for a new job.
Now imagine a couple of weeks later and you have got that job interview. You are sitting there and the interviewer says to you “describe a time when you have been really productive.”
It is much more likely that you will describe the first day simply because you felt better about that day. Even though the second day you were probably much more productive, the fact that you didn’t actually finish as many tasks and the day left you feeling stressed and exhausted means it is a day you would rather forget than relive by telling the interviewer about it.
Our memories are much more connected to how we feel about events than the events themselves.

Because of this, when we embark on a new goal, it is important we also find a way to record how we are doing. Keeping a record helps us monitor progress, helps us identify improvement and helps us recognise the bad days. All of this together helps us move forward effectively.
How you do this is going to be completely individual. What it is you are setting out to achieve will determine how you keep track, for example, if you are setting out to become fitter you can record run times or reps, if you are going to write that novel you can record daily word counts or if you are determined to become a master baker you can note recipes tried etc.
It will also depend on the type of person you are, some people are avid diary writers able to write copious notes, others less so preferring to simply record brief facts and figures. Luckily, in this technological age, we do have the advantage of being able to generate records without doing very much, smart watches will record exercise, websites will record the number of blog readers etc. The key though is to use whatever method you feel most comfortable with in order to create the story of your journey.
Having these records are crucial to helping us learn about ourselves in our particular endeavour because if we look back we can start to see patterns. Do we record better performances in the morning, afternoon or evening? Are certain days of the week better than others for us to pursue our goal? It gives us a better chance of spotting where we go wrong or where we could do better but it also, when our motivation is flagging, gives us a way to reflect on the wins and successes we have achieved over time.
Record you greatness (and your no so greatness) it will help you to achieve more and become even greater in the future.
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Failure is a Thing

It is unlikely you have reached mid-life without someone, somewhere along the line telling you that that there is no such thing as failure, even Oprah Winfrey has said those words*. Usually there is something added to it. There is no such thing as failure only learning opportunities or, only feedback or, only results etc.
It may be a little controversial but I will say failure is thing.
Life is not perfect, people are not perfect so things can and do go wrong in life. Then when we experience those things we also have an emotional response to that failure. It can range from mild disappointment to depression, it can include frustration, anger or resignation. Failure can sap your motivation, damage your self-belief and leave you feeling useless.


The level of that emotional response is often dictated by the level of personal investment we have in something. The more we put our effort and time into something that means a lot to us then, if things go wrong, the greater our emotional response will be.
If you conform to the idea that there is no such thing as failure then you are setting yourself up for a double whammy. When something, inevitably, doesn’t go to plan not only do you get the emotional response from that failure, you also have the response to the fact you have failed in your belief that there is no such thing as failure! Causing the emotional equivalent of an aftershock following the initial earthquake.
However if we accept the fact that we will have failures in our lives and that we will have some form of emotion attached to that we can develop some resilience and bounce back much quicker.
The first thing to remember is just because you have had a failure it does not make you a failure. Some people will define who they are by the things that go wrong in their lives, ignoring any positives that come along and actively looking for those failures to justify the way they think. But if we know that any failures we have are just a blip on our way to achievement then we are putting things in a proper perspective.
Secondly, work out what went wrong. Be honest with yourself though, it is very easy to blame others or external causes and while these things certainly happen ask yourself if there is anything you could have done to have avoided the impact of the external influences.
It may be that you can’t for the life of you figure out what went wrong. It which case just go ahead and do things again, just make a slight alteration to something in the process and see if that brings about a positive result.
Those little phrases added to “there is no such thing as failure” are actually right, failure gives us learning experiences, results and feedback. We need to use those intelligently and constructively in order to correct any errors in our thinking, planning and execution of our goals. Sometimes learning what doesn’t work can make life much easier for us in the future as we know what pitfalls to avoid.
However, as you reflect on what you could have done to avoid failure also remember to reflect on those wins you had before things went wrong.
We often see top athletes bought to tears when they fail to win. It sometimes seems strange to us because they have achieved so much and coming second is still an excellent result but because they put so much personal investment into winning, that immediate emotional response is to their failure to win. Top athletes have the advantage of coaches and sports psychologists who will help them realise that they have made those huge achievements before meeting someone who was better on the day.
However us lesser mortals don’t have the luxury of such support. Therefore we need to be able to it ourselves. You may be lucky and have someone close to you who can provide constructive support but many don’t have so we need to become our own coach and point out all the successes we have had so far, how far we have come and how we can keep going onwards.
The important thing is, don’t stop, never give up.
Failure is a thing, but if we can accept it will happen and embrace the lessons it teaches then we can move forward on to success.
  

Reliving Your Future

If you have decided to turn a dream into reality, decided to achieve a new goal or decided to make a specific change in your life, getting started can often be the hardest part. It is like moving a boulder, getting going takes huge strength and effort but once it starts moving the momentum carries it along.
One trick to help getting going is to run in all backwards!
Take a bit of time to yourself and imagine that you have achieved what you want to achieve. Spend a little time basking in the glory of that achievement before starting to reflect on how you got there. Work backwards, what was the last step you took before getting to your success, what was the step before that etc all the way back to where you are now.
To illustrate, imagine you want to win Olympic 100m Gold. You can picture yourself standing on that podium with the medal around your neck and start that trip down memory lane. To get to that podium you needed to have qualified for the final. Before that you needed to actually qualify for an Olympic place, before that you needed to be one of the best in your country etc. All the way back to winning that first race that sparked your desire to become Olympic champion.
By doing this you can begin to build up a pathway from where you are now to where you want to be. You can begin to see those markers that you need to pass along the way.
Once you have done it once you can start to look into your chosen path further to see what targets or achievements you need to pass on the way.
So, returning to the Olympics, you could learn that to actually get into the final (at Rio 2016) you would need to run the distance in 10.01 seconds (men’s time) or 10.96 seconds (women’s time). To actually qualify for the Olympics you would need to be able to run 100m in 10.16s (men) 11.32s (women) and so on, I am sure you get the picture.
I have used the Olympic example because it is fairly straightforward way to illustrate the process but naturally many goals and ambitions are not quite so clear cut which makes this process even more useful.
The clearer your picture of the end result the easier it is to work toward that because you are creating the signposts and milestones you know you need to get to before you can achieve your goal.
If you are not sure of how to get where you want to be remember to seek out those role models who have been there before. How did they get to where they are now, then use their experience to work out your own plan.
The crucial thing is that once you have fixed all of this in your mind is that you actually make that first step. Remember the Positive Mindset, take positive action as well as using positive thinking.
Join that gym, start rewriting your C.V, sign up for that baking class or even start writing that mid-life self-help blog!
As you go along take time to go through the exercise regularly. Often it is difficult to see the finishing line, the final result as we move through life’s challenges on the way to our success but by taking time to live the goal backwards we always have that final success firmly in our sights.

In The Company of Random Strangers

Believe it or not random strangers have an impact on our lives, more particularly, on how we behave.
This is because we tend to be more self-conscious when we are around strangers, leading us to either be more guarded in what we say or do or even avoiding a situation all together.
This can be especially true when we hit mid-life. We can be a little more unsure of ourselves as changes in our lives happen and we attempt new things.
Have you ever been on a training course or started an evening class where nobody really knows each other? There is always that moment when the tutor fist asks the class a question and everyone looks around, afraid to answer in case they make a fool of themselves. Or, perhaps, you have put of doing something, like going to the gym, because you are worried about what other people may think of you.
We tend to be more like this the more distant our relationship from people. With family and close friends will be a lot more comfortable and freer in how we behave, with work colleagues or acquaintances we will be somewhat guarded and a little conscious of how we are behaving but with strangers we will be a lot more self-conscious.
The ironic thing is we tend to over-estimate the amount of attention other people are giving us meaning we need be less self-conscious when we are around strangers. It is something known as the spotlight effect.


What we humans tend to notice most is difference and we are most likely to spot difference in people we are closer to. If, for example, I, with my receding hairline, we to suddenly start wearing an elaborate toupee, those people I see regularly would certainly notice it (and comment on it!). However people I don’t know would not know what I looked like without it and therefore pay less attention. The may see a random stranger wearing a toupee and have a smirk to themselves but they would soon forget about it.
And, just as you are busy worrying about what other people think, so are they and therefore not really noticing things that others around them are doing.
If we go back to the classroom example, one brave soul answers the tutor but gives the wrong answer, they will probably be thinking “everyone else probably thinks I am stupid” whereas everyone else is more likely to be thinking “thank God that wasn’t me”!
If you are self-conscious about your body and reluctant to go to the gym, remember that most other people there are focussing on what they are doing and their own self-conscious thoughts not leaving time for studying anyone else (and if you have ever been to a gym you will know there is a certain percentage of people far too busy looking at themselves and hoping others will be looking at them too!)
So never be put off doing something or be overly self-conscious when you are in the company of strangers.
If you are putting of doing something because of this then recruit a friend to go with you if possible (there is safety in numbers!), if they can’t go with you simply speak to them about your fears, going into a new situation just knowing you have supportive friends and family waiting for you at home can alleviate some of the worries.
Always keep in mind that others are feeling, to some degree or another, the same as you. They are worried more about what you are thinking of them and by recognising that in others it is easier to build a rapport and make the situation a little easier for you all.
The company of random strangers immediately sets off our self-consciousness but armed with the knowledge that those random strangers are actually more focussed on their own self-consciousness, rather than critically assessing us, we can move forward with more confidence.

Dastardly Devils

Having learnt to emulate our heroes what do we do with our villains?
By the time we get to mid-life we have encountered endless numbers of people some who have drifted in and out quickly others who have taken a more permanent place in our lives.
And some of those people can be dastardly devils. The villains who seem to thwart our paths forward, the rogues who seem to be out to get us, the scoundrels who seem to demand money and time from us. Many self-help books will tell you that we should eliminate toxic people from our lives but the reality is we still have to go to work and we still have to socialise.
And the thing is, not all of those people are actually bad!
Obviously there are really nasty people out there in the world who are out to manipulate or step on others, those who seek to take whatever they can from the world not matter how much damage they inflict on others and those who knowingly abuse the trust of others.
However not everybody who we cast as villains in our world actually is. We tend to feel anyone who is different from us, who thinks differently from us or who does not conform to our world view is a bad person.
I am sure we all have had bad bosses in the past who we have cast as villains in our lives but were they really bad people or was it their circumstances and beliefs that made us dislike them? What was their motivation behind making demands of you that seemed, to you, pretty pointless? Perhaps the boss isn’t too bad but it is other work colleagues that you avoid if at all possible because spending even a little time with them seems to be an eternity.
We have all had those acquaintances, those friends of friends, who we try to avoid because we just don’t like them, maybe it’s their views and opinions, or perhaps just something we can’t quite put our fingers on that makes us slink away in the opposite direction when they appear.
How do we deal with these dastardly devils?

Firstly we need to take a look at ourselves and ask why don’t I like this person? Are they actually bad or is just that we don’t have the same view of the world. A bad boss may still be a bad boss, not though, because of the demands they make but because they fail to understand the importance of leadership when they are making those demands.
Then we need to see beyond a couple of those cognitive biases that plague our thinking. Not everything is about you! When someone is demanding or in a bad mood, it may not actually be directed toward you. It is more likely to be something else going on in their lives which is causing the way they behave. We also tend you view people because of the worst (or best) trait we see. So ask yourself is this person bad in all aspects of their behaviour or is just one behaviour that is distorting your view of them overall?

Try to step into their view of the world, but you can only really do this by talking to them first. Be polite and attentive, if it someone you work with enquire why it is they do things in a particular way or how the business benefits from what needs to be done. You will probably find that if you do this that your attitude toward them will change as will theirs toward you.
The real villains in life, however, will probably sneak up on you unawares. The real manipulators will, to start off with, be the most charming people around. They will be attentive and pleasant. Then they will start by asking you to do one little thing, then something else, then something a bit more significant. Eventually you will find yourselves tangled in the web they have spun around you. Breaking free becomes especially difficult, if that is, you have even realised that you have been trapped.
There are ways to stop yourself being trapped in the first place.
Always stay true to yourself and your beliefs. One of the tricks manipulators use is our desire to conform, so they ask for small favours, trapping people into a cycle of conformity before making bolder moves. Never be afraid to say no or at least question the reasoning behind what is being asked of you.
Seek out a second opinion. Talk to those you trust about anyone new in your life and listen to what they say and think, particularly if you have been asked to do anything that you are not sure about.
There are real villains out there and there are villains we have created in our minds. Defeating these dastardly devils, both types, helps us free negativity from our lives and create a better world for us.