Be EXTRA Ordinary

When you are a young adult you can get away with a lot of unconventional behaviour, people will label you as a rebellious type, a bohemian or, perhaps, a free spirit.

When you are a much older adult you can also get away with unconventional behaviour, this time you will be labelled as a bit of a character or, perhaps, a harmless eccentric.

Yet for those of us stuck in the middle years unconventional behaviour is often frowned upon as society demands we are sensible, conventional and just plain ordinary. Any deviation from the ordinariness meets with such labels as “a bit weird” “odd” or, of course, the classic “must be having a mid-life crisis!”


While, as mentioned before, we humans crave some degree of conformity there is a difference between us choosing to conform and having conformity thrust upon us by societies decreed expectations. Us humans don’t particularly like change, especially when that change is outside our control. So if we, as individuals, choose to take control and make changes in our lives, those around us can become a little resistant because it is outside of their control.

How we react when faced with being labelled and challenged by others not only varies from person to person but also within ourselves. The more confident we are in our “non-conformist” behaviour the more likely we are to shrug off the opinions of others.

However when we are starting out making changes in life or doing something different our confidence levels are lower and when others throw challenges at us we are more likely to cave in to pressure and abandon our cause.

To successfully move from the conventional and ordinary life we need to develop ways to meet the challenges from others.

Firstly, always keep in mind why you want to make that change in your life. When others challenge or try to label you negatively just focus on the important elements that made you decide that you needed to do something different. You certainly don’t need to justify yourself to others, you just need to hold your focus on you own reasons. You could write these down and revisit them every time someone casts doubt in your mind, you could get into the routine of repeating the reasons to yourself every morning before you head out to face the world or you could just simply have faith in yourself knowing the reasons you have are the best for you right now.

Another way to develop that self-belief and self-confidence is to connect with others who are pursuing the same goal or dream as you. You can join a club, a class or just gather a group of like-minded friends together. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, you can even connect with like-minded people around the world. By connecting with others who are following the same path you know you are not alone, when others throw doubts and labels at you, feeling alone can be demoralising yet knowing there are others like you helps build that confidence within because it means you are not “odd” or “having a mid-life crisis” but, instead, you are taking control of your life just as many others are doing.

The pressures to be ordinary, safe and unchanging can be immense but if we want to live our lives in a way that brings us a sense of being, a sense of satisfaction and a sense of happiness then we need to break free from those restraints and forge our own path. Naturally we have to be mindful of others but those who love us will obviously benefit from us being happier and more fulfilled in our lives.

Forget being ordinary become extra ordinary and become the person you truly want to be.

Be A Hero

Be a Hero.
I don’t mean go out and perform dangerous and daring deeds, rather become a hero in the true sense of the word:
A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities” (Oxford Dictionaries)
Become someone who others look up to, admire, and want to emulate.
If you think back to the post “The Footsteps of Giants” I encouraged you to go out and seek inspiration from those you most admired because when we find someone who inspires us it helps to motivate us, helps us to overcome obstacles in our lives and gives us someone to relate to when we hit times of struggle.

When you develop a goal in your own life and work on pursuing it think about how you can, in your own way become a hero to others. You could be a hero to your children or grandchildren, a hero to your work colleagues or a hero to your friends.
There are endless debates about how we as humans learn best yet the one aspect often overlooked is the fact that we learn most from the behaviours of others. If you watch a toddler nowadays you will often see them putting their hand to their ear pretending to be on a phone, nobody actually teaches them to do that, they copy behaviour.
Think back to how you learned to do many things, did someone teach you to turn a door handle or was it something you just picked up? Or are there times now when you suddenly find yourself doing something a parent did, again this was something you picked up rather than being taught.
On a grown up level you will often find bosses at work who tell you to act in a certain way but act themselves in a different way, if you look closely you find that their team will actually copy the boss’s behaviour rather that act as they are told to.
If, as you follow your dream, also think about how that path can influence and inspire others you add an extra level of motivation to yourself.
There will always be difficulties and challenges in life and following our goals will, at times, be hard as life and others things intervene, slowing us down or temporarily diverting us. Yet if we can meet and overcome these challenges with determination and success we can also inspire those around us to meet their challenges in the same way.
Think about your heroes and what it is about them and their life that has inspired you. What particular qualities do they have that really resonate with you, it may be their dogged determination, or their calmness in the face of adversity or perhaps their enduring pursuit of wisdom. Whatever it is once you have isolated it apply that to your own life and use what inspired you to underpin your behaviour so, in turn, you can pass inspiration on to those around you.
By thinking about how what we do influences those around us helps us think about how we behave and how we follow our dreams. It helps us focus on that path rather than simply giving up because we can’t be bothered, after all, is that the message we want to send to those around us? We motivate ourselves when we think about how we motivate others, we are more able to stick to our path when we know that others will be influenced more by our behaviour and actions than by meaningless advice. Because advice and words are only meaningful if backed up by experience.

The other advantage of knowing how our behaviour can positively influence others is that it helps build our own self-confidence and self-esteem. Imagine how good it will feel seeing others you care about following in your footsteps as you inspire them in achieving their goals.
Be a Hero today. Move on through your life knowing that what you do is seen by those around you and by bettering your own life you know your behaviour and determination with inspire others to better their own.

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.