Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

Have you ever remembered a fantastic childhood holiday, where the place you visited was this wonderful world full of joy and wonder?

Then, as an adult, revisited the same place with hope in your heart only to be disappointed as it is nothing like you remember?

On one hand, time changes places, especially in the UK where many traditional seaside towns have suffered from the rise in overseas holidays, but, on the other hand, you have changed too. That child, who could see wonder in the simplest things, has grown with many more life experiences that has lifted the lid on those things we once found fascinating.

However, if you have never revisited that place, your memory of that holiday remains intact despite the fact the reality is now far different.

It is this latter that can cause us problems in our present life.

antique black call classic
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Not that it is an individual thing. We live in a society that seems to glorify an imagined past. It seems, for example, that every generation has a problem with “the youth of today”. When you take a look back through the last 60 years or so, the 50’s saw the older people complaining about the youth culture of rock & roll because “it wasn’t like that in my day”. Yet, today, those who grew up in the rock and roll generation complain about current youth culture “because it wasn’t like that in my day”, forgetting they were demonised by older people in their day!

Back on an individual level we can, sometimes, get stuck in past beliefs and actions that no longer really work for us today.

We believe we can’t do something because back in the past we failed at doing it, we don’t do something because back in the past we had a bad experience doing the same thing etc.

But that was in the past and things are different now – you are a different person now because, over the years, you have gained much more knowledge and experience of life.

Our past can hold us back yet, very often, what we remember is not quite the reality or what happened. We synthesise memories, if we have a good memory it is usually because we only focus on the good aspects of what happened, similarly bad memories zoom in only on those aspects which were bad.

If we go back to our fantastic childhood holiday, can you remember the specifics of the whole week (or however long it lasted)? You can probably recall the sense of enjoyment but could you remember all the dull parts that inevitably happen in a week? Maybe you remember the sights and sounds of the amusement arcade but can you recall that you were only in there because it was raining outside?

We do the same with bad past experiences, over time the memory becomes a single specific event that impacts on how we act today. We delete many of the other things that happened at the time because they were less memorable yet they still may have been involved in the cause of the event, or may, if we recalled them, make the actual event seem less bad than we now remember it!

“I can’t because in the past…” is not something we actually say to ourselves. We simply just don’t do it. Most of the time this is not a problem but, occasionally, we may find that our reluctance to do something, because of an event in the past, can impact on our lives today. We may have trouble with relationships as a result of past relationship experiences, we may have self confidence issues when we have had past failures, we may feel guilty when we cannot do what other people want us to do something as we had an issue when we did that thing once before or we may feel constrained by life because, once, we were held back from being our true self.

It becomes more problematic as we get older as, obviously, we have a lot more memories and because those older ones are a lot more distant making them more synthesised and less attached to reality.

Where we find ourselves reluctant or unable to do something, we should take the time to ask ourselves why. Was it because of a past event?

If so, then we need to ask ourselves, how reliable is that memory? Then move a little deeper, what were the circumstances that created that memory? Are the circumstances the same now? How much more do I know now than I did then?

Also ask yourself, what is different from then to now? Firstly, of course, you are different from that time but also the world is different, we can more readily find out more information, we can find out how others have overcome their reluctance to do something. Knowledge and technology have advanced so much that whatever happened in the past the world is a different place now.

If we want to lead a better life today, we need to recognise that the past can hold us back sometimes. We should never let go of the past because it is that which makes us who we are today but we should acknowledge that was then and we live in the now.

Beware The Secret Psychic

The Secret Psychic lives in your head!
You hear the Secret Psychic all the time, although most of the time you don’t realise that the voice is there, misguiding you through life.
The Secret Psychic whispers into your inner ear, it reads the minds of other people and predicts your future.
The problem is that much of what the Secret Psychic tells you is wrong. Its information is based on out-dated information, assumptions and your insecurities. It channels those negative voices from the past that have held you back over the years. It echoes the preconceptions of society around you.
Think about the times when you knew someone didn’t like you, or the times you may have avoided someone because of the way they looked, and the times you didn’t bother doing something because you just knew you wouldn’t be able to do it.
That was the Secret Psychic whispering.

Telling you that person doesn’t like because they are avoiding eye contact and talking to you with short sharp words, when it is much more likely that person has other things on their mind.
That person you avoid because of their looks? That is the Secret Psychic echoing societies stereotypes, the negative stories you see in the media and, perhaps, the prejudices of relatives in your childhood. It could also be based on your past experiences with people who may have looked the same. The reality though is that everybody is different and unless we get to know the person we cannot make any assumption about them based solely on their looks.
Those times when you knew you would fail, so you didn’t even bother to do it in the first place. That is the Secret Psychic feeding your insecurities, reminding you of past failures, echoing those negatives words that were said to you when you were younger, undermining your confidence.
However, just because you failed at something in the past does not mean you will fail at something in the future. In that time you’ve grown, learnt more and are better equipped to try again. Those people who told you that you weren’t good enough, that you weren’t clever enough or your looks were somehow not right, were victims of their own Secret Psychic feeding them dodgy information.
One of the issues with the Secret psychic is that its words can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. You think someone doesn’t like you so, in turn, you act offish towards them, which then makes them not like you! You think you are going to fail so you either don’t do it or you become too nervous to complete the task successfully in other words, you fail. You become trapped in the Secret Psychic’s endless cycle.
The thing, then, is to learn to quieten the Secret Psychic and stop it from holding you back.
How? Start to question the truth of those negative things that it whispers into your mind because there are times the Secret Psychic could actually be right. We need to be able to distinguish between past fears or experiences and natural instinct.
When you have those negatives thoughts inserted into you mind ask yourself, what is the reality of this? How do I know it is true? What are the alternative possibilities?
When the Secret Psychic tells you that someone doesn’t like you ask if that is likely to be true. After all it could be they do not know you well enough to make any sort of judgement about you. Ask what the alternatives could be, the other person may have things on their mind distracting them and far from making judgements about you they could be so wrapped up in their own issues that they are barely even noticing you.
When thoughts of failure surface in your mind, challenge them. Are they based on past experiences? If so, question how relevant that past experience is to you right now, how have you or the world around you changed which renders that past experience void now. Do your thoughts come from hurtful words said to you in the past? Ask yourself why the words spoken by someone else’s Secret Psychic should have such an impact on you right now.
The Secret Psychic that lives in your psyche needs to be tamed. We need to take control rather than live under its influence. We sometimes need to Secret Psychic to hold us back a little but we need to use it to pause and question, just don’t let it rule your life.

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.
  

All About You (Part 2)

Self: – Confidence/Belief/Esteem/Worth/Awareness

As we progress through life there seems to be ever increasing challenges to our self-confidence and our self-worth.
Our self-confidence can suffer when things do not go right for us, or at least, as we think they should. Perhaps you notice a few more niggles in your body after exercise and then they seem to take longer to heal than they used to. Perhaps you make a small mistake but it seems to dwell on your mind or perhaps you feel like your forgetting more things than normal. These and many other factors can easily start to erode our self-confidence and increase our self-doubt.
Self-worth is how we value ourselves in society and if life events make us feel less necessary to others our self-worth lowers. Children could be less dependent on us, we could feel less important in the workplace or maybe it is we feel we are unable to contribute to wider society because our self-confidence has been dented.
Then what happens is, as our self-confidence is dented or our self-worth falls, our self-esteem, how we see ourselves, also falls.
None of this happens logically, rationally or analytically, we’re humans not robots with self-diagnostic programmes running. We don’t say to ourselves,
“wow that event certainly impacted on my self-confidence”, or
“my self-worth is considerably lower after that tough day”
What happens is that we react emotionally.
We start to feel down, about ourselves and the world around us. Sometimes this is only a blip and we bounce back pretty quickly but other times things just get worse. What kicks in is something called confirmation bias. When we’re feeling down every little thing that goes wrong seems to be magnified yet things that go well seem insignificant, this makes us feel even worse and before you know it feeling down is heading rapidly to depression.
Once we are in that cycle it is pretty hard to break because, usually, we are totally wrapped up in the effect rather than tackling the original cause. Most forms of therapy and counselling are based on addressing this but there are ways we can help ourselves.
Firstly we can make that logical, rational, analytical part of our mind look at the way we are feeling. We can ask ourselves “What caused me to feel like this?” and, more specifically, “What was it about the cause that had this effect on me?”
Then we can engage that other wonderful human talent – imagination.
Take a little time to imagine looking at yourself from the outside. What would you say to someone else who was feeling down about themselves because of whatever cause you have identified? What words of advice and encouragement would give to that person? By detaching ourselves mentally we can begin to detach from the emotional effects of the cause. This may not fully stop us feeling down or depressed but it is a start and just by being aware of what is happening to us helps weaken the cycle that is dragging us down.
The second thing is to re-evaluate the whole idea of self-worth. It is something that happens unconsciously and based solely on the perceptions we develop through life. However, the reality is, as we get older our value to the world around us increases all the time.
Both our successes and failures add to our worth because both success and failure give us something far more valuable, EXPERIENCE.
Success gives us experience of how to do things, failure gives us experience of how not to do things. If anything failure gives us more value as we learn more, we will learn how to change things in order to overcome failure whereas we tend not to change or learn when something is successful. It is gaining experience in life that helps us grow as individuals, the more we grow the more value we have to the world around us.
Now I can almost guarantee that anyone reading this has had times when their advice or experience has been ignored or dismissed by others but that does not devalue you or your experience rather it is about the other person being on their own journey through life, gaining their own experiences and learnings (more on other people in the next post!).
In essence life throws seemingly endless things towards us which knocks our self-confidence, self-worth, self-belief and our self-esteem, which, in turn, can impact on our mental well-being

However, if we develop our own self-awareness in recognising these things we can help ourselves, and our mental well-being. And by learning and practising that self-awareness we can better recognise our value in the world.