The Challenges of Change (Part 2)

One of the biggest challenges to change is just life itself.
We have all had times when we set out to do something only to be thwarted by life events which take  time and effort  to deal with meaning we lose that  time and effort  to use as we originally planned.
Modern life is full of things that can take our minds and efforts away from the things we want to achieve but it would be a real mistake to think of this as a modern phenomenon, life has always been like this.
Go back a few thousand years to the tales of Ancient Greece where Hercules, on his journey to immortality had to first fight through madness and twelve labours, or Odysseus whose journey home from the Trojan War took 10 years all because he was in such a rush he forgot to make an offering to the Gods before he left (the Ancient Greek equivalent of forgetting your passport!).
Maybe come forward a thousand years or so to the Bible, where Jesus could not begin his preaching until he had wandered through the desert and faced Satan’s temptations.
It is easy to dismiss these as simple stories but think about the times you have had a problem that you think you have solved but always seems to come back at you twice as bad, like Hercules facing the Lernaean Hydra. Or the times you have been blown off course after being bewitched by a  seductive  distraction, like Odysseus and the nymph Calypso. And the times you have put off doing things because devilish temptations have appeared in front of you, like Jesus in the desert.
To put it in more modern terms
SH*T HAPPENS

And it has always happened. The real issue is how we deal with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Shakespeare was in on it too!).
Some people appear to drift along in rudderless boats just being pushed and buffeted along by life’s events with no real ambition to get anywhere. There are those who will simply endlessly moan about their constant bad luck in life or those who develop extremely bitter anger and resentment at life as if all of those negative events are deliberately targeted at them. Then there are those who strive to find the best way to  deal with it  and move on.
It is the latter we should all strive to be if we want to grow and move on in our lives.
Obviously it is not always that easy, some life events really push us to the limits, mentally and physically. The tragedies and personal traumas that can occur in our lives can leave us, at times paralysed and unable to move on at first but, eventually we do, sometimes we need the help of others to lift us from the depths, other times we find the strength within ourselves to pull ourselves up and overcome these events.
Life gets in the way, life has always gotten in the way, as long as we accept that and the fact that life gets in everyone’s way in one way or another. As long as we accept that fate, the gods or the universe has not singled us out, no matter if it seems like that, we can begin to overcome the hurdles and move on with our ambitions and our lives.
More to come on how we can leap those hurdles of life…..

The Challenges of Change (Part 1)

Throughout the first half of our lives there are a lot of transition points. These points of change are fairly easy to mark out, the different stages of our education, the change from education to working life, the move from living with our parents to a home of our own, marriage, becoming a parent etc.
Mid-life is also a transitional point yet it is much harder to identify and define.
If you try to search for when is actually occurs you will get a whole range of different ages and ideas about when it occurs and what it actually means!
Because of  our individuality  we all experience mid-life in different ways some with a full blown crisis, others with a feeling that fulfilment is missing in their lives. Our lives to this point have been full of change and now we face the prospect of life becoming stale because even though changes will still occur they do not have the same impact as the first times these changes happened. For example moving home for the second or third time does not have quite the same impact as that first time you had your own home. Becoming a grandparent is fantastic but it is not quite the same as becoming a parent, that responsibility now falls to your child.
So, at mid-life, if we want to continue to grow rather than stagnate we need to be much more active in introducing new experiences and change into our lives.
Change, though, presents challenges for us.
Do this brief exercise, draw a set of circles, one inside the other.

Now write your name in the centre circle, then, in the next circle out, write the names of those closest to you, e.g. your spouse, children etc., on the next those not quite so close e.g. friends (although a BFF may appear in the circle closest to you), carry on working outwards until you have filled the last circle which should simply read “strangers”.
If you think of this circle as a still pond and then you throw a pebble of change into the centre what happens? The effect of that change will ripple outwards to have some impact on those around you, more particularly those closest to you. Even a small change will create some ripple effect.
On the flip side, what happens to that pond if you do nothing, just let it lie still and undisturbed?
It will stagnate and that stagnation will also affect everyone you have placed in your virtual pond.
The trick then is to introduce change in your life but in a way that considers those closest to you. That does not mean avoiding change because it may upset people rather deciding on change and sitting down with people and explaining what you are going to do and why you are going to do it. There are other advantages with this, they may have ideas that had not occurred to you, they may have ways in which they can support you or ideas on how they can adjust in a way that helps you.
However if they are unsupportive or critical you may want to consider where they fit in you circles!
We do not live in isolation (with the odd exception!) and whatever we do has some impact on others. One of the challenges of change is to be mindful of the effect our changes may have on those closest to us and how we can grow our lives and our relationships harmoniously.

All About You (Part 1)

When writing this post in my head I was struggling hard not to make it sound too much like a New Age piece, with elements of spirituality and meditation because these things do have a kernel of truth at their root and, when we reach a crossroads in life or are seeking ways to give new meaning to our lives, introspection is a necessity to ensure that the road we will take is the right one for us.
Why is this so introspection important?
Simplistically the better we can understand ourselves, our motivations, our beliefs and our values, the better we can build ourselves a life that truly fulfils us.
But before we can really start searching and understanding those things, we need to acknowledge one important fact that has hindered our lives so far.
We are very good at lying to ourselves!
There is a huge list of cognitive biases that impact on our thinking and our perception of ourselves and the world around us. Many of these biases will be dealt with in later posts but for now it is important to recognise that how we perceive ourselves is just that – a perception.
Do this simplistic exercise:
Write down a list of 10-20 things that you can’t do.
Now working down that list how many things fall into the following categories;
            I could but I don’t know how to
            I could but I don’t have the confidence to do so
            I could but I don’t really want to
            I could but it would be wrong for me to do so
            I could but I don’t have the time/money/resources
            I could but to do so would have a detrimental effect
How many genuine “I cant’s” do you have left? My guess is not many, obviously there are some, usually based around physical issues. So for the vast majority of things we say we can’t do what we really mean is;
I could but I have come up with a reason not to do so.
Some of those reasons are very legitimate, e.g. climbing Mount Everest when you have a condition like COPD is likely to be detrimental to your health as you struggle to breathe at altitude. However other reasons are just an excuse not to step out of our comfort zones.
One of the keys to personal growth is learning to take time to challenge the beliefs we hold, especially if they are hindering us in what we want to achieve.
We are all very good at making generalisations and, because of that, we tend to lump things together in a way that hinders our thinking.
For example, someone might say they are not very good at communicating with people but if you dig further you find that is not quite true. If you ask, do you mean all people or people in a certain context? They may answer, all people but it is worse at work. Probe further, all people at work or specific people, again the may narrow down the field. Throw in another question, so you have never communicated effectively with anyone at any time? And you start to break down that belief which is just a generalisation developed from a specific instance.
It is harder to do that to yourself but it is something worth trying to do because as you break down barriers in your own thinking you can move forward in your life with much broader horizons.
Remember your life is all about you.

Appreciate the Small Wins

There always seems to be plenty of choice around to help you achieve your goals.
The problem is knowing what it is you actually want to  achieve  in life. Mid-life, in particular, can leave us searching for a sense of purpose as things change in our lives.
You could, for example, have had children leave home, an event that challenges many people who have focused so much on being a parent. Perhaps you have found yourself stuck in limbo at work doing the same old job while watching high flying youngster being leap-frogged above you. Or, for no discernible reason, you could find yourself not knowing where your future lies.
Now if, at this point, someone comes along as says “you need to be setting goals for your future” they could be doing more harm than good.
You could well find yourself sinking further as you struggle to come up with those long term goals, knocking your confidence even further, or you could rush headlong into some vision without thinking things through properly and then, in a year or so, find that this new goal is not what you really wanted and you are back to square one, only this time with a lot less enthusiasm to start over again.
If you don’t know, right now, where it is you want to take your future start by taking small steps outside your comfort zone and explore the possibilities before  fully committing  to heading in one direction.
First of all take a little time think of something you would like to do, something relatively small. Is there a hobby or interest you have always fancied pursuing but never got around to doing? Was there an ambition you had way back in your youth that has always been unfulfilled, perhaps you just want to make the effort to get fitter and healthier, maybe you have a favourite holiday destination and would like to learn the local language.
If you want to consider your current working life, what is one thing you could do to make a change there?
Once you have that one thing you would like to do  commit yourself  to pursuing it for a whole 3 months!
YES JUST 12 WEEKS
If you would like to be fitter but have not exercised in quite a while  commit yourself  to walking at least 30 minutes a day, perhaps increasing that to an hour a day in the final month.
If there is a hobby or interest you want to pursue check out local courses at adult education centres, these usually run in 12 weeks slots, or if you are unable to find what you want locally, check online for courses.
Currently I am studying using udemy.com which is easy to use and reasonably priced but there are plenty of others out there to suit most needs.
The point of the exercise is to complete that 12 weeks. By completing that 12 weeks you have  achieved a win. You have been successful.
As important you now know if you would like to pursue whatever it was you did further or, perhaps, if it was not for you after all.

Personally, when I started my study with the Open University, I did not quite know what I wanted to study. So I took two modules one in computing and one in social sciences. The computing module I found interesting but the social science one I found fascinating so that was the subject I continued (and continue) to study.
The most important thing though is  commit yourself  to that 12 week programme. Start building your future through discovering what it is you really want to do rather than leaping head first in to an idea that, ultimately, may not be what you want or really need in your life.

By  successfully completing  those small wins you open up a whole host of things to set you on your way. Firstly you begin really developing that positive mindset, you decided what to do – positive thought and you went out and did it – positive action. Do that a few times and what have you got – a successful habit and, perhaps, more importantly, you start to gain confidence in yourself and your ability to succeed.
Additionally the small tasks will help you develop the bigger picture of where you want to be going forward. You may discard some ideas but others will guide you  onwards to achieving  bigger and better things. The small wins are the beginnings of the foundations on which you can build the rest of your life.

Appreciate the small wins they are the start of something bigger.