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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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.

Yes We Are All Individuals

Have you ever felt slightly at odds with the world? As if you can’t really see where you fit in the world at the moment? When we feel like this, especially at mid-life, we begin to think the problem is with us and this causes worry or stress.

Actually, it is perfectly normal to think like this, because it is a quirk in the way our minds work.

The first thing to understand is that how we each see the world is as individual as our fingerprints.

Each of us filters the world based on our beliefs, our values, our education, our upbringing which means we experience every experience we have differently from those around us. Even family members sharing the same experience will mentally interpret it differently. Take, for example, two children on a family holiday. They will experience the holiday differently, their age difference will have an impact because of their understanding of the world at their age and one will probably get more enjoyment out of the holiday than the other depending on the activities they do. The result is they will have slightly different memories of the holiday adding to their individual view of the world as they progress through life.

As we experience more experiences it makes us even more individual in the way we see the world.

Obviously we are not always so wildly different from everyone else.

As we encounter other people in life there will be those we get on with and those we do not. If you take time to think about it, it is those whose world view is closer to ours that we get on with and those whose view is at odds with our own that we will avoid. All those times you have taken an instant like, or dislike, to someone new, it is our filters subconsciously working and assessing how this person will fit in to our life.

It is our unique view of the world that makes us who we are and who we relate too.

So YES we are all individual.

BUT

While we are all unique we are also all hard-wired to conform.

Conformity is a natural part of human evolution. The survival of the pack, tribe, community is dependent on those within it working together and coming together for the benefit of the community. It is the conformity within society that sets the rules and boundaries of acceptable behaviour (in a given time and place!). It is a powerful force used (and abused) by politicians, advertisers and anyone seeking to gain an advantage over others.

So deeply ingrained is the need to conform that even those who rebel against conformity usual find some way to conform themselves – for example think about “rebellious youth” over time, Teddy Boys, Mods, Rockers, Punks, Goths, each developed their own way to conform, the clothes they wear, their music etc.

Those who truly don’t conform in society are usually labelled as insane or as criminals.

Naturally the degree to which the need for conformity affects us is dependent on our individuality but because of our individuality and our need to conform, every so often there are inevitably going to be clashes within us. Sometimes our individuality dominates and we feel at odds with the world other times we can be consumed by the roles we conform to and we feel that we are losing our identity, our individuality.

As long as we understand that this is normal, because that is how human brains work, then we also know that there is no need to get to worried or stressed when it happens and we can work out why it is we are feeling the way we are at those times.

The better we can develop our self awareness in all aspects of our lives the better we can move forward in life.

Individuality and Conformity, and the relationship between them, is obviously a complex subject and I have only skimmed the surface here – for now