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.

Flex Those Motivational Muscles

What is your motivation for change?
We may dream of changing our lives but unless we have the motivation to make that change it will remain just a dream. To help us find that boost which gets us to our goal it is useful to understand what actually motivates us.
On a basic level there are two motivators, “away from” and “toward”, sometimes known as pain and pleasure or the carrot and the stick etc.


The “away from” motivation comes from our desire to leave or get rid of something. For example, we might want to lose weight to escape a negative body image, join the gym to escape health problems or join a group to escape loneliness. It is not just goal is our life that the “away from” motivator works, it is there at a basic level. We eat to get rid of hunger and we run away when we sense danger. The “away from” motivator is a part of our fight or flight response.
On the flip side the “toward” motivator takes us toward pleasure and success, again it works at a base level, those times we eat, not because we are hungry but because we are seeking the pleasure of eating something that ignites our pleasure hormones. The “toward” motivator is about adding something to our lives, making ourselves feel better, losing weight because you have an event where you want to impress, joining the gym for the buzz the feel of exercise gives you, joining a group because you want to expand you existing network etc.
Both forms of motivation are equally legitimate yet both can sometimes lack something in getting the change we want.
When the motivation to achieve something is “away from” we can have that initial push to get us going but once we a sufficiently far away from what it was we wanted to escape our momentum can falter. Think of it like using your feet to push you off in a swimming pool, the push itself will only get you so far, without any other action you will just be stuck mid-water.
With “toward” motivation we may gain momentum as we close in on our goal but it is getting started in the first place that may be the issue. Imagine you want to drive somewhere where you can really enjoy yourself, you won’t get there though until you turn the key in the ignition and spark the engine into life.
The real key is to use both methods in order to succeed, push and pull to get you where you ultimately want to be.
Start by thinking about what it is you want to change in your life and why you want to achieve that change. Is your primary motivation “away from” or “toward”?
Be honest with yourself. We can sometimes fail to recognise our true motives, hiding them behind things we prefer to believe.
Once you have figured out what it is that is motivating you move to the other end of the goal and find some motivating factor there too.
So if your initial motivation is “away from” think about what achieving you goal will gain you, what is waiting for you when you get to the finish line, what will success bring you. Say you want to join a group, evening class or such because you feel an element of loneliness in your life, you know your “away from” but what is your “toward”. Imagine the possibilities developing that new skill or knowledge will bring, the focus on the one possibility that really ignites your imagination.
If, on the other hand, your primary motivation is a “toward” one, what is it that is going to ignite that engine and get you moving. Perhaps, you want to be a great dancer, writer or something similar but what will that move you away from? If you are looking to achieve success it does, to a certain degree, mean you are feeling unsuccessful now so use that as you push forward.
Some things automatically lend themselves to having a push and a pull but others we need to dig deep to find the other end of the line that we will be travelling. By finding our “away from” and “toward” motivation we double our chances in succeeding in achieving change and success.
So flex those motivational muscles and head confidently toward your success.

You Gotta Have Faith

One of the problems that most of us have is that our self-doubt is more prevalent than our self-belief.
It is easy to see why.
One reason is that if we have self-belief in what we are doing we get on and do it but if self-doubt is there it nags at us, worries and stresses us, makes us nervous when we are doing things.
Another reason is that we often find it hard to see what we are good at, particularly if it means transferring that skill or ability to a different setting. Perhaps you know somebody who is super-efficient at work but seems to have a totally disorganised personal life, or maybe someone who seems cool and calm when doing certain tasks yet seem to fall apart with nerves doing other things?
Self-belief is, perhaps, less mentioned than self-confidence or self-esteem yet it the thing that underpins both. If we want to improve our lives in any way we need be in a place where our self-belief outweighs our self-doubt before we can succeed.

To start the ball rolling, write out a list of things you know you are good at. This helps you strengthen your strengths in your mind. It brings self-belief to the front of your thoughts where self-doubt usually sits. Once you have written out your list, do it again as the more you focus on that list the fixed it becomes in your memory. It is important to do that as will be revealed a little further down!
Once you are sure your strengths are firmly fixed in your mind, write a list of things that you know you are okay at but could be better. Once you have done this work, systematically, through the list to work out what you need to do to move that skill or attribute over to your strengths list.
Do you need a little extra knowledge? Perhaps a bit more practice? Maybe you need to be a bit fitter?
Whatever it is write it down next to that attribute. Now rewrite the list, this time in the order you want to achieve those things. Which thing are you okay at would you most like to add to your strengths list first? As you work through this list the greater the number of strengths you gain and as you succeed in moving things to your strengths list the greater your self-belief becomes.
The reason for writing these lists and committing your strengths to memory?
The next time you find yourself in a situations where self-doubt creeps in, or if you are unsure of yourself or nerves are getting the better of you, think back to your lists. Which of your strengths would be most appropriate to the situation right now? It does not matter if they may not seem directly transferable as they can still help you get through the situation.
For example, say you are a person who gets nervous at speaking in public yet one of your strengths is attention to detail. Use your strength, focus more on the detail of what you are presenting rather than the fact you are doing it in front of a group of people. Then, the more you do this, speaking in public becomes less daunting and eventually a new strength.
Self-doubt plagues us but we can overcome this by strengthening our self-belief. The better our self-belief the better we can face the obstacles of everyday life and improve our lives in the way we want.
That does not mean ignoring the fact that we all have weaknesses as well as strengths rather that we have faith in our strengths to support us and neutralise those weaknesses. It means we have the belief in ourselves to meet the challenges we face.
You got to have faith in yourself and the belief that you have the strengths to see you through life.

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 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…..

Conformity: Challenges, Choices and Meghan Markle’s Handbag

If you want a modern example of how hard-wired we are to conform just look at the “Meghan Markle Effect”. On an early official visit with Prince Harry the handbag she was carrying sold out within 11 minutes (link below). For some the need to be just like someone high profile is a powerful force. For others, obviously, this type of conformity is less important, some people go through life only conforming as they need to for others conformity appears to be much more important than their individuality.
As we hit mid-life our urge to conform hits a wall as we re-evaluate our place in the world. The thing is, nowadays, conformity has many challenges, conflicts and choices!
Once upon a time – a century or two ago – life was a lot simpler. Everyone knew their place within their community and social circle and change came slowly because news travelled relatively slowly (a gross over simplification but you get the idea!). Then came along mass production, mass media and change at what seems like lightening pace.
In this multi-media global world there are so many different ways to conform that it adds an extra layer of mental stress for many people.
We are now able to identity with and conform to an ever increasing range of ideas, people or organisations. Some people moan about the “cult of celebrity” that has grown but it is hardly surprising given the amount of television exposure and the availability of different role models nowadays.
While I have no personal urge to wear David Beckham’s pants (or whatever it is he is selling at the moment) I can understand how some people feel their identity fits in with that culture and buying celebrity endorsed clothing is their way of conforming to that identity.
Obviously there are dangers in conformity, some people’s need to conform is so strong that they end up in cults, gangs, or victims of unscrupulous people.
The real challenge in today’s world is to find the way that fits you and fits your individuality.
YOU being the most important element because there are many people out there who want you to conform to their way. We all know what it was like when we were younger, at school, when peer pressure impacts on lives but this continues throughout our lives just in a more subtle way. Obviously politicians, advertisers and companies pressure us to conform but there are also more personal pressures that we do not always realise.
You strive to be the ideal parent, spouse, child but your parent, spouse or child may have a different idea of what that ideal is and they will pressure you in to conforming to their ideals rather than your own. This, in turn, may make us feel guilty that we are not meeting the other persons expectations, that somehow we are wrong (perhaps stupid) in our own ideas or we can become resentful as we feel others are trying to change us.
Obviously we can all be guilty of doing that to others as well if our ideas are different from thiers.
Where we feel we are being pressured in to conforming to a role, or aspect of that role, that makes us uncomfortable we need to learn to be comfortable in expressing our concerns with others.
We need to learn how to be ourselves not try to be the person that everyone else wants us to be yet we also need to learn tolerance of how others choose to conform in their own way.
There is nothing wrong with following the crowd, it is what we are naturally wired to do, and the choice facing us in these times is which crowd (or crowds) suits our individuality the best. In mid-life it is also natural to question whether or not the life you conform to now is the one that still best suits you and whether or not it is time for change.
 If you want to buy Meghan Markle’s handbag feel free to do so.

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.