Problematic Personalised Truths

As promised, more on Personalised Truths, those pesky, sometimes damaging, ideas we have about ourselves that we believe to be true even when there is absolutely no evidence that they are actually true!

These ideas may have been created by us or they may have been put in our heads by others, but whichever route, it is because we believe them to be true they become a part of our unconscious thinking and, therefore, impact on our feelings and actions.

If you think about a time when you have met someone whose life or behaviour you really could not understand, for example someone obsessed with changing how they look through excessive dieting, excessive exercise or excessive plastic surgery or maybe someone with an addiction which is obviously detrimental to their well-being yet the continue to do it or, perhaps, someone whose lifestyle involves risky behaviour. Behind all such behaviours a personalised truth can be found.

There are two types of personalised truths that burrow their way into out psyche, those that we believe about ourselves and those we use to justify things that affect our lives.

The first, what we believe about ourselves, are those ideas about our bodies, our intelligence, our capabilities etc. for example “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure”. Naturally these truths are not always negative, some people are perhaps too positive and over confident and many of our thoughts are quite balanced. Yet where we have a negative belief about ourselves it can far outweigh any of those balanced ones.

Especially where those personalised truths can never really be true in the first place!

Take, for example, “I’m ugly”. Ugliness and beauty a wholly open to interpretation, ideas of beauty depend on individual taste and, on a wider scale, ideas of beauty vary from culture to culture and vary over time. Would Titian’s 16th Century vision of Venus, goddess of love, beauty and desire, male it to the front cover of a glossy fashion magazine today?

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Another aspect of problematic personalised truths is that we will ignore any evidence that contradicts them, the person who believes “I’m always unlucky” will dismiss any good fortune that happens to them or believe that a small piece of luck will be balanced by greater bad luck! A person who believes “I am a failure” will dismiss successes as mere flukes and believe that any praise they receive is just other people trying to be nice!

The other type of personalised truths are those we believe justify our actions. At a simplistic level remember those times when you have bought something you really didn’t need but justified the purchase by saying to yourself something like “I had to buy it because it was half price” or “I had to buy it because I haven’t got one that colour”!

On a more complex and problematic level people will justify staying in toxic relationships because they believe “it’s my fault” or “things will change soon”. Or people will justify addictions such as gambling with beliefs like “it is the only way I can become rich” or “my luck will change soon”.

The real challenge with uncovering and resolving problematic personalised truths is identifying them in the first place, they operate at an unconscious level and influence our behaviour automatically. If we spend a bit of time thinking about our behaviour at the end of the day we can begin to unravel those personalised truths that hold us back. Alternatively, if we are brave enough, we can asked friends and family what it is they least understand about the way we behave, that will give us a good route to uncovering those underlying beliefs.

Once we have identified them we can begin to really question them. What evidence is there that they are true? What evidence proves them untrue? We need to be fully critical here as we will, if not, just dismiss that contrary evidence. We need to engage with the process logically and rationally so that we can begin to believe those personalised truths are, in fact, untrue.

It is not an easy process but one we need to undertake as it will improve our lives and our well-being as we move forward to success and happiness in life.

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.

Building Your Positive Mindset

If you are in a mid-life rut getting out of it and making changes to improve how you feel about your life seem difficult this is usually because at mid-life we have so many ingrained habits and set ways of thinking that change is harder than it was in our youth.
To successfully begin the process of change for the better we need to start building new habits and ways of thinking and that all starts with developing the positive mindset.
Positive Thinking plus Positive Action
Start by fixing in your mind what successful positive thinking is and is not.
It is not about looking at life through rose-tinted glasses, wandering through life believing that everything is okay with the world and you need to nothing is ultimately unrealistic. Similarly Positive Thinking is not simply trying to will good things into existence that, on its own, is just daydreaming.
Positive thinking is about focusing on ways to move your life forward. It is about having belief in yourself and your abilities to overcome those obstacles in everyday life that get in your way. Positive thinking is about having goals you want to achieve and faith in yourself to be able to actually achieve them.
Effective positive thinking needs to be grounded with realism, accepting that life will throw up challenges and problems. Yet rather than focus on those problems, as most people tend to do, we must focus on solutions and finding ways to move beyond those stumbling blocks. We all have it in us to either overcome the things life throws at us or seek out those who can help us do it.
Effective positive thinking also needs to be a little bit self-centred. We need to be focused on those things only we can have an effect on and not on the actions and deeds of others or events that are beyond our control. Obviously being self-centred doesn’t mean thinking about doing anything that would be detrimental to others but if we can be the best we can be then those closest to us will also benefit.
However no amount of positive thinking will come to anything unless we put those thoughts into action.

That, of course, is not always as easy as it sounds. Stepping outside of our comfort zone is often difficult for a number of reasons, not least because, as the name suggests, in our comfort zone we are comfortable therefore outside that zone is uncomfortable!
We come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid taking that step outside, we don’t have the time, we so many other things to do, we will get around to it but no just yet etc. Our habits and routines, our worries and fears and our beliefs about our abilities all trap us inside the comfort zone.
To build and develop our positive mindset we need to break down those barriers of the comfort zone in order to move forward in the direction we want to take in life. Obviously, as with all things in life, sometimes are easier than others to do this yet waiting until the time is right can just reinforce the comfort zone barrier as it is often to convenient to tell ourselves that we will wait just a little longer until circumstances are even better and that time never comes.
To develop a positive mindset we should start to break down the restrictions of the comfort zone and an effective way of starting that process in getting into the habit of breaking habits!
We all have our daily routines, so we can start by changing one thing every day. Maybe you could change the order of the way you do things when you first get up in the morning, maybe you could change the things you do on the way to work every morning or maybe in the evening you could turn the television off for half an hour an practice you positive thinking.
If we want to become good at anything it takes constant practice, building your positive mindset is no different. Training our minds to think differently, positively will help us break away from the comfort zone which so often holds us back from achieving success and fulfilling our lives.
Building your positive mindset will also build your self-confidence and self-esteem and create a positive cycle of thought, the more we build the stronger the positive mindset becomes.

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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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.

The Footsteps of Giants

One of the issues with moving your life in a new direction is finding the right way for you.
For example, have you, or anyone you know tried to lose weight – and failed? Maybe you’ve tried the latest fad diet, which worked for someone you know but did not work at all for you.
It is all back to the issue of how individual we all are. We all have different motivations, beliefs and ideals that have an effect on how we do things in life.
One of the most popular ways in joining a diet club, such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World. The reason these work is because of social pressure, the thought of being weighed in the group every week provides an incentive for those who go. However, if you are the type of person that really does not care about what anyone else thinks or if you are an introvert for who the thought of mixing with relative strangers once a week is an horrendous one, then diet clubs are never going to work for you. You need to find another way.
Whatever it is you want to achieve, there is rarely one best way, it depends on the type of people we are.
Similarly we deal with the problems that life throws in our faces in different ways. Think of the times you have been frustrated by something within seconds of it happening and those times when you have patiently, without complaint worked through other things in order to overcome them, or perhaps a time when you have solved something for someone else who could just not seem to get to grips with the issue.
While we have these individual approaches to the  desires  and problems of life, there are those who are similar in their approaches and closer to how we think who have already achieved, or tried to achieve, whatever it is that you want for your life. By seeking these people out and learning from them it makes our lives easier.


In others words, look for your role models and the people who inspire you. If you want to become an entrepreneur, who do you aspire to be like? Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, James Dyson, all very different people who found different ways to make their money. Perhaps you aspire to be a successful author, like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King or Agatha Christie. Again people with different styles, backgrounds and methods.
You get the idea.
The trick then is to take time to study how your role model achieved what they did and then apply that, where you can, to your life. It will not suit every situation but it will help you having a broader perspective on things, a perspective that is more in line with how you think.
Role models need not be distant celebrities, they could be people much closer to home. Where this is the case use the opportunity to speak to them, and ask them how they do what it is you admire so much. They may not be able to tell you exactly (try explaining something you do automatically!) but you can learn how they learned, how they approach life and the problems they encountered and, importantly, who inspired them.
We are most likely to choose role models because we feel we can relate to them, this is because they appear to think and behave the way we do. There will always be some differences but that does not mean we should ignore their experiences and history. If we can learn something from their successes that we can usefully apply to our lives, then we can create our own success in whatever it is we want to do.
In this wonderful multi-media world seeking the footsteps of giants is so much easier and making the time to do that right now can really make it easier to move forward in life.

An example discovered after I put out the post originally – https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/01/health/13-virtues-wisdom-project/index.html – worth a read
  

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.