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.



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.

The Inevitable Truth

There may be many different factors that can impact on our mental well-being as we go through mid-life. These factors are dependent on our personal circumstances, our personality and our own sense of self. Yet there is one common factor we all share.
Mid-life means we are getting ever closer to later life.
And there seems to be some law in the universe that states time goes quicker the older you get, so the second half of the mid-way point will seemingly fly past! As yet (at least at the time of writing!) neither the secrets of immortality nor the Fountain of Youth have been discovered, so we need to prepare for later life.
Not that later life need be something we should worry about. Just look at the number of over 70s running marathons nowadays or the number of pensioners enjoying world travel.
But to be one of those people we need weave the preparations for later life within the goals we develop to improve how we feel right now.
There is an increasing body of scientific knowledge that shows both physical activity and mental stimulation help us live fuller, richer lives in our later years. Physical activity helps keep us mobile, prevents falls and more able to do the daily activities in life that we take for granted today. Mental stimulation helps prevent cognitive decline, keeping our minds sharper and, again, keeps us able to do those daily activities.
Obviously we can’t truly predict what will happen to us in the future but surely it makes sense to make sure we face the future in the best possible shape we can.
Balance is the key.
You may have decided that you want to run that marathon, which is a fantastic way to maintain that physical health to see you into later life, yet you need to use some of that time away from training to stimulate your mind. On the flip side, if you plan to write that novel that has spent years gestating inside your mind remember to take some time away from your keyboard to get in that physical activity.
Of course, as we plan for our transition from mid to later life we have to consider finances. Obviously many have already got those financial plans and pensions in place but for others, even some of those with pensions in place, there will be concerns about how they will cope in later life – another cause of stress in mid-life.
Now it is unlikely you will be able to persuade Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Jack Dorsey to hand you over a million or two, so it is time to take a reality check on your financial future and, once again, weave this into you vision and goals for the future. After all there is no point having a goal to travel more unless you have the money to back up that plan.
Rather than letting the thought of getting older and hurtling toward later life get us down we can start, right now, to build a vision for our future that embraces later life because, after all, it is the inevitable direction we are heading.

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.