Archive for December, 2010

Change happens from the inside out

December 29, 2010

Change is not a New Year's fad

Change is a constant desire for many and as we approach the end of the year we consider the changes we want to make with clarity and conviction. All too often they are soon forgotten and we continue on as we have feeling bad about it. If you really want to make change you must first understand where it comes from.

A man goes into a Buddhist restaurant and ordered soup. He hands the monk $20. After waiting a moment he asks for change to which the monk replies, “Change comes from within.” For our external world to change there must first be a shift in our interior landscape.

Sometimes when things are not working out as we had hoped we want to make changes fast. So, we  move states, change jobs and even change partners. Nice try, but you still end up with you, wherever you go.

You can’t hide from yourself. You are the common factor in your life and, no matter where you go, what you do, or who you do it with you have to be there. If you don’t change internally, then all the external changes aren’t going to help.

Change is not about location. It’s internal, not situational and, when we recognise it as internal, we foster the shift in experience that we seek. In order to change, we must start to act. When we start to act, then we change, and that is the difference we seek.


The pursuit of meaning

December 24, 2010


Reflections of time past

I look out across the ocean and realise how far away I am from everyone else in the world. I realise that I’m responsible for my life and how I create it. Where I am now is the result of the choices I have made. I want to value the moment. I can never return.

I look back with longing to times past. The paradox is that I wasn’t really there. Even then I was focused on the future and reminiscing about the past. I missed the moment then, and might miss it again now.

Meaningful lives don’t happen by accident. They require effort, mistakes, risk, striving, learning and overcoming. They also have achievement, happiness, success, growth and contentment; often at the same time, in different measures.

Change and transition is inevitable. Our bodies age and our failures leave welts on our soul. Time is never on our side. Accepting reality can be confronting. We need to steer our ship through the storm. The alternative of abdicating responsibility to the winds and currents can only result in our lives smashed on the rocks.

We don’t have to forget the problems of past. We can accept what has happened and learn from it. We can embrace our transition points. I’m happy that life has crossroads, and at each crossroad I choose my own path.

I now look back at the times past and enjoy the good times that brought me to today. I also look back to learn from my mistakes, to savour that, even when it’s bitter.

 Inevitably, I know that we all have to look forward instead of back. In the pursuit of growth, it’s better to choose the new than the old. But sometimes it’s also good to hold on to something for a while, to be in that moment.

Merry Christmas and I wish you all a happy, safe and prosperous new year.

The best days of our lives

December 22, 2010


Happy days are here now!

When were the best days of your life and how great was it way back then?

We remember the exciting and transformational experiences that help shape the fabric of our lives. These experiences set us on the path to who we are today. These times can come from days past when the passion for life and the prospect of our future success was fresh and exciting.

“I’m going to rule the world, be rich, meet the person of my dreams and make it to the top. It’s all ahead of me and up to me. I’m going to shake it up and make my mark starting now! Watch out world, here I come!”

We lived life with intensity and shared this time with friends. Emotionally charged, we enjoyed every minute in vivid colour. We were young and free, not yet burdened with the realities of the world, and felt strong, powerful and alive. Looking back we remember a life that was full to overflowing and a great time had at every turn.

As the years progress we look back with melancholy to the ‘good old days’, often through rose coloured glasses that heighten the good times and ignore the bad. We were forever young and now, looking back, we feel a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of sadness for a time that we hoped would never end.

We’re proud of those days, because they represent a time of rapid discovery and advancement. All good things, as they say, must come to an end. Great days past remain an important part of our identity.

For many, these times were short lived and moving on can be difficult and painful. Some athletes or musicians whose success flared hot and then died away have great difficulty in accepting life away from the limelight. There are many examples of the tragic consequences that this can bring. Others take the skills and passion that helped them to achieve great success and apply these to new pursuits in business, the community and life.

Reliving the past as the only basis of our self worth is short changing our lives. Using it as the foundation stone for future success and contentment is a wonderful alternative. Enjoy the contentment of past success and move on to future ones.

What can the future be like if we apply the lessons we learned and move on to something else even better? If we believe that our best days are behind us, we’ve lowered expectations for our future.

Alternatively, we can feel fortunate and satisfied to have had those experiences, and find a way to build on that for the future. Our objectives and outcomes may be different, but enjoying the challenge and the journey are not.

Life is good. And I want the future to be better than the past. The best days of my life are yet to come. How about you?

Are you winning the competition of life?

December 15, 2010

Are you winning the game of life?

When we look at our achievements it’s natural to compare ourselves to others. After all, modern life has been built on that premise.

As a child are we academically above, on or below average? Or in sport, did you win, did you beat the other person’s time? In our final years of high school we aren’t graded on merit but rather on the bell curve where a ‘normal distribution of results’ is required. Good results are required to ‘win’ a place in university. Many of us then ‘compete’ for a good job and ‘fight’ for promotions to get to the top quicker than anyone else.

Then too, there’s the media showing us how we are to look, what we should think, and what we should be like. Plastic surgeons have had a run on ‘full body makeovers’. Anorexia sufferers plaster the tabloids.

How are we compared to our peers? Am I more successful, do I have a better car, who’s winning the game of life?

Life’s just not that simple. There are so many variables that direct comparison is not possible. In an earlier post I spoke about the problems of trying to apply one solution to every circumstance or to apply the results from another directly to oneself.

If you opened a bookshop is it fair to compare yourself to the sales, profits and advertising clout of a national bookstore chain that has been open for many years? Of course not, but that type of unrealistic comparison is exactly what people do every day.

This often leads to feelings of not being good, successful, strong or capable enough. And feeling like you never will be. It completely overlooks the personal strengths that can be brought into play to get an equally good, perhaps even better, but different result.

Life’s not a one size fits all proposition. In our example of the bookshop, the owner may have opened in a holiday location and specialised in inspiring biographies and fun fiction to cater for the holiday market, perfectly located opposite an outdoor coffee shop and across the road from a popular beach.  The handpicked stock and friendly, personal service have customers flocking in and buying online when they return home. The business is a huge success and the happy owner enjoys a healthy income and a wonderful lifestyle.

Not quite a direct comparison with the larger ‘more successful’ national competitor but a more contextual, realistic assessment? In every life, context is everything. So the reasonable comparision will be different in every circumstance.

The point is that the preoccupation of comparing ourselves with others is a major trigger for a plummet in self-esteem. The feeling of failure fills the space between what we would like to be, do and have, and what we see ourselves as actually being, doing, and having. This comparison is most often flawed.

When we enter the state of comparison, our view of the world is distorted. We become blind to our own value, while devaluing or dismissing the real worth we have.

Alternatively, if we compare ourselves and conclude that we are better than the other, we may feel superior, contemptuous and dismissive. We may not want a connection with someone so ‘beneath us’.  We may miss a fantastic opportunity to learn and benefit from their experience in a different area.

My advice is to keep a clear head and review the situation with clarity. Benchmarking against others can be of great value for tracking your progress. And like it or not the world is competitive and we don’t work in a vacuum. Just don’t let the comparison define you.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do well, constantly improve and win the game. In business this is variously called competitive advantage, benchmarking, best practice, continuous improvement or strategic development. Trying to grow and be the best you can be and benchmarking against others is OK. Internalising the results and thinking that they have a direct impact on who you are is not. When we are committed to our own success on our terms and recognise the problems we cause when we judge ourselves by comparisons, then we can use comparison as a positive driver, and it becomes an excellent tool for success.

Can I be your Guru?

December 3, 2010

Are you waiting to be shown the path?

One of the key facets of failure is the unwillingness to take responsibility. Without exercising self-responsibility, breaking the repetitive cycle that leads to failure is all but impossible. If you’re talking about change but not making changes, what’s stopping you? What are you waiting for?

Are you riding the train to ‘someday’ waiting for someone to tell you where to get off? Are you prepared to follow the signs or do you need someone to show you the way? You can stay on the train waiting for a mystic guru to appear with the magic formula for success or you can get off at the next station and begin your journey. Today. Now.

Are you prepared to take a risk and set off on your journey alone? The answer doesn’t lie in a book, seminar or ‘success system’. I could stand on a stage and inspire you with my ‘12 steps to success program’, or whatever. I could take thousands of dollars from you for the privilege.  Are you waiting for just such a program to ‘guarantee’ your success?

Systems, or well-appointed self-styled gurus with the panacea of success, which allow the abdication of self-responsibility to the program, the universe or even God, are not a substitute for YOU taking personal responsibility for your life NOW.

One of the core elements of our humanity is free will. When you were a child, the fastest way to get you to do something was to tell you not to do it. Has that really changed? Think about that for a moment. So, what makes you think that abdicating responsibility to another will ever lead you to success? Jamming a rigid behavioural template onto a person whose primary motivations are driven by free will is, by definition, crazy.

Why? Because there are many different paths to success, not a single ‘right’ one. For a start, there are many definitions about what success even means. What it all comes down to is choice, and choice is an interior process.

We cannot enter into any process of personal transformation without releasing our reliance on external factors of control. Holding onto those externalities enslaves us every bit as much as our assumptions, our expectations, our model of the world and even our own self-perception. As soon as we say, ‘I am powerless’ that’s exactly what we are – powerless. Choice, free will, the ability to script our own destiny, this is where our power lies.

In all the years I’ve worked with people seeking to make a better life I’ve not once seen anyone change without first saying, ‘I just don’t want to be that person any more’.  The first step to change is acceptance of the need to change; the second is taking responsibility for it and the third is taking action towards it.

It’s difficult to accept these things. And if that’s the case for you, and you can accept what and where you are now and be happy with that, you don’t have to change.

If you decide you want to change for your own reasons, not because of the expectations of others, then you must take responsibility; for the bad things that have happened and the good things yet to come.

This distinction speaks to the very essence of choice; choice driven by a willingness to change, which, in turn, drives interior transformation and, ultimately, the reclamation of personal power. This is an essential ingredient to change.

The choice ‘not to be that person any more’ is at the core of self-responsibility. It’s the moment when you redefine yourself on your terms and do so by taking hold of your life and your personal experience of the world.

From this viewpoint, following a Guru doesn’t afford the necessary power for the reclamation of self and personal power because it forces us into an unrelenting system of external compliance that is anathema to the very free will that defines us. You must be the change you desire.

Where on earth do I find the ‘real world’?

December 1, 2010

Where is the 'real world'?

The real world. You know the place. Where we’re told we need to be anytime we try to do something outside the ordinary, the average or the unremarkable.

We’ve all heard it: ‘You’re not living in the real world’ or ‘That’s nice, but it’s not the real world’.

What does that mean? It’s usually intended as a sarcastic jibe about something we’ve said or are trying to do. It also goes with: ‘Nice idea, but it just doesn’t work that way’.

These are the things that people say when they want to marginalise us. Other negative adjectives are ‘idealistic’, ‘naïve’, and ‘admirable’. There is usually a ‘but’ close at hand and then you know that someone is about to tell you their interpretation of the ‘real world.’

I used to hear this a lot. Then I stopped sharing my goals and dreams with all but a few close confidants; people who didn’t have a vested interest in my failure. Let me explain this further. This is how the real world works from the perspective of people who have a vested interest in your failure:

Remaining true to our ideals is nice to a point, but we must compromise in order to be just the same as everyone else. If everyone else is mediocre, why should you be any different?

No one should have too much of anything. If you’re successful then you must have had a lucky break. If you’ve got more, then I must have less. There isn’t enough success to go around.

If you’re happy, you can’t relate to regular people; if you’re rich, you don’t understand how the rest of the world lives.

It’s somehow spiritual to be poor; it’s our destiny to struggle and it’s noble to be an average, everyday working family.

I can’t subscribe to this lack mentality.

This mode of thinking isn’t based on facts. It’s determined by the collective perception of unremarkable, average people. Their lives are graded on a bell curve where the majority fall within the average range.

The real danger comes from people close to you telling you something is ‘unrealistic’. They’ll say it in a sincere and caring way, and you might not notice they just diminished you and your idea.

Sadly, some people are so fearful they’ll try to pull you back in the box, rather than follow you out.

What is most surprising is the assumption that the baseline of life is hardship and struggle. Quite frankly it’s easier for many people to live this way. Life is less stressful; it’s more comfortable to do what everyone else does, and there is the illusion of being safe in the middle of the herd.

It took many years for me to have the confidence and self-belief to rise above the naysayers. But as I did, the results began to flow. Even today I’m criticised for what I have and what I’ve achieved. It has no impact on me. I have a super group of likeminded close friends and we love to encourage and motivate each other and, most importantly, celebrate our wins. Who’s in your mastermind group?