Archive for October, 2011

‘Delusion optimism’ and the realisation of nothing

October 27, 2011

Will you take responsibility for you?

I was reading an article on the outlook of the economy and the author used the term ‘delusional optimism’. This made me think about the way we manage change, or more particularly, how we approach ‘self-improvement’ and the changes improvement necessarily entail.  We love to talk about self-improvement, read about it and attend seminars, but rarely do we do anything about it. In short, we don’t change.

Perhaps that makes self-improvement a form of entertainment rather than education; a feel good, dreamscape of self-delusion.  Much like buying a lottery ticket, we’re in love with the idea and potential of what it can bring without ever expecting it to happen.

We love the idea of change and the benefits it will bring but mostly we aren’t prepared to put in the effort to make it happen. People are deluded about what they can do, or more particularly the results they can get, without specific action or effort.

People exaggerate their intentions and are deluded about the results. Positive affirmations are a great example – we can affirm our future wealth and success over and over again but without action there won’t be traction. A positive mindset is only the beginning.

Knowing what affects behaviour has very little influence on how we actually behave. Just ask anyone wanting to quit smoking or lose weight. The answer may be obvious, but making it happen is not. Speak to a group about the benefits of change and they get very excited, ask for a commitment and the mood changes, the excuses start and the enthusiasm gets icy.

They don’t want to do it, or even admit it to themselves, because people have life equilibrium and they’re comfortable with that, even when they say they’re not. You can’t make change without some cost, even if that’s just a loss of the familiar or the comfortable.

So there remains a gap between people’s love of the topic, the content, their potential and their acceptance that it actually applies to them. Meaningful changes comes down to how bad you want it, how much you understand the cost of acquiring it, and what you’ll accept in short-term pain for long-term gain. We all have the potential to change, but are we prepared to do what it takes?


Get off your arse and do it!

October 17, 2011

Create your own luck through taking action

Your success is up to you. It can’t be bought, sold, tried on or borrowed. It must be created, will be different for everyone and will change over time. We all want it, yet many can’t define it, you may not realise when you have it and it may not be permanent.

One thing for sure is that achieving success requires purposeful action, and goal-orientated strategies to get there. You can’t plan your way there, get the answer from a book or apply a hidden formula. You actually have to do something, take that first step and commit. Scary stuff because once you do the possibility of failure looms large. Facing fear and failure is one of the prices you have to pay, and paying it makes success so much sweeter.

Still with me?

The importance of developing action-orientated strategies fundamentally recognises that life is not static, and that you are unlikely to reach a point of clarity and control from which your life progresses until you take action. Purposeful action to find success, as you define it, implies an acceptance of change and recognition of the need to adapt. 

When you’re moving towards a meaningful goal with passion, excitement and determination you’re succeeding. When you accept and adapt to that which you can’t change, even if this feels like bowing to fate, you’re succeeding. When events are moving too fast, and you feel like you’re not in control but you’re willing to roll with it and make the best of it, you’re succeeding. And, of course, when you’re in ultimate control, feeling like you’re master of the universe, you’re succeeding. This means success isn’t the outcome, but the process.

What is common to all of this is the inexorability of change.

I believe the human condition requires progress. Nothing remains the same even if we want it to. The only certainty in life is its uncertainty. The clock is ticking and your resources are finite.

You may wish to preserve today but it will be gone tomorrow. The mirror reflects more than your image, it reflects the passage of time. Try as you might you can’t prevent change, preserve this moment or ensure certainty. Attempting to do so just limits your capacity to adapt to new circumstances.

 Each moment contains new possibilities. Life and time draws us along, action and reaction, ebb and flow.  Certainty is an illusion. Can you willingly accept uncertainty and grow despite your doubts and fears? Can you create the change you wish to see?

Why we fail and what to do about it

October 10, 2011

It's always your move

There’s a general belief that people fail because they lack the skills or the ‘special talent’ to succeed. It’s easy to look at others and admire what they‘ve achieved and wonder why we haven’t done it too. Often we see the exploits of celebrity entrepreneurs and think that there’sno way we could ever do that.

Watching world class Tour de France riders on TV doesn’t prevent us from jumping on a mountain bike with the kids on the weekend. Business and life are the same – you don’t have to be perfect or the best to give them a go. We all have to start somewhere,  and a positive attitude and willingness to try is an ideal starting point.

To demystify failure, we can look at its causes and thus give ourselves the best chance of success. The following are 10 key reasons for failure:

1. You base your self-worth on what others think. If you define your sense of worth based on how you assume others see you, you’ll make decisions that you believe will please others rather than yourself. As soon as you stop being true to yourself, success will elude you.

2. You assume that your past defines your future. If you have failed in the past you may find yourself expecting to fail again. Your past results may have been so unpleasant that you try to avoid failure at all costs. As a result you avoid any situations where failure is a risk, and  then you don’t take action at all. As any meaningful outcome usually entails some risk, you rarely, if ever, accomplish anything significant. So you fail by default.

3. You don’t learn from your mistakes. Most people either take past failures to heart and give up or continue on in the same way, pretending they didn’t fail or that things will change. They rarely do.  Unless you’re able to face up to failure and understand how and why you failed, it’s impossible to change your approach and try new ways to succeed.

4. You won’t do what’s necessary to succeed. In most cases people know what needs to be done, and can do it, but simply aren’t willing to take the action or do the work required to make it happen. The best example of this is weight loss – the concept is easy, people know what they need to do, but they find endless excuses why they won’t.

5. You believe that luck or fate or determine success. Some people believe that their success is determined by events outside their control, and put down other people’s success to good luck rather than good management. They don’t take responsibility for their result, and so won’t make changes to their approach. Rarely do they acknowledge skill, determination or persistence as key ingredients for success.  This beliefs keep you focused on what you can’t change (luck) rather than what you can (skill set and effort).

6. Related to point 5 is an attitude of entitlement; a belief that the government, other successful people or the world in general owes you a living. You expect someone else to do the heavy lifting and provide an easy path to your success, while providing nothing in return. It doesn’t work that way.

7. You aren’t willing to try new things. Many people become resistant to learning new approaches or trying different things, especially if they’ve already achieved a certain level of success.  The skill set required to take a business to $1m in sales can be completely different to taking it to $5m. Some people won’t accept that future growth requires a different approach.

8. You ask for advice but fail to listen. If you ask a successful person for advice, be prepared to listen. Many will switch off or even argue if the advice they receive differs from their beliefs. If that’s the case, don’t ask!

9. You fail to realise when enough is enough. Persistence is a great trait of the successful but so too is knowing when something is just not going to work. It’s always hard to go back to square one but sometimes it’s the only sensible option.

10. Your attitude stinks. It always amazes me how many people look at everything with a ‘glass half empty’ attitude. Their negativity pervades everything they do, kills off enthusiasm and repels people who could help. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can expect others to?

It’s not possible to be super positive and run at 100% all day every day. Reality dictates that things won’t always go your way, but success comes from dealing with life and moving on. Many people who fall at the first hurdle fail to get up. Be clear on your objectives and outcomes, work hard, persist, learn from your results, be prepared to try different things, and take advice when warranted. Most of all it’s you who is responsible for your success – remember this: if it’s to be, it’s up to me.

What does being authentic really mean?

October 5, 2011


What does your authentic self look like?

In my last post I touched on the desire to be in touch with our authentic selves. It sounds right, but what does it mean? We feel it strongly when we’re teenagers like my daughter Chloe. It’s OK to want to find ourselves and where we fit into the world. But what about for the rest of us, is it too late?  That’s the topic of today’s post. 

Success finds us when we’re authentic. If we follow our heart, we usually end up where we’re supposed to be; happy and contented. We’re all born authentic, but as we grow we succumb to influences that separate us from who we are, and we’re often superficially rewarding for acting like we’re expected to.

We talk of the joy of individuality and celebrate our diversity but we’re all expected to head in the same direction, never straying off the line.

Being true to who we are takes time and effort. Here are some things to help you on your way:

  • To be authentic means to find the key to happiness and success within yourself, not within society.
  • When you live an authentic life, you are living the life that resonates with your true self and not your ego.
  • It takes courage, determination and effort to be free of others’ opinions.
  • To be authentic, you have to stop putting others’ needs ahead of your own and compromising your dreams to please others.

To understand who you are, answer these questions:

  • What in life already makes me happy?
  • What, if added to my life, would make me happier?
  • Where do I already feel successful?
  • Do I feel that true happiness lies elsewhere?
  • If I had all money I ever needed how would I spend my time?
  • What do I need to let go of now to be more authentic?
  • Am I willing to do it?
  • What will be the consequences of doing it?

Life has demands, and those demands require action. And then actions have consequences. There are also consequences for acting and consequences for not acting. It’s rarely possible to turn our life on its head and charge off into the sunset. Like it or not most of us have responsibilities.

So what can you do today and everyday to reconnect with your authentic self? It will be there if you have the courage to look.