Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Don’t live a life you didn’t choose for yourself

You can design your life rather than letting it run on by default.  In this post I’m going to show you 5 simple steps that you can use to actively design your life.

If you don’t design your life you will get to your deathbed feeling that you could have done, been and had so much more.  Taking control of your life means that you will create a unique, interesting and satisfying life according to your own standards.  Others will be on awe of your level of control and satisfaction and you will be a fantastic role model for your family, your friends and your colleagues.

The way you do this is to set aside a few minutes a day to be alone with your thoughts and to actively design, in writing, your ideal life.

If you read the biographies of great men and women it is clear that they had a clear vision of what they wanted.  They may not have written it down, although many have done, but they designed the specifics of their lives and did not allow themselves to get caught up with the day to day trivialities that we all face.  

It’s not that they didn’t have to do the mundane chores that are part of everybody’s lives – they did.  Where they differed from most of us was that they didn’t let themselves get distracted by the necessities of life.  They knew that they had to stay focused on the life they wanted for themselves and how to get there.

If you want to be sure of giving your ideal life the right amount of focus I suggest you do this:

1. Commit right now to spending 5 minutes today focusing on your ideal life.

2. Spend 2 minutes now and write down why you MUST focus on your ideal life.  If you can’t think of reasons ask yourself “If I DID know why must I do it?”

3. During your 5 minutes today just pick one aspect of your life, doesn’t matter what it is, and spend the whole time in writing down what it looks, feels, sounds like.  Don’t worry about doing it perfectly, just make sure you do it the best you can.

4. Don’t be tempted to go on after 5 minutes – the commitment you made was to 5 minutes and so you should stick to that.  If you spend the rest of the day thinking about your ideal life that’s great but don’t keep writing once the 5 minutes is up.

5. Rinse and repeat – complete steps 1 – 4 from now on and see how it impacts upon your life.

In future posts I might elaborate on why I think this simple technique works and share some of the specific ways I spend my 5 minutes but for now try the 5 steps and let me know how you get on in the days ahead.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

5 Reasons For Setting Goals - Do it now!

Why set goals?

The fact is that goal setting works! Research studies have shown a direct link between goals and improved performance in both sports and business.

Earl Nightingale put it this way, "People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It's as simple as that."

In this post I'm going to answer the questions "why set goals?"

5 Top Reasons to Set Goals

1. Goals can give you a target to aim for.

 Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of the classic Psycho-Cybernetics, said that human beings have a built-in goal seeking "success mechanism" that is part of the subconscious mind. This success mechanism is constantly searching for ways to help us reach our targets and find answers to our problems.

According to Maltz, we work and feel better when our success mechanism is fully engaged going after clear targets.All we have to do to use this mechanism is to give it a target. Without one, our success mechanism lies dormant, or worse, pursues targets we didn't consciously choose.Goals provide your success mechanism with clear targets of your own choosing based on what is most important to you

2. Goals can help you concentrate your time and effort. 

One important reason goal setters achieve such outstanding results is that they have learned how to focus and concentrate their time, energy, and resources on a single objective; even if it is just for a few hours at a time. Their concentrated power can produce results that are much greater than those achievable through the diffused and unfocused energy many people use to get through their days.

A clear example of the power of the concentration and focusing of energy can be seen in a simple magnifying glass. The light from the sun arrives at the Earth as diffused energy.We know the energy is there because we can feel the heat from sunlight on our skin. When this diffused energy is concentrated through a magnifying glass, and then focused on a specific point, it can easily burn a piece of paper or wood. 

The same amount of energy that in one instance could only produce a very slight increase in temperature, when focused can start a fire.

Another example is the laser beam. When all the light waves from a given source are concentrated so that they are all in phase, we end up with a laser beam. When a laser beam is focused on a given target, the results can be astounding: the light waves from a powerful laser beam can easily cut through a thick piece of metal. When we focus and concentrate our time, energy and resources, we can similarly cut through many of the challenges and obstacles that are standing in our way.

One major time management challenge we are facing today is that there are more things available for us to do than anyone could possibly attempt, let alone accomplish, in an entire lifetime. If we are not careful, it is very easy to diffuse our time and energy with many different trivial pursuits, aimless distractions, and general busyness.Goals provide a way to focus and concentrate your time and energy into carefully chosen targets that are designed to make significant positive impacts in your life.

3. Goals can provide motivation, persistence and desire. 

Most significant accomplishments are riddled with obstacles, struggles, and failures. It is estimated that Thomas Edison failed over one thousand times before he finally discovered a way to make the light bulb work. 

It is very rare for something important to be accomplished successfully on the very first try.If you want to achieve anything significant, it is likely that you will struggle and fail many times before you finally reach your target. High achievers keep picking themselves up after each fall and continue working steadily toward their targets until they finally reach their goal. 

Struggle and failure are often part of the price you have to pay for high achievement.As you can see, any major accomplishment requires motivation and persistence. 

Where does this motivation come from? It comes from your desire and purpose, from the reasons why you want to accomplish it.It's been said that a person with a big enough "why" can bear almost any "what" or "how." When your "why" is big enough, you find a way to reach your targets, even if you have to struggle and try many different things to get there.One of the main reasons people give up so easily in the face of failure is that they loose sight of their "why." Goals can help you remember your "big why" when you need to pick yourself up and keep going in the face of adversity.

4. Goals can help you establish priorities. 

You will find many forks in the road between where you are now and where you want to be. Instead of just going with the flow and letting the "current" or other people's interests determine where you end up, you have to consciously decide which way to go.

Goals and the missions, visions, and dreams that inspire them, provide a natural framework to help you identify and establish your priorities and make the "right" choices based on the long-term view of what is most important to you.

5. Goals can provide a roadmap to take you from where you are to where you want to be. 

A well crafted strategy with an accompanying set of intermediate goals provides a framework to reach far away targets. One of the best ways to deal with large or seemingly "impossible" tasks is to break them up into a series of intermediate achievable steps and get to work on each piece. As Brian Tracy likes to say, "By the yard it's hard, but inch by inch it's a cinch!"Your intermediate goals give you valuable feedback: they tell you whether you are making progress or not, and can warn you if you are getting off course.

In almost any endeavor, you will need to make adjustments to your plans and overall strategy as you learn from your mistakes, face and overcome obstacles, and experience unexpected setbacks. As the old adage states, "No plan survives first contact with the battlefield."Your strategy will also need to change and adapt based on the situations and circumstances you experience.

Note that in all the five reasons above, I say that goals can help you in various ways. In order for goals to help you, they have to be the right kind of goals and you have to use them in the right way. 

Now you know the answer to "why set goals?" I will move on, in the next post, to how to set goals.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I can help you...

I've had a revelation. It's taken me a while to get here but I've just realised something that I should have realised a long time ago.

This blog is almost a complete waste of time.


Because it's called "Self Help That Works" and if you have landed here THAT'S what you want. It's that simple.

But what have I been serving up? Not that. It's been close at times but it's not been that.


From now on that's what I'm going to give. I can't promise to give it very often but I can promise to give it.

I have some answers. I have answers because I've found ways to succeed during the last...almost 40 years...I'm not going to boast...that comes later :)

So...come back now and then and see how I'm doing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Watch a movie, change your life: Can films make a difference?

Linda is a highly functioning autistic woman who loses her only child in a car accident. The cold and emotionally distant stranger who was driving the car comes to apologise and stays until after the funeral. As he watches Linda's different approach to life he lets himself relax more until, by the time he leaves her, he has “thawed”.

That is a brief synopsis of the movie Snow Cake. I watched it last night and enjoyed it. I've been thinking about it today and considering what, if anything, I can learn from the story.

As I have said on this blog before I am a voracious consumer of self help books but lately I've been thinking about other sources of wisdom and “lifehacks”. Movies are such a source.

This is most obvious in children's movies. The lessons in a film like Cars are laid out for all to see, requiring little work from a young mind. Adults usually have to work a little harder when they watch their own films. But the work pays off when you find something that resonates with your own life.

Here are my top 5 films with life lessons:

1. Fight Club

Tyler Durden's speeches are full of overblown rhetoric but I associate with the essence of his comments on modern society. The film didn't make me take up fighting but it did make me question some assumptions about what I wanted for my life and pointed to some answers.

2.Ferris Bueller's Day off

Ferris sums up his approach to life with “Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it“. Who could disagree with that? This is about having fun and not worrying too much about the rules just as long as no one gets hurt. I watch this film when I've been taking myself a little too seriously...

3.It's a Wonderful Life

Not only is this the perfect Christmas film it is a great reminder that we can forget our positive impact on others and our world.

4.Touching the Void

I cheated a little in adding this as it's a documentary but Joe Simpson's story of survival is incredible. There are lessons about decision making, achieving your goals and the importance of not giving up in this film.

5.Finding Nemo

In addition to getting childcare lessons from the turtles there are lessons here about being true to your nature yet not being afraid to try something new.

And what about Snow Cake? For me the film was a reminder about enjoying the present moment and to understand that there are many ways of seeing the world.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Buyers' Remorse

I buy a lot of self help books. I spend lunchtimes browsing the self-help section of Borders and I get a tingle when I see a new one that looks promising. I pick them up knowing how I should examine them; read the index, read about the author to establish their credentials, look for chapter headings and diagrams, read the back cover for testimonials. And sometimes that's exactly what I do.

But sometimes the title or the promise ("Transform Your Life", "Find Your Purpose")creates such a positive emotion that I am going to buy it no matter what my examination reveals.

Sometimes the emotional reaction leads to a good purchase. Mostly it doesn't and I end up reading the same tired self-help cliches for a few chapters before I throw it aside. And it's then that I get buyer's remorse a horrible feeling for someone who prides himself on making rational choices. I don't want to feel that emotion very often in the future but I suspect I will.

Most self-help books are full of platitudes, are overly-long or are written by people who are poor role models for success so I'm likely to experience buyer's remorse again.

So what can we can do to reduce the risk?

Here are my top tips:

1. Spend 5 minutes mentally interrogating the author ("If you are such a massive success why did you sell your book to Crud Publications?" "How long have you been teaching this stuff?"

2. Ask yourself "If I could only take 20% of my library with me if my house burnt down would this book be in my hand?"

3. Check the contents page, chapter headings, diagrams etc for things that interest you. Then do a sample read of a section that looks promising.

4. Promise yourself that you will never buy a book without checking Amazon or other online reviews.

5. Make it a rule to give away or sell a self-help book everytime you buy a new one.

6. Think about a self-imposed fast for a month/6 months/12 months.

You never know - I might even take my own advice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Four Hour Work Week Is Ruining My Life...

It's rare that a book nags away at me.  Most self help books are instantly forgettable when you put them back on the shelf.

Having now read Tim Ferriss' "Four Hour Work Week" at least 4 times in total (that's not including all the dipping 
into read throughs) I can safely say that it won't be going back on 
my shelf for quite some time.

I'm not going to review it because others have done it better than I would hope to (I'll add some links to reviews and stuff shortly) but I wanted to point out that you need this book.  Whoever you are and whatever you want from your life - you need this book.

So if it's that good why is it ruining my life?

Here's the first bunch of reasons:

1.  Most of the ideas Tim presents are simple yet pretty profound and I find myself thinking "Damn, why didn't I think of that before!"

2.  I am constantly looking at my own life and wondering how I can get from where I am to where I could be with a little help from the book

3.  There are so many little tips and techniques in it that I get mad at myself for not applying them all in my day to day life.

4.  His whole "creation of a muse" idea is driving me insane.  I want to find a muse or three and quickly so that I can start living a much cooler life.

5.  It reminds me to read his blog and that makes me mad as hell when I read about all the cool stuff he's doing :)

There.  I've said it.

For those who have been hiding from the internet this is Tim's website... and don't forget to check out his blog.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Knock Knock

For anyone who may have read this blog before and who might be keeping a watching eye on it...sorry about the slight (7 months?) delay in posting anything new. You know what it's like, sometimes life takes a hold.

Anyway I've been working on some new ideas and have been keeping up my self-help reading so I plan to set out some thoughts over the next few weeks.

So bear with me chaps...