How To Find Personal Success – Part 1

If you’re reading this then you definitely want it, and you could probably tell me what it means. But have you actually sat down, thought about it with the future in mind? Oh btw, when I say ‘it’, I’m talking about personal success, not whatever dirty thing you’re thinking of! I will show you how to define personal success in such a way that you’ll know what you’re after and when you achieve it, it’ll actually be fulfilling to YOU.

What is Personal Success?

Yes, this does sound obvious but think about it a bit more! Is your definition of personal success defined by society, your parents or your friends? Do you compare yourself to other people who you think are ‘successful’?

Related article: Claw Yourself Out from the Comparison Cave

I know my parents define personal success as literally having a home and food on the table. They’re humble people! My brother probably defines personal success as wealth and riches, a lot of people do. Before I properly thought about it, personal success was probably closer to my brother’s definition and it involved respect from my colleagues. It’s all well and good knowing this, but the question is, ‘do you want this definition you have, to be THE definition of personal success to you?’

Begin with The End in Mind

This is something I’ve stolen from Stephen Covey’s book ‘7 habits of highly effective people’. Read the review here.

Your definition could be fine but have you thought about how you’ll feel when you achieve it? Some people define personal success as climbing the corporate ladder but when they get to the top, they’ve realised they’ve sacrificed family and relationships. Something they never wanted. Other people have money as a primary measure of success but realise once becoming wealthy, they were actually after significance and importance, not money.

Finding personal success is about who you want to be, and ensuring that what your achievements bring, are actually important to you and truly what you want.

Here’s the good stuff. Finding personal success is about who you want to be, and ensuring that what your achievements bring, are actually important to you, and truly what you want. Imagine yourself at your death bed. Who is around you, how do they feel about you, what are you remembering about your life that makes you happy at that moment?

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If you imagine this deeply enough, then the key points of YOUR definition of personal success will bubble up. For example, at that point, I want to have a wealth of family memories of going on trips and having experiences that we as a family, all share. Personal success on this point, would mean being able to create these moments. A lot of people might think money is the definition of personal success which is fine. However, it’s more likely what they want is what money can bring: significance, control over their future, or relationships. Some of these things can be achieved without piles of cash.

In part two of this post, I’ll go into more detail as to how to translate these thoughts into something tangible and actionable. Stay tuned!

Finding personal success is easy, it just requires you to think deeply about what is truly important to you. We all aspire to be certain types of people, or to fulfil the roles in our lives, in a certain way. Defining what these roles mean to you is also a big aspect to finding personal success.

Now that you’ve thought about your definition of personal success, is it the same as what it was? Comment below!

Photo via Visual HuntvirtusincertusCC BY

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Rewire your Habits – Part 2

Hopefully you read part 1 of my ‘Rewire you Habits’ post where I talked about some really useful ways of decoding these automated behaviours. Some key takeaways were:

  • Habits are formed from the unconscious mind and therefore you should emotionally detach yourself from the bad ones.  
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A habit is simply our inner mindless robot coming out, and taking over

Why get upset at yourself if you find it extremely difficult to resist continually checking your email?

  • A habit is made up a cue, craving, routine and reward. Understanding this structure and breaking down our bad habits accordingly, gives us power over them. 

When you start seeing you behaviour through this framework, you’ll notice how habits can very easily be changed.

  • Belief is required for long lasting change. 

Think about this one. What’s the point doing exercise everyday if you don’t have a belief that it will make you healthier or slimmer?

  • Developing a single habit can lead to great change.

This one is harder to see. But you might have come across people who have taken one habit like running, and they change other aspects of their life. They might become more confident and outgoing, or they end up having new relationships.

What I didn’t talk about last time was the topic of pre-commitment. Doing this links in nicely with the basic structure of a habit: the cue, the routine, and the reward. We’ve all actually created a pre-commitment at some point in our life. We might be really motivated to make sure something happens, like we have a job interview the next day and we can’t miss it, so we set an extra alarm, we have the suit ready to go, and we have the exact directions printed out. The same thing applies with making a pre-commitment. If we’re motivated to make sure we get up early to go to the gym, we’ll have our gym clothes ready, the alarm is set and we’ll go to bed a little bit earlier than usual.

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When I first started getting up early for the gym.

We can use this concept of a pre-commitment to create new habits or to override old ones.  For example, if we want to create a new habit of drinking less soft-drink, there’s a few pre-commitments that can be tried. The simple option is throwing out the soft drink or replacing it with a flavoured water. If that’s not possible, some people will carry a bottle of water around.

To go a level deeper, you could analyse when you have a craving for a soft-drink and attempt to short circuit it. For example, you might find you get that soft-drink craving in the afternoon because you’re tired and you need a energy boost. You can create a pre-commitment by going for a walk just before the usual afternoon slow down.

Pre-commitments are a powerful way to rewire an old habit or create a new one. Depending on your situation, it might require some creative thinking but if you try different things, you’re bound to crack the habit code.

Try it and let me know how it can help you.

Do you think this article could help someone you care about with a bad habit? Click on one of the share buttons!

 

Rewire your Habits

 

I’ve finished listening to Charles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do and how to change’ and it’s great insight into how habits are formed and what we can do to change them. I’m a big believer in how habits shape who we are, as you might tell from this post and I would absolutely recommend this book. It’s worth spending the time to think about how your own life is composed of habits and which of those you would want to change for the better.  Having read it and analysed my own habits, especially the bad ones, here’s some takeaways:

Habits are formed from the unconscious mind and therefore you should emotionally detach yourself from the bad ones

Studies have been done on individuals who have suffered brain injuries to the memory centres or the pre frontal cortex (which is where much of our conscious thinking arises) but not to the basal ganglia.

basal ganglia

Image credit:kevinbinz.com

The basal ganglia is responsible for the automated nature of habits. There have been individuals who have lost all short term memory, so much so that if they feel the need to use the bathroom, they are able to do so, however, if you were to ask them where the bathroom is, they cannot tell you.  These studies demonstrate that habits are developed and maintained in completely separate parts of the brain compared to memory and conscious thinking.

We are creatures at heart and our evolved, thinking brain still coordinates with the survival mechanisms developed during our cave-man days.  Habits are one of those mechanisms, where tasks that are simple and don’t require complex processing, are off loaded so that our attention can be directed towards more important tasks. When we create habits, like eating junk food, these become engrained in the basal ganglia and so we almost subconsciously follow them. If we attach negative feelings of our self worth or confidence to our bad habits,  we should realise that they are products of our human nature and not of our developed brains.

A habit is made up of a cue, craving, routine and reward. Understanding this structure and breaking down our bad habits accordingly, gives us power over them.

Habits are made up of components and the routine and reward are primary ones. For example, if we have a habit of eating a hot jam donut on the way to work, then the routine is going to Krispy Kreme, purchasing it and the reward is the pleasure of the doughy and warm sweetness. Anyone hungry yet? In this example, the cue  might be walking past Krispy Kreme on the way to work and smelling the baked doughnut or the sweet smell of jam. When we get a waft of that, we start thinking about that pleasant swell of emotion when we bite into the donut’s soft centre, and that becomes the craving.

krispy kreme jam donut

If we can accurately break down our bad habits, then we have the power to change the routine and make it a better or healthier one. For example, the type of  breakfast I have is laden with fat and sugar, it’s peanut butter and honey on toast with banana and a sprinkling of chocolate powder. It’s pretty good, you should try it! If you make it just right, you’ll have crispy toast with a gooey, sweet middle and biting into that, is definitely the reward. The thought of that gives me a craving, even as I write! The cue was simply getting up and walking into the kitchen and obviously making and it eating it was the routine. I was able to change that to a far healthier breakfast which gave me a similar reward.

Belief is required for long lasting change.

We never really lose our bad habits because they sit dormant in our mind, so they can return quite easily if the cue arises. But these bad habits can be fought off and long lasting change can occur if we have enough believe. Studies were done on individuals who attend Alcoholics Anonymous and they had shown that those who believed in God or a higher power, were far more likely to stay sober.  In the same vein, individuals who join dieting groups, like what you might find on Facebook, have a far greater chance of keeping the weight off because they believe if others can do it, so can they.

Developing a single habit can lead to great change.

The type of habits which can achieve this, are ones that create a framework for other new and positive habits. These habits, known as keystone habits,  create ‘small wins’. These small wins give people a small advantage which trigger momentum for other small wins. A good example of this is waking up early in the day, especially to do exercise. This habit can empower people because it makes them feel productive that they’re awake whilst everyone else is asleep. That feeling itself is a small win. Then using that time to do exercise creates a number of small wins due to the various benefits of doing exercise: improvements in mood, energy, a slimming body shape, a better mental body image etc.  Other small wins are created as well, for example it might free up time later in the day like at lunch and after work.  All those things can amount to a pretty big change in a person’s life.

There is one other aspect to habits which I think is really powerful, but i’ll leave that for another day. Stay tuned for that!

Habits are a huge component in our day-to-day lives. They can kidnap our brain into doing things we know aren’t good for us, but because we enjoy the reward so much, it feels like we don’t have a choice. We shouldn’t feel bad about ourselves because of where some of our bad habits lead us because the development of them is just human nature.  However, we should seek to understand what the cue and reward is so we can change the routine for the better.

What’s a bad habit you want to change?

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The Road Trip to our Goals


Do you set goals? If you fall short of them, how do you react? We should think of them not as ends to themselves, but more like lights on an airplane landing strip.  In this post, I want to encourage you to reflect on how you review whether you achieved those goals or not.

The way I see it, there are three main parts to goal setting. How we set them, how we strive towards them and how we review them. I think we’re quite familiar with the first two and there are plenty of strategies on the Internet that focus on them. However, what is missing from many of these articles is the thinking process we should have when we achieve them or not. It can be very easy to feel disappointed if we don’t reach our target, and setting goals that are S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based) certainly help. However, it’s inevitable that we’ll fall short of our goals, even if we invest time in accurately setting them. If we miss our target, we shouldn’t be disheartened or feel like a failure. We should critically and unemotionally, analyse why we didn’t achieve that goal and take corrective action.  We need to understand that setting goals and striving toward them is an iterative process and whether we achieve them or not, we are still on our way to where we want to be and we can learn even from the lack of success. If we have achieved the goal, then definitely give yourself a pat on the back but your focus should swiftly move on to the next goal, the next landing strip light. 

Setting and striving for goals is very much like going on a road trip. You’ll set yourself an end destination but you’ll want to stop off at various places along the way. If we happen to miss our turn off, all is not lost, we have still inched closer to the ultimate destination but we do need to get back on the right path.  Next time you fail to achieve a goal, think:

  • Why didn’t I achieve it 
  • What are the corrective steps

And don’t ruminate on any subjective feelings.

Let me know your thoughts or share if you liked it! 

Becoming a Time Thief


As I get older I realise what little time we actually have. When you have a full work day made up of 7 to 9 hours, how much time outside that do you really have? You might have a couple hours before work and a few hours after for side projects but somehow these times get chewed up and whole weeks can fly by if we aren’t mindful of how we use this time. If you have kids then I imagine you get squeezed even more so. So how do you claw back time for the things you want to do? Here’s my thoughts on stealing time back.

When I look at my typical day I realise that there’s a fair bit of what I call ‘idle’ time. Moments where you’re performing a rather mundane task like scoffing down breakfast or you might be walking to work on the last part of the commute. For me these are times to take advantage of. Before I had noticed these idle times I would be off with the fairies, wondering what I would be doing on the weekend, noticing the ridiculous tie on the business man who just walked past or recalling the time my friend wrapped himself up in toilet paper for a Halloween party. Yes these times are typically filled with meaningless thoughts that I know is my brain just doing what brains do, daydreaming. These are the moments that something more productive can be done. When I’m sitting on the bus, I’m usually mindlessly watching the houses and buildings zoom past but now it’s a perfect time to blog. When I’m walking from the bus stop to work I usually just people watch but now I get my headphones out and start listening to an audio book. When I’m having a coffee break and reading up on news at work, I now organise my personal calendar. When I’m walking back from a gym session, the headphones are put on and the audiobook comes out. Whilst some of these moments might only be a few minutes long, they all add up to actual progress in whatever you’re trying to work on. There are moments like this all throughout the day. My tips to identify these times:

  • Take a macro view of your typical week. How is it usually spent? Break it down day by day with what you do.
  • You’ll find that you repeat the same things each day like commuting, going to work, lunch etc. 
  • Look at each activity and determine if it’s something that requires your full attention and focus. If it doesn’t then it’s a perfect candidate in seeing how that time could be better utilised.

 Ultimately, thinking you’re time poor is a limiting belief. There is time if you look for it and if your priorities are right. Steal the time back and get some traction on your projects.

How do you optimise the time you have?

Routine and the Jetlagged Pursuit of Goals

I think there is a productive and perhaps even a creative element to routine. By routine I mean day to day life that either revolves around a full time job, fitness regimes and other such usual pursuits. Some may think that there is banality to daily existence but I wouldn’t wholly agree by that. I’m currently within a 9-5 office job and yes I’d say that part of it is somewhat boring but I’m able to schedule my non-work pursuits around and within that quite effectively. My meditation, journalling and surfing is scheduled before work and I’m able to also fit in a gym session over lunch. Then after work I’m able to work on my personal fitness business.  It’s within these pursuits that I exercise my passion to learn and develop myself and in doing so, I look for creative ways to progress my journey. And so from Monday to Friday this tick tock of life continues for me and it does so happily.  However what happens to routine after taking a long haul flight with jet lag and a bout of the cold to boot as I have done recently? It was there but it was more of a shadow of a wimpy ghost then a grumpy drill sergeant.  I wanted to work on my business but my eyelids were like auto closing train doors with a bag keeping them from shutting.  I wanted to meditate but the constant thud of a headache made any search for inner peace, fruitless.

Even in poor health, the routines that are central to one’s life can still be maintained but flexibility is needed. For me this meant making time for meditation during the day as opposed to the early morning. I could still journal but again I had to change when I made time for it to accommodate jet lag and when I was feeling better from illness. On the flip side, it  meant that certain dietary and fitness goals I had made had to slip and I had to accept that. It takes an amount of mental discipline to maintain sight of the routines and habits that are important to you. However the disruption of routine highlights how important they are to you and how dearly you hold on to them affirms their value.

How Meditation Can Bring You Laser Focus

I wanted to find an intriguing quote on meditation and found nothing inspiring nor worth sharing.  Any Google search on it will typically bring a mix of guru, spiritual, wacko or religious themes. Any  search for an enlightening quote will similarly reflect a wide range of confusing fluff on how wonderful and soul affirming it is and it makes me sad. Sad for any individual starting out in  understanding the intrinsic value and effect it can have.

I am a detailed oriented, left brain person. I like logic, structure and clear, rational thinking. Characteristics that don’t lend well to comprehending the scratch-the-surface content out there on meditation. However I’m at a point where I’m starting to believe that meditation is as vital as sleep or human connection.

Meditation is a sharpening of the mind where the centre of your focus is on the flitting nature of thoughts. It is a practice of the continual observation of the mind. It is a curiosity of the stream of thoughts that arise unconsciously. Why do I do it? It helps me to be aware of distracting thoughts, therefore allowing me to better  focus on the task at hand. It gives me better control of the voice in my head that will either speak constantly of nothing or speak so powerfully so as to prevent me from acting effectively.

I understand why good quotes on meditation are hard to come by. It is an experience where its characteristics are common, but its meaning and value are unique to each person. Sam Harris who is a closet guru cross neurologist has a great book on this topic called ‘Waking Up’.