At the tender age of 27; it's fair to say that I've already lived a lifetime worth of disappointment; fear; sadness; disadvantage and the like, and the unfortunate thing is, that even when I don't expect it, it appears that more is just waiting right around the corner for me.
So, I've done what any person in similar circumstances might be expected to do: I've taken advantage of support & welfare services, but even I can admit that I've done it for far too long.
The problem, I guess, is I have never had a substantial period of time away from hardship to be able to let go of my dependence on taxpayer-funded support.
I'm not writing this piece because I am proud of that fact, I am writing it mostly for the purpose of self-reflection, and to give some insight into people who think I'm "no good" or a "bludger," typical of that 'stuck on Centrelink' stigma.
In the past, I used to feel that I deserved something for my hard work, my dedication and my suffering, but the truth is, deserving anything is something we're conditioned into believing, and generally, nothing could be further from the truth.
Variables exist, opportunities may be missed, mistakes may be made, undesirable outcomes occur and your mood and emotional state through all of these things will fluctuate greatly.
So, I'm no more deserving of a steady income and something to fill my time than anyone else. I'm no more deserving of a roof over my head than a man that has been homeless for a long period. I'm certainly no more deserving of a life full of everything you could wish for, than Cardinal George Pell (minus the child sexual abuse thing, I suppose!)
In an interesting conversation with a friend a few nights back, I identified that in the history of my life's ups and downs, and with all the battles I appear to face on an everyday basis (whether they be reality or negative mental concoctions), there exists somewhere deep, deep inside of me, the belief that I am destined for something better - and I do hate to use the term 'destiny' or 'fate,' but am finding it hard to pick another word there - for that simple believe that is held deep below anything on the surface that tells me how disappointing and cumbersome my life has been, is the key reason that I am still here today and that I still fight for myself.
I didn't ask for this life, nor was I given it, despite my thoughts in the past. Each moment, each decision and everything I've been through has led me to here. I realised that it was high time that I took ownership for my own reality, that I stopped blaming others; blaming society; blaming every external factor under the sun for it being 'outside of my control'.
I, whether I like it or not, put myself here - BROUGHT myself here: to a position where I am heavily broken; my life terrifyingly uncertain, and without a place to call home.
So, no - there is no way that I deserve 'the best' of anything; I do however continue to hope that something 'better' eventually comes along.
It's one of the hardest feelings to shake, yet one of the ones we desperately want to avoid. Loneliness has a deep-seeded connection to the human being.
From our heritage as pack animals to our "happily ever after" driven social cognition, loneliness has been a constant and long struggle through human existence and evolution.
So, how do you shake it? Well, if I had the answers, I'd probably experience the feeling a lot less than I do right now. I think that very much, an individualistic approach has to be taken to your own experience of loneliness.
What works or doesn't work for you may not necessarily be true for others. Take a couple of examples from my own life:
When the battle with loneliness sets in, things are amplified for me. I notice couples more; I see how happy they are together; a blinding rage begins to take form inside me for not having that level of companionship that I so deeply desire, so I tend to isolate myself until the feelings are not strong enough to affect me.
Another example is, to combat lonely feelings, I have often had a pet by my side. From ages 12 - 23 we had a family dog whom I would share most my daily experiences with. I took her busking and shared my new songs with her as she intently listened, and begged for more when I stopped playing. I'd tell her things that I told nobody else, and even though she was a dog, completely incapable of verbally communicating back, she felt my feelings, my emotions and always reacted accordingly.
A few years back I got myself a puppy - much for reasons described above, loneliness had crept into my life and become a large part of who I was, and I didn't want that. The idea of the dog is not to cure the feeling or prevent it from ever occurring, but to make the bad times when it takes hold that little bit more bearable.
Some people, however, would find themselves in similar situations - out and about noticing couples - and use this to spring hope in the fact that there is somebody out there for everyone, and that they won't be lonely forever; similarly, some people don't see the benefit in having the responsibility of a pet under their care, and that's totally acceptable.
The key thing with combating loneliness is like any other emotion the troubles you. It has its time and place, and you need to allow it that time and place and minimise the effect that it has on you. This can only happen over time, and I am certainly the first to say it is not a process I have mastered with this particular feeling and group of thoughts!
Also, it is knowing your triggers: what amplifies this emotion? Is it seeing couples everywhere when you feel alone? Is it people talking about their own partners? What is the point at which loneliness takes over your consciousness and consumes your thoughts? This is the point at which these strategies must come into play.
Identify the 'point of no return' and reduce its pressure and presence in your every day functioning.
I would say, through my own experience, that loneliness is the absolute toughest feeling to master. Through my journey, I have been successfully able to apply and adapt the principles of ACT through a number of varying obstacles, emotions, traits, thoughts and experiences; yet loneliness still troubles me and still takes a hold of me at most of the times that it appears.
Unfortunately, I'm unable to eliminate the social cues that I react to or lessen the desire to be in an amorous and harmonious partnership - however, I can control these reactions and see them for what they really are, and I can have acceptance for these thoughts (usually negative or self-deprecating) and see them for what they really are.
Yes, I may be 'alone', but are all the circumstances in my control? Of course not. I've played the dating game, I've had successful and unsuccessful relationships in the past and I've tried too hard and I've just been me. It hasn't yet worked, and so be it, for me, the journey has just begun...
I'd like to take this opportunity to announce the launch of my concept into sustainable employment for people with a mental illness diagnosis in Australia.
The concept is called the 'Sustainable Employment Mentoring Initiative,' or; SEMI for short. The Sustainable Employment Mentoring Initiative (SEMI) is a concept to fill an identified service gap among people diagnosed with a mental illness.
Brainchild of Peer Support and Mental Health advocate, Josh Forner, SEMI hopes to provide ongoing support to employees and employers alike through a mentoring, coaching and informal counseling approach within the workplace.
Often, people diagnosed with a Mental Illness find themselves unemployed or underemployed and on Centrelink benefits, and are consequently pushed through the Job Services system, where they are provided with assistance in finding employment.
The support and assistance once that employment is secured, however, seems to fall away, and this is where SEMI wishes to become involved.
SEMI will provide businesses with the support they need for employers to better understand the needs of people they employ with a mental illness, and also provide ongoing in-house support for the employee; giving them an opportunity to air out any issues and have a safe and knowledgeable contact - external to their workplace structure - to confide in.
SEMI will provide mentoring assistance to employees in their new positions, as well as coaching and information to employers on both the challenges and benefits of employing people diagnosed with a mental illness.
SEMI believes in an idea of "safe disclosure" within the workplace, and wishes to promote this ideal so that employees and employers alike can move on with the important things in their day-to-day operations, whilst SEMI provides an informed approach to support and care within the workplace.
At this point in time, SEMI is still only a concept, and I am certainly looking for any support and assistance in way of resources, ideas, strategy or funding. The time was right to launch this project, and give it a face and a purpose.
To keep updated on SEMI, please visit and 'Like' the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/semiaus/
Thank you for your support!
The most common misconception in modern psychology is that negative thoughts, negative sensations and negative memories are the direct cause of pain, and therefore we need to remove them before they get worse.
Nothing could be further from the truth. You would have noticed in my previous blogs that I concentrate on an angle of normalising human behaviour and emotion. This angle continues through this particular article, as we explore the normality of thoughts through the theories associated with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and various psychosocial rehabilitation models.
Thoughts, memories and sensations will always be there. Recent psychological treatment has however encouraged sufferers to remove, eliminate or distract from these thoughts. I don't need to tell you that this method doesn't particularly work in the long-term; the troublesome thoughts and feelings always come back eventually, and with a vengeance.
"So, where is the pain coming from, if not from these very things?" - a good and valid question at this stage of the article. As I have also focused on in previous blogs, perception is half the battle when you're facing something undesirable, or in a time of struggle.
The pain is merely associated with your thoughts by the way you perceive them, or allow them to infiltrate your conscious. This is called "fusion"; fusion with your thoughts makes them appear as if your thoughts and memories are the truth, are gospel, are a driving force and a master. The truth of the matter is, however, that thoughts and memories are only thoughts and memories.
They had a purpose in the time of primitive man; negative or harmful memories would be utlised to better inform us in the future of danger and also better evolve our decision making processes in light of this. Analytical thought also evolved throughout this process. Unfortunately, in the modern world, our minds are bombarded with information on a constant basis. The rate at which analytical thinking occurs within our skulls these days is almost incomprehensible. This is both a gift - given the sensational and incredible power possessed by the human mind - and also; a curse - given the over-analysis and constant worry of "fitting in" to our "tribe," as is one of our leftover attributes from primitive times.
Given our minds have evolved this greatly over - in evolutionary terms - a very short period of time, we should also evolve our thinking and perceptions in regards to what we experience on a day-to-day basis.
Thoughts and memories are ever-present. The mind has a whole system devoted to them, and the idea of 'removing' negative thoughts is one which should be met with a grain of salt. The only way to 'remove' thoughts and memories is through some sort of brain damage or a major neurolinguistic shift.
It is becoming a much more accepted premise to learn to live and accept our thoughts and memories as thoughts and memories, rather than allowing them to be implicit to our reception of emotional pain and anguish.
Pain comes from analysing our thoughts, and from believing each and every part of them. Fusing to their voices when they tell you that you can't complete a specific task, that you're going to die alone, that nobody loves you or that you'll never be a success. Getting us down is sitting with these thoughts, sinking into them and absorbing them as fact.
Alongside this is when our memories take hold of our daily life. Many a good person has been stuck residing in the past and struggling with memories which cripple them. I'm no exception, and I'm betting you aren't, either. Memories have an innate ability to exacerbate our worry, stress and fear, all side-effect emotions to the discomfort the memories cause. Fusing with your memories has the same result as fusing with your thoughts. You're buying into a story which is a recount of an event, and may not be an accurate representation of the truth.
The ACT model and Psychosocial Rehabilitation models owe a lot of their effectiveness to mindfulness techniques. I bring this up because the next step in accepting thoughts and memories is the difficult task of 'letting them be'.
As I mentioned, thoughts, memories and their consequential sensations are ever-present. You are going to have hundreds, if not thousands, each day for the rest of your time on Earth. So why not learn to live with them, rather than let them affect you, your judgement and your overall life? Letting thoughts and memories come and go as they please and reside in your mind or in your body is the first step into relinquishing their power over you.
It is a very real struggle and I'm sure there's some of you reading this that strongly believe that this is unachievable; that just because those thoughts are ever-present means that they'll never be able to lose their power. But if you dig deep and truly immerse yourself in the idea that thoughts are not your boss, merely by-products of your existence, and something we don't need to savour or hold on to the crux of, then you may just begin to see things change, and to see results in how you perceive your thoughts and begin to see distance between actual reality and your mind's perceived reality.
Note that I haven't asked you to challenge or dismiss any of these thoughts, as discussed those methods aren't the cornerstone of what we are trying to achieve here. The action we need to take here is being able to sit with the stories held in our mind, and see them for what they really are: stories - stories exist in our past, and perhaps in our future - but reality exists only in our present, and we need our minds clear to process and function in our present, not to process and function on the undesired outcomes of our past; the negative realities we have already lived, or; even the wishes and hopes for the future.
Using the skills I hope you have developed from my previous blogs, 'Riding the Waves of Emotion,' 'How to Measure Success,' and; 'Reconnecting Your Values System' you should now be able to identify what is important to you, how you measure it against yourself and not against others (a common theme for negative thought patterns), when and how you are able to process the emotions that you struggle with and now, how to begin a process of "defusion" from your thoughts, a concept with which I will explore further in my next piece.
Remember: it is normal to have thoughts, particularly negative thoughts. Research suggests that up to 80% of all human thoughts have negative roots or elements to them; it's also normal for us to allow thoughts to dictate our everyday selves - but you can do something to change it! You hold the power now!
As always, if you have any ideas, feedback or ways I could improve my delivery of information, please let me know via the comments. I'll respond to everyone - even the haters, as we've seen before.
Wishing you all the luck in your new found clear-headedness.
Life is a process. Like links in a chain, it only takes one fault for things to fall apart. For many people, I'm sure that they find this to be true, that if there's a central part of their life that they aren't in control of, then most of the other things can't co-exist.
This isn't a surprising or new concept, as it is basic human psychology. As humans we have a range of needs, and generally they are of a linear relationship, that one set of needs should be satisfied before the next can be and so on.
However, what if you focused more in the inter-relation between needs and areas of your life that you find important, and shifted the 'central part' of your life, as we mentioned earlier, elsewhere?
Getting caught up in negativity and when things are going wrong is one of the biggest challenges we have to face as we go throughout our lives. As humans have developed into a species, our minds have designed in-built warning systems which are highly tuned to sense danger, which in the modern world can be clearly drawn on from any wealth of negative experiences.
The loss of a job, house, death of a loved one, financial burden; all things that - without much surprise - can significantly capitulate a person, depending on how they react.
We spend less time putting things in focus which are important to us than we do reacting to the bad things that affect us - the double-edged sword here, is that our values continue to get further and further out of focus, and out of reach of fulfillment, that we begin to feel 'empty' and that something is 'missing', which in most cases it actually is.
Take some time over the next week to think about what you truly value and require in your life to make you tick, and think about just how close - or far away you are - from fulfilling a value goal in that area.
Recently, and albeit for most of my life, I've felt lonely, in need of companionship; so when I last felt that this part of my life was beginning to slip out of focus, I decided to get myself a puppy - now a puppy is a big responsibility, and it also meant that I had a lot of growing up to do in a short period of time - but it worked for me, and now I have the constant and loving companionship, with the air of responsibility and care that I had been lacking - even for myself!
The fulfilling of one value can often lead to fulfillment or progress in another, so if you're feeling stuck, or like something is holding you back; empty or that there's a gap in your life, step back and identify what is most important to you, and think about how much you dedicate to that area of your life. Reconnect with the inner "YOU".
But first, you must ask yourself permission to reconnect with inner you, because some people just aren't ready for what it might tell them.
No, I'm not OK.
Gaining a suitable and amazing employment opportunity, and moving out on my own, and then having it ripped out from under me has not been OK.
Moving back with my mum at 27, far away from all my friends, from my WORLD, from everything I enjoy has not been OK.
Battling to find work, and being overqualified to step back into entry-level roles, yet not experienced enough to work in my chosen field has not been OK.
Being kicked out of my mum's place - whom I am a legally defined CARER for - because of an evil Real Estate agent's high-and-mighty agenda has not been OK.
Not knowing where I will be living in 3 weeks time is really not OK, and people telling me to get rid of my best friend to give myself a better chance is not OK. A roof over my head without my dog's comfort and companionship would leave me more empty than I am right now.
So much has gone wrong in my world in 2015, and it's not OK. But if I look at what I was able to achieve, in my first year as an umpire on the VFL list, I look at that and think that with all that I have gone through, any lesser person would have given up completely. That part is OK; the fact that I am able to completely turn off my world and concentrate on that when I need to is totally and absolutely OK.
It's one positive in a world full of hurt for me at the moment, but It's a mighty big positive and it means everything to me.
Overall, I'm not OK, but maybe some day I will be, and that to me is enough to inspire.
So, last night I received this lovely piece of hate mail from a cowardous, anonymous idiot who obviously can't stand the fact that I am on the path to improving my life and helping others whilst doing so.
It's sad to have these moments, and to come to the realisation that there are always going to be people out in the wide, open world who want to try and bring you down. The most important thing to realise in this situation, however, is that these people have no control over you; your own circumstances and they certainly aren't supportive. Nor do they have one ounce of understanding.
Doubters have insecurities of their own. The fact that they don't know how to deal with them is clearly conveyed when they take things out on other people.
Perhaps this person is shrouded in a haze of guilt because they don't make much of a difference in the world; perhaps they're caught up in 'the machine,' and don't find meaning in their day-to-day living.
I was once like this, a person without purpose, without a vision. That was until my recovery journey began to make sense. My recovery is mine; I own it and I take what I can, and what I want - more importantly - out of it. What I took was the experience of struggle, of poverty, of cyclical and recurrent depression, and chose to use these experience to aid others who have similar difficulties.
'Similar;' not 'same.'
No two journeys are the same, but we do encounter a similar range of emotions, reactionary instincts, actions and doubts. Doubts are usually fed by external forces, by something weighing you down. This isn't exclusive to people, like this 'doubter' above, but can also be consequential things, external stressors, day-to-day life challenges.
What's important to remember in moments like this is that you are making your own headway, working on things at your own pace, through your own experiences and your own goals. Doubters my initially instigate an internal reaction, but remembering the things we've spoken about previously, it's not until you process this and understand it for what it really is, an insignificant taunt from an uneducated and gutless individual (speaking specifically of my experience at the moment), that you can move forward and continue to spread the positivity throughout your thoughts, feelings, your overall being and most importantly to those around you; which I will continue to do, unabated by idiots.
I'd actually like to thank this doubter for bringing something to my attention that I needed to write about, and I extend sorrow to them for feeling so insignificant themselves, that they feel the need to attack others who are trying to make a difference in this world and in their lives.
I do hope that he or she can now understand and challenge their own insecurities and make some positive steps to achieving a meaningful and purposeful life.
OK; so there's been plenty of advice and direction coming from my previous life coaching blogs, but there are certain times when these controlled and calm actions just cannot be processed, and we need to learn and to be aware that this too is OK.
Life is life, after all is said and done, and humans experience a wide range of emotions - a lot of the time, emotions certainly affect our decision-making, our performance and our results, and can certainly cloud our judgement from time to time. So, it's all good and well to be equipped with the tools to advance to a more meaningful existence for yourself and for those around you, but this does not mean being desensitised to - or ignorant to - your emotions.
Emotions come and go through our daily struggle. From joy to anger; bliss to dismay; euphoria to grief, whatever range of emotions you may feel or be susceptible to throughout the day, there's certain times where as humans we need to accept, acknowledge and process our emotions for the greater good of our well-being.
Over the course of my recent blogs, you've been equipped with the knowledge that failure isn't all doom and gloom and how to measure your own success relevant to your own desired outcomes and results. These things can certainly begin to shape a different view of the world and of the way we see our own picture, our own present and our own goals. However, the fact of the matter is that emotions still exist and they always will, and it is not healthy to ignore them.
Having 'Me' Time
'Me' time is one of the most important things to personal well-being, yet in a fast-paced, Western Society, it seems to always be the first thing we compromise in search of financial security and purpose to our existence.
There's no rule to how you structure your 'Me' time. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (which is where I take a lot of my content from) would suggest some short mindfulness exercises to assist in processing your daily emotions; some people (including myself) like to lose themselves in music; others write, draw, analyse - like I said, there's no rule to it.
Find the activity or way which best suits you, and best allows you to de-stress, unwind, and sit with your emotions for enough time to be able to process them without distraction, which will no doubt aid in disallowing emotion to cloud your judgments, decisions, expectations and output. If you take nothing more from this article, be sure to PRIORITISE 'ME' TIME into your weekly routine.
Identifying 'Helpful' Vs. 'Unhelpful'
Like anything, some emotions are quite helpful to our development, output, productivity and well-being; others, however, have a more negative impact. It's important to understand when you're clouded by emotions if it is helpful or unhelpful to you at any particular point in time.
Also, don't get stuck in the trap of thinking happy is good and sad is evil; this is simply not the case. Happiness can cause dramatic and undesired situations just as much as sadness or anger can.
If you find your emotions getting in the way of something important, pause for a moment and evaluate whether you have had enough of your 'Me' Time to process these emotions, or indeed whether there is an opportunity to have this time in the near future. If so, acknowledge and accept that the emotions are present, and that you have the skills and capabilities to process and deal with them during that time. Take a few deep breaths, re-focus yourself to the room and the task at hand, and see your clearer self's output and concentration improve.
If, however, there is a helpful emotion increasing your productivity and decision-making process, by all means, allow it to do so, but try to remain centred and notice if it is ever causing an issue. A rise in Adrenalin or energy resulting from positive emotional response can begin to cause problems with sleep, among other things - so use this cautiously and sparingly. Again, the emotion doesn't necessarily need to be a 'positive' one to trigger this response - a songwriter is often the most productive, for example, when he or she is experiencing high levels of pain, guilt, sadness or frustration.
What I call 'Thought Chains' are expertly referred to as 'Neurolinguistic Pathways' or something similar, and you may notice that making changes to these are well and truly in vogue in modern psychology techniques. There's a very good reason for this, and you may have seen it through Todd Sampson's TV Show on the ABC.
From a very young age, our mind begins to make connections ('pathways') though conscious and subconscious thought. These pathways are affected by everything, including the home environment, external society, expectations, results, schooling, and so on. The best part about this is that old adage that "you never stop learning" absolutely rings true for Neurolinguistics.
You can alter these pathways at any time in your life by challenging them and replacing them with a contradictory result, thought or experience. Generally speaking, negative thought pathways are far more powerful than positive thought pathways which is unfortunately due to our genetics. Negative affects are more likely to have disastrous consequences towards our well-being and safety, born from Caveman thinking.
In saying this, we need to re-manage the way we interpret positive thought chains and allow them to have the same, if not greater effect, than the negative ones. One way of doing this is replacing our negative beliefs (often born from an undesired result at a young age) with a similar situation which actually produced a desired - or better than desired - result, which outlines to ourselves that we do have the skills and opportunities to create our own future, which is not based on past experiences.
None of this is easy, and I accept that, but the major downfall of the modern human being is unregulated emotion, and if we can begin to take small steps to first of all process and understand how our emotions affect us and why they occur, we can then begin to make the steps towards constructing more realistic and helpful Thought Chains within our system, which will have a significant impact on physical and mental well-being.
Allow emotions to 'be'; you can't force them away, you can't ignore them and you can't turn them into something else. Emotions are chemical reactions within our body, and they exist for a variety of reasons. There's no need to change what or how we feel.
None of what I have described above disregards emotions in the slightest. It may realign them to have a time to respect and acknowledge them and it may help to keep them "out of the way" in that critical moment, but it in no way is a request to ignore or change that you feel these things.
When you are having your time to process your emotions, however you choose to do this, the main point of the exercise is to acknowledge their existence - both in mind and in body - and accept their presence. If you can manage to undertake acceptance techniques, you are halfway to winning the battle. Acceptance is a HUGE part in affecting your Thought Chains and regulating your emotional output.
Understanding that emotions will always exist inside your body and your mind, and that you can't physically control when or how they occur is a difficult, but major task. Noticing how certain emotions and feelings position themselves in your body and your mind will allow you to process them more effectively and also be able to understand when emotions may begin to cloud your processes in a negative or positive way, by being in tune with those feelings within your body.
Some people describe colours, temperatures, different sensations of tightness or calmness. Whatever is is for you, identify how each emotion feels, and where it sits.
The most important lesson today is that emotions aren't controllable, but they can be accepted. There are going to be times in your life where you will be fluctuating between emotional extremes - perhaps during a pregnancy, death of a loved one, a new job, a divorce; whatever it may be, there will be times when emotional extremes are going to take over without you noticing, and the thing to realise is that this is OK. You can effectively deal with them during your 'Me' time, and when they happen, sometimes it is easier to accept their presence, and ride the wave.
So, last time around we covered that the key elements of success come from within. With this in mind, I’d like to expand a little on these viewpoints and they ways in which we can minimise external ‘blaming’ or ‘transference’ onto forces beyond our control, or – even worse – other people around us.
Remember firstly that your inner values system needs to dictate your achievements and also your measurements for success. Taking stock may be an advantage if you are confused or conflicted in understanding what shape your inner values take, and most certainly if you believe your current values are based around someone else’s – it’s common, if we’re not in tune with our self that we will adopt a values system and a set of achievements which either mirror those of people close to us, or use the set that was dictated to us by our parents, and continue to lead the lives they want for us; as opposed to living life as an individual and having a meaningful contribution to our own world.
You may be thinking that in Part 1 of this blog, I didn’t make any reference to what kind of measurement unit one should use when measuring their success. There’s a very good reason for this and put simply it is because the units of measurement are wide, varied, non-exhausting and, most importantly independent. You should decide your own milestones which underpin success to you. These measurements stem from how in touch you are with your innermost values, as alluded to earlier. For example, if you value healthy and stable friendships in your life, then you may measure your success as being able to avoid conflict in friendships and have regular outings, catch-ups, or conversations with your friends; similarly, it could just be making the effort to contact them, and if nothing eventuates, then at least the effort can be utilised as a measurement of success in the friendship, because you are still in contact, and still striving to maintain that relationship as far as you can control.
Measuring your own success could include – but is not limited to: achievements; attempts; gaining knowledge; new experiences; stepping out of your comfort zone; remembering something; rewards, and so on.
It’s OK to Have Limitations — Just because something doesn’t work out particularly the way we would like it to, as humans we tend to immediately look for an excuse which is external to our own self. This again relates to evolutionary psychology and the fact that insecurity as an evolving human may have been a vulnerability.
It may be true, that in certain situations, having insecurities may prove to be a vulnerability, however this is generally contextual and we need to remember that limitations are part of all of us, and should not lead to an insecure thought pattern or vulnerabilities.
It’s important to have a sense of realistic notions when looking to define and measure your own success. Reaching for the stars is awesome, but if you’ve only got two arms to reach with, it’s going to be impossible to ever touch them. You need to develop the technology, build the space craft, fuel it, find the astronauts (‘drivers’) and launch the thing before the stars are within reach. And remember, not every mission into Space has launched successfully, so you need to prepare for obstacles, and the very small risk of there being casualties*.
It’s an important metaphor to realise that even with the World’s best resources, scientists, years of planning and amazing technology, that even at NASA, things don’t run perfectly 100% of the time. So it’s likely that in your life, there will be attempts that don’t quite succeed in the way that the final result has intended, but that’s ok; as I have mentioned in the previous blogs, this initial result will prove to inform and educate for the future attempts, future results and certainly build improvements from within.
Avoid Excuses — How often do you relay your problems, your shortcomings, your procrastination or your forgetfulness onto an external force? I can guarantee that you do it almost daily. As humans, we like using excuses rather than admitting that we were wrong; we weren’t up to the task, or; that we lack the required skills to get something done.
Realising that in yourself, you are not a robot, is a great point to start. You have honed your own individual set of skills, just as you have your own individual set of values, which will well and truly have a large impact on the rest of your life, what you do, and how you do it.
If, indeed, you didn’t get to a particular task for the day, it’s not because “time got away from me;” insist on attitude that “I didn’t manage my time effectively,” or; “I didn’t prioritise my tasks well,” or even; “I allowed myself to become distracted” – this change in perception is critical to allowing success to flourish. Making excuses means you are not taking ownership of your success, you are throwing it into the ether and expecting results. The only person who truly controls your success is yourself.
Taking ownership of your own success keeps it within the realm of your own control. It shows you where to make improvements and it decorates the path with which you need to follow.
That’s not to say that all external factors should be ignored. There will be times when, indeed we need to prioritise other functions of our life in order to manage our success in the long-term.
Accept External Factors That Are Out of Your Control — The difference between excuses and external factors or forces are that excuses are generally something well within your own control, or indeed playing a blame game and not taking ownership of your own actions – whereas external factors are things in every day life which are unpredictable, challenging and often have a grand affect on the way we continue to operate.
Family illnesses, changes to the work environment, financial hardship, natural disasters – there are a number of things which can interrupt our abilities to succeed. It is therefore our resoluteness and ‘bounce-back-ability’ that dictates how success continues to be forged after the event/s.
It’s important to separate these from excuses. Excuses are things we use to get out of something we don’t want to do, or to avoid an undesirable outcome; external forces are things that clearly interrupt and obstruct our ability to continue with the current flow of momentum, clarity or clear-headedness. This subtle language differentiation could make a huge impact on your future endeavours. My message to you is to TRY IT!
Success is Born From YOUR Actions — The actions of others should not be a detriment to your personal achievement, and your measurement of success. Getting to an interview stage of a job application is no mean feat. Obviously, the end goal and desired outcome was to land the job, but it is your actions which dictate the success of the endeavour, not the fact that someone else has to decide for you. These person’s actions are irrelevant, and landing the job should be a reward for your success, rather than the goal to measure success.
Again, this is about owning your actions, responses, limitations, strengths and so on. Taking ownership is today’s key message. You own your actions, no matter what they are, they are formulated from the most adaptive and malleable part of you; from your previous learnings and experiences, and (hopefully); from the information I’m sharing with you all – the brain; YOUR brain!
No action occurs without being born out of the electrical impulses and chemical reactions within your own mind – so before you go out and blame someone else for your misgivings, or an undesired result, step back and recall that the actions you took to get to that point were actions which originated deep within you.
Sure, you may not be able to explain why they occurred, and sometimes things happen on instinct, but take ownership of it. Remember that without ownership, you cannot build success. Without a sense of individual identity, you will not build your own success. You will build someone else’s, and perhaps please someone else, but your inner self will be aching and willing to break free – your values will be screaming for attention and you’ll realise one day…
This day will be too late. Don’t be someone who chases a dream all their life. Own the dream, take steps towards it now and create your own path of success.
There’s no time like the present.
* - in this instance, ‘casualties’ does not refer to death of a person as it might with a rocket launch; it refers rather to sacrifice and compromise. You may need to make tough decisions, leave personal viewpoints behind and even be privy to the death of other dreams whilst prioritising and chasing a larger, greater success as dictated by your values.
As alluded to in my previous blog about failure, our own yardsticks are all too often defined by what society and the people around us expect of ourselves, of ‘normal’ behaviour; rather than allowing a measure of success that becomes personal, intimate and entwined with our inner-most values.
Continuing to measure your own success in comparison to someone else, or in line with a ‘collective’ standpoint rather than a personal one, has you on a path destined for failure. And I know what you’re about to point out, yes we need to experience failure and accept the challenges it brings; yes that’s what my last blog said, but who wants to be experiencing failure all the time? Certainly not me, and I’d hazard a guess: not you either!
There are many society-driven myths on what defines success. As you can imagine, these range from emotional to financial and everything in between. The process of thinking of success in these realms is driven from a very early age, where the child’s mind is generally conditioned to the rationale that the quality and quantity of goods around them is highly connected with the amount of money the family has, and also that we must always strive to the highest and most impractical achievements, and that only the best of ANYTHING will ever do!
Realism is something that perhaps goes out the window at an early age for the developing human and it is this that must be consciously revisited at a later point in one’s life. Yes, this particular goal may be what I want to achieve, but is it realistic? Take a step back and ask then, is it really what I – myself – want to achieve, or is it something that someone or something else has set for me to achieve?
Familiarise Yourself With Your Values System – it is easy to forget just exactly why we set out to do what we do, and begin to analyse that point by saying “to succeed;” this – in itself – is a weak and generic target, and without knowing the bounds around what success means to you, it is useless. Your values are the keys to your success. Really sit down and have a think about the most important things in your life: is it family; ‘me time’; health; fitness; how about gardening; being outdoors; financial security, or even financial extravagance? No matter what it is, if you begin to align with your own values – which many of us do not – you will begin to be able to measure success in a way that is more meaningful and positive to you.
Set Incremental Goals – all too often when we set out to achieve something, we focus on the end product, the final result; the big enchilada. What is necessary to reach that target generally falls by the wayside, and when our goals don’t come to fruition, we wonder why.
Having steps and milestones along the way to your ultimate goal are the best way to ensure a successful and meaningful journey and goal-striving process. It’s all too easy to want to own your own home; settle down; be married with 3 kids; start a business, and so on, but how often do we think about the things we need to do along the way to get there, and just jump right in to the deep end? Now, I’m not advocating that jumping into the deep end isn’t worth it, or that it is a bad thing at all necessarily, however challenging life choices generally require careful consideration, and you would be best advised to analyse the pitfalls or consequences in some way, before deciding whether ‘the deep end’ is the right way to go about it.
Incremental goals also establish a new method of gaining more success. A successful incremental goal opens the door for the next goal, and then that one opens the next, and so forth, which develops a number of successes that you wouldn’t have even thought of as being successes, had you ploughed towards the end goal from the outset.
Celebrate Your Milestones – every story of success has milestones along the way. How you define these milestones is totally and entirely up to you. If you are setting a larger goal, the act of sitting down and setting the goal in the first place could be your first milestone, and your very first success in the process. If you’re looking to change careers after undertaking the above values-system alignment, and figuring out that your life totally sucks because you haven’t even been on the right path that is true to yourself, then that could be a milestone – that realisation – it could be the pinpoint of your turn-around.
The fact of the matter is that there are millions of success stories in our own lives that we constantly overlook until somebody points them out. I’d say, if it’s taken them the need to point it out, then you’re already upset about a certain result, and have probably missed the boat – which is where understanding the context of failure, challenge and learning comes in (see my last blog – Realising the Potential in Failure [March 15]).
Start to Lead a Values-Driven Life – the illusion of unhappiness and the drag of malaise is often triggered by the fact that people are not being true to themselves. There’s something important missing. A hole; a gap, something. It is therefore pivotal for success that you know and recognise your values, and that you begin to entwine them into every decision you make.
Our values are wholly and completely linked to our success, and the truest definition of personal success is directly associated with applying and satisfying our personal values system. The key message here is that both values and success should be personal and individual to each different person. It is true, that some of our values will be dictated to – or influenced by - society, media and so forth, but the key thing to understand is that our values are formed on the whole by the self. We gather that information and have an internal conversation which provides the basis for where we stand, how we view things and what becomes important to us in our lives.
Happiness Does Not Equal Success; Success Does Not Equal Happiness – don’t fall in to what Russ Harris, a prominent guru in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy calls, ‘The Happiness Trap’. This refers to that age-old saying “I just want to be happy;” everyone’s said it at least once and everybody knows that sinking, deep sigh that precedes it, but what does it actually mean? Happiness is an emotion, and all emotion is temporary, so why are we striving to feel something that is temporary in a permanent light?
Given that joyful emotion may only exist in bursts, it is undeniable that experiencing it does not lay the grounds for success. Happiness and joy are just some of the range of emotions a human feels on a day-to-day basis, and if success were measured by which emotion one were feeling at any point in time, then I’d probably consider myself a pretty unsuccessful human being.
Evidently, it is not wise to then think that success brings happiness. Success brings achievement, accomplishment and contentment; happiness – as stated – is an emotion, a human chemical reaction. It is serotonin and dopamine and it is lovely and carefree, but it is not the be all and end all of anything.
Contentment arises when things are in place and our journeys become successful. Be careful to remember here that we are terming success as a personal journey, and not a societal driven one; in that case, there are many, many ‘successful’ people who are deeply unhappy, never content and always looking for answers where answers most probably don’t exist.
Luckily enough for me, and for my readers, I do not consider myself an unsuccessful human being. Why? Well, I’m here; I’m living. I have a canine companion which adores me and I adore her, who was able to breathe new life into me when I was at my lowest. I have had successes in academia and broadened my horizons through experience. I have a rock-solid values system that nobody can shake down or walk through; I stand by my values like I would stand by a loved one. I get to share my knowledge and experience through these words, and with a bit of luck, I get to inspire those who read them on to better things, and success in their own right.
I might be chronically unemployed, a complete pain in the arse to get into an opinionated discussion with, an introvert, everlastingly confused, incessantly tired and sometimes an emotional wreck, but; I am a success for where I’ve been; I am a success for where I have come from; I am a success for where I am, and; I am a success for where I’m going.
Mostly, I am a success because I know what drives me. And it’s not anything I saw on TV, read in a magazine or heard on a podcast. It’s what I discovered for myself, built internally and will endeavour to live towards for the rest of my days.