helpgrowchange

Life is passing you by, and you don’t even see it

As you sip your cup of tea this morning, while you get ready for another monotonous day, have a think about this; Your life is passing you by, and you don't even see it.

"What?!" You might say. Bear with me for the length of this article, and see if you have the same reaction when you reach the end.

How does your day look today?

During the work week, it might look something like;

  1. Wake up, get ready for work. Be groggy. Mope around the house while dreading the day ahead.
  2. Commute to work. At the same time every day, following the same (or similar) path.
  3. Perform said work. Deal with the same political crap each day. The same feeling of being overloaded and underpaid. Dream about how you would rather be home.
  4. Commute home. At the same time every day, following the same (or similar) path.
  5. Perform the same nightly chores. Make dinner, bath the kids. Watch mindless T.V., read a book. Ask yourself whether it's the weekend yet.
  6. Go to bed.

What about the weekend?

  1. Wake up.
  2. Feel too lazy to do anything productive, so go shopping instead.
  3. Feel guilty, do house chores anyway.
  4. Do an activity you enjoy like biking, hiking, sewing.
  5. Visit friends, watch a movie.
  6. Go to bed.

For some of you, that might seem ok. It's about taking life one day at a time, right? Doing what needs to be done, rather than what you want to do. It's the right thing to do…

I say bollocks to that!

Why? Why do we allow ourselves to be restricted like this. We are naturally curious beings. We love to create, to learn, to understand the world around us. Yet we have been trained and guided into submission.

You are living your life with a false sense of achievement. Take a few seconds and think back over the last 6 month to a year. Ask yourself what have you achieved?

Maybe you finished reading a book? Watched a season of Game of Thrones? Achieved level 100 in the game you're playing? What have you actually achieved? Ultimately, not much.

A whole year has gone by, and you're still in the same place you were before. Doing the same thing, with the same concerns, fears, and worries.

I used to be like this – I still am. I get lulled into a false sense of achievement when I have a slight change in schedule, performed an extra house task, or even wanting to buy a newer phone.

These are not achievements.

They still sit within your comfort zone. And before you know it, months have passed – years have passed. How often do you hear people say that the years are flying by? It is because we are stuck in a monotonous rut.

What happened to your dreams of the future? How have you tested and pushed yourself? Have you taken action on them? Or come up with excuses.

I performed this little exercise on myself. 2 years ago, it would have looked rather mediocre, with the only real difference being me starting this blog and doing some freelance writing.

In the last year, though, my life has changed. My family's life has changed. Our eyes have been opened to the possibility that we can break this mould we're in.

To give you some context, I've run 2 10km races, I've studied social psychology, Neuro-linguistic programming techniques, and social media marketing, I've changed my eating habits to cut out sugar (mostly), and spent more time with my boys than ever before. My wife and I are starting businesses (which is extremely new to us).

Although these are only small changes, I've had to push myself mentally and physically. It's surprising to see how far we can go when we step out of our comfort zone.

What is really interesting, though, is by experiencing all these new factors in my life, this past year has felt longer. I've enjoyed each day a lot more. I am paying more attention to what's in front of me, rather than waiting for a T.V. show tonight or the lazy weekend.

I urge you to change something in your schedule today. It could be the spark to break you out of the monotony you've been feeling for a while.

You are more than the chores you need to do, or the work you need to attend to. Take the plunge and do something you're not entirely comfortable with. You won't regret it.

Productivity Tip #2 – Schedule your time (and stick to it)

Ever had the feeling where you have had such a productive day? A day in which you believe your time was utilised as efficiently as possible? An amazing feeling isn’t it? I bet those days are few and far between.

The reality is more likely that most days you find yourself snowed under. You are reactively attending to tasks and feel scattered all over the place. Because of this, you are not getting much done at all. You feel despondent, demotivated, and become even less productive. And so the cycle goes…

In my Productivity Tip #1 article, I stressed the fact that you have to make time to manage time. My second tip (and this article) is along the same vein, but it’s about applying focus at a higher level (in-between the scurry of our day-to-day tasks).

It doesn’t involve dumping your workload on someone else, or throwing your laptop in the bin. It is about scheduling your tasks so you can focus on one at a time.

Our brains get tired too

Like you, I have a crapload of things going through my brain at any one time. I’m thinking about the tasks I need to do today, and what I need to do after that. I’m reminding myself I must pay the gas bill before Thursday, and I need to publish this very article tonight.

It’s exhausting. Our brains are wonderful miracles, but it can only do so much – especially after constantly being pushed to the limit. Our brain is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it needs rest too.

In order to do this, we need to move some of the tasks we actively think about into ‘autopilot’. The autopilot is our sub-conscious, allowing a whole range of habits and behaviours to occur without using much brain power. How do we do this? It’s as simply as setting a schedule.

I have a fulltime job, yet I still need to write new content for this blog, be a family man, learn new things, and enjoy life. Last year, this was a nightmare to maintain. If I didn’t do something one day, I’d feel anxious that I had missed it. I constantly felt under pressure to be doing something.

I felt I was missing out or being lazy. It eventually got to the point where I stopped blogging for a while.

Set aside time for specific tasks

Then I came across a workbook suggesting to set aside certain days for certain activities. I did exactly that, and what happened next was amazing. I no longer had to worry that no writing was being done – as I knew it was planned for Monday. I no longer had to feel bad if I didn’t go for a run, as I knew it Saturday was run day.

The simple matter of setting a day of the week to focus on one task (other than all the usual day-to-day grind) really eliminates the background nagging in my mind. I can remind it to shut the hell up and I’ll deal with the said task on the allocated day.

If you are struggling to keep up with all your life tasks. Try setting particular days for certain tasks. For example, here is mine;

  • Monday: Article day (write articles, plan new article ideas, prepare this week’s article).
  • Tuesday: General blog/home tasks (budget, ideas, research, etc)
  • Wednesday: Watch at least one TED Talk.
  • Thursday: Learning day (Go through study material if I’m on a course, or read a self-study book).
  • Friday: Finish off any other little items.
  • Saturday: Run day (run further than 5km).
  • Sunday: Rest day.

Why not set a simple schedule such as this? You won’t be disappointed.

Ask yourself these 3 questions before stepping into the unknown

Stepping into the unknown is extremely daunting. Every one of us, at some point in time, has hesitated when crossing the threshold into some unknown. It’s only natural for us to feel this way. What matters is how we react in these situations, and how we convince ourselves to continue moving forward.

This very blog was a daunting unknown for me. Before I started, I was deliberating whether I should even start it. I was afraid of being ridiculed. I wasn’t convinced anyone would want to know what I thought. My wife is working meticulously in building her business, yet just a few months ago she was also debating the merits of starting it – afraid of the complaints she might get, the quality of her goods, or even no buyers at all.

It constantly amazes me how we build these false illusions in our heads. Illusions which serve as barriers, obstructing us from taking risks (which aren’t really risks in the first place). It’s probably due to some ‘keep safe’ mechanism in our brains. We perceive a certain situation as ‘risky’ (such as starting a business or blog), and so our minds build these internal barriers in order for us to stay protected. We have to convince ourselves that it is ok, and the danger is not as apparent as it appears to be.

While trying to convince myself about starting a blog years ago, and discussing with my wife about starting her business, we asked a few questions of ourselves which considerably helped in giving us courage to cross the line.

We took our first steps into the unknown. And the rest, they say, is history.

The heart says one thing, the mind says another.

There are many conversations we have with ourselves when we’re determining the merits of taking risks. Different sides of our inner self want different things, and it’s quite funny how there can be such differing of opinions with oneself.

To battle through this and gain some sort of clarity, I’ve found these 3 questions will guide you forward (I’ve put in some handy answers too).

Question: What have you got to lose?
Answer: Almost always there is nothing to lose except a bit time and money

Question: In 6 months time, what would you be doing if you didn’t take this step now?
Answer: Probably the same thing you’re busy with now – no better than before. The time would be summed up as ‘All talk and no action’.

Question: Could this open other opportunities?
Answer: Almost always this is a resounding yes. Unless, of course, it’s a complete deadend. Even then, you’ve learnt from the experience and only lost a bit of time and money.

Move forward, no matter how slow.

Regardless of how small a step you might be taking – it is a movement in a forward direction. You are not where you were before. This is a powerful place to be.

What are you currently afraid to step into? Is it to publish your book, start a blog, learn a new skill? Ask yourself the questions above, contemplate some more ideas, and let’s see how you get on.

It’s disappointing to not have made a difference

I recently took on a new role at my workplace. Through all my efforts in the previous role, I could not make the difference I wanted to.

For years, I tried. I attempted to organise movements, convince management, or influence certain decisions I knew would benefit the wider group. But I just couldn’t get to the point of making the intended difference. And it has killed me.

Sometimes it is better to accept we cannot change a situation. We must accept failure and come back another day. We must realise when it’s time to move on to something we can change.

It’s crap. It’s difficult. But it’s the hard truth. People will only change when they are ready for change.

No matter how hard we hit their wall of resistance and indifference, we will not (cannot) bring it down. We cannot control the outcomes of their decisions, or convince them of the damage they are causing around them.

What we can control is how we react to their whims. We can control how we make a positive difference to our own surroundings. Finally, we need to learn when to let go…

Sometimes holding on...

At the end of the day, we have to realise this is only business. Thankfully, we can take our influence, our skill, and our passion elsewhere. Somewhere where it might be better suited.

Don’t give up the fight, just focus your energy in the right place.

Ready to learn something new?

When I finished school, I thought I was done with education. Done with the textbooks, assignments, and tests. I was going to find my own way while I worked. Who needs studies anyway, right?

Wrong.

Experience is useful

Experience is useful, but it will only get you so far.

For the first 10 years of my career (as well as outside the office), I didn’t believe in ‘official’ training courses. I learnt how to fix a PC, build websites, and manage servers without the need to attend classes. At home, I didn’t need to go on a course to learn how to clean my pool, or mow the lawn.

Everything I learnt was through trial and error. I believed study and education had their place, and it wasn’t anywhere near me. I could find my own way.

It’s funny how life comes around and teaches you a lesson.

Real studying gets you further

When I moved into a leadership role, I realised something. I knew absolutely nothing about it. Actually, I knew absolutely nothing about a lot (I still don’t). This self-acknowledgement started my learning journey through a combination of short courses, online learning, and self-study.

What amazing things I have learnt since! I’ve gained vital knowledge in leadership, business strategy, social psychology, and neuro-linguistic programming. Next on the list is social media marketing.

Studying has taught me one thing – there is still so much more to learn. We have so much knowledge available to us, all we need to do is reach out and grab it.

The benefits I’ve gained far outweigh the negatives. Yes, it takes some time to study, and yes, it can be inconvenient (and some of it boring). But, I now understand the foundations of business strategy. I grasp the concepts of social psychology. I try to communicate with people better by identifying key behaviours.

My 3 easiest ways to start

The 3 training resources I’ve used so far are short courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and self-study.

A short course is a training course set up through a private individual or training company with dedicated lessons over a period of 7 to 30 days. These can sometimes cost a lot of money. However, if you look around enough you may stumble upon free (or really cheap) short courses. Some of my experiences include Ramit Sethi’s Earn1k course for free, and Paul Jarvis‘ free Write & sell your damn book course.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC‘s) are awesome. They are university driven intro-level courses provided for free. The topics are vast.

The only MOOC I’ve experienced so far is Coursera.org. But there are so many training providers available now, that even I’m a bit overwhelmed (here is a random top list I googled).

Self-help books are simply what they are. Books you read to gain further knowledge. They are helpful, and can contain important knowledge. I sometimes struggle with these though, as they sometimes feel like textbooks. Somewhere like Noisetrade is a good place to look.

Learn something new today

Are you keen on learning something new? Why not browse the available courses on Coursera, or dig out the self-help book you bought 2 years ago. Begin your learning journey, and be prepared to be amazed.

By the way, just because you start a particular learning experience does not mean you have to finish it. We learn better when we’re interested – and enjoy – a subject. Concentrate on those. There are plenty of times in the last few years where I’ve simply not finished my ‘studies’ due to loss of interest.

Climb out of your past to face your future

Sometimes we are stuck in the past. We go about our routines and habits because we have always done them this way. It’s safe, comfortable, and we don’t want to ‘break something that is not broken’ as some people say.

This is where the problem lies.

If we are stuck doing the same thing at the same level, we will never grow – you will never grow. There will be no improvement, no joy of discovering something new, nothing to stimulate your mind or soul. But you know what? You can change it. No matter what some of your naysayers might say, you can change all of what you can control – which is a lot more than you believe it is.

You have the power to change your own future, and it’s time you claimed your own life back.

This is so much easier said than done – I know. There are many things to worry about like finances, skills, life in general. The biggest hurdle of all, though, is you. You need to decide that you want to change your life. No-one can change it for you. Sure, they can offer you opportunities, but it all comes down to you wanting it and deciding to take action.

We all have dreams, yet so often that is how they remain – dreams. From when we were children, we may have dreamed of changing a person’s fate on the operating table, or testing the boundaries of human discovery in space. Let’s face it, some dreams are unrealistic (possible, but unrealistic).

For your own sanity and confidence, you need to be serious about what you want and what you can achieve. If you’re like me, a 30-ish person stuck in a desk job, the odds are we are not going to be an astronaut any time soon. We’re not going to be working on a critical procedure on the operating table, unless we are the patient. You might still want to achieve those dreams, but you have to let them go for now.

You need to focus on what you have right now, and what you can change for your future.

I still dream of being some hotshot owner of a popular technology company, but as the years roll on, I’m accepting the fact that I’ll probably not achieve it. So, I’m looking for alternatives. I might not be owner of something big, but I can be an owner of something that provides value. I’m looking at options in my current situation where I can help, grow, and change other peoples lives.

This blog is my first example of such a change. My wife is starting something of her own. There are a couple more things we’re working on as well. Our excitement is building about the future opportunities presenting themselves.

The changes you make don’t need to be drastic. Small ones here and there make massive differences further down the line. How about investigating the possibility of some free studies, such as Coursera or Codecademy? Start a blog about your expertise? Volunteer in your local community? As you make one small change, I promise you it will become easier to make more changes. Bigger changes that will truly change your life.

The past cannot be changed, but you can still prepare for your future. What will you change today?

All articles