helpgrowchange

See the constant in everything

There is no discrimination when it comes to the cycles of nature. The Sun still rises every day, Winter still arrives in an icy chill, and the tide still wades in and out to its perfect timetable.

Ever notice how events seem to come in waves? There are periods of time where very little is happening, then it feels like everything is happening at the same time.

"Why is that?"

It is the constant in everything.

Everything, and I mean everything, is in a cycle of some sort. The planet is orbiting the Sun, water is constantly making its way to the ocean only to be evaporated and taken back to the mountains, we are waking up in the morning – every morning – starting a new day. We breathe in, we breathe out. Life itself is but a cycle. From the day we are born we are already on our way back to where we came from.

Within these cycles are more cycles. Constant cycles within cycles. It's all around us, constantly working.

"So life is happening. What's the big deal?"

Once we realise this and learn to accept that we're in a cycle and everything around is in constant motion, we can grasp a very important concept. No matter what we are doing or where we are, it is only temporary, and things will never stay the same.

If we're happy, sadness will come. If we're sad, happiness will find a way back. If you're sick, you will get well (unless of course your cycle of life is returning to the beginning). After your shower, you will get dirty. The fully-charged battery on your phone will run flat.

No matter what we do, we cannot stop this continuous motion, these constant cycles in our lives. We can influence and delay them, but the completion of the cycle is inevitable. It is the Way of things.

"How does this help me?"

Learn to accept that the situation you're in is only temporary. You can't control what will happen. Yes, you can adapt to certain conditions and control your own emotions and thoughts to the situation. But you cannot control the outcome – it is inevitable.

Remind yourself constantly that your situation will pass (both good and bad). Rather than try control the situation, why not live it? Be in the moment and take comfort that change is around the corner.

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.

How you can find your own work-life balance

Working a full time job, budding an online audience, and still being a dad and husband is taxing. I’m not going to lie about it. I want to be home to be the best father and husband, but need to be the best at work so that I can provide for home. How can I achieve that all at once? Can we achieve it at all? I don’t believe so, and here’s why.

I am constantly volunteering to be better. Forever improving myself to be better than yesterday. Always looking forward and up. Moving up the corporate ladder. Forward planning for my team. Yet still having the focus outside of the office to make a wider impact with HelpGrowChange. While this whirlwind is happening, I am applying the same passion and motivation to my loving family. Trying my best to give them the same attention and energy that I am exerting in other areas.

And it’s damn hard. I am wondering how it can all be done. Surely there must be a way to fit it all in?

You might be in a similar situation. Your focus at work is to take the next step up the corporate ladder, or expanding your skillset to gain more responsibility. Outside of the office, you may have a hobby you’re working on, or a book you’re writing, or a business you’re wanting to grow.

Where does your family fit in? You’re probably a lot like me, where you’re trying your best to give them the same focus. At the end of the day, everything you’re doing is for them, right? As I’m writing this, I am realising that the priority of my focus is all wrong. It now makes sense.

Family comes first.

I’m doing everything for them. Working for them. Making money for them. But by doing all that, I’m taking time away from them. This just feels all wrong to me.

This is where the dilemma lies. In order to keep us under a roof, to keep eating, and to be comfortable. We still need to work.

From my research, experts and people tend to say “just forget about work” or “money doesn’t make you happy”. The unfortunate truth for us working-class folk, is that ‘money makes the world go round‘. Money, unfortunately, is a necessity. The age for bartering and living on your own claimed land is centuries gone, and we simply cannot live like that anymore.

Unless we want to be homeless, and live on the street.

No. We have to work. We have to work smart. Smart enough to earn a lifestyle of comfort without the endless hours of business. Freeing up enough time to focus on where our real values lie.

But how? How can we do this without sacrificing work or family. Again, the unfortunate truth is “life is full of sacrifice”. Something will have to give in order for you to achieve your goals. In order to be the best father and husband you will have to compromise your financial success. In order to gain financial success, you will have to give up your family gains. These are really (really) tough decisions to make. You can’t achieve everything at the same time.

However, there may be some possible ways around this.

Break our day into segments. For example – the standard ‘work’ time is 9am-5pm; (allow time for commuting); 6pm-9pm is family time; and the remaining 1-2hrs is ‘alternative work’ time. This splits any given day into workable chunks where dedicated time and focus can be given to the respective areas of our lives.

A schedule can be marked on the calendar where certain days of the week can be the focus of certain areas in our lives.

An agreement can be reached within the family about how a combination of the above can be used.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe there is a solution for this problem that has plagued our working society for generations. It may just be the fact of us having to stop trying to achieve everything and only focus on one or two values that we find critical to our own happiness.

I’m still in limbo with finding my focus, but I’m trying my best. Are you struggling with your time at home? What do you find that works for you?

How to rekindle your passion on a lazy Sunday afternoon (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my 3-part blog series on how you can rekindle your passion on a Sunday afternoon. In my previous post I challenged you to dream. In this one, the challenge will be to draw out as much detail as possible from your dream and onto some paper.

Have you ever thought about your life dream? The one you deeply want to live, but find yourself not really moving towards it? Maybe you’re bored or not sure if your current actions align with your dream. Even if you and I do have a dream, how do we know if we’re doing the right thing? How do we know what we want?

The best way I’ve experienced this is to ask ourselves some hard questions. We find, and re-connect with, our ‘why’. Reconnecting with why we want our dream enables us to re-evaluate how far we’ve come, and what we still need to do.

So, here’s the thing, on your lazy Sunday afternoon (it doesn’t have to be a Sunday by the way), grab a pen and multiple pieces of paper.

Ask yourself 5 important questions.

  • What is my dream?
  • Why do I want this?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What can I offer?
  • What can I do?

These aren’t easy questions. It took me quite a bit of time to answer them, as well as a shedload of mental energy. Yet, I highly recommend and encourage you to answer them as best you can – you will reap the rewards later. Answering these forced me to really define what I was thinking, hoping and dreaming.

As you fill out your story behind these questions, an amazing thing happens, you begin to feel the small feeling of butterflies in your abdomen, and excitement build in your chest. Commonalities will begin to emerge between your answers, and ideas begin to flow. Ideas for plans, ideas for business products, ideas on the route you need to take to reach your dream.

Remember, this is your dream, your purpose, where you want to be in your future. This isn’t a goal you want to achieve, and there aren’t any right or wrong answers. Just your dream, in your words.

Let’s go over the questions in a bit more detail.
(To make this more ‘readable’, I’ve focussed only on the two most important questions in this post. The remainder will be covered off in part 3)

What is my dream?

Write a story of a typical day of your future self. For simplicity, put a timeframe on it. I found 3-5 years was far enough in the future to be beyond a goal, but not too far that it became too farfetched.

As you think about your special day, relax…Feel the emotions you think you would feel. Fall into the dream, concentrate on as many details as you can.

Try to immerse yourself as much as you can. Ask yourself important questions such as; Where am I? What am I feeling? What am I doing? What do my surroundings look like?

As an example, I wrote about how my dream was centered around me being at home, working on this blog, preparing for a meeting in one of my businesses, and enjoying the simple pleasures of family time. For you it might revolve around being an author at a book launch, or a photographer in your studio, or even a manager in an executive meeting of some kind.

Write it all down. Don’t worry about how silly it sounds, the format, or even spelling errors. Just write it down.

It’s great to have a dream and something to aspire to, but there is a more important question to answer…

Why do I want this?

While it’s all well and good knowing where you want to go, you will struggle to get there if you don’t know why you want it.

Knowing why you want your dream is crucial in ensuring you can make it real.

Identifying why you want your dream brings real clarity. It defines your overall purpose, and allows you to focus on what you really want. When I defined my ‘why’, it hit me like a freight train. In the time since I did this exercise, I’ve gained more traction on my dream in a few weeks than I did in the last year!

How do you answer this question, you ask? Keep your dream from the previous question in your mind. Focus on that story, immerse yourself in it as much as you can. Now, what are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? What has happened to make you feel this way? Write your anwers down – no editing, no thinking about structure, just your raw emotional thoughts straight onto the paper.

At the end of it, you will have your reasons for your dream. If they are truly your ‘why’, you will begin to feel a sense of purpose deep down. Your mind and heart will be cleared of indecision on where you want to be.

What’s next?

The next few questions will cover further on how you can identify what you need to do to make your dream a reality. Stay tuned for part 3 next week. But don’t go just yet. There is still your challenge for this week.

I challenge you to think and re-think your answers to What is my dream? and Why do I want this?. The more you think about it, the clearer the dream will be, and the stronger your sense of purpose will grow.

If you are not feeling this, you haven’t found your why, and that’s ok. These are difficult questions, and the answers will come with enough thought and emotion.

Answering these questions brought me clarity to why I’m doing what I’m doing – and that is family and flexibility.

What is your why?

Be sure to look out for part 3, where we will figure out how to begin the journey to achieving your life dream.

Improve your decisions with one simple mind trick

We make decisions in everything we do. In the way we brush our teeth in the morning, when we decide to buy coffee, or where to sit on the train. Every single one of these decisions impacts our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Each decision moves us towards a destination we may, or may not, have set for ourselves. We need to make our decisions count.

So often, I see myself and others faltering on their decision making. Some folk make rash decisions (I’m guilty of this), while others find it difficult to make a decision on much of anything. We go about our lives rueing the decisions we’ve made – or not made.

So how do we change this? How do we become better decision makers? Well, there isn’t much we can do, really. Yes, there are a plethora of options available, ranging from gut feeling to the Kepner Tregoe Decision Making process, but the trouble is we can’t go about performing a problem analysis for every decision we make – especially if it a subconscious, sub-second one made in the spur of the moment. Neither can we simply go on gut feeling when the decision requires more thought. The trick is to find balance between the two.

One method that has worked for me is to focus only on the object of the decision. For example, I’m trying to make better decisions when I’m thirsty, specifically drinking water instead of Coca-Cola. I focus only on the area I want to change – drink water. I consciously bring that decision to the front of my mind when I’m thirsty, or every time it crosses my mind. I replace the thought with the object, like ‘Water, water, water‘, ‘drink 2 litres of water a day‘, or ‘drink water now before you want something else, you lazy bastard!‘. I find the next time I am thirsty, I choose water instead of Coca-Cola.

This method has worked for me in other things too, such as;
– exercising each morning (saying ‘Drop and give me 20!‘, instead of ‘I’m tired‘),
– focussing on tasks (saying ‘Another one knocked off‘, instead of ‘I have so much to do!‘),
– and even showing my family appreciation (saying ‘These people are my foundation‘, instead of ‘Where is my time going?‘).

Many decisions we make are due to habits we instil in ourselves. We’ve made these habits consistent enough to move to our sub-conscious. Once there, most of the decisions we make are automatic. Because we’ve made similar decisions before, our brains move the mental processing out of the way so that we can make these decisions quicker.

Changing these auto-decisions requires you to fuse new thought patterns and habits into your sub-conscious. No easy feat, but certainly possible. And it is easier than you think. It all starts with a little focus, and some habit forming.

What will you change about your decision making process today?

[Featured image Ashley Batz via unsplash.com]

How will you make 2015 better?

The trouble with life is that it just gets in the way of your dreams. It sits there and sniggers when you haven’t achieved a goal you’ve set for yourself. It constantly intervenes to hamper your progress towards bigger and better things. Life laughs in your face, especially when you’re down.

The truth is, it’s not life that gets in the way, it’s us. We are the ones that allow distractions in. We are the ones that lose the momentum when the going gets tough (or too easy for that matter). We are the ones that allow our end goals to slip away.

Last year, I experienced just this. The year started off with a bang. I had started my newsletter, my work was being posted on other blogs. I was gaining exposure in the right places. But then I got lazy. I lost focus, and the year just fizzled out into mediocrity. I was extremely disappointed with myself.

I learnt something important during that time. I learnt my limitations and what I need to do to exceed them. I learnt more about myself and what I want to do with my life. I learnt I am not as awesome I as I think I might be. Finally, I learnt humility.

It seemed to be a recurring theme. I needed to find a way out of this habit. Thanks to my beautiful wife, that path may have been found. During Christmas my wife bought Leonie Dawson’s 2015 workbook, and I found Michael Hyatt’s free introductory videos for his best year ever course. Both are about setting goals and achieving them. They offer a system you can use to effectively and confidently achieve your goals. I am intrigued at how similar these methods are, and I believe there is some common sense in them.

My wife and I worked our way through Leonie Dawson’s workbook. It had us thinking long and hard about what we want to achieve in our lives this year. I’m excited about what opportunities will present themselves – if I can stick to my guns. I’m confident that by using the methods learnt through Leonie Dawson and Michael Hyatt, my work life, home life, and life in general will be changed for the better.

What about you? Have you thought about what you want to achieve this year? How are you going to do it? I highly recommend implementing a system for you to achieve all you can.

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