helpgrowchange

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?

3 Principles to cherish other than money

“Money makes the world go round”

My mother taught me this saying, and in today’s society it still rings true. We rely on it for almost everything. We use it to buy our food, pay for our power and Internet services, and even need money to clothe ourselves. We work our asses off for decades in the hope that we will still have enough money to live once we are not able to work any more. As a society we focus too much on money itself and it’s necessity in our lives.

Although money can make the world go round, it is not the only one that does.

We have come to believe that money is the only thing that will make us happy, and that we need it to ensure our future happiness and success. This cannot be further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain amount of funding we need in order to survive, but that is all money is for. It is the end result of the focus you have put in elsewhere, and not the focus itself.

I strongly believe there are 3 other principles in life where we should (and must) focus on. Kindness, Respect, and Giving. All three are intertwined and essential to building a fulfilled life.

Kindness starts with a smile

Being kind is real easy, almost too easy. When we think of kindess, we envisage soft-hearted people with puppy dog eyes, not saying a bad word to anyone. It doesn’t have to be like that, and all you have to do to start off being kind is a simple smile to another person. Not one of those creepy, stalker smiles, but a genuine one. Something that will make them feel better in their day because of it. You can smile anywhere and at anyone, such as at the cashier in the store, or the person walking past you in the street.

One simple smile can really change a person’s day.

Respect builds trust

I cannot stress the importance of respect. Respecting others’ beliefs, their privacy, and their time are only a few examples of what to do. Because you believe in something, or are comfortable with stating your opinion, does not give you the right to disrespect those around you. One thing I try to do here, is put myself in their shoes. This normally helps me catch myself before I show too much disrespect and break down the relationship I’ve worked hard to build.

Giving helps you feel better

More studies show that when we help others with their successes, we feel many times greater satisfaction than if we simply helped ourselves. Giving is about selflessly helping someone else with something instead of for yourself. Give your partner the last chocolate in the box because you know it’s their favourite. Help a friend with some groceries that they can’t afford, or donate a large sum of money to a charity you believe in.

BONUS principle – Gratitude

How can we be happy and content about anything if we don’t appreciate what we have? I look at my sons every day, and am so grateful they are healthy and beautiful. I thank my lucky stars for having such a supportive wife. My appreciation is through the roof when I am able to afford the pleasures in life (like electricity, Internet, and a choice of food) when there are children working in glass factories or roaming the streets for rubbish, hoping to sell them to recycling centres (if you know how I can help them, I would love to know!).

Take a minute out of your day to realise the world you’re in. Is your 9-5, well-paying, job really that bad? Do you really need to get irritated at the red traffic light when you’re sitting in your 5 year old car?

No-one is perfect, and that’s ok

I’m still learning how to fully integrate these core principles into my life. Sometimes, I’m still a bit selfish, don’t show enough respect, and am sometimes unkind. Don’t take it too personally when you don’t get it right, as long as you know you did wrong. Just remember to be better next time.

All three of these principles are so critical, so integral that without them we will live hollow, shallow, mediocre lives. Yes, money is important, it can buy us many things, but it doesn’t make this world a better place on it’s own. Through kindness, giving, and respect, money can be used to make the difference we want and need it to make.

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

This is the third and final instalment of my series about how you can rekindle your passion on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

In the first part I challenged you to dream about a day in your future life. A day about 3-5 years in the future which is the culmination of your life dreams today. In Part 2 I encouraged you to draw out the details of your dream, as well as to discover why you want to achieve this dream.

As a recap here are the 5 questions listed before;

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

Of the five questions I pointed out previously, you answered two of them – What is the dream? and Why do I want this?. Out of these two, you gained purpose.

With purpose we can go anywhere and do anything. But how? Well, that’s where the trick comes in. We have to move out of our dream world and actually perform some work. This is tough, but once you get going it’s not too hard.

Let’s find out how…

What do I want to achieve?

Although this may sound similar to ‘what is the dream?‘, in truth it is far from it. Our dream state elicits feelings and inspiration, while achievements are the tangible outcomes based on the dream. For example, in my own dream, I am walking to my son’s school to pick him up. The achievement is that I am working from home to allow myself the flexibility to take a walk when I want.

What can I offer and What can I do?

The remaining two questions go hand-in-hand where the focus is around performing an honest appraisal of yourself to see what you can offer yourself to reach your dream. Maybe include someone you trust to offer you honest feedback.

Compile a list of strengths, weaknesses, skill sets, and experience. Think of these answers as the tools you have available to work towards your dream. By laying them all out on the table, you can see what you have and more importantly, what you are missing.

Now is the time for action

You have your dream, you have your purpose, and you have a view of where you stand right now. Now go for it! When I reached this point, I was raring to go. Excited that I had finally realised what I wanted, why I wanted it, and what I could do to get there.

The next part of your journey is the hardest – taking the first step towards the dream. What will your first step be?

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.

How to rekindle your passion on a lazy Sunday afternoon (Part 1)

We are all passionate about something in our lives. Some of us love to write, others love to sew, while others love to sell. Whatever it may be, passion is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, where one day ideas are flying and excitement overflowing, then boredom and frustration the next. You have the power to get out of this rut by simply day dreaming.

It was Sunday, the weather was fantastic outside with the sun shining and just a hint of a breeze to cool the heat. I was feeling frustrated with a lack of progress in multiple aspects of my life. Career progression, house maintenance, and financial inflexibility to name a few.

I had thoughts and plans running around my head about what I should be doing, what I wanted to happen, and how great it would be to have a life of freedom. The passion I had before was being replaced with scattered thoughts and random tasks. I could feel I was moving in a general direction, I knew what I wanted to do this year, but what about the next? Or the year after that?

It was time to clear the picture.

So I sat down at my dining room table for a couple of hours and really worked out where I wanted to be in 3-5 years. I really locked the picture in my mind, mapped it all out, and came out at the end with a real sense of long term purpose. I knew what life I wanted, why I wanted it, and how I could get there.

Many of us go through similar situations where we’ve lost the dream of the project we started. We are beavering away at short term goals, gaining traction on some of our ideas, but we just feel something is missing. Something isn’t quite working out, or the picture of the future is just not clear enough.

Clarity is critical

I am completely guilty of being busy without purpose. When an idea sparks in my mind, I tend to jump all in. It’s what happened last year, and I don’t want to get there again.

Having a dream is fantastic. It’s what gets us up in the morning, ready to take on the big project we started. But those dreams tend to be hazy. We have this lovely feeling of excitement and start doing something, but then lose focus again.

There is a step that needs to happen between thinking about your dream and taking action – and it mostly consists of writing it out. Take a couple of hours out of your day to plan for your future (it can be a lazy Sunday afternoon).

Think hard about that dream. Truly immerse yourself in it. Ask yourself as many questions as possible; Can you see yourself sitting in the picture? What are you feeling? If there are windows, what is the weather like outside? What colours are the walls?

Really focus on the details of your dream. The more crystal clear the dream, the more purpose you can gain out of it.

What are you busy with? Are you working to a schedule? How far in the future is the dream? Are you with anybody?

As I did this process with myself, I found a growing sense of excitement about my future. A sense of purpose and a rekindling of passion began to emerge – especially after I followed the next few questions, which you will see over the next few weeks.

In the next part of this series I will explain how you can draw out the details of your dream and align it with your purpose.

I have a challenge for you before the next article. Have a think about your life in the next 5 years. You know which one I am talking about. It’s the one you think of daily – the book you want to publish, the house you want to build, or even the way of life you want to live.

Think deeply about it, gain as much detail as you can, and we’ll put it all together in the next post.

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]

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