helpgrowchange

When is the right time to give advice?

It’s ironic that I’m writing an article about how we shouldn’t give our opinion or provide advice, when my whole blog is me giving you advice. If, like me, you don’t heed any advice thrown your way when you didn’t ask for it, then it’s time to stop reading this article.

In reply to my latest article, one of my newsletter subscribers replied asking how one could push past a lazy period (my article was about laziness) if they suffered from depression. Depression is a whole other beast which I cannot claim to know anything about. I admitted this to the person in question, and she thanked me for my honest answer. She went on to say how people often offer advice, even when they truly don’t know how to deal with depression.

Sometimes listening is all people want. My wife taught me this, and it’s taken me a few times to learn it. Actually, she will tell you I still try to solve problems that aren’t there (which is true).

More often than not, it is just fine to admit you don’t know anything. People will respect you for having the courage to acknowledge your limit. If you are caught out after claiming you know something (but you actually don’t), you will lose trust and respect quicker than you can say ‘I told you so’.

I don’t want to be the person who appears to have it all together, who appears to be the best in the world. I’m not that guy. I’m just like you. Struggling through this world, trying to make out what’s right from wrong. I’m hoping to make a change with the impact I make.

But it has to be an impact that is wanted – not one forced on you through my obnoxious opinions.

Even if you have a wealth of experience which you know will help another person, wait to be asked your opinion, rather than throwing it out there with no restraint. If people ask for my opinion, I will gladly provide it if it will help them with their cause. But I am learning the value of keeping my mouth shut when not asked.

We can’t solve everyone’s problems. We cannot claim to know enough about them or their circumstances to effectively help them. The best we can do is listen, console, and only offer your solutions when asked.

Think about who you go to for advice most often. Is it the person who ‘knows it all’ and won’t hesitate to force their view on you? Or is it the humble one, who knows less, but knows who you are, understands you, and offers honest advice?

On the other hand, I’m already forcing my opinion on you. So take what you’ve read today with a pinch of salt.

Be content with who you are, before you lose yourself

It is human nature that drives us to be people-pleasers. We want other people to like us. We want them to call us when they’re lonely, or even when they’re not. We want them to want to be with us. But to meet the demand of being liked, sometimes we change ourselves to appear as something we are not. We deny our true selves the chance to connect with the right people for us, because we’re trying to impress the wrong people.

I am guilty of giving up who I am to impress other people – with the only goal to appear as if I’m ‘good enough’ to associate with them. I would be a kind-hearted partner to my wife, then while out with my friends, I would snub my nose to a person asking for a couple dollars on the street. Looking back now, I shake my head disappointingly at myself.

The sad thing is, is this behaviour is not uncommon across all of our modern day society. We are pulled in every direction by our friends, advertising, work, social media, pretty much anything else really. An illusion appears in each of these directions we’re pulled in. The illusion that we could be a better person if we simply change to fit the mould. Don’t get taken in by the mirage. I believe this is where we lose ourselves more because we are trying to be somebody we are not.

We need to be content with who we are. The right people will then be attracted to us. If we are comfortable with our values, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, we will choose the right path for ourselves. Not the path where we chase friends or dreams we ‘think’ is right, the path is the one we know is right.

How do you know you are content with yourself?

  • You are not worried about the outcome.
  • No matter what happens, you know you tried your best.
  • You made the choice because you felt it in your gut.
  • You are comfortable speaking your mind.
  • You don’t care what others think because you stayed true to yourself.

How do you know you are losing yourself?

  • You feel like you are being forced into a situation.
  • You don’t agree with the morals or values of a situation, but you do it anyway.
  • You don’t speak you honest opinion because you are afraid it might cause a stir.

So often do I find myself still making decisions to please the people I associate with. But I find I’m only compromising for the small stuff, like opinions on movies or social activities. When it comes to the more important decisions impacting on my values, morals, and beliefs, this is where I stand strong. No matter what the outcome, I want to know that I’ve stayed true to who I really am. It is the best feeling when I go to bed at night knowing that I’ve done the right thing today.

How do you feel you are when it comes to staying true to yourself? Are you listening to your inner core, or trying to impress others?

Stand up for what you believe in

Being kind and caring is perceived as being weak by naysayers in our lives. Often, they laugh at our caring and demean our kindness – either to smash us down or make themselves feel better. Many caring folk fold under this mockery, become submissive and let the bullies in to their lives, ultimately allowing them to destroy it.

When I first started this blog, I was embarrassed to share that I wrote a blog. When I did mention that I blogged, some people would then mock me about it. Every time a situation would come up, they would disrespectfully say “Maybe you should write a blog post about this”. Even after finding out that I was trying to make a positive impact on this world, some other people would further attempt to put me down, going as far as saying that I will never make a difference as there is simply too many voices in this world.

I don’t give a damn what those people said, or would possibly say. I am helping people in need because it is the right thing to do. It is a risk, yes, but it is worth it. I help people find some purpose, help them see a brighter future, help them in any way I can.

Through me taking action and doing things for others, the bullies in my own life have backed off. They no longer pester me with small-minded comments. Or, I just simply ignore them and filter them out completely.

I believe you should ignore the bullies too. Do not allow yourself to stoop to their level. Do not allow them to play their mind games and wedge themselves in your head – initiating self-doubt and fear.

I believe you should make a stand of who you are and what you stand for. Helping out your brother, your friend, or a stranger is a sign of strength. It’s a sign that you are focusing on something greater than yourself. You are using your precious time and energy to make somebody else’s life better. That is awesome. You should do it more.

“If people are criticising you, you’re doing something right.” – Unknown

The bullies and the naysayers will always be there, trying to get in your face and putting you down. But you know what? That’s a good thing. It means you are making a difference in your world, changing our world for good, and doing what is right (almost like a superhero of sorts).

That’s what I try to remember when I’m being put down. I know what I’m doing is for the greater good. Not everything in this world is as bad as people say. And sometimes, actually most-times, a little kindness goes a very long way.

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.

Decide to make a difference

Do you feel like you can’t make a difference in the world today? The world is so noisy and filled with so many voices that it is near impossible for you to hear or say anything of value. I feel like that sometimes. But the truth is, you can (and you do) make a difference.

I used to be anonymous (I still am to some degree). I had thoughts, dreams, and things I wanted to say. I thought they were only applicable to me and believed no-one would care to support my thoughts, let alone look forward to what I had to say. So I said nothing. I kept my mouth shut, accepted what I received, and didn’t ask for anything more.

As time went on I shared my thoughts and dreams. I began to question the world around me. Is this mediocre life worth it? Is the financial burden worth the daily commute? What do I need to do in order to spend more time with my family? I started a blog to journal the journey I was travelling.

A strange thing began to happen. People responded. Not just friends and colleagues, but strangers from around the world. They were going through similar experiences or seeking guidance, and I was helping them through it. This really took me by surprise. How could I, an average Joe, be helping people around the world? What could I possibly offer to the people around me that they couldn’t get from a self-help book of some kind?

I now truly believe that ‘anybody’ is a ‘somebody’ in someone’s life. For example, Richard Branson can tell you a lot about business, but your entrepreneur friend, Jack, will teach you more. Dr. Phil can tell you a lot about psychology, but your therapist cousin, Francine, will teach you more. Why? Because they’re local, they’re personal, they have a direct link to you. They can directly influence you, your skills, and your experiences through life. So, too, do you make a difference to others around you. You might not see it, but people are being influenced by you all the time. It’s the little things where you can notice it first, like which movie to watch or which book to read.

You are just as important to someone else.
You have knowledge that nobody else has.
You have your own spin on the world that is unique to you.

I struggle with my thoughts and fears every day, thinking that there are so many people saying the same thing as me. I’m constantly thinking that I’ll just be another whisper in the wind. But I then think of my family, the people I’ve helped so far on my short journey. It gives me hope of making this world a better place for all of us. I’ve seen the impact my words have had at home, with friends, as well as colleagues.

You can make your own difference too – you really can. You directly impact your surroundings. You don’t need to rely on the big players out there. You know what’s right for you, no-one else. The best place to start is at home. Share your thoughts, dreams, and message with your family. Mention it to trusted friends. Try it at the office. You may just be surprised where you will end up.

Why not start right here? Leave a message in the comments below.

[Featured image by Paul Proshin via unsplash.com]

Humility and change

I learnt humility last week. It hit me like a freight train. I am still thinking about it almost a week later. I wasn’t prepared for it. And it has forced me to rethink the way I go about my life.

Ok, not quite that bad, but the feedback I received last week was still pretty shitty – forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and exactly where I needed to be.

About seven months ago, I got the opportunity to lead a new team. I saw it as a challenge as I hadn’t worked with the team before, didn’t understand the tools they used, or technologies they worked with. I was unsure as to how they would accept someone without the relevant technical experience to lead them forward.

Over time I have strived to build strong relationships through mutual trust and respect, both as a team and with each of the individuals. One of the questions I am continuously asking is for honest feedback about me and how I am leading them.

This question often brings out an array of opinions ranging from ‘you are doing great’ to ‘maybe change the time of the team meeting’ or ‘there have been a few misses, but overall it’s great’. These responses are fairly minor, and I can work pretty quickly to adapt and grow. That is until last week.

The discussion I had then hit the core of what I strive to achieve with the team every single day. What I thought I was doing right, was being perceived in a completely different way – a way detrimental to the growth of this team.

I was stricken (in a leadership sort of way).

At first, I wanted to justify myself. I wanted to use all the excuses in the book to explain why this action was taken, how it benefits this person and the team. But then I put myself in their shoes and realised that they are different to me. They are perceiving the situation through their eyes. I realised I simply needed to listen.

After this person had finished, I didn’t retaliate. I didn’t try to justify myself. By then I had realised that in order to grow, one must receive and process all feedback. Because this feedback was core to my leadership style, I needed time to mull it over. I thanked them for being so honest with me. The whole situation made me realise one thing.

If you want honesty from someone, you need to build trust and respect first.

You won’t get honesty right off the bat. It doesn’t come overnight, nor is it easy. A strong relationship needs to be built first, then the true changes begin to happen. When we become comfortable with someone, we open ourselves to vulnerability. We open ourselves to honest criticism. We need to be open to this criticism.

Without being open, we cannot learn anything new. Without learning, there is no growth. Without growth, we can’t be better than yesterday.

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