helpgrowchange

How to make social media meaningful

We all interface with social media in one way or another. We like and share with our friends on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, or share our vintage photos on Instagram. There are a plethora of options for sharing ourselves and our views of the world on the Internet. But why is it that we still ‘do’ social media so wrong?

Because we don’t interact. We don’t engage enough. We don’t connect with another.

Think about when you have a face-to-face conversation with a friend. They’ve come over to your place for a cup of coffee (or tea if that’s your preference), and you two are chatting away.

Do you both talk at the same time – trying to shout over each other? I doubt it.
Do you just ignore a story of theirs, and carry on with your own? Nope.
Do you shout something at them, then get up and walk away without saying a word when they comment about it? Of course not!

Many of us are still coming to grips with how socia media is impacting our lives – and where it fits into our social spectrum. We still see these platforms as shouting boxes for people to see us and how awesome we are, but we don’t take the time to truly connect with others online.

Make connections

I’ve been on Facebook since 2007, and I’m only now beginning to understand how to use it as a medium to connect and grow the relationships – almost like another means to get to know and understand them better.

It’s about commenting on their status, showing empathy when it’s needed, tagging them where necessary, or simply liking their posts.

The more you interact, the more meaningful your social media experience will be.

I’ve built some real connections online over the past few years. Friendships that have formed purely online across continents, people such as Jay, Brandon, or Annie. We interact fairly often, and I anticipate meeting them in person one day.

And as for the people I have met in person already, social media is another tool I can use to strengthen these relationships further.

It’s all up to you

You need to think about why you want to be on social media. Do you just want to brag about your successes, shout out your opinion at anyone and everyone who might be interested? Are you online simply to spy on your family, friends, and acquaintances? (I really hope you’re not, that is just creepy and wrong)

Or do you want to be a better person. The person who wants to really connect with their friends and family in a meaningful way. Keep it simple. Treat your special connections with extra attention. Add some personality to your posts. They will remember it, remember you.

Today, while you are browsing your Facebook or Twitter feeds, why not reply on someone’s post and ask a question? Spark a conversation. You never know where it might lead.

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.

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.

Learning to let go

I’ve been on holiday for just over a week now. Away from the office, away from home, away from the monotony of daily life. It’s been good so far. My family have seen some interesting attractions and have learnt to live together in a cramped holiday home. My wife and I have really come to appreciate what we have back home, but there is one area where I have struggled during this time away.

That is to let go.

Back at the office, there has been an extremely high volume of problems to resolve. Some critical decisions are being made about team utilisation. And it has been weighing heavily on me that I have not been there to partake in the decision making process. Plans I had in place might be smashed to pieces. People utilisation might thrown out of whack. The team will come crashing down.

But then I realise that I have worked hard to not build the team on a house of cards. They have been provided opportunities to grow, to perform above and beyond, and to climb outside of their comfort zone. I trust in the decisions they are making, and will back them all the way.

Learning to let go is hard. It’s a haze of ‘what if’s’ and ‘should haves’. The more you think of these, the more worked up you become. You worry about possible outcomes that will never happen. In other words, you worry about nothing.

For me, the best way to let go is I tell myself I did the best I could.

If you look back at the past leading up to this point telling yourself you did the best you could, your worrisome self will immediately reply with ‘you should’ve done that‘ or ‘what if you had gone that way’. But if you really think about it, would you have really done it differently – really really?

I doubt it.

You did the best you could with what was provided to you and what you knew at the time.

Be content with that statement. Accept it. It is the complete truth.

Once you accept that you have done the best you could, you will be able to trust in the outcomes of situations while you are away. You will accept changes in situations a lot more quickly. It is something I am still learning to do, but this has worked for me with amazing effectiveness.

Give it a try, it might just work for you too.

[Featured image: One of my holiday snaps of Lake Rotoiti]

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