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The Fear of Unmet Desire

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In Your Room
Desire.

U2 sang about it. Oscar Wilde toyed with it. Chocolate inspires it.

And we’re all full of it

My head wants to see my name on the spine of a book in a bookstore, because it would be bloody brilliant to be a published author. My heart keeps going back to Portland, because I desire the fun and flow that I’ve experienced there many times. And the list of things my body craves would probably wrap around the Earth 4 or 5 times.

The things you want and the desires you have do strange things to you. They get your heart thumping, your blood flowing and your eyes sparkling. Sometimes they make you do things you wouldn’t normally do, just because you gotta have it, and sometimes they’re all you can think about.

Desire lays out compelling pathways in your brain; so compelling that they keep drawing your attention, screaming “Hey, if you just get this thing then everything would be totally fucking awesome!”

But the heady draw of desire casts a shadow that looms large…

And that’s the fear of what happens if your desires remain unmet.

What with you being a human being an’ all, your brain will naturally seek ways to keep you safe, always operating by it’s central organising principle:

Maximise reward, minimise danger.

If it senses that there’s risk or danger inherent to pursuing one of your desires, it will engineer fear around it—fear of change, fear of success, fear of failure—in the hope that it will prevent that pursuit.

They’re just pipe-dreams, you tell yourself. You don’t have what it takes to make something like that happen. That’s for other people.

And then, there’s the fear of trying to meet your desire and falling short.

The idea that you can try for something you really want and to still not get it is enough to break the strongest of hearts

The fear of unmet desire is a tangible force on your thinking and behaviour, fating you to a life of quiet desperation if you do what it urges.

So, enter our old friend confidence.

That trusted friend who, in the face of the overwhelming and compelling urge to maximise reward and minimise danger says,

I hear you. But it’s going to be okay. I got this.

Apply natural confidence to the fear of unmet desire, and what you create is possibility.

And maybe, that’s what we all desire the most…

Confidence: Love Not Strength

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Love Note 2
Digging deep into this whole confidence thing is sometimes like being mentored by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Just when I think I’ve figured it out, he goes all crazy in the coconut, yells at me that I know nothing and urges me to look deeper, look at it with fresh eyes, promising wonders.

Then he disappears with a flourish and invents a bloody helicopter. “Leonardo,” I shout, “Already got those pal.”

So I grapple and I prod and sometimes I get a bit pissy, but then another layer gets revealed and a whole new world opens up.

Leonardo was right. Of course he was. He’s bloody Leanardo Da Vinci.

This happened when I learned to integrate my illness rather than fight it. It happened when I started to see a relationship between confidence and joy. It happened when I saw I was using faux-confidence to be emotionally unavailable.

And it’s just happened again when I had something of an epiphany about the source of confidence.

People think that confidence is about strength.

It’s how you react in the face of fear, planting your feet and getting ready to show it who’s boss.

It’s how you rise to a challenge, digging deep so you can just hang on that little bit longer or find that extra something that helps you keep going.

And it’s how you take a risk without knowing what’s going to happen, helping you suck it up and take that step, even though you want to run home, make a nest under the bed and stay there ’til your next birthday when there’ll be cake.

There’s a strong chance you know what I’m talking about here, otherwise you’ve either had the easiest life imaginable or you’re a particularly laid-back strain of algae.

Strength implies there’s something you need to be strong in the face of.

Conflict is inherent.

And while that can sometimes be a useful and appropriate response, fuelling confidence from strength can be fucking exhausting.

Assuming you’re not algae, these are the times when you just want to stop already and have an easy life. When you wonder just how fucking strong you need to be in your life. And when you wonder if you’ll ever be strong enough to have what you want.

Enter, love.

Now, here’s where I make a little disclaimer.

I’m a cynic. I love laughing at inappropriate things.
As far as I’m concerned, astrology, crystals and past-life healing can go sit on a stick and get pecked at by crows.

But love? Love is real and tangible. I’ve felt it. You’ve felt it.

Love exists.

I’m in no position to define what love is (that’s the only thing I have in common with Foreigner), but I can speak to what the hell it has to do with confidence.

Let’s look at the previous examples I used.

There’s something out there you’re scared of, whether it’s failure, success or not measuring up. Reacting to fear with a confidence born from love is enveloping it with kindness and accepting that it’s only looking out for you, rather than squaring up to it with strength.

There’s a challenge out there, a career move you’d bite your own arm off to see happen, a health-blip you need to overcome or a relationship issue you want to work through. Reacting to those things with strength is just a lot of noise and chest-puffing, hardening into those challenges when instead you could be confident in your ability to soften into them with your whole heart.

There’s a risk out there, something unknown that you’re about to step into, something that might see you lose something you have or a course of action that might hurt you. Come at those things with a sense of confidence founded on strength and you’ll attack those risks and push through with the aim of “winning”. But approach those risks with a sense of confidence founded on love, and you know you’ll be okay whatever happens. There’s no win or lose, just love for the way you’re able to carve out your life as best you can.

I don’t know why I haven’t seen confidence in these terms before.

Perhaps I’m supposed to be all over this stuff like an old carpet, but it just goes to show what a geek I am for loving what I keep finding and how it keeps showing me new stuff.

I could tell you that I’m a confidence guru, that I know everything about building confidence and how you can be confident today. A show of strength, if you will.

I have some smarts, sure, but I’m at a place where I much prefer to approach my work—both what I know and what I don’t—with love rather then strength.

And so if I might depart somewhat from my normal cynical and sarcastic tone and approach a Disney-esque level of saccharine sweetness that makes the cynic in me want to hurl, if there’s something for you to take away from all this, it’s this:

Love yourself, and true confidence follows.

Why You Should Forget About Being Happy All The Time

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cold
I wrote last week about happiness and control. How they get on about as well as an extra in Christian Bale’s eyeline or a stripper at a Papal picnic.

We concluded that happiness was a choice, not an outcome.

And I left you with a question to ponder.

If you accept that happiness is a choice you can make, then why the hell aren’t you happy all the time?

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Being happy all the time?

A big smile on your face, a spring in your step, a little less roof in your room (thanks Pharrell).

But yet, there isn’t a person on the planet who’s happy all the time. Not you, not me, not Pharrell. And there’s nothing worse than pretending to be happy when you just want to be miserable, right?

Aiming for “happiness all the time” drives you to create goals or pursue outcomes that you think will deliver on that promise.

It becomes a goal in itself, another fictional outcome that’s dependent on bending circumstances to your will.

It’ll make you run round in circles second-guessing which move will make you happier, while also making you feel bad for experiencing “non-happy” emotions like sadness, loneliness or pain.

Truth is, you shouldn’t be happy all the time.

We’re not built to live like that, and thinking that you’re supposed to be happy all the time is guaranteed to make you fucking miserable.

We’re built to experience life, not to force it to be a certain way

I’m not suggesting that you sit back and let life happen to you, just as I would never condone becoming a goal-hungry machine. But I think there’s a middle ground, a place where you:

  • Don’t base your worth on outcomes, but on how you engage with your life
  • Don’t grip the rudder with white knuckles, but keep a light hand on it
  • Don’t beat yourself up for feeling low, but sense that you’re okay whatever you’re feeling

This is a terrain that’s pretty darn wonderful to hang out in. It’s a place of self-trust. It’s a place of natural confidence.

And here’s where it really yanks my noodle and becomes what might just be a paradox.

Because, when you’re in that place, happiness is right there with you.

The Shittiest Strategy for Happiness

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Bending Circumstances is a Shitty Strategy for Happiness

You set a goal. You get behind it like Kevin Spacey tackling a juicy role. And you try to make things happen.

All good, except for the all the happiness you invest in reaching that goal.

I’ll be happier when I lose that weight.
My life will be so much better when I switch careers.
All I need is a great relationship and life will be amazing.
Sort my finances out and I’ll be set.
Work hard for the next year and everything will be fucking awesome.

This is why you make you make goals—to control an outcome that you hope will make you tangibly happier. But here’s the thing.

Glue a dove to a tree and it won’t fly so well.

Tie your happiness to an outcome and the same thing happens.

Things go wrong. Circumstances change. Shit happens.

So if your strategy for happiness depends on bending circumstances to your will, then I’m sorry, but that just ain’t gonna fly.

Pursue a goal or an outcome if you fancy it, but stop fooling yourself that you’ll be happier as a result.

Never, ever make your happiness, success or value dependent on reaching a point in the distance or making everything align at some mythical point in the future.

Happiness is a choice, not an outcome

Now, with that said, let me bring this into sharp, scary territory for you with one simple question:

If “being happy” is a choice I can make right now, then why aren’t I happy all the time?

I’ll answer this next week, but would love to know your thoughts in the meantime.

What do you think? Why aren’t you happy all the time?

5.5 Lies You Need to Stop Telling Yourself

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Pinocchio
There are certain things I tell myself that I know to be true.

Cats are bastards
I should so write for the Onion
Geez Emily Blunt’s lovely

Those are all undeniable facts of course, but there are other things—let’s call ‘em lies—that we all tell ourselves. Things that we should just stop. Right now. Not just because they’re bullshit, but because they’re damaging bullshit.

Here we go.

1. I’m not that kind of person

I’m the least sporty guy you can imagine. Not only do my legs look slightly ridiculous in a pair of gym shorts, but if a bad man yelled at me to catch a ball or “I’d get it” I wouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance. I’d get it right in the kisser. I’m just not that guy.

But then, there was a decade when I went to the gym 5 times a week and not only loved it but got myself a six pack to boot (now sadly MIA). And there was the time in school when I loved playing Basketball, and the time when I saw the Dallas Cowboys play the 49ers and loved it, and the time I did a marathon.

So the thought that I’m not that guy is only true until it becomes not true.

You’re not fixed in stone. You’re growing right now. Your body, your mind, your hopes, your fears, your aims, your skills, your dreams, your talents and everything else that you are is pregnant with possibility.

Blocking a path towards something amazing, fun or interesting because you don’t think you’re that kind of person is crazy like Meryl Streep only choosing to play women named “Joanna Kramer” because she doesn’t feel like she can do justice to other parts.

If it matters to you or looks interesting, forget about “what kind of person” you are. For heavens sake, just get to it.

2. Other people have all the luck

Part of me wants to be Benedict Cumberbatch.

He’s smart and funny and looks pretty bloody good in a suit. He’s insanely talented and could fill 221b Baker Street to the roof with all his cash. He just got engaged to someone completely gorgeous and it looks like he’s going to play Dr Strange in the Marvel cinematic universe (trust me, for a geek like me, that’s huge). Lucky son of a bitch.

So why the hell do I have to struggle in a small town in Kent when I could be on the red carpet with Hollywood throwing money at me? Geez. The injustice of it all.

The thought that others have all the luck and you don’t get the breaks is nasty like a really angry bear holding a shark. It’s a comparative statement; you look at your own situation then compare it with the success you perceive someone else to have, and conclude that other people get all the luck.

It’s comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides, and it’s bullshit.

So stop it.

3. I’m not attractive

While I am quite clearly, gorgeous, there are times when I look in the mirror and recoil at the misshapen figure reflected back at me. And when I flirt with someone I fancy and don’t get anything back, I wonder what it is that’s wrong with me that they didn’t immediately offer to have my babies. Maybe I should get some botox or have one of those little chin dimples put in? Screw it, I’ll have both done. My new chin dimple will have its own damn botox. Then I’ll feel irresistible.

Telling yourself you’re not attractive is self-criticism gone mad, casting imperfections as fatal flaws, when they’re the very things that make you you and make you interesting.

It’s a reflection of the thought “I’m not good enough”, just a story you tell yourself to feel more secure. This story then either drives you to:

a. become attractive by any means necessary, or
b. pre-empt rejection and possibly never try again

Route a will make you a narcissistic asshole, while route b will make you a sad loner just one-step away from crazy cat-lady. Both routes seek to make the short term much more certain and controllable.

The alternative is that you are enough and you are attractive enough.

A scary thought, because that means there’s nothing in your way.

4. I don’t have what it takes

The world is a fucking tough place, I don’t have to tell you that. Quite apart from the likes of ISIS, the financial crisis and global warming, there are all manner of problems, forces and obstacles in our way. Like other people with their damn feelings, angry bears with sharks and saturated fat. Honestly, it’s really kind of a miracle that any of us get anything done at all.

And there are those moments—quiet, introspective moments—when you tell yourself you don’t have what it takes.

In those moments you wonder if you should just stop dreaming or stop trying. You wonder if it wouldn’t be a heap easier to let life happen and forget this whole struggling thing. And then the thought enters your head that you’ll never have the kind of success you always hoped for.

I could argue that you already have what it takes (because when you decide to, you can do extraordinary things) and I could argue that you’ll never have what it takes (because you’re never finished and you’ll never succeed at everything). Having what it takes is a judgement based on fiction and emotion, so let me tell you something straight and true.

Fuck “having what it takes”; it doesn’t exist.

The only thing you need concern yourself with is doing your best in the places it counts.

That’s everything.

5. I’m a phoney

Sometimes, right before a client session, I think to myself. What if I have nothing? What if I’m just making this shit up? What if they tell me I’m full of shit and write an exposé?

You ever thought something like that? That you don’t know what you’re doing? That you’re not as good as people might think? That any second now someone’s going to see right through you and your whole “thang” (which includes things like your reputation and your value to others) will be sunk faster than a tissue-paper ark?

You know what this is, right?

It’s just the scared part of you—the part that hides behind masks and feels more comfortable playing a role than being uncomfortable being you—looking at your life and thinking, “Shitting hell, how did we get here?”.

You work hard. You’ve been through a lot. You’ve learned heaps. That’s all real. None of it’s phoney.

You’re already worthy of being seen as you really are.

5.5. I don’t belong anywhere

I get it, you feel like you don’t fit.

You see all those faces around you, all of them seeming to be getting on just fine, and you, well, you just feel different. A little awkward, like you don’t really belong, or like others are part of something you’re not. I bet they talk about you when you’re not around. They snigger at you because they know you’re not like them and stop as soon as you enter the room. And they’re probably all in on some cosmic joke where you’re the punchline.

Your head is filled with stories with you as the protagonist. Stories where you’re at the centre and all the plotlines come back to you, while everyone else is separate from you. But these are just stories, and considering the boundaries put in place by the fact that we can’t see into other peoples heads, everybody feels like they’re on the outside.

That’s why this one is just half a lie, because it’s extrapolated from a truth.

BelongSo first of all, nobody thinks about you as much as you do. Seriously, they have their own stuff going on. Then of course, we often conflate belonging with gaining approval. And let’s not forget that belonging requires letting go.

Throughout my life I’ve felt like I haven’t belonged. But I had it all wrong, which is why I had the word “Belong” tattooed on my pasty English arm last year, because it reminds me that belonging is really just anywhere I get to be myself.

Which of these lies are you ready to stop telling?


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Doing What You Don’t Know

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Free as a bird
Doing what you don’t know is like freefalling.

At some point, if you want to go forwards, you have to just let go and drop into the space that’s right there in front of your face.

You don’t know what’s in there. Could be lions, tigers or bears (oh my). Could be sharp rocks. Could be marshmallow love pillows.

Doing what you don’t know, you can’t know ahead of time. It’s a first. It’s new. It’s terrifying.

But it’s only when you do something you don’t know that 2 things happen.

Stretch

Stepping into the unknown stretches your confidence muscle, just like lunging stretches your hamstrings or tasting something new stretches your palate.

Confidence can’t grow or be sustained by staying still. Put a puppy in a box and push it under the bed and see how it grows*.

Stretch is growth, and growth opens the world up.

Creativity

Nothing like being somewhere new to force you to wing it.

Stretching yourself into the unknown lights your brain up like a Christmas tree and requires that you improvise in order to carve a path through. “To succeed,” Isaac Asimov once said, “planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well”. (Mr Asimov was much smarter than me, so it must be true.)

Improvisation makes you connect disparate thoughts and ideas—if that worked there, maybe this will work here?—and that’s the spot where insight, inspiration and magic live.

Stretch + Creativity = Impact

Having an impact or making a meaningful change is only really possible when stretch and creativity come together, and woven through each of these is confidence.

Confidence to know you can stretch yourself in the first place. Confidence to know you can improvise. Confidence to take that step.

And the real magic is that in doing what you don’t know, you become more confident in doing the unknown.

You become a person who trusts in your own possibility, which is rare like rocking-horse shit and unimaginably more valuable than trusting where you’ve already been.

Does doing what you don’t know scare the crap out you?

* PLEASE DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS. I’M A DOG PERSON.


Playbook

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How to Love Yourself

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Nine of Hearts
Let me say first of all, and sorry to disappoint some of you, but this is not a guide to masturbation.

I could maybe offer a tip or two in that regard (don’t do it while operating heavy machinery, for example), but it’s not really what my coaching’s about and people are trying to eat.

Instead, I want to stray briefly into the cliché-ridden minefield that is learning to love yourself, and learning just what the hell that means in the first place.

It sounds like nirvana doesn’t it? A weird delusional place where everything’s peachy, where you can do no wrong and where if someone doesn’t like you they can go fuck themselves because all that matters is that you love yourself dammit.

But we know that life isn’t nirvana. And we know that delusions aren’t really that good for us.

So how does this “loving myself” thing really work then? What does it mean and what does it take?

Here, ladies and gentlemen, are my thinkings…

Integrate, don’t separate

Separation happens when you try to deliver on peoples’ expectations of you and your desire to please people. You start to compartmentalise, to step into a role with certain people or to mask other parts of yourself with others.

But it’s really hard to love yourself when you’re divided, separated and pigeon-holed. Do you love the part of you that’s a parent? Or the part that’s a homebody? Maybe the part that’s damn good at your job? Or maybe the part that wants to jack it all in and do something crazy?

We’re all made of different things that, when brought together, add up to more than the sum of the beautiful, crazy, immensely capable and distinctly fucked up parts.

Loving one of those pieces and not another just leads to more division and separation, so loving yourself starts with bringing all of these parts together because they’re all you. No one piece is more deserving of love than another. Which brings me to…

Welcome them warmly

Your body’s a funny shape and other people look better in clothes than you. You always hold back just a little, and maybe you’d be further along if you just stopped doing that. You hate the way your voice sounds when you hear yourself back. And isn’t it time you got your shit together and figured out what you’re doing with your life?

We all beat ourselves up for our flaws and imperfections, but loving yourself isn’t conditional on resolving these flaws or smoothing over the imperfections. You love yourself because you’re imperfect, because without those wrinkles and flaws you’d be a preening, plastic princess where peoples’ perceptions are more important than personal possibility (say that 10 times quickly).

You have to welcome your flaws and imperfections warmly and sincerely, because the alternative is judgement, conflict and feeling very much like shit.

Invite your flaws into your home and be the best damn host you can be. These are your friends. These are your family. These are you.

Give a shit

If you’re just coasting and not really living, it’s going to be hard to love your life.

We all end up somewhere we didn’t plan, doing something we might not want with people we wouldn’t necessarily choose. And sometimes that permeates through your skin into your heart, and things become a little greyer.

That feeling seeps and saps, but here’s the thing.

Loving yourself doesn’t mean you have to love your life

Loving yourself is independent of circumstance. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. It doesn’t matter if you’re single. It doesn’t matter if you love your job.

What loving yourself does mean, is that you give a shit about the things that matter to you. So even when you find yourself someplace unexpected or unwanted, you don’t conflate that with your self-worth and you still honour what matters.

Loving yourself means giving a shit about your heart and soul, regardless of your circumstances.

Forgiveness

I’ve taken relationships, careers, finances and all sorts of other things in my life and royally fucked them up.

Not every one, but enough to have made a difference in my life. Who knows where I’d be without those mistakes.

You, of course, will have fucked up too. And who knows where you’d be without your mistakes.

But if I was to think less of myself because of the mistakes I’ve made, my self-worth would be akin to something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe. I can’t for one second think less of myself because of my mistakes. They were mine to make, and man alive did I make them.

It’s part of being human, and part of learning to love yourself.

Forgiveness, rather than regret.

Which all leads us to the inevitable question. Do you love yourself?

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How to Get Back (and Keep Getting Back) on The Horse

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dream of horses and birds
Holy shit it’s February already.

I swear that someone’s spinning the Earth faster because it only seems like a few days ago that I was playing with my nephew’s Christmas toys and eating my own body weight in cheese.

Time certainly does move on, so if you’re confronted with the fact that time is leaping ahead and you haven’t really stuck to your plans, this one’s for you.

Whether you’ve lost steam and slipped back into old ways, lost sight of the good intentions you had on January 1st or tripped, fallen or plummeted, here’s how you can get back on the horse and make sure you stay on.

Stop the flagellation

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that every client I work with enjoys a little metaphorical self-flagellation. More, harder they tell me as they beat themselves up for not being better than they are.

But it’s human nature to get side-tracked

Just sit down for 10 minutes, close your eyes and train your attention on your breath for that full 10 minutes. Drop in to the whole breath, the breathing in, the little pause, the breathing out. Then do the same for the next breath. And the next. And the next. I’ll bet you a speedboat that at some point your mind will wander away from your breath and think about something else. Because that’s what minds do.

You might not be happy that you haven’t stuck to your plans or lost steam, but it’s really okay.

Don’t turn the side-tracking into another problem to beat yourself up about.

Accept it, then make a fresh choice.

Reboot the environment

If you want to give up cheetos, you’d better make sure your cupboards aren’t stuffed to the brim with bags of the cheesy little bastards.

If you want to start getting better sleep, you’d better remove the rocks from your mattress or fix that leaking tap that keeps you awake all night.

And if you don’t want to feel like garbage, you might want to create some distance between you and that asshole “friend” of yours who keeps belittling you.

See, your environment either adds to your ability to play a great game, or it takes away from it.

Try playing tennis wearing a gimp hood or
try playing Twister underwater and see if I’m not telling the truth

So take a look at all the stuff around you, get rid of the things that drain or frustrate you and add things that support and energise you.

Touch yourself

I ask all my clients to touch themselves.

Not in a sexy, “do you like this, baby, do you” sort of way, but in a way that has them get in touch with what they already have.

Let me ask you something. What are your strengths and talents?

Straight from the age of Personal Development 1.0, not only is it a question duller than a Chris Martin waxwork, but it’s also pretty much useless.

You do have strengths and talents (you have other stuff too: experience, values, choices and all sorts of other gems) and it’s important that you connect with them, but there are better ways to get in touch with yourself that I use with clients.

  • Look at the successes in your life and see what you did that helped nail it.
  • Look at when you’ve been on top of your game and see what allowed that to happen.
  • Look at what you’re most proud of and dig into what it is that matters most to you.
  • Look at what you’ve always been able to do brilliantly without really thinking, and see what talents you have in your bones.
  • Look at how you reacted in the bad times and see what you honoured or what you expressed.

These are a handful of questions that can provide real insights and get you touching yourself in ways that’ll really make you glow.

Give a shit

An easy life is one where you don’t give a shit about anything, because then it doesn’t matter where you end up, what you do or even who you become.

It’s all just grey and sludgy, and about as much fun as
a clown with a pocket full of turds

But you do care about stuff. You do give a shit. It’s just that life sometimes gets in the way, or that you’re so low on gas that it feels like you don’t have enough va-va-voom to give a shit.

One of the things I love most about my work is how clients react to the things they care about. One client told me that she felt “like the sun had come out“, simply because she’d got to a place where she no longer hid from the things she really gave a damn about.

Care about things. Care about yourself. Take a stand in your life. Give a shit.

Step freshly

Routine is a powerful force, like gravity or magnetism. It pulls you towards it, with promise of certainty and comfort.

But it also leads you to constrain what you do, limit your choices and diminish your impact.

So in getting back on the horse, it might not be a great strategy to repeat exactly the same steps you took last time around. Because you kinda know how that goes, right?

I know how hard it is to think of a new, fresh way forwards when you’re lying on your back with the horse you were on having trotted off to fuck knows where.

How the hell can you do something differently
when you don’t know what that different thing is?

Sometimes you might want to plan, strategise or bounce things around with someone else. That’s all good, just as long as you don’t replace taking action with planning or finding the “right” answer.

But ultimately, it comes down to doing something.

It could be something completely unrelated to what you were aiming for before, maybe something frivolous, fun or a flight of fancy (one client went from working on their freelance writing career to travelling South America, and found her mojo as a result). Your next step might be a crazy leap of faith, or it might be a gentle experiment to see what happens. Or maybe it’s simply doing the opposite of what that screaming voice of fear is telling you (like the client who booked a dozen speaking gigs in university campuses despite crapping his pants at the thought of speaking in public).

Whatever it is, please just have the balls the step freshly.

A helping hand…?

These strategies are really just the tip of a whopping great big iceberg, and in many ways my whole job is about helping people get back on the horse and keep getting back on.

Yeah it’s tough.

But the ability to know the light bits and dark bits of yourself, to bring what matters to you to life and to keep on going when it’s easier not to is also beautiful, joyful and pretty fucking extraordinary.

It’s what all this coaching and digging since 2002 has been about, and it’s what the Code of Extraordinary Change Playbook does.

And because I want good things for you, and to spread some love, the Playbook is 50% off for the whole of February.

It doesn’t just show you how to get back on the horse and be fine when you fall off, it shows you how to be your own damn horse.

Check it out.

49 Reasons To Be Brave

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I make a point of wearing this when I give talks about happiness - because happiness requires bravery.
Brave comes in really bloody handy if you’re a trapeze artist, astronaut or about to land a plane in the Hudson, but otherwise it’s not something we think about a whole lot.

Until, that is, a moment comes along that makes us wish we were brave. Because being brave is how we hope we could be all of the time.

Here are 49 reasons for you to be brave.

  1. Saying yes to that opportunity because of how it will help you grow
  2. Saying no to that opportunity because it won’t allow you to grow
  3. Asking them out on a date, because you love who you are when you’re with them
  4. Finally standing up to a friend who keeps treating you badly
  5. Setting fresh expectations with your partner about what you need in your relationship
  6. Attending that event even though you don’t know anybody there, simply to see what happens
  7. Speaking up in a meeting when there are big personalities around you
  8. Explaining to your boss that you think there’s a better way, even though consensus seems to be against you
  9. Opening up to someone about what you’re really scared about
  10. Asking for help because you’re tired of doing it alone
  11. Approaching someone you admire greatly and asking if you can talk about an idea you have
  12. Saying “Hey” to someone in your coffee line, just because they seem wonderful
  13. Quitting that pet project you’ve been plugging away at because you’ve outgrown it or it no longer energises you
  14. Showing someone else the results of a creative endeavour instead of keeping it to yourself
  15. Saying “Fuck yes” to a new project, for no other reason than it feels fun or exciting
  16. Saying “Fuck no” to a new project, for no other reason than it doesn’t feel fun or exciting
  17. Letting go of a relationship that only makes you feel at your worst
  18. Confronting the reality of your finances and choosing to be responsible for them
  19. Owning up to your part in a bad situation rather than assigning blame elsewhere
  20. Prioritising genuine nourishment over false comfort
  21. Choosing crazy over practical
  22. Believing that you can start, even though you’re not sure you can finish
  23. Letting your partner know what you want sexually
  24. Leaving people behind who make you feel small
  25. Because you finally realise that your heart lies elsewhere
  26. Making yourself uncomfortable when you could more easily have made yourself safe
  27. Leaving behind your home, your town and your friends because of an irresistible opportunity elsewhere
  28. Letting go of how someone hurt you, because it no longer serves you to keep it close
  29. Deciding to learn to do something that makes you feel exposed, like public speaking, yoga or dancing
  30. Telling your manager “No”, you can’t take on any more work right now
  31. Because you don’t want to have it be a struggle any more, and need help on where to go next
  32. Choosing to deal with a block that’s holding you back, like a fear of intimacy, a belief that you’re not good enough or even a fear of flying
  33. Telling someone you love them
  34. Telling someone you don’t love them
  35. Admitting to a mistake you made, even though you might just get away with it
  36. Hearing what your body is telling you, especially if it might be bad news
  37. Standing up for yourself when others are trying to sway you in your thinking or action
  38. Deciding that you can’t fit in with what others expect of you any more, because you don’t like who you are when you do that
  39. Going back to school or college to learn something you really love
  40. Embracing change, even though those closest to you don’t want you to change
  41. Quitting your job because it’s damaging you, even though you have nothing else lined up
  42. Admitting that you’ve been wrong to people whose respect you crave
  43. Because you’re tired of pretending that everything’s great all the time
  44. Deciding to stop trying to be something you’re not to someone who doesn’t want you as you are
  45. Realising that what you’ve been doing won’t make you happy
  46. Letting go of dogmatic beliefs even if those beliefs have defined part of your identity
  47. Choosing to take a stand in your life, right now, rather than just going with the flow
  48. Not hiding the stuff that matters to you just because it doesn’t matter to people around you
  49. Choosing compassion over indifference

Why do you want to be brave?

5 Harsh Truths of Life You’d Rather Not Think About

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Graveyard
Life is a whole lot of things all smooshed together. You can literally quote me on that.

It’s cruel, beautiful, harsh, joyful, mysterious. Sometimes it smells like herb roasted chicken. Other times it stinks of piss. Sometimes it’s just hilarious (I like that bit) and you want to keep laughing until your eyes dessicate, but it’s also a real bitch who’ll slap you hard in face without warning and then tweet to the whole world a red-faced picture of you in tears, with the comment “Stop attention seeking you prissy little cry-baby.”

I’m all for prodding into dark corners, so let me take some of the fundamental truths of life—these are some harsh truths you’d probably prefer to ignore—and smoosh them all up in your face like a chicken and piss pie.

You’re not immortal

Well done. You’ve lived long enough to read this article.

But today could be the day you keel over, emit your last pillow of intestinal gas and die.

We go about our lives as if they’ll just keep on going, day after day after day. And for the most part they do, until it doesn’t any more.

You know you’re going to die someday, of course you do, but the reality of your own mortality is one that your brain has a really hard time processing. Think of it like Justin Bieber trying to understand how the Large Hadron Collider works, or the Large Hadron Collider trying to collide particles of Justin Bieber together to discover how he got here.

Your brain can’t really fathom your own mortality, so it feels like you’ll be around forever. You assume that there’s time for things to work out. You think that there’s time to hit your stride. You think that there’s time for your life to come into focus.

But time is literally running out. You know how quickly the last five years raced by? The next five will be even quicker.

While this sense of being around forever is an illusion engineered by your brain, there is a genuine opportunity to make a difference while you’re here.

Don’t fret or panic about whether you’ll have a legacy that lasts for lifetimes. Just do your best and be generous of spirit in this life and be confident that it’s enough.

You’re not important

You’re the protagonist in your own story, like a less magical Harry Potter or a less murdery Hannibal Lecter.

You go about your life from behind your own eyes, perceiving the things that happen, processing the events you observe, assimilating learnings and dealing with shit when it inevitably hits the fan. All of this shenanigans is done as “you”.

Thing is, you’re just one among 7 billion others, each of whom do exactly the same thing. Wake up, do stuff, go to sleep. Whine about things. Laugh at people on YouTube. Worry about ageing. Feel pain. Make sweet love. Eat pudding. Sometimes all those things at once.

People don’t really care about what you do, what you think or what you do. They’re too busy with their own stuff to notice.

This sense of “I” as the most important piece of your world is just fine in some regards. It’s the thing that stops you jumping off the roof because flying looks fun or chopping off your own fingers to make pinky sausage.

But with it can come self-importance, the very thing that the Buddhists and Eckhart Tolle’s out there seek to let go of in order to find a more universal truth.

So here’s the universal truth (thanks for your work Eckhart and Buddhism, but I got this one):

You’re not important. But you can still create value that’s as rare as rocking-horse shit.

You make the decisions

There are easy choices, like what to have for breakfast, where to live, what job to take, how to take care of yourself and what to jokingly call your private parts (in my case, I call them Stephen and the Twins).

Then there’s the stuff that’s beyond your control, like being laid off, a house fire or losing a loved one. I’m guessing you wouldn’t go out of your way to decide to have something awful happen, but there’s a choice present in every circumstance you find yourself in.

Yep, every single one.

I have an incurable, chronic, debilitating illness, for example. And I made the choice to partner up with it like we’re in some kind of Walter Matthau / Jack Lemmon caper movie.

You get to choose how you deal with grief, how you deal with people, how you see your story or a million other things.

Oh, it would be remiss of me not to mention that fact that letting somebody else decide for you, or the decision not to make a choice are still your decisions, even though it’s easier to think they’re not. You’re welcome.

Making decisions is the mechanism for living a life full of texture and colour. And if that makes you uncomfortable about the choices you’ve already made or scared about the choices yet to come, then good.

They’re all yours. Don’t fight them.

You’ll never have the answers

Answers are like socks. They make you feel all comfy and warm at first, but over time they wear out ’til you’re needing a new set, and then some days you just can’t find the damn things no matter how hard you look.

There’s so much value placed on getting the right answers, and let me take a moment to apologise on behalf of the personal development industry for our part in that. Sorry. We fucked that up a bit.

Answering questions like how do I know what’s right?, what if I choose wrong? or how can I be sure? become goals, and we pursue answers to them like reaching for a mythical cherry atop a cake of self-mistrust.

You get hungry for the certainty answers provide, but hunting for answers gets in the way of living.

The irony in telling you that answers don’t matter while attempting to provide some answers isn’t lost on me. What can I say, life is weird like that. But the truth is that testing and learning is more important than finding answers. Otherwise you may as well be collecting beer labels or contemplating what your butt-hole wants for breakfast.

So let’s hear it for exploration without having answers.

Go sockless.

You’ll never make it

Over the last few decades, success has been elevated in the West to the point where it’s idolised and worshipped. You may have heard of the classic Yale University Class of 1953 study, where researchers surveyed the graduating seniors to determine how many of them had specific, written goals for their future. 3% of them had done just that. Twenty years later, researchers polled the surviving members of the Class of 1953 and found that the 3% with goals had accumulated more personal financial wealth than the other 97% of the class combined.

Since then, industry has sprouted up around the notion of success (Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracey, Anthony Robbins and many more all quote the Yale study in their work) and people are hungry for it. If I can just make it, then I’ll be set, people think.

Only, the Yale study is complete bollocks. It never took place.

Yale University Research Associate Beverly Waters carried out an exhaustive search of the archives and found no evidence that such a study had ever been conducted. Says Waters, “We are quite confident that the ‘study’ did not take place. We suspect it is a myth.” Being vehemently anti-goal myself, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to discover this.

“Success” and “making it” imply an end point to your efforts, a point at which everything pays off when you can lie back and have your staff feed you grapes, wash your feet in champagne and tell you how gorgeous you look when you wallow in smug self-satisfaction.

But no matter how impactful you become, how many dollars are in the bank or how many lives you touch, you’re still you. Your issues are still your issues and your shit is still your shit. For all we know, Oprah’s terrified of odd numbers, Richard Branson has intimacy issues and George Clooney is bald as a coot.

Those things probably aren’t true (or are they?), but you’re never “done” and you can’t outrun your issues. This is why Hollywood stars come crashing down and why it’s widely found that winning the lottery has no impact on long-term happiness.

So, fuck success and to hell with “making it”.

The real gold, I strongly suspect, is in engaging and connecting in ways both meaningful and nourishing. And to me, that sounds like a hell of a lot more fun too.

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