LOG IN    /    REGISTER

Latest Updates

Let Them See You

2 Comments

Opposite
Being super-smart and insightful like you are, you’ll no doubt be aware that you’re staring into a screen right now.

Well done. You’ve passed the first test.

But close your eyes and that screen vanishes. What the fuck!, you might think, I swear I was just looking at this glowy screen thingy and now it’s disappeared!

Chances are it’s still there of course, you’re just not looking at it. Gotta wake up pretty early to get past you, right?

So let me ask you this. If a tree falls in a wood and there’s nobody around to hear it fall, does it make a sound?

Yes, of course it fucking does.

It’s a massive great big tree falling down; that shit is going to be noisy as all hell

Of course I’m being facetious and silly (it’s a talent), but choosing not to see something doesn’t change the fact that it’s there. Choosing not to hear something doesn’t change the fact that it makes a sound.

And here’s where we get to the meat and potatoes of the thing.

Sometimes in life you’ll prefer not to be seen by others, because there’s something you’d rather not see or hear yourself.

Perhaps something’s just gone completely pear-shaped and you’re ashamed. Maybe a dream feels completely out of your league and you don’t want to feel bad about not being up to it. Maybe you were rejected by someone and you’ve learned to hide to avoid getting hurt again. Or maybe you feel smaller than a gnat chewing on the ass of a cow in a field that you drive by at 80kph.

As long as you hide that part of you and hide the noise it makes, you think it will go away.

But it doesn’t.

Of course it doesn’t.

You just pretend that it does and work to obscure it like David frickin’ Copperfield using camera tricks to make the Statue of Liberty disappear.

All you do is deprive the world from seeing you, torch in hand, as you really are

More importantly, you deprive yourself from feeling whole.

I’m a big fleshy bag of contradictions just like you, and there will always be objects that create feelings of fear and unworthiness.

But for heavens sake, let’s not make that a problem.

If there was a guy among your circle of friends—let’s call him Kenny—who went around with his hands in front of his eyes pretending that people weren’t there, wouldn’t you want to slap him silly?

You call him up to see what he’s been up to, and all you get down the line is “La, la, la, la-la, la, la, can’t hear you, la, la-la…

Head out to a movie with Kenny, and he spends the whole damn picture with a bag over his head asking you what’s happening and whether Al Pacino’s in it.

And then at the end of dinner, Kenny squeezes his eyes shut and says, “Bill? What bill? I can’t see a bill.”

Let’s face it, Kenny needs a solid slap right in the kisser

You might not want to see what’s there, because it makes you feel bad. So it takes a little courage at first, to sweep back that curtain and see what you’ve been trying not to look at.

But what’s back there isn’t something to be ashamed about and doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s just a part of you that you get to say “Hey” to before going about your day as best you can.

And then, letting someone else see you is really just softening into the world as you already are.

I think you can probably see how drum-bangingly, toe-tingly, goose-bumpingly extra-fucking-ordinary that would be.

7 Things 8 Years of Chronic Illness Has Taught Me

Leave a Comment

I Give Up
The first time I told someone that I’d been diagnosed with M.E., I choked on the words and found tears welling up in my eyes.

So I blurted it out, then hurried away to pull myself together and man up.

That was in 2009, following 2 years of being increasingly ill and having a string of doctors tell me they didn’t know what the hell was wrong.

Since then it’s been a rollercoaster.

A rollercoaster with some bloody wonderful views at the top, a load of white-knuckle twists that make you want to throw up and one where you can never be sure when a bigger plunge will be coming up.

It’s made me get my shit together in ways I’d never have guessed at, and so here, with the aim of showing you how challenge and hardship can be grown into and learned from, are 5 things I’ve learned from 8 years of chronic illness.

Other people don’t need to get it

I’ve tried explaining this CFS / M.E. thing to friends, colleagues and family before. How every morning when I wake up it feels like every bone in my body is broken. How some days it takes all my strength and concentration just to stand upright. How the brain fog makes it impossible to pull out a coherent thought for days at a time.

Fuck knows I’ve wanted to make people understand. I’ve wanted to tell them or show them or force them to see how it is.

Because then it feels like I’m not quite so alone in the experience

But it never quite works, because other people aren’t inside the experience with me.

I’ll never know what it’s like to live without legs, to be born and raised in Guatemala, or to be a Pisces. I’m not inside those experiences, so while I might be able to imagine or empathise, I’ll never truly get it.

Other people don’t need to understand what’s going on for you in order for it to be a real and valid experience.

Clinging onto the need to have someone else validate your experience is like demanding that your elderly aunt tries being less elderly and starts dressing and talking just like you or you won’t acknowledge her.

I love you Aunt Elspeth, but I’d love you more if you’d just wear my clothes, put on these glasses and start talking like a middle-aged geek with a bald patch and a penchant for inappropriate humour.

So, I’ve learned that giving people my best is more important than having them understand my worst.

Energy is finite

My body’s batteries are fucked.

The mitochondria in my cells don’t produce enough energy to keep the lights on, and when that energy runs out everything goes black.

That gets hella frustrating when I want to do stuff like take a trip, go out with friends, start a new writing project or celebrate a family birthday, because I’m constantly trading energy between different activities.

Energy is the currency you spend on your decisions and the patterns of behaviour that follow.

More energy equals more choice

So, over the last 8 years I’ve learned the value of that energy, the value of the choices that it affords and the value of the behaviour that it buys.

It’s truly priceless, and however much of it you have, you get to choose how you spend it.

So, I guess I’ve learned that however much energy you have, it’s truly fucking wonderful.

Experience is a matter of choice

When was the last shitty day you had?

A long, crappy day at work where you feel out of control or out of your depth certainly makes you feel crappy. As does having a fight or confrontation with a friend, partner or family member that left you reeling and/or ranting. Spilling coffee down your front. Getting stuck in traffic. Hearing bad news.

A shitty day makes for a shitty experience

It’s about circumstances. Shitty circumstances get into your head and turn your thoughts into a sludge of “get me out of here”, “this sucks” and “I hate this”. And then what you’ve got is an experience that’s a whole heap shittier than the circumstances deserve.

So I’ve learned that those days when the illness is tearing chunks out of me don’t need to turn into shitty days.

I’ve learned that the way my body is doesn’t need to to dictate my experience.

Separation fucks you up

Sound the zen alert, but I’ve found that a practice of staying mindful helps enormously in managing chronic pain, and I meditate frequently in order to do just that.

I started this mindfulness practice 5 years ago, and while I know it’s been a huge help I also see how I’ve been misusing it in ways that have, at times, crushed all the air out of my heart.

Mindfulness is about acknowledging what’s happening, from your breath to the sounds around you, from the feeling of the chair under you to the air crossing your fingertips, from the thoughts rolling through your head to the sensations rolling through your body, while never judging them and never letting “self” be swept along with them.

And that’s the thing. Sometimes I’ve used mindfulness as a way to control my experience and separate myself from the ways things are. I control, separate and compartmentalise, telling myself that those things I’m controlling, separating and compartmentalising are all good in themselves, just as long as they’re controlled, separated and compartmentalised.

There are times when I’ve used mindfulness as an excuse to separate myself from my experience, and found confidence in the control that came from that.

It’s like reaching out an olive branch in peace, then bashing the crap out of someone with it when they try to grab for it. No Larry, don’t grab. Bad Larry. Bad Larry.

Not only is using mindfulness to control experience a dumb-ass thing to do and really missing the point of mindfulness (which is to not need it), but it’s damaging like putting a kitten in a blender.

So I’ve learned that even though it’s messier, integration is beautiful.

Anger leaks out

I get angry sometimes.

When I hear someone whine about having a cold for a few days and how ghastly they feel. When people exclude me because they know I’ll say “No” to going out. When I see people out there spending seemingly boundless amounts of energy and making cool shit happen. Or worse, when I see people out there spending seemingly boundless amount of energy and making shit all happen.

I get angry.

You ever been frustrated because poor health prevented you from doing something you wanted to do? Maybe a bad cold prevented you attending that great party. Maybe a 48 hour vomiting bug stopped you seeing an old friend. Or maybe a broken leg meant that you couldn’t go on that trip after all.

Frustrating right?

So yeah, it’s frustrating as all hell to not be able to do stuff you want to do because your body won’t let you. And when your choices are limited on a daily basis, that’s a lot of frustration.

That leaks out.

That hurts.

And anger sits on top of it.

So I’ve learned that anger always sits on top of pain.

And rather than choosing to reside in that anger, I’m much better served to spend a little bit of time hanging out with the pain that’s underneath.

Rest is pro-active

If I had a penny for every time I’ve been tough on myself for not getting more done, I could have made a real life shrine to pennies made out of pennies, complete with a penny dome, penny landscaping, a penny giftshop and a penny vault to keep all the extra-rare pennies in.

I love to write. I love to laugh. I love to come up with new stuff for you. But when the illness forces me to rest because I can’t take another step or think another thought, I beat myself up for not being more productive.

Why haven’t I written The Code workbook yet? Why aren’t I out having fun with good people? Why haven’t I finished the novel already?

That thinking, of course, relies on believing that productivity is good and rest is bad.

Which is the biggest pile of bullshit since Billy the biggest bull in the world ate a bad clam, evacuated his bowels for 2 days straight and became Billy the horribly emaciated bull.

The illness doesn’t force me to take rest.

I’ve learned that choosing rest affords me the energy to do the things I love, and so it can never be a waste.

Story is Fucking Everything

Those 6 areas I’ve just spoken about?

They all weave together to form a story. A story I slip into now and then, as seductively as you might slip into a 5 star, 1500 thread count hotel bed after 24 hours of travelling.

I’m hard-done by. Other people have it easy. I won’t get where I want to go.

When the illness is flaring up it’s fucking horrible. It grabs me and rips me into pieces. And then I throw a pity party.

Sometimes I just let that happen because I know it’s healthy and okay to have down days. That’s cool. Other times, I stop for a moment and wonder just when I became a victim.

I’m no more a victim than I am a small horse or a bugle, but damn those stories are hard to resist aren’t they?

But they’re not true

They just tell one, narrow, horribly skewed side of the way things are or the way things can be, and the narrative you tell yourself sets the parameters for your experience.

The illness doesn’t “rip me to shreads”, it just finds new ways to challenge me. Other people don’t have it easier than me; many have it much, much worse. I may need to go a little slower, but I still love the smell of progress in the morning.

I’ve learned that the story you choose becomes the world you inhabit.

I’m still writing my story, I’m pretty bloody fascinated to see where it goes.

Turn Fear Into Power

Leave a Comment

Power on/off
Fear is a powerful motivator.

Just wear a meat-helmet to lion training school and see if I’m not wrong.

Fear is powerful indeed, but hardly empowering.

In fact, when you think about it, it strips you of your power as it’s the thing that makes you run away, urges you to curl up into a ball or yells at you to just hurry the fuck up and blend into the environment so you won’t get eaten.

So how do you turn fear into power?

How do you remain empowered even when that fear is clawing at you?

Here’s my 1-2-3.

1. Know it’s there

Fear has a habit of either creeping up on you imperceptibly or jumping out at you from behind the door and shouting “Boo!”.

In either of those situations—situations where you’re just reacting to the presence of fear—it’s odds on that you’ll do whatever that fear tells you to do.

So know that fear is there. Know that it’s there at work when you have to step up. Know that it’s there in your relationship when you have to be vulnerable. And know that it’s right there behind you when you’re looking at making an important change.

Going on a first date can be scary, right? How’s it going to go? What if it’s a waste of time? What if they’re repulsive? So, when I recently took part in a TV Show called First Dates (where I was set up on a blind date which was filmed for national TV) I knew that fear would be there trying to talk me out of it.

There’s always fear, even it’s lurking in the dark corners

Don’t let it surprise you when you see it.

2. Know it’s okay

It’s easy to think that fear is unwanted. That it’s weakness. That it’s the enemy.

The fact that it’s there and can make you feel all run-and-hidey is reason for you to want to fight against it. But fear is no more your enemy than your toes are.

It’s just part of you.

The moment you cast fear as your opponent is the same moment you give it more power than it actually has. You set it up as the Big Bad, the thing that wants to hurt you, the thing to be overcome.

Faced with the prospect of a televised first date, I watched as my brain came up with all kinds of reasons why I shouldn’t go through with it. But I didn’t go out of my way to beat that fear, conquer it or overcome it.

It isn’t something to be overcome. It’s something to move with, because actually, all it wants is for you to be okay.

Don’t turn the experience of fear into a problem.

Normalise fear

Smile with it, reassure it, stroke it’s hair and whisper to it that everything will be okay.

3. Know it’s a springboard

When you see fear and know that it’s an okay part of your day to day experience, something odd happens.

It creates daylight between your circumstances and your response

There was a client who, when that daylight hit her face, decided to move to London for a career change rather than stay still out of fear. Another client chose to go deeper in her relationship with her boyfriend rather than follow an old pattern of holding him at arms length.

And I chose to enjoy that televised first date because I sure as hell couldn’t control what happened, but I was damned if I wasn’t going to be at my best while it did.

That gap, that daylight between fear and response; that’s where power lives.

Want to turn your fear into power?

Stop Wishing You Could…

4 Comments

Wish
The world is full of has-beens and also-rans.

Those folks who’ve stopped trying.

The people who never match their actions or intentions to their hopes.

People who resign themselves to small.

From where I’m sitting, it’s just a little bit fucked up. It’s like making under-seasoned scrambled eggs and then crying off eating scrambled eggs ever again because it’s just so hard to get them right.

Scrambled eggs are an eggy, buttery joy that make life worth living, right up there with belly laughter and spontaneous sex. Life is poorer without them.

So let’s check a couple of facts quickly.

1. There are so many eggs. As a lover of scrambled eggs, the fact that eggs are readily available is totally bloody brilliant. Not only does it mean that I can effectively have scrambled eggs on tap (note: new business venture?), but those same eggs can be used to make cakes, pasta, scones, soufflés, pastries and heaps more. Eggs equal possibility. Almost limitless potential for #nom.

2. You give a shit. You care about your life and what happens in it, and giving a shit drives you to make sure you’re safe and also to strive even when you might not be safe. Sometimes giving a shit and being safe slip into their wrestling gear and duke it out, making life a confusing mess until the victor stands tall. But as the one who gives a shit, you get to decide which party you get behind and yell “Finish him!” to.

3. You’re dying. I don’t want to poop on this party, but with every second that passes—even as you read these words—you’re getting closer to the time of your own death. That breath you just took? One breath closer to your last.

Where do those facts leave us I wonder?

You might conclude that it all feels too big and confusing, that you’re not ready and that you just want an easy life. So go back to fact #2 and remind yourself that you give a shit. More than that, you get to choose what you give a shit about.

You might conclude that there are too many choices and you just wish it would be easier already. So go back to fact #1, see what looks tasty to you right now and recognise that you might have to break a few dozen eggs before you get it right.

Or you might conclude that you’re too busy to do stuff or that there’s plenty of time to make changes later. So go back to fact #3 and get comfy with the fact your time is slipping away like a puppy down a luge track.

For my money, this all leaves us with one inescapable conclusion.

You need to stop wishing you could

Don’t even worry about whether you can. You might wish you could work overseas for a spell, you might wish you could be totally at ease in your own skin or you might wish you could fill a lake with custard and hold the world’s first custard triathlon.

Confidence and preparation are immaterial.

If you lack the confidence right now, taking that first step past your comfort zone will already start the process of building it.

And while the urge to make a plan and prepare will be strong, sometimes that’s just about wrapping yourself in 50 layers of bubble-wrap so you don’t get bruised.

Go explore. Break some damn eggs. See what tastes good.

Stop wishing you could…

How to Beat the Fear of Criticism

3 Comments

disapprove
A few years ago I was in a meeting room being told that the way I’d handled a project was embarrassing.

I was dumb-founded. I thought I’d done my best under challenging circumstances, but here was my boss telling that she was embarrassed by my sloppiness and that I should be too. She told me I had to do much better and that she wouldn’t put up with it.

I felt my stomach drop through the floor and the blood rush to my face.

I felt ashamed, angry, upset and confused. And I handed in my notice a week later.

That was probably the worst criticism I’d ever received, and as someone who prides himself on doing great work it took me totally by surprise.

Criticism can crush you

Which is why you might be tempted to do everything perfectly, because then, you get to avoid it.

In trying to do things “perfectly” and please everyone, you bring things like image, perception and control close enough that you can feel their breath on your skin and their grip on your shoulder.

Your identity gets mixed with the need to do something perfectly, otherwise you’ll give the critics the ammo they want. And then they’ll rub your face in it.

This, of course, just sets you up to feel devastated when criticism inevitably comes.

So how to avoid the compulsion to avoid criticism out of fear?

2 simple steps.

1. Expect it

Your job isn’t to make sure that you never get criticised.

You can’t control what people think, and it’s possible that you might get criticised for something any time now. The way you’ve done your hair this morning, The way you dealt with a problem at work. The way you prepared dinner.

The moment you stop thinking that you need to avoid criticism at all costs is the same moment you start doing things for you.

2. Choose.

The thoughts in my head when my boss tore chunks out of me in that meeting room included things like, “you don’t have a fucking clue what you’re talking about“, “you wouldn’t have been able to do half of what I did, who the hell are you?“, and of course, “die witch.”

In essence, I ran all kinds of narratives in my head based on how I felt, and the narrative I chose out of all the stories (which included some pretty elaborate revenge scenarios, let me tell you) was to resign.

I took it as a personal attack and so my feelings were wound around that narrative, and while she could certainly have been more business-like about things I didn’t need to do that.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin once said, “You’re too good to think people who disagree with you are the enemy”, and while this should never be about casting yourself as “better” than the other guy, it’s important to embrace the idea that you get to choose how you react to criticism.

People have opinions and have their own shit going on. That’s fine. Someone not liking something you’ve done or said doesn’t need to rip your heart asunder or invalidate your place on planet Earth.

Keep a distance between the criticism and how you incorporate it. Don’t make their personal judgements your own, remember that the moment won’t end you and see what genuine learnings you can take away.

Criticism hurts if you let it speak to that part of you that fears it’s all true.

And that’s why you don’t have to fear it.

Because in fact, you’re mighty.

20 Questions That Can Change Your Life

Leave a Comment

Finger face with a question
I could ask you what your favourite cheese is or whether you prefer ballet or ham, but I don’t think the answers would be very productive.

Mildly interesting maybe, but hardly useful.

For useful answers—answers that give you real insights that you can take away and do cool shit with—you have to ask useful questions.

Here are 20 of them, and they just might change your life.

  1. What’s the real reason I’m doing this?
    A course of action can be started for any number of reasons (fitting in, avoiding pain, feeling sexy), all of which might seem perfectly fine at first. But there are layers to action, and the real reason you’re doing something might not be what you think it is. Don’t be scared of digging and seeing what’s really in it for you.
  2. How can this be easier?
    I’ll choose ease over struggle any day of the week. Don’t follow the urge to struggle, fight or suffer because you think that’s what needs to happen or how you become worthy; look at how you can make things easier.
  3. What can I let go of that isn’t serving me?
    Letting go is liberating. Letting go of something that drains you, frustrates you or otherwise takes away is just common sense.
  4. What’s my intention here?
    Is your intention in this moment to be at your best or just to coast? Is it to look for the bad or celebrate the good? Or maybe it’s to hurt rather than heal. Open that up and see what’s inside.
  5. What can I do to help?
    It’s often easier to look inward and have your own agenda dictate what happens. Nothing wrong with that, but beautiful things can happen just by opening up a little and seeing what you can do to help someone else, something else, somewhere else.
  6. If you did know, what would it be?
    If you don’t know the answer to something (which direction to take, what to say to someone, how to approach a challenge, etc) and are sitting in Stuckville, ask yourself if I did know the answer, what would it be? It sounds crazy, I know, but this is a bloody useful (and sometimes slightly mean) coaching trick that works like a charm.
  7. What is there that’s beautiful, just as it is?
    We’re all busy, we all judge and we all race through our days. But amazing changes can happen just by choosing to slow down and notice—really notice—what’s already beautiful and right there in front of you.
  8. What can I be grateful for in this moment?
    I kept a gratitude diary once, where every night before my head hit the pillow I’d write down 3 things I was grateful for that day. It wasn’t easy, in fact it was fucking crazy hard. But it helped to soften my hard, cynical side and to show me that expressing gratitude can be transformational.
  9. How am I getting in my own way?
    When things are hard or you’re just tired of trying all the time, take a look at where you might be getting in your own way. What are you doing that might be blocking something, or what are you doing that’s limiting results?
  10. How can I be at my best?
    Being at your best doesn’t mean pretending to be okay and it doesn’t mean forcing yourself to be a certain way. What it is, is honouring how you are when you’re at the top of your game, firing on all cylinders and flowing, and knowing that those things are woven through you in every single moment of every single day.
  11. What experiment could I run that would be fun?
    Change is hard and scary like an armoir full of spiders. Which is why making change less hard and less scary by simply running multiple, small experiments—without needing to commit and being able to pivot and adapt depending on the results—makes things a heap easier.
  12. Where am I pursuing validation or approval instead of trusting myself?
    You’re hardwired to fit in; wiring that sometimes has you seeking approval or trying to fly under the radar rather than trusting yourself to do what really matters. But you don’t need validation or approval. You just need self-trust.
  13. What am I tolerating that I don’t need to?
    Sometimes you think you need to put up with something because you don’t want to rock the boat or upset anyone. But your assumptions are worth challenging, especially if you discover you can remove something you’ve been putting up with all this time.
  14. What if I just laugh with it?
    Laughing’s my favourite, and I’m a firm believer that life is actually pretty ridiculous. So laugh with it rather than frown at it, and see what happens.
  15. What would [being a trapeze artist / loving myself / being successful / something else ] look like?
    Ideas come and go, and so does clarity. Asking yourself what something would look like (whether it’s a goal you think you might like to reach or a feeling you might like to have more of) helps you to cut through a lot of shit and look at how it could be. Insights follow.
  16. Am I more focused on being right than being happy?
    Sometimes you cling to an idea, a belief or a way of thinking just because it’s yours and it’s how you think. That’s just ego, posturing and bullshit. There’s freedom in not needing to be right all the time.
  17. If I could do something and know that I could deal with whatever happens, what would I do?
    You sometimes get hung up on what could happen as a result of your actions and have all that stuff dictate what you do. But what might change if you knew that you could deal with anything?
  18. What am I resisting, and what impact is that having?
    You know those things in life you wriggle and squirm at rather than engage with or settle into? What’s a better way?
  19. What’s my body trying to tell me?
    They say that your body is a mirror for your mind, so if there was something your body was trying to say to you, something it wanted you to notice or act on, what would it be? And how can you be more in touch with your body’s messages on a regular basis?
  20. Today, how can I connect with what matters to me?
    If you’re not spending some of your day connecting with the things that matter to you, just how are you spending your time?

What’s jumping out at you?

The Fear of Unmet Desire

4 Comments

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

4 Comments

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

3 Comments

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

1 Comment

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?

Want to stop second guessing yourself? Sign up now and I'll show you how.
Subscribe