How do you act when nobody is watching?

Photo by Kevin Lee on Unsplash

Yesterday was a bank holiday in Belgium so I flicked on a show on Netflix called ‘Insiders’ – a reality TV show which brings together contestants who think they are in the final round of a casting call for a show. What they don’t know is that the camera is already rolling and they are actually already on the show.

Honestly, the show is problematic in many ways. Nonetheless, it prompted me to think about how differently people behave when they think no one is looking. What is fascinating is that as individuals the people on the show build narratives about their personalities – invincible, brave, caring, loving – and yet when the cameras are ‘off’ (or in this case still on) the behaviour that comes out is completely different.

Now we can sit at home and point at such contestants and judge. After all, it also makes us feel better that other people are flawed human beings. In reality, many of us would fall foul to the exact same behaviour as the people on this show.

The reason we behave differently when no one is watching is because we are no longer behaving to impress or please others. We are not looking to prove anything to anyone, meaning there is usually a very different set of behaviour, depending on how much of it was originally put on with a people-pleasing mindset on. The person who talked about being fearless ends up breaking down due to the stress of the situation. The person who talked about being a nice person complains about how they hate other people.

Some people were consistent to what they said their personalities were like in terms of how they acted ‘off camera’. One of the first people to be removed this season said he was a nice person, and broadly acted as such despite the psychological stress put on them all. This not making good TV was the reason he was removed.

Now for the rest of us, we are not in the midst of an intense reality TV show demonstrating our character flaws. And yet, the way we act when the curtains are drawn still has an impact in how we are being as a human being. A few years ago we saw Ellen Degeneres apologising for bullying her staff, which demonstrated how the way she behaved off-air was completely different to the persona she had whilst on TV. The things we think people don’t see often are far more visible than we think.

I do not think the solution is to ‘always be on guard’. If our value comes from the judgment of others, we are forever putting up a front as to how we think we should behave to make others happy. There is no way we can keep this up forever, and it is actually this act which causes such a fragmentation between people’s public image and the way they behave behind closed doors.

Instead, I believe people can decide how they want to be. People can decide this for themselves, rather than for others. If you want to be ambitious, creative or anything else, you can be. Once you’ve set your frame of how you want to behave, it is then about embodying those values at any time, including those that no one sees you.

Few musicians or artists who ‘make it’ are successful simply due to a drive for the fame and glory. Instead, they embody a passion and love for their craft. They practice in their own time, when nobody is watching, and strive to get better. This requires a far deeper, intrinsic motivation than anything that you will get by making people like you.

The way we want to be can also embody basic human traits. We can decide to be considerate, caring and loving as part of our being. We can then strive to embody this throughout the moments in our life, particularly so when we are challenged. Whilst most of us would consider ourselves as loving individuals, many of us do not examine how we have acted and whether this is really in accordance with what we say about ourselves. I know I certainly haven’t in my life.

I find it hard to accept this idea of a person being a horrible boss or person at work but a loving parent and spouse when they get home. How you act in one area of life is how you act in everything. The old adage goes that if you want to get to know somebody, look at how they treat the waiter in the restaurant.

You might be thinking that simply ‘deciding’ to be a certain way is a gross simplification. After all, what about our personality traits and born characteristics? Whilst I do not deny that such things exist, I also believe that we can often let these labels define us. I’m sure we’ve all heard someone saying at some point that ‘that’s just the way I am’, yet I’ve seen so many examples of people fundamentally changing themselves as they were willing to question what they are able to achieve.

The reason this self-examination can be so powerful is because it can make us understand far more about ourselves. It can reveal to us our blind spots, which may be negatively affecting our relationships, performance and happiness. It can also allow us to just be better human beings, making a greater impact whilst also being more loving at the same time. I find that people who are in congruence with who they want to be tend to be happier, and in the long run more successful in the endeavours they pursue.

The way I put this into practice is shifting my mindset from long term goals to how I act on a day-to-day basis. Rather than building lofy ambitions of where I want to be in 5 years, I can look at what I am doing now, and how I can be a better human being based upon the areas that I’d like to put more energy towards. For me, this has been a massive shift which has made me more at peace with my own existence, and find a more accessible way to achieve my own aims.

So I invite you to ask yourself how you behave when people aren’t watching – this may be more indicative of how you actually feel about yourself. And if you want to, you may want to decide how you want to act based upon how you want to be. From there, it’s a case of living by these ideals in the difficult moments, even if it can be challenging to do so.

I’d love to hear from you what you got from this article. Drop a comment or mail.

Letting go of ego-driven behaviour in our lives

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The ego can is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability’.

What we believe about ourselves plays a significant role in how we react to the world. If we believe we are funny, we will crack jokes because that is the type of person that we believe we are. If we believe we are boring, we will avoid talking about ourselves out of fear that other people will find it very dull.

The funny thing about these two examples is that the label drives the behaviour, rather than the other way around. We were not born with the labels funny or boring, yet by encapsulating these personalities in how we act, we make them happen. The funny person constantly tells jokes and finds what people find amusing. The boring person avoids speaking about subjects they find interesting and come across an uninteresting character.

When we talk about ego, we often refer to the inflated sense of self we may have. Ego is usually made out as a criticism where we talk about people’s inflated egos and high opinions of themselves. But ego can be broader – it’s how we behave more generally, and one of its bigger influences in modern society is explicitly wanting to avoid the label of having a big ego, meaning that we often avoid talking about our achievements for fear of being seen as arrogant.

As established earlier, how we see ourselves can dramatically change how we are seen by others in the world. Rather than us being born with specific character traits, it is actually dominated more about our sense of self. So if we can change how we see ourselves, we can make massive changes in the way we behave – to the point that we can even change how happy we decide to be.

The ego has a purpose. It is what defines us as a person – it is our name and how we are identified as one individual as compared to an other. Without any sense of self, it would be hard to perceive our world as opposed to the life of another. By having a level of ego, it will also allow us a level of self-agency to live life and take decisions for ourselves.

But there’s also a reason we have built up all these different beliefs about ourselves. When we were young, we internalised many labels based upon what people said about us. What our authority figures – parents, aunts and uncles, teachers – said about us played a great role in defining how we see ourselves. So if we were told we were a troublemaker, this often actually made our behaviour worse because that is how we viewed ourselves. Likewise if we were told we were the smartest kid ever (or ‘going to be the next president’) we encapsulated this into our believes. Unsurprisingly lots of people then have a crisis of confidence when they were told these things then find it extremely hard to get a job when finishing their studies.

For me, I have been working on deconstructing my ‘intelligent’ label. A lot of my adult interactions have been driven subconsciously from an analytical level, to the point where the rational-side of my brain has dominated my life. Meanwhile my care for my body, emotional wellbeing and wider sense of spirit have been neglected. This has been driven by my ego – to be the one with something intelligent to say in the room. I also was embodying what I told myself – that I’m not sporty, based upon how I was at school.

I do not think my ego particularly likes being challenged. Having grown up with this label ingrained in my head, it has taken a hold on how I frame and interact with the world. So there have been points where I feel uncomfortable with reviewing my own beliefs. What has been particularly prevalent recently is the frustration that I am doing this work and others are not. This is an ego-driven emotion, because it highlights judgment about others (that I don’t actually know what they are doing!) nor am I in control of other people’s lives – I’m in control of my own. The ego’s self defense mechanisms can be strong.

Working on my ego has meant I am now more comfortable in situations where I don’t have anything to say, and when I need to listen to others. It also has allowed me to get less frustrated when people have other points of view, as implicitly I am not feeling subliminally attacked as being less intelligent. By not defining myself by individual character traits, it allows me to express myself in different ways that I previously could not.

This is more broad than just intelligence, but also things like being funny, or charming, or even introverted. The latter label of ‘introverted’ is interesting as a particular example because I believe that it can be helpful to understand more about ourselves through tools like personality tests in MBTi, but we can then end up overplaying this to the point we let such new labels define our lives. Whilst I recognise that I like having downtime after socialising with people, I also enjoy people’s company and can spend lots of time with them in a subject that stimulates me.

By taking away these definitions of who I am, I am far freer. I can live in the moment and react to situations as I want to. If I want to make a joke, I can do. If I want to be very serious, I can as well. I can have more intense conversations about life goals, but also have a casual chat about the weather. Before I used to find the switch between these two harder as I told myself I enjoyed deeper conversations with meaning, however now I recognise any conversation can have meaning, no matter the subject of discussion.

From here, I can define new behaviours that I do want to embody – being creative, generous and happy. For example, by deciding that I want to be a happy person, I am rewriting the narrative I had about myself about being a pessimist from when I was younger and had a more negative view of the world around me. So I am changing how I am.

I share these points because I believe people can change, and change rather dramatically. This is not a question of age, sex, religion or anything else. This is a question of whether you would like to work on changing yourself, and are willing to put the work in to do so. From my own experience, I can enjoy life more fully by not tying myself down to outdated labels, and yet the work to get there takes time and can be challenging, particularly when we see things we don’t like.

Would you like to change? Let me know your reflections and comments below. Equally drop me a message if you’d like to hear more about this space of personal development.

Taking the brain out of my life’s driver’s seat

develoPhoto by Christopher Carson on Unsplash

Without realising it, my brain has been in overdrive the last few weeks.

I travelled like ‘normal’ for the first time – heading to the UK after work by hopping onto the train on Friday night. I attended The Ultimate Experience, an event around ‘Being’ – choosing who we want to be and being challenged to go further in the way I live my life. People I spoke to were extremely fascinating in different ways, with particularly powerful and humbling stories. Yet it was also incredibly intense, particularly since it was the first large scale event I had been to for the last two years.

I then travelled across to Bristol to see family I had not seen since the pandemic started. Again, this was reconnecting to a whole side of my life that had been left relatively dormant, reconnecting with how other people’s lives had developed, as well as seeing nieces and nephews who had grown up rather quickly!

I then returned back the next day by jumping onto the Eurostar and straight back into work without much of a pause, returning to a flat in need of further furnishing, but somewhat getting there!

The idea of who I am being has been a big cloud over me in the last few weeks, both due to the conference and from the build-up towards it. The idea that we can decide who we want to be in life is both extremely liberating and daunting – I can effectively decide what personality I want to have, and I do not need to be driven by my ego in terms of how I react to situations, nor be defined by my labelled identity.

This is a very different way of framing life – instead I’m looking to focus upon how I act based upon the criteria I set myself, and live upon those every day. With this new framework I’m playing with, I continuously find myself asking questions about what this means in how I live my life. Needless to say, it’s quite a tiring exercise to see most things in my life through a new lens!

Otherwise, moving places is that it shifts your daily routine quite dramatically. Spending so much time in one place in the pandemic to now move to a different one takes a while to adjust. In hindsight, I underestimated how much time and energy it would take to really settle into a new home. Likewise, our modern working way is to jump straight back into gear at 100% as soon as possible with work, and I’ve found myself getting frustrated that I cannot quite hit my peak as of yet whilst I’m still fatigued by COVID.

I think a big part of addressing this situation is to accept a lot is going on in my life. It took a moment of coaching reflection to realise how much stuff I’d been up to in the last few weeks. Whilst I wanted to simply ride off the highs of doing lots of exciting stuff, I did not allow myself to slow down and take in the information. It was no wonder I had quite a few lows over the last week as my energy tank flatlined. So going with the flow of the ups-and-downs means I am no longer judging when I am low on energy. I’m also accepting the temporality of my situation – in other words, my strength will come back soon.

I’ve also been returning to my ways to ‘turn off’. One of my go-to switch off leisure activities is playing on my Playstation, however I noticed I had little motivation to do so. This is usually a warning sign where I am at such an intense phase that I am unwilling to actively start anything. So somewhat paradoxically I had to push myself to actually do something that I enjoyed, rather than doing things which amounted to personal development work.

Another part has been to revisit my basic routines. There’s some way to go with this, but having a better bed-time routine is a start. I’m still using my phone a lot in the evenings, but at least I have moved my charger across the room so it’s not the first thing I look at. That said, I’d like to build a stronger routine in terms of wake up times, relaxing mornings and building in my exercise. Again, I’m not beating myself up here for not having it down right now. It’s normal to not have it all figured out in the midst of lots of changes.

But the biggest fundamental shift I’ve had is reviewing how I am operating within my life. So much about this spiritual shift I’ve had is moving away from rational thought. Yet, I am still relying on my brain to drive my activity and life. In other words, I am returning to the use of my analytical senses to figure out the world around me. This has been extremely tiring as my brain is tiring to work out philosophies that quite literally cannot be explained (for example, the idea that we are connected to ‘everything’). This is a re-occurring state for me, where I’ve historically liked going into my bunker to analyse the world.

So my shift I’m now working on is to not be led by my brain. Instead, I want to allow more space for my wider senses – body and emotion – to guide how I am being. In unity, I see this as my ‘spirit’, i.e. the space that connects my mind, body and emotion, which I would like to lead my life, rather than my mind being the one that is in the drivers seat. In practice, this means not starting situations by analysing them, instead being driven by a wider sense of wisdom that takes information from all three different spaces of the mind, body and emotion at the same time.

This may sound very abstract, but it also reflects the fact that my beliefs have shifted so far in terms of how much I believe in objectivity and reality. I no longer want to always revert to logic when I now believe how much life is subjective and irrational.

This is rather new for me, so let’s see how it goes. But I also wanted to share it with you, as the reader. I know I’m not the only one trying to put too much logical sense into the world, whilst not giving enough space for my emotions and body. So I hope that some of these reflections will help you look at what is driving your life, and whether you are happy with that balance.

I hope you found this week’s article enlightening, as one that was a tad more personal than usual. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether you have any comments on what you’ve gotten from reading this.

Who are you choosing to be in your life?

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

I am exhausted, and have a stomach ache. I don’t feel like cooking and want to order a takeaway. What would not bothering to cook even though I committed to it earlier in the day say about me?

I am stressed, as I have a train to catch. I might easily fall into ignoring basic manners in the crowded bus around me. What would ignoring the needs of the other people around say about me?

I am in a busy restaurant, and the staff are stressed. I’m waiting to catch their attention to get a drink. I could be annoyed at them, or sympathetic that they are under a lot of pressure. What does my reaction say about me?

I’ve gone through a lot of introspection over the last week. I attended The Ultimate Experience in London. I met fascinating people, as well as gained insights from speakers.

The pre-reading was a book entitled The Ultimate Coach, which goes through the life of Steve Hardison as well as an assortment of different vignettes from his clients, as well as the story of his youth, marriage and transition into coaching. Steve Hardison amongst many other speakers (including his wife) spoke at the event; a recording will soon be found on the Instagram here

The idea of ‘being’ is the idea of what we are committing ourselves to be everyday. We declare to ourselves who we want to be, which sounds simple enough but requires a level of dedication to ensure it becomes a reality.

Before we can simply decide how we find our lives, we must first understand that the way we experience life is based upon how we decide to experience it. For example, if we believe our day will be terrible as we need to go to the dentists, this will frame our day negatively. Yet if we see today as a blessing as it will allow us to ensure we are caring and treating for our body, we can reframe the exact same situation in a completely different way. One leads to a positive outcome, one leads to a negative one. It is our choice which one we want to take.

This also means that we can reframe how we see the world. Many of us get caught up in our own view of what is ‘real’ and what is ‘not’, however in practice the way we experience reality is completely different for each one of us. We may go into a cinema and have a terrible experience whilst someone else has an amazing one. Neither of these are ‘incorrect’. This analogy moreover isn’t just for entertainment, it is actually for every facet of our lives. Work, relationships, hobbies, dreams, the list goes on. This is extremely important to understand if we would like to change how we experience life. Since if life is an experience rather than a unchangeable reality, we can choose to experience it how we like.

What this means is that we can choose how we want to live our lives. We can choose to be happy, if we want to. We can choose to be caring, loving and kind. We can choose to follow our limitless potential. However, if we choose to do so, we must commit to it.

When I returned to normal life this week, I’ve suddenly found myself a lot more challenged on living up to the being I set out for myself. I want to be a caring, loving and creative person. But being creative when I am too tired to write is difficult. I would rather just lie on the couch and watch Youtube. But if I am truly committed, I do it anyway.

The idea of ‘being’ may sound like a simple set of declarations which will magically change our world. But the reason it is so powerful is that we’re committing ourselves to live by our ideals, and by doing this everyday consistently, the magic will then happen.

If we are kind, caring and loving every day, in a year our lives would be completely different. If we committed to live and enjoy life every day we would be extremely happy. The key is committing to it on a day by day basis and sticking to them. Sure, we can make a slip up here and there as we are humans, but we cannot expect change if we only do this once every six months.

So when I wrote about the questions I posed to myself at the beginning of this piece, these were questions that came to me as a result of me declaring my being. By reminding myself of who I am deciding to be, it has pushed me to do the actions I committed to, rather than falling victim to my own short term feelings. Imagine if I can do this for the next ten years. The effect will be incredible. Imagine if I did this for the rest of my life.

Now I want you to consider what this might mean for your life. If you believe in what I’m saying, I am telling you that you can choose how you want to live your life. Yes, that means that if you are in a situation which feels difficult and makes you unhappy, you can indeed reframe it to feel happy about it. This requires you to declare how you want to live your life, and to live by it. If you declare that you want to see the positives in every situation and stick to it, you will be much happier.

So I would love for you to think about who you want to be, and how that might shape the experience you have in life.

Who do you want to be in your life? Are you willing to commit to living by your will?

P.S. I have written an A4 page long declaration of who I am being. If you’re interested, I would be happy to send it to you. Just drop me a message. I can also help you with writing your own document of declaration.

If you want change, you need to want something new

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I’ve had several conversations in the last few months around people wanting some sort of change. People growing tired of their job, or wanting to change their lifestyle following the shifts we’ve found during the pandemic. Perhaps some other life event has prompted an individual to make changes in their life – health, relationship or some epiphany from time away in self reflection.

When we want to change something, it can often be hard to figure out what we want to change. The easy part is to say that whatever we have right now is not working for us, and that we need to shift this into another thing. But the harder part is deciding what this new thing we want to do should be.

For people who are looking to change career, often the prompt is some level of disgruntlement with work. The focus can quickly become on how bad everything is right now, and therefore the change is needed to fix things. Change in of itself becomes the solution, whatever that change might be.

Whilst this is perhaps a good starting point, most of the time it is not enough to want change for change sake. For most of us, we require finding a new direction we want to pursue, else we will get totally lost in the millions of directions we could go. Since the world has so many different possibilities, it is incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed by the options. This feeling is particularly strong when we feel surrounded by people who look like they all know what they are doing.

Concretely, I’ve had conversations with people who want to leave their workplace and do something new. Unfortunately they have no idea what that new thing might be. Considering the amount of time and energy required to move sectors or into a new career, it makes it tough to actually succeed without being clear where you might want to go. Whilst throwing a job application to a new role isn’t so strenuous, to actually succeed through doing all the additional activities – extra research, practice interviews, even a short course – can be too much for someone who’s heart isn’t really into such an opportunity.

It’s for this reason we see many disgruntled staff members staying in an organisation far too long. When you have a conversation with people in this situation, they know they are unhappy but do not know what to do. The longer they linger on these thoughts, the more they become paralysed by fear. Suddenly the outside world seems too scary, and they rest in the comfort blanket of their situation, despite being miserable about it. I saw a lot of this in one of my previous workplaces. Despite people who actually left ending up much happier, many people stayed for years due to the comfort of familiarity.

For others, sometimes a change does occur. But it might not turn out exactly how they may expect – changing jobs often does not shift the underlying problem. A lawyer working in a law firm who then becomes burnt out does not solve the problem by moving to a law firm with the exact same culture. Soon this becomes a game of job hopping, with little to address the underlying problem that the individual isn’t really satisfied with the work itself nor the long hours culture.

Paradoxically, the process of learning what we like to do is often a game of trial and error. It is often a case of being exposed to new opportunities that we never even knew were possible. In the modern age, it is possible to live a nomadic life travelling around the world whilst running a business online, for example. And if that’s something you truly want, it is possible for you to create it for yourself.

Practically, the best way to learn more about the opportunities within life is to go out and speak with people. Connect with people on LinkedIn, or go to wherever interesting people congregate – it does not need to be a full-on networking event, but simply a place where you can learn more about the different things you can do in the world. Since dedicating more time to listening to different people, it is amazing the amount of different things people do, so there is certainly a whole world of opportunities out there that we likely did not even existed.

It does not need to always be about work either. You may hear about someone who does a hobby that you’ve always wanted to try, or has done something like moving to a new country. By truly listening to the stories of other people, we can expand our horizons to places we did not even know was possible.

For me, it was not enough to want to leave my previous job. I spent time disgruntled, and therefore expected the world around me to come up with solutions. I thought I could just go out and find a new role that would perfectly cater for my needs without really trying. Instead, I really needed to dedicate myself to making a change, and being dedicated to make that change happen instead of giving up a few months in.

I had to solve the underlying niggles that were in my mind, such as where I wanted to live and how I could find fulfillment whatever my job might be before I could truly commit to the idea of moving to a new country to get a job.

You don’t need to have it set in stone, and life may give you a new opportunity on the path to exploring what’s out there. For me, I had in my mind working something around technology, however ended up focusing on sustainability. Both are interesting subjects, but the latter I had not considered so much. So things can evolve.

So if you’re looking for a change, remember to take time to figuring out what you want to do now. It will greatly help you narrow down the different options, and will give you direction and enthusiasm for a new possibility.

What new thing do you want in your life? Comment below or drop me a message if you don’t want to share publicly!

Do we really need motivation to achieve our goals?

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‘I’d love to do that! My problem is that I find it tough to find the motivation’

How often do we hear this phrase?

We treat the idea of motivation as a sacred, finite resource akin to a rare gem. It is our version of the Felix Felicius from Harry Potter, a mysterious potion of unknowable quantity that enables us to do magic things.

Since we see motivation as such a key to success, we find tactics to maximise our motivation. We will go to some motivational speaking seminars (or just Youtube it), get pumped and start strong with our goal. For fitness, we sign up to a gym where we rely on getting ‘motivated’ (read: shouted at) by the gym instructor as a way to make us continue with our goals. Yet, after a short amount of time, this motivation fizzles away. After a month or so, what seemed important to us no longer does, we lose interest and stop meeting the targets we set. After this, we then feel guilty and start seeing ourselves as failures for not being able to do the things we wanted.

Indeed this also goes for a workplace setting too. How often have we seen a new, exciting initiative get set up, only for it to fizzle out and die after a few months? I would get so tired when working in Government at the amount of new, shiny initiatives whereas old ones were left to slowly disappear. I distinctly recall a conversation about bringing in ‘anti-bullying ambassadors’, which while nice in theory, was a half-baked idea with not much substance behind it. Meanwhile, the person running our highly successful reverse mentoring programme had left 7 months ago and still not been replaced, meaning the whole programme was still on pause, and there was little desire to do anything about it.

Most strategies to address this issue look to keep motivation high – surrounding ourselves with cheerleaders or posting inspirational quotes around us. Some of these actually work, so if they do for you, great. Yet I contend whether we even need to be obsessed about the whole idea of motivation in the first place.

Motivation is a concept we have built up within our heads. It is not something we can touch, hold, or pick up. I would argue it is something not far akin to our imagination – a fleeting feeling based upon our subjective living of reality. In other words, our focus upon motivation is a focus upon something that may not even be real. So it is strange that it has such a hold on us within our life.

One of the big problems is that by doing things when we are motivated, we are implicitly saying that there are times we will not be motivated. Spend two minutes looking at your goal and how far away from it you are and it is hard not to feel frustration and anxiety. The game then becomes a see-saw of motivation and demotivation. And once again, this is another concept we have built up in our head. There is no see-saw in reality.

So can we simply rid ourselves of the idea of motivation? Perhaps, perhaps not. I will let you decide that for yourself. But I do believe we can stop focussing on motivation. Instead, we can look to create commitment, with which we are far more likely to reach our goals. Instead of relying on a fleeting feeling of ‘motivation’, we can take the feelings out of the equation and commit to doing something whether we explicitly want to or not.

I am a grand believer in setting a schedule. There are many activities I would not do if I relied on the whim of the moment. After work, I usually tell myself I am too tired to do much more than crash in front of the sofa. Yet if I schedule a call, or put in some time to exercise, I am far more likely to do it. This is because I am willing to do the activity whether I feel like it or not, and I am taking the subjective emotion out of the equation.

So what does this mean for you? I am in no doubt you have some sort of goal you want to achieve – better standard at work, honing a skill, losing weight or whatever else. If you are finding it tough, I sincerely believe you could benefit from reframing this from relying on motivation to one of commitment. How willing are you to commit to doing exercise twice a week? Would you be willing to set a weekly time out for it? Would you be willing to sign up for a weekly class to learn that new instrument?

I do not profess to be perfect, yet this shift in my mindset has benefited me greatly. If I were to sit down and base my desire to learn languages on motivation I would quickly lose interest – I have too many stimuli around me to keep something in my head that long. Instead, throughout the pandemic I booked weekly language classes at the same time each week. My skills have developed exponentially. I booked these classes and committed to them.

Even when I was tired, or not feeling like doing my class, I did them anyway. In the end, the less I focused on how I was feeling and more on what I was doing, the more natural I found it – no longer did I spend so much time worrying about an activity beforehand either, which gave me space to enjoy life, as well as feel the satisfaction of meeting my goals.

So I hope you might look at your goals in a different way. I would love to hear from you in terms of what you have gotten from reading this article.

The more we judge others, the more we judge ourselves

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We judge people. What clothes they wear, what job they do, how much sugar they put in their tea.

Judgment comes from an upbringing in society which puts moral values on what is right and wrong. Our parents, teachers and institutions around us want us to decide the right choices to become the right sort of people.

Whilst well-intentioned, these moral values are generally placed upon us, rather than formed by us as individuals. We learn from our families that going to university is a correct path, whilst dropping out is a failure. An engineer is a prestigious career, but a plumber is a dead-end. Marriage and kids is the right choice, living single is the wrong one.

But we are now adults. The moral standards that were placed upon us as children no longer need to govern our lives. And yet, they regularly do without us even thinking. The first time I saw someone with tattoos I thought ‘that’s a bad thing to do for their skin’, because the moral code I grew up in dictated so. It is only now that I have chosen to question this messaging. I wonder whether the narrow parameters I learnt growing up fit in a complex, diverse and disorderly world.

Now, questioning fundamental beliefs is no easy task. It requires us to separate the things that we find pushed upon us and what we really think. And often there is no clear distinction between the two – what we believe is influenced by what we see. Nonetheless, it is something that will give us true value and allow us to enrich our lives greatly if we do so.

I recently realised that my life is based upon judgments I make on others. Furthermore, the more I use this outdated moral code from my past, the more I reinforce it and feel guilty about my own life.

Let’s put this in an example. I lived in a large family home when younger. This was to the point where I felt uncomfortable with the idea we brandished our wealth in such a carefree, bordering on flashy way. I recall a comment from a friend about how it is bad to be rich and rich people are dislikable. From this framing, I would therefore judge my own family and the way we lived as something that was wrong.

Fast forward to today, this came up when speaking to my coach around the fact I’ve moved to a bigger apartment. A sense of guilt came up that I did not deserve the space I was inhabiting. The silly thing is that I hardly have moved into a mansion, but now have different rooms for different activities (i.e. a space I can actually use as an office rather than co-opting the kitchen table!). By pretty much anyone’s standards, what I was doing is very reasonable. Yet my own judgment based upon an internalised moral code from my youth was making me feel guilty.

Fortunately, there is a way forward. The first step is an acceptance of others and how they want to live life. This is a message we inherently know, but do not always practice. Under stress, we are pushed to be critical, and make outcomes happen quickly. Our responses can therefore often come through as judgy or opinionated without us realising, making people feel uncomfortable being honest with us.

But I also think there is a greater step. We can decide to reshape how we view the world, and how we live by our own values. We can do this by understanding that something like the idea of judgment, or indeed anything in life itself, is a subjective creation that is based upon concepts we build in our own head.

I believe the truest way to return to being is to separate our existence from the lens of what we believe in our heads, and what we truly are as part of a collective. Our focus upon what is right for ‘me’ and the insistence of looking at the world based upon what we as individuals want brings a disproportionate attention to our thinking and beliefs, compared to us as humans in a part of an ecosystem and part of something greater than ourselves.

There is more to life than what we think and believe. We are but one individual out of 7 billion, in a whole universe around us of life and creatures. I do not mean this in a negative, or disparaging way. Rather, I see this as extremely liberating. We can live life through the lens of what is good as a whole, and what role we can play in serving society. Through this lens, the focus upon judgment of others and what we spend too much time thinking about melts away.

Now, I’ll take a guess at what you might be thinking – that I had you with the being less judgy bit, but what the hell am I on about with all this existential stuff? I realise this may sound somewhat crazy, particularly if you’ve never heard the idea before. But bear with me here! I truly believe in what I am saying, and I believe it will greatly enrich you as a reader by understanding what I am saying.

I want to highlight to you that what we think and believe does not define who we are.

What you think and believe does not define who you are. You are a whole, loving being capable of amazing things. The over-focus on thoughts and judgment cloud you from seeing this.

Moving away from judgment, or any other negative belief or thought we have is best served by realising we are part of a greater collective. If we can shift our thoughts and beliefs from what others are doing wrong to how we can serve others, amazing things will follow.

I’d love to hear what you think, particularly around the idea of moving away from our personal identities!

How willing are you to really commit?

Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

Many of us want things to change in our lives. A better career, greater happiness, a higher level of fulfillment. But are we willing to make the commitment?

Life is filled with things we can either possess or achieve. Some of them are relatively simple. For example, we are fortunate to live in a world where food and water are relatively easy to find. However, more conceptual ideas such as self-actualization, or becoming great at what we do are harder.

It is an odd quirk of life that the things that give us the greatest level of fulfillment are those that take longer to achieve. Perhaps its because it is how our minds work – basic things we already have we take for granted. So instead, we value the things we rarely see. I believe it is also about the investment taken to achieve something great. If we could do something with little effort, even if it was relatively good, it would not mean much to us. Whereas the things we really made the effort to make a reality are often the proudest achievements for us.

Fortunately, there are many ways we can do something impactful that will require time and effort. We can become the best writer, project manager, singer, actor, sewer, mechanic or any other profession that we want. To do so however requires commitment.

I want to share a story about a man named Deuce Lutui. Deuce played in the National Football League in the US. Through a chance encounter, he met with a man named Steve Hardison, often referred to as The Ultimate Coach. Following an intense and in-depth two hour conversation, Steve asked Deuce who the best offensive linesman in the NFL was. Deuce did not respond. The lack of response was an answer in of itself. Steve asked Deuce to switch places and to reverse the roles – that Deuce would be Steve and Steve would be Deuce. He asked Deuce to ask the same question. This time, Steve responded ‘IF YOU HAD

ANY IDEA WHO I WAS, YOU WOULDN’T ASK ME SUCH A STUPID QUESTION!’.

Later that evening Deuce sent an email to Steve with intense emotions – ‘The best in the game!!! The best OL in the NFL!!! best pro bowler there is!!! Best at my craft!!! Best on the team!!! Captain!!!! PAID!!!!!!!! I AM!!!!!! Ofa Atu TBOLITNFL Deuce Lutui’.

TBOLITNFL stood for The Best Offensive Lineman in the NFL. This was Deuce Lutui’s commitment towards becoming the greatest he could be.

What followed was a whirlwind of activity based upon this story and powerful commitment. This included CEOs who were incredibly inspired, with the story reaching across the globe, all the way to the King of Tonga. If you are interested in knowing more, I will share the full video at the end where Steve Hardison gives the whole story at a talk at the University of Utah. The video is incredibly inspiring and is definitely worth a watch. This happened a good ten years ago, so we know the ending of what happened. Deuce Lutui had an excellent season. However, a dream contract fell through due to him being 40 pounds over the conditional weight limit, leading to an eventual decline in his career. However, this does not invalidate the power that can be made by realising what we truly want and committing to it.

Steve Hardison ends his talk with this: ‘I give you the same challenge I gave Deuce, Go find a quiet place. Ask yourself ‘What is it I want? What is it I commit to? And look inside. Be quiet long enough to see something’.

For me, I want to have the greatest impact I can on the world around me. I do not particularly care whether it is through writing, policy work, coaching or otherwise. I want to make the world a better place where I have made a genuine and substantive impact.

I commit to making that a reality. I commit to continue publishing these articles which help people. I commit to making the greatest impact I can do through my work. I commit to continue developing myself to Be the change I want to see in the world.

Now I invite you to do the same. What is it you want? What is it you commit to?

I would love to hear from you. Drop me a message, or comment on the article itself.

You can find the link to Steve Hardison speaking at the University of Utah here.

Returning to the paradox of London

Last night I traveled to London. It’s only the second time I’ve been back since the pandemic.

Before the pandemic I had lived and worked in London for around five years. So I had a mix of excitement, anticipation and trepidation returning.

Excitement to return to a truly great city. The power and energy in this city is immense. Even if I only passed through the centre briefly yesterday, the connectedness of people, logistics and infrastructure is incredible.

Anticipation to see things and return to my home country. To experience what it is like to not be a ‘foreigner’ and have a full understanding of how things worked around me. I anticipated seeing people I have either not seen in a long time, or never met due to COVID.

Trepidation as I expect reverse culture shock. I have since left these shores and developed myself. Yet London and the UK have also developed and changed. I’m no longer a part of the place I grew up. Bizarrely, the fact that everything is in English confuses me.

***

Time away gives a fresh sense of curiosity. I saw an incredible paradox in London which I had never outwardly expressed before.

Firstly, the sense of ‘system’, where you felt like a number of one out of the millions going around you. I looked up to see ads about sleeping pills being the solution to my problems, or a corporate ad dressed up as warm and fuzzy to make me want to change my bank. I felt I had returned to a soulless place, where the rat race slowly pushes people into despair.

At the same time, I saw incredible sense of independence. Here was a frankly awe-inspiring freedom that people displayed around me. People of whatever backgrounds, young or old, living life how they wanted to. I saw a young group of people jumping between tube stops. It included both boys and girls. They dressed in fashionable wear, one or two more of them with something more revealing. They did not care what I thought. They lived life by their own rules.

How can it be that a city which can drive people to misery can also have this irrepressible sense of freedom and opportunity? It can be hard to fully comprehend what I see.

The disturbing thing is that both realities exist at the same time. I’ve lived here. I’ve experienced both.

Perhaps the act of freedom is a rebellion against the ‘system’ I mentioned? This makes for a nice tale, though doesn’t fully make sense to me. The sense of how people lived here comes from one of independence rather than rebellion. Yes, some may want to fight the system, but the people I know who have fulfilling lives in London march to their own drumbeat without caring about the outside noise. They do things for themselves, not in spite of something else.

Another possible explanation is that this sense of freedom is really a delusion. Yes these young people seem free now, but the moment they have responsibilities – jobs, kids, mortgages (more likely rent!). This esprit de joie will be crushed, returning them to their belonged state of being a mindless drone. But again, people are shifting their relationship with work. More people, especially young, are questioning why we need a ‘successful’ job, and looking more holistically about what life means for them.

To me, neither of the two previous explanations make sense. So instead, here is the answer I come to: I believe people make the reality they want. This is true in life, but never is it more visible than in a place like London.

There are those who follow the ambition for achievement. This included me. I wanted to have more, do more, and be better than others. I got lost in the big system of London, where I ended up with few friends or hobbies. I lost sight of my freedom and power.

Some understand that life is to be lived. They find ways to be fulfilled, and do not let the worries about work drag their life down. They balance the needs of the world with enjoying the moment. They take advantage of the museums, or the friendships around them.

So where are you on this scale?

Fortunately, where you are now does not need to define you for the rest of your life. Whilst I lost sight about the beauty of life, I found it once more. I appreciated the great things about living in London – the opportunity, excitement, culture and people. This shifted from the worries – the rent, career, frustrations at work, delays on the tube.

It is possible. And the only thing that needs to change is you.

What side of the London paradox do you sit on?

How do you see the world around you?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

We meet two types of people. One believes they can change. The other believes they can’t. Which one is correct?

Both are.

So much of our existence is made up of our thoughts and beliefs. These shape how we see the world around us, and how we ultimately live our lives. Even if we may believe that we are objective, rational human beings, underneath there is a whole layer of how our beliefs shape our existence around us.

For example, if we see the world as a cruel, unfair place of conflict and disaster, the parts we will notice will be all the wars and destruction in the world. in turn, the way we act in the world will be potentially more nihilistic or negative. We are more likely to be governed by fear and mistrust, than adventure or curiosity.

However, if we see the world as a place full of opportunity, happiness and freedom, we will focus upon the the opportunities, and how we can feel fulfilled in life. This gives us license to be more carefree, ambitious and content. We will perhaps try new things more regularly, and be more open to meeting new people.

But which one is correct? Is the world a cruel, unfair place, or is it full of opportunity, happiness and freedom?

That is up to you. Each of us gets to choose how we see the world.

Unfortunately, very few of us actively make this choice. For me, I saw the world as a place of stress and grind. Internalising the difficulty of being ‘successful’, I saw it a constant marathon of tasks – school, university, career, marriage, children, death. I internalised this from my own expectation from my family, as well as the environment I grew up in. I was also told I was acdemically gifted, but far less so in creativity and sports.

I learnt that everything in my world had to be grafted for, and I would have to struggle to meet the expectations placed on me. happiness was a secondary factor, so unsurprisingly I was not happy under the weight of expectation.

This didn’t need to be my destiny. It was possible for me to change my own world view. By revisiting my fundamental beliefs, I started to notice the other parts of life that I had neglected. I learnt to appreciate the beauty of difference, and how interesting different people are across teh world. I also learnt to appreciate the abundance that existed within the world, and how much limitless possibility exists for us as individuals. In turn, I took agency within my own life, and decided to shift my priorities to do more things I enjoy, whilst also changing my mindset towards the day-to-day activities. Compared to my past, I am happier. I am also more ambitious, successful and creative. It meant that writing articles, starting a podcast, or getting into coaching didn’t feel like a big deal. Because for me, it is part of my open curiosity and interest in the world.

How did I change my worldview? I spent time looking at myself. Through my own personal development via reading, coaching and writing I understood how much of what I felt was based upon what I thought the world was. I learnt that the world did not need to be a hyper-competitive race if I didn’t want it to be. I also learnt that there is no such thing as one ‘truth’ about my existence, instead ‘reality’ was a malleable concept that I could shift to live how I wanted to.

One of the most powerful changes people can make is changing the way they see the world. Much of the day-to-day issues that plague us such as confidence, weight issues, happiness and needing success ultimately come down to our belief about the world around us.

For example, someone who feels they are never good enough may have a belief that what makes them valued in the world is being successful. This is usually internalised through strict schooling and parentage, or a strong identification to being ‘academic’ or top in class. Whilst this world view might come externally originally, we often adopt them as our own. These views can remain throughout our adult lives, and can lead to a crisis of confidence for someone who is only ‘average’ in their career, when their world view was formed that average is not good enough.

What this person can do is revisit what they believe. The first place to start is to identify their ‘reality’ of the world , and through exploration understand what formed that experience. Sometimes this needs a period of healing some sort of trauma which has marked their experiences. After this, they can effectively forge the worldview that they actually want, rather than the one they’ve adopted.

This is not easy to do. So is it worth the effort? I believe it most certainly is.

People who are more content have built a worldview where they are in balance with what they want to do. They are not governed by fear or unhappiness. Quite a lot of these people go on to do extraordinary things in the world, like worldwide philanthropy, rising to the top of their profession or simply becoming the best version they can be.

This can be you, if you want it to be.

So I would invite you to reflect on your world view, and how it shapes how you live your life. It will help explain many of the external forces around you that you do not currently understand.

If you have gotten to the end of this article, I would love to hear what you find. Feel free to drop a message below or message me via LinkedIn. I always love hearing from people about their beliefs and values.

How do you see the world around you?