Everything everywhere all at once is not a recipe for success

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I spoke to someone recently who remarked that I sounded quite relieved when I told her I felt like I could just concentrate on just living for the next few months.

Last week, I wrote about how we can better integrate the different areas of our lives. The natural consequence of that we receive an economy of scale. It also means we reduce the sense of feeling guilty for not doing enough.

For me, I would feel like I could not ‘complete’ all of my goals within the timeframe I had put on myself, nor within the hours of the day. The mixture of career, leisure, fitness, coaching and writing felt like a constant juggling act.

I’ve worked a lot to make myself more effective. The work around shifting mindset has done wonders – I’m far more effective in many areas and I have a far more fulfilling life than I did before. Yesterday was the first weekend day where I had nothing planned in four weeks, whilst Friday was the first ‘evening off’ with nothing scheduled in the last 10 days, which included a trip to London.

On the one hand, it is great how I can do so many more things within my 24 hour cycle. The work I’ve done on myself has definitely transformed my life, and I am seizing far more of what life has to offer.On the other hand, having such a packed schedule does not bring the best out of me. If I feel like I am constantly doing things it can start to feel exhausting. I’ve also felt quite disheartened when I look at how hard I’ve been trying with my different goals, only to find relatively modest returns.

My recent rut has been to feel a little stuck, and I’ve felt quite demotivated. Everything I’ve been doing has felt like the answer is just patience, and a lot of the fun has fallen away. I’ve noticed myself being a little passive with my job. My health goals has felt like a game of patience and grinding. Whilst my writing and coaching has also been less active as I’ve questioned which way to take it.Life has felt a little stagnant.

But the relief came when I realised that I didn’t need to make this so complicated. The moment of clarity came last weekend when attending the LAMRON intensive (a 3 personal development workshop in London). I can really simplify what I’m doing so that it doesn’t need to feel like I am having to project manage each area of my life.

Right now, my goal is to focus upon going out in the world and connecting with people.From a career perspective, I’ve worked in policy for over 8 years. I think I’ve become a little tired of it recently, and it would do me good to reignite my enthusiasm for what I do. I’ve already noticed how going out, attending events and meeting people is give some stimulation after a lethargic-feeling summer.

For my health goals, I’ve been going to a new studio where I enjoy the ambiance more. I’ve been doing new dance classes which have injected some novelty and fun. I’ve booked to attend the same class on a regular basis so I can feel a better sense of continuity and connection. Previously my attendance of classes at my last yoga studio were sporadic, and the nature of the place meant there was less chance to connect with others there.

With the coaching and writing, everything has felt quite slow. Whilst I’ve really worked on improving my skill, I feel like the impact is still relatively limited. This is not to take away the fact that I know what I do really impacts people (every so often I get messages from people telling me as much), but I know that there are a lot more people that could benefit from hearing what I have to say.

A bloody-minded focus upon building genuine connections keeps this a clear and easy focus for me. I’ve built a solid base for myself here in Brussels to do this. I’ve also done the work on myself to know I don’t really need to ‘try’ so hard to impress others. It’s instead simply a case of showing up consistently and being myself.

If there’s any message you take from this article, let it be this – keep it simple. No matter what your current goals and ambitions are, the simpler the action the greater clarity you have.

And it’s in clarity that we produce our greatest results.

The journey of integrating our different selves into one

If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you might not be surprised to learn that I’m currently on the Eurostar. I shift across from London and Brussels regularly, in fact this is the second time I’m in the UK this month.

I’m attending another three-day intensive around personal development. Each time I attend, I find new ways in which I can deepen my understanding about myself and the world. This time, I want to go with nothing to prove, nothing to take and no one to impress.

Instead, I want to really live into being fully present and receiving the learning opportunities. The fact I’m doing this is illustrative of how much I enjoy different things. And why not? After all, there are many rich experiences to enjoy in life. Nonetheless, what has become apparent has been the way in which this makes it hard to keep track of my priorities, with the risk of spreading myself thin.

On the one hand, I write here about personal development and attend many seminars. On the other hand, I am a policy professional living and working within the EU bubble focussing on the decarbonisation of industry. Last year, I dedicated myself to finish my first non-fiction book, whilst last week I did my first pole dancing class.

I know I’m not the only one who enjoys many different things. But what I’m also seeing is that I am reaching a good level in many different paths, rather than excellence in one. One answer that people told me was that I needed to focus. Rather than doing so much, I should just put all that energy into a single place.

Honestly, I think this works for some people, but for me the model doesn’t really fit. One of my great skills is being able to pick up things quickly, and my natural curiosity is a gift to the world. I’m also seeing that there are examples of people who do multiple things and are highly successful – so why can’t I do this? I’ve spent enough time being told that I have to choose, but often these are from people whose natural tendency is to be more single minded. Whilst I have no judgement on this way of living, their style doesn’t really satisfy what I want from life.

I had an extremely powerful insight this week. Rather than narrowing down my options, I can instead see the different paths I’m following and allow them to converge. I’m a bit embarrassed to say this. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to realise this thing which seems very obvious. For the last few years, I’ve seen my personal development journey and coaching as a side hustle. I’ve treated it as something completely separate to the work I do as a policy professional.

The massive insight has been realising that these two paths do not need to be separate, but can be one and the same. In fact, if I keep treating them as separate, I’m more than likely doomed to mediocrity in both. I want to make a massive positive impact in the world. That’s what drew me into the world of policymaking and public service in the first place. But when I found the limits to the change I could make, I found a different path – how I could support people through their own personal development journey.

What’s become really apparent to me is that these can be much closer aligned than what I am doing right now. The more I can help people bringing the spiritual side in the way we create our policies, the more we can have more humane and effective governance. Living and working in Brussels, I know how sorely this is needed. I also know that with all the work I’ve done on myself tied in with my experience of policymaking, I am uniquely placed to do this work.

We can forget that we are one single being. The same person who goes to work is the same person who comes home. The person who plays sports on the weekend is the same one watching TV. The more we can bring the different elements of ourselves together, the more we can see our life path clearly. And I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want more clarity in their life.

As someone who has recently struggled to see the path, this is a real gamechanger.

A spiritual perspective on increasing our impact

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

A month ago, I wrote about attending a talk by John Patrick Morgan. Yesterday he switched up the formula and chose to have conversations with people. I get a lot out of listening to him, so I fancied the chance to talk with him directly too.

By the time the call swung by, it was quite late Brussels time (starting at 9pm), so I was at quite a wary state. When JP asked me the question of what I would love to create, I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. In fact, I have been feeling a sense of being lost. So to flip that, I said that I was looking a better sense of direction.

I’ve been changing a lot. And the speed of the transformation has only seemingly sped up too. In the talk, I shared the mental imagery of a Rubik’s Cube where all the sides were being changed at the same time. In such a cacophony of change, it makes sense for me to feel a loss of ‘what is’.

We spoke about the importance of leaning into the discomfort and pain that arises from self-realisation. Whilst this was a valuable reminder for me, it’s something I intuitively knew. My nature hasn’t generally been to shy away from discomforts, particularly in this realm of personal development.

I’m accepting that my life path is to do great things that will massively impact the world in a positive way. I don’t write this as some attempt to brag or manifest this. Instead, my spiritual journey has reinforced this message in subtle, different signs. I’m now getting to the point where I would rather lead the life I’m meant to rather than shying away from it.

The part that particularly struck me was JP’s observation that my spirit seemingly can do more. At the time, I found this a little confusing – after all, I am already doing a lot in my life. But the real power came from when JP highlighted that a way to look at it was to do what I’m doing, but focus on making a bigger difference, for more people, in less time.

This comment lined up with a conversation I had with my coach when speaking with him last week. My ability to do more with my time has led me to try new things. And whilst there is a great richness in life in this, it has also meant me doing a lot of activities that aren’t particularly valuable or impactful. By being more energetic and available, I had been making my time and energy a cheaper commodity. In other words, it’s important for me to value my time far more than I have been doing, even if it is just for me to sit alone at home.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the idea that we need to do new things to create something. Sometimes that can be helpful, but sometimes it is about doing what we are already doing, but better. After the dialogues, there was a short debrief session. It was great to look at how JP holds these spaces so well. I reflected at how well he was sure in what he was saying without ever ‘knowing’ it was true. He was extremely clear, but also extremely open.

One participant shared how JP previously said that the goal isn’t to dilute yourself, but instead increase the love in the container to take the heat. I found this point particularly poignant, because I think it’s where a lot of people lose impact. We either are too scared to share something impactful because we are scared of hurting the other person.

Or we go the opposite way and become the ‘bad cop’ persona that ‘tells it how it is’ without the human element. What I’ve learnt is that going deeper in our emotional connection is necessary to go deeper in the impactful work we do. And the deeper we go, the more effective it will be.

I like to talk about this in the form of masculine and feminine energy. To go deeper in our masculine (directional) energy, we must go deeper in our feminine (flowing) energy. This is usually the case and starting point for (heterosexual) men. This can look like opening up on our vulnerabilities to build trust before going into a decision-making discussion. For women, it is usually the other way around – going deeper in the masculine energy allows them to go deeper in the feminine energy. As an example here, it takes some level of masculine, directional energy to start a difficult conversation rather than avoiding of being fearful of conflict. But resolving this conflict will then allow for a deeper emotional connection and allow us to connect deeper into feminine energy.

If it’s not apparent, I got a bucket load of insights from this conversation yesterday, even if it was 90 minutes in total. This single fact reinforces to me the point that value and time are two very different variables. We can maximise our impact by increasing the value, rather than the time.

P.S. I am running an online programme in the month of November – undercutting your overthinking – where we will explore these themes. My aim for this is creating something that will really help you in making the shift I describe in this article, as well as other lingering unhelpful states of mind such as anxiety and frustration.

I created this programme because I see so many people could benefit from the work I have found through my foray into personal development. Unfortunately, many do not know this work exists and how much it can benefit them in their relationships, careers and personal wellbeing. The radical changes in my life demonstrates to me the power it can have for you.

If this speaks to you, drop me a message to learn more.

The subtle art of experiencing unpleasant moments

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Five minutes before writing this article, I dropped my toiletries off the side of my sink.

The result was a dramatic explosion of products and powders on the floor. Not only was the stuff kind of expensive, it was also a rather sizeable mess which was awkward to clean up.

I was pissed off. In fact I still am.

Some people think that this space of personal development is about not letting things upset us, but I think that although that can be part of it, we can fall into denying our feelings if we are not careful. It’s okay for me to get frustrated – I am only human after all. But the way I deal with that frustration can either be constructive or destructive.

In the past, I would let the negative feeling drown away my day. I would chastise myself for being so clumsy, which would undermine my sense of self-worth. Starting a day in such a way, it’s usually hard to have it be a particularly joyful experience.

Until recently, I had changed my approach towards a much more rational one. I would follow a very logical line that these are just material possessions and it won’t take me long to clean up anyway. I would then just carry on with my day with a ‘it doesn’t really matter’ mindset. Whilst this was functionable, and certainly can be helpful at times, it also implicitly denied what I was actually really feeling.

What I’ve learnt is that it’s really important for me to feel what I’m feeling. Not to dissect, rationalise or justify, but just to experience them. The actual reality is that I do feel sad about knocking over my stuff. It matters to me and I am disappointed, and that’s okay.

The reason it is important for me to have the time to experience the emotion is that the sooner I give myself the time to experience this, the sooner I can return to a base state. It’s amazing how after a short amount of time of giving time to me, the feeling can pass, and I find that the more I practice this, the quicker it happens. This is a far cry from when I would linger on the feelings so much that they could last several days.

We can often try to shortcut this part of experiencing unpleasant emotions like sadness or anger, but my experience is that this only serves to postpone the feeling. A common tactic is finding a way to distract ourselves, but this only serves to delay. The emotions will come up one way or another, and it’s better to get them out sooner rather than be weighed down with them for a long time (sometimes even a life time).

We can even play with the idea of using our feelings as a prompt for a new action. This works well, as long as it is not laced in self-judgement. Next time, I will ensure that I don’t leave so much stuff on the edge of my sink. I also turned this experience into something constructive by using it as inspiration for this article. As long as we are not chastising ourselves, these experiences can be valuable as moments for our development.

P.S. I am running an online programme in the month of November – undercutting your overthinking – where we will explore these themes. My aim for this is creating something that will really help you in making the shift I describe in this article, as well as other lingering unhelpful states of mind such as anxiety and frustration.

I created this programme because I see so many people could benefit from the work I have found through my foray into personal development. Unfortunately, many do not know this work exists and how much it can benefit them in their relationships, careers and personal wellbeing. The radical changes in my life demonstrates to me the power it can have for you. If this speaks to you, drop me a message to learn more.

Undercutting our time spent overthinking

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How often do you spend your evenings thinking about work? Perhaps you have issues sleeping because you can’t ‘let go’ of the thoughts that persist in your head. Even when you’re on holiday, you will find yourself checking your emails ‘just in case’.

These are all symptoms of overthink.

Last week, someone asked me how I was so productive in my life. I hadn’t thought about it consciously, but it was true – I do a lot of additional activities outside of my full time job, and this is also the most sociable I’ve ever been in my life.

This was not some magical gift I was born with. If you met me a few years ago, I would have spent my evenings sitting on the sofa feeling exhausted after a day of work. My weekends were spent hibernating. Simple tasks like groceries and doing the laundry felt like an insurmountable chore.

The biggest change has been this shift in my thinking. Without realising, my whole life was being driven by my thoughts. Every musing needed to be understood and rationalised, even if it was absolutely banal. A pleasant walk outside could quickly be tarnished because I would have an intrusive thought.

This would prompt a large internal monologue about a situation that was well in the past. I was too busy spending my time in this world to notice the clear blue sky and the smell of the beautiful flowers.

One of the reasons I’ve been drawn to coaching is because I’ve seen how big a transformation we can make by changing our relationship with our thinking. I’ve had several conversations this week with clients about how much of their predicaments – work, relationship, money – ultimately stem from the propensity to overthink. The irony is that the worry our thinking causes us makes us less effective in dealing with the issues that we are facing.

I know they aren’t the only people experiencing this. In a world where we are bombarded with emails, news alerts and social media notifications, our stimulation is at an all time high.

In November, I am setting up a month-long online programme. This will be for anyone who finds themselves spending far too much time in their own head and not enough time in the present day.

By unwinding the reliance on the mind, You will spend far less time stuck in thought. This will allow you to enjoy the current moment at a far greater level, whilst also giving you much more time and energy to create what you want.

If you are interested, drop me a message.

Flipping adversity into a source of strength

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Heart openings can bring up a lot of emotion. I’ve been feeling it the last week or so.

My recent focus has been to better connect my mind with my body. I’ve been more conscious about the way I move, recommitted to my yoga classes and been to a few ecstatic dance and tantra events recently too.

What I hadn’t realised was how much emotion I had kept stored in the body. My methods of dealing with feelings I did not like was to push them away. This meant they were left unexpressed. Over time, a lot of residue has stored up within me.

I’m now experiencing these emotions come up to the surface. I’ve been experiencing flashes of past moments of regret and embarrassment. Reliving these emotion can be tiring, but I also know that this is a critical part of the healing phase.

Mindfulness has been a really helpful aid here. I noticed recently how much my urge has been to ‘fix’ or ‘react’ to an emotion. If I feel bad, my tendency has been to rationalise a reason as to why something went wrong. This usually leads to a drawn out thought process where my brain crafts scenarios of how not to experience these emotions again.

With some maturity, I’ve fortunately recognised how fallible my mind is in this state. When trying to explain the ‘why’ behind an emotion, I’m susceptible to broad brush assumptions about the world. I can then end up judging someone or something because my mind has decided that the reason I felt that way was their fault.

When I truly see emotions as a passing wind that come and go, I realise that I do not have to be so beholden to them. Even if I am having unpleasant feelings, I can see that there’s nothing for me to do or fix. After a while they pass anyway. This is the healing process.

I spoke to one of my coaches this week about my experiences here. He gave me a prompt to take it one step further. Mindfulness can be great to get us away from a reactionary state, but how can I actually flip this experience to be one that I see as a positive?

I realised how important it was to see this process as part of a wider growth phase. Expression of these stored emotions allows me to be lighter. This in turn allows me to feel more deeply without feeling like I need to withdraw. The more I lean into these discomforts, the deeper I go into my transformational journey. This allows me to enjoy the gifts of life in a much more enriching way.

If we were always feeling good, life would be rather boring. And it is often these unpleasant emotions that give us the signal that something was not to our taste.It is these feelings that are pointing me towards where further work is to be done. Where there is discomfort, there is growth.

A lot of nicer memories that I had forgotten have been returning to me. I suddenly found myself thinking about old songs I used to listen to on repeat, as well as moments of happiness that I had totally forgotten about.

Life is about how we frame it. An experience can be positive or negative. We get to choose which, depending on how we look at them. The best day can be terrible and the worst day can be amazing.

Where we truly see that this choice is within our gift, the whole paradigm of our life changes forever.

And if we have the choice, why not frame things positively?

Creating time and space to do nothing

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Life can feel too busy to stop – even in the month of August. It can make it feel like we are on a constant treadmill of doing, with moments of respite few and far between.

But what if rather than needing to wait for moments of rest, it was something we actively created?

This summer has felt more intensive than I planned it to be. I chose to stay in Brussels this year. I tend to move around a lot anyway, and I was craving some stability. So I thought a restful summer would benefit me the most.

What I didn’t anticipate was that I had fewer cues to tell me it was time to rest. Rather than seeing the calming waves of the sea at a sunny beach, I instead saw the rather dreary rain of the Belgium summer.

Feeling like I had not rested made me question my own decisions – should I have gone to some exotic resort to relax? After all, that seems to be what other people do.

I realised I was duping myself into a fallacy. From what I saw around me, I had implicitly understood that to rest, a beach holiday was necessary. Whereas in reality rest is a state of mind that can be accessed anywhere.

Let’s not forget that most people do not get the luxury of a holiday escape. The belief that we need a stress relieving holiday is actually rather problematic. If we are working ourselves so far to burn out that we need a holiday to escape our reality, then the problem is how we are living, not the lack of an adequate holiday.

I’ve struggled with the pace of summer. I was expecting a slowed down motion of work, but this didn’t materialise in the way I thought it would – the working world has become more active and the ‘dead summers’ of old are no longer what they used to be. Now summer is a time for planning for the next period of work, rather than one of calm and rest.

But this is not about blaming external circumstances. In reality, I haven’t really allowed myself to return to a steady rhythm of life. The implicit ‘need’ to make the most of summer pushed me into a state of freneticism. I felt like I had to be doing fun and exciting things. But this was the exact opposite reason I chose to stay in Brussels – I wanted time to be with myself. Yet somewhere the reason I made the choice got lost along the way.

This week has been strange. I had stomach issues and headaches throughout it. I thought this was from overexertion from hot yoga classes. Whilst that may be a part of it, I must have picked up a stomach bug for it to have continued this long.

Perhaps it’s been a blessing in disguise. I’ve really had to rest, with very little activity. For the first time in probably six months, I’m having evenings where I’m not actively thinking or planning. My Friday night consisted of watching silly Youtube videos with no real plan to do otherwise. Most importantly, it felt comforting, rather than a guilty pleasure. (If you’re wondering, I watched videos around comically silly video game dialogues. Stuff like this video from Mortal Kombat 4. It is artistry in its own way).

In conventional wisdom this would sound like a wasted evening. But it’s also why conventional wisdom isn’t particularly useful for our individual lives. For me, having a night where I calmed the mind was exactly what I needed. If I didn’t give myself the time to do it, I would still be in the heightened alert mode that I needed a break from.

Having no plans allows us to do things far more spontaneously. This is very different to the pressure of *needing* to do something. My time has shifted from looking at social activities that I felt I needed to go to, to a more relaxed and freeing state instead.

It was only this week that I realised that there were many things that I had been neglecting – the basic things like doing my laundry, tidying my room and thinking about how I can decorate my space. The fact that my bedroom is now clean and tidy is so unbelievably calming, yet I was blind to how much I had let things slip.

Making space for ourselves is incredibly important, yet it can become a scary idea when we are so used to needing constant social contact.

So the easiest way to give space is creating the time where we have nothing planned.

Our intuition will tell us what to do when we’re alone.

Living life like you have nothing to lose

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Last night (rather late because of timezone differences!), I listened to a talk by John Patrick Morgan, a practical philosopher who is highly regarded in the coaching space.

The talk yesterday was around the concepts of living like you have nothing to lose, and the idea of not *having* to do anything. I really enjoy these talks because of how eloquent JP sets out his views, and there’s something I really identify with in the manner in which he speaks. Considering how many people he gets on these calls, I know I’m not the only one!

JP was very open in talking about how life can put the principles that occurred to him to the test in a very practical way. JP lives in Hawaii, and whilst talking about not having anything to lose suddenly found himself with the very real threat of the Maui wildfires appearing on his doorstep.

Yet this experience serves to prove the theory, rather than discount it. Whilst at the time it is important to allow ourselves to feel the emotions, it’s also a way to see that we do not have to be governed by the idea of loss (if that is what indeed comes to pass).

I had an experience of potential loss yesterday (albeit at a much smaller level). When heading home from the office yesterday, I realised that my laptop was not in my bag. I suddenly panicked as to whether I might have dropped it somewhere.

With a slightly more calm head, I realised I had probably just autopiloted when leaving for the day and left it in the drawer without thinking about it. Yet even with this thought, I had the creeping discomfort of wondering whether I had somehow lost it somewhere.

JP made a lovely distinction that I hadn’t heard before – real problems lead to real action, but fake problems lead to fake action.

As I was walking into the office this morning to see if I had indeed somehow lost my laptop, my mind wondered about what I would have to do if I had lost it. Considering it’s a work laptop, I imagine I would have to tell my boss and IT team, as well as explain why I wasn’t logged in today. I teleported to a world of embarrassment and uncertainty of what I’m meant to do.

Fortunately, I snapped out of it. If (and only if) I had indeed lost my laptop – which was incredibly unlikely – then I would figure out what to do. I’m not the first person to lose a work laptop, nor will I be the last. Right now this was a fake problem being created in our head, rather than a real one.

Lo and behold, when I did come into the office this morning, I found my laptop sitting there in the drawer. It was exactly where I had put it many other times. All the fake actions I came up with dissipated. I can write that off as wasted mental energy.

The idea of having nothing to lose is not meant in a maverick, Machiavellian sense. This is not about going rambo style out into the world because our deaths are meaningless. Instead, this is about shifting our view to understand that our attachment to possessions (whether ‘real’ like a laptop or intangible like my status) is not actually one we possess in the first place. JP talked about how this links to the Buddhist idea of impermanence – we do not truly ‘own’ anything. So if we don’t own it, there’s nothing to lose.

Another way to phrase it is that we have nothing to lose because we are going to lose it anyway. Our houses, phone, cars will be lost by us at some point – maybe because we sell them but also maybe because we are the ones leave this world behind. The same goes for the intangible things we have – job titles, reputation and status. They only are with us until they aren’t.

The idea we have nothing can be extremely liberating because it means that we do not have to come from a protective mindset. Rather than fearing loss, we can see life as a playground to do different things or ‘borrow’ new items if we want to.

The talk made me realise how much I had been holding onto the idea of what things like my house, clothes and job mean about me. There’s nothing wrong with having these things, but they are also not me. At best, these are things I borrow. The more I make these things define me, the more I cling onto them, even when it’s time to let them go.

Living life like we have nothing to lose is about embracing its freedom. It is about accepting the transient nature of our existence, which allows us to bring our playful nature to the surface.

Ironically, coming from this playful space will make us far more effective in receiving the new things we want.

Why consistency is so important for our life goals

There are many things we want in life – a healthier body, better sleep, improved skills or a greater income.

Sometimes getting these things can feel impossible. When we try something like a new diet, we can quickly feel discouraged when we don’t see progress. And when we don’t see progress, we tend to give up.

Take learning a language: it can be very daunting starting from a complete beginner level. We have to build layers of grammar and vocabulary to form coherent sentences. When we see a native speaker do it so effortlessly, it can make us feel like we aren’t achieving anything at all. The comparison with others can make us lose sight of the smaller gains we are making.

Most of our skills were built over a longer period of time. Our life experience demonstrates this. It took us years to learn to talk, but we forget the learning journey we undertook as toddlers. Learning a new language is no different. Even Olympic cyclists fell off their bikes multiple times as kids.

Consistency above all will get you much further towards the things you want. I am not telling you something you do not already know.

Whilst the temptation is to often look for the ‘easy wins’ or shortcuts, these rarely, if ever exist. If we want something that we do not already have, chances are that they are not things that can be attained quickly. After all, if it were quick and easy we would have got these things already.

Consistency is both easy and difficult. It is easy because we know what to do, and how to do it. But the challenge is doing it regularly, even when we don’t want to.

What I’ve found recently is how powerfully cognitive dissonance can kick in. I’ve stagnated with my weight loss in the last two weeks. For a moment, I asked myself whether the method I’m using was really working. Although I had lost some weight, the lack of results made me wonder whether this method had now run its course. I spent some time looking up the answer online of what was causing the stagnation. According to the online chats, perhaps the early weight loss was just water weight. Maybe it was time to switch to something else, or push myself harder.

A few days later I realised I was not being honest with myself. When I look back I had been going out more and eating far less healthy food than before. When I gave myself a dose of radical honesty, I realised that this was not the method’s fault, instead it was my commitment to the method that was lacking.

Our goals don’t live in siloes either. My sleep quality has also worsened – mainly due to my use (read: overuse) of my phone and social media. The knock on effect has meant I’m more tired, with far lower willpower. I’ve been more irritable and anxious, which is when I tend to eat far worse.

In the last few days, I’ve recommitted to eating better. And surprise, the results came back. As I got back into the habit, my willingness to keep it up has also returned. The temptation to eat poorly has reduced.

Consistency is understanding that even when we fall off track (which we inevitably will) we are able to get back on it again. If we spend time judging ourselves about why we failed, we end up descending into a cycle of despair.

So if you want change in your life, commit to a new routine.

Consistency will lead you to the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.

Seeing sensitivity as a strength

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

Attitudes have progressed a lot in the last few years. We see more open discussions around burnout and mental wellbeing. Nevertheless, emotional sensitivity, particularly in ‘professional’ settings, is still seen as an unwanted, or bad trait.

At best, sensitivity is something to be tolerated. It’s okay to be emotional, but as long as it’s done in private, or outside of the workplace.

But sensitivity is what makes us human, and in a world where we use terms like having ’emotional intelligence’, it’s something that is sorely lacking in the business world (not to mention in our personal lives too).

I’ve been guilty of this myself. Back when I worked in the UK Government, I fell into the mindset of being as rational as possible. I thought this was what it meant to be successful. The answer for me always seemed to be about having the best argument or line of reasoning, and it would bewilder me why everyone else didn’t do the same.

Ironically, my journey has been one of reconnecting with my emotions over the course of my adult life. It started with realising that not everything is about winning the argument. It then progressed to realising that the intuitive sense I had came from an ability to connect and understand people in a deeper way. I thought this was normal for everyone. Turns out its not.

The last two weeks have been a very confronting journey for me around sensitivity. Rather than being a brain bot with a bit of emotions as I had previously thought, I’m learning that the opposite is more true – I am a deep emotional reservoir with some thinking behind it.

I had come across the term ‘highly sensitive person’ before, but I never thought it applied to me. Yes, I can be emotional, but who isn’t? Well, it turns out, actually a lot of people aren’t as sensitive as I am. There’s an estimated 20% of people who are highly sensitive, and this holds true for both men and women. But for me as a man, I learnt to push that side away: who would want to be labelled a shy, crybaby in this culture?

But as I’ve been reading The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, a lot of things in my life suddenly make far more sense. A classic case is my tendency is to seek pleasure, but then get overstimulated and exhausted. I’ve seen this several times this year, particularly after my trip to India in February.

Other characteristics are more trivial – I never really understood why I didn’t finish Breaking Bad. I watched a lot of it – several seasons in fact. But I ended up finding it too heavy to watch in the evenings after work. I just didn’t want to subject myself to the emotional stress that each episode gave me, so I stopped. Turns out that’s a pretty clear sign of emotional sensitivity.

What I am seeing is how much my sensitivity is a gift – subtle shifts in people’s behaviours are things that seem very obvious to me and give me a great ability to read people’s energy. In a business setting, it’s why I’ve had a real advantage in being able to read the room, feel subtle shifts in energy and being able to understand people’s underlying motivations.

Nevertheless, my tendency to get overstimulated can also mean I can get skittish or very critical at points that come as a surprise to other people. This can also play into my feeling that I am misunderstood. So it is really important that I manage my time to give the space I need so that I do not get overaroused.

What I am seeing is how connecting to my sensitivity is allowing me to connect much better with the people around me. I am much more in tune with life and my experience of emotions like happiness are heightened. The fact I haven’t been doing this as much as I could is what has been holding me back.

So from a business perspective, sensitivity is what allows us to connect, and really make things happen by working with others. We can get so caught up in the machines and systems that we forget that the real way to make an impact is by connecting with people at a human level.

From a personal perspective, life is much richer. Feeling is a gift, and one that is to be cherished. Letting down my armour has been very emotionally painful, as it has required me understanding why I put them up in the first place. Nonetheless, my life is much more fulfilling when I can really enjoy it by experiencing the emotional side more fully.

So even if you see yourself as not particularly emotional, remember this – you are human, and you are living as much an emotional experience as a physical one. Opening up further to emotions is what gives the excitement and richness of life. Failure to do so, and life can pass you by.

If you are someone who sees yourself as sensitive then remember that experiencing emotions is a gift (even when it doesn’t feel like it!). It’s what makes our experiences deeper and richer. It isn’t something that you need to push away, even if you are experiencing something difficult. Being open to the bounties of life only makes it more rich when we taste the fruit.

If you’d like to learn more about my experiences around opening my heart to my own sensitivity, drop me a message.