If you are living true to yourself and your inner drivers (and not purposefully trying to hurt others) then you never need to apologise for being yourself. People who want you to change, or want to belittle your thoughts and dreams, or just want you to stop being yourself are not healthy people to spend your time with. If people cannot respect you for being true to yourself then they need to be shown the door...Read More
Think big. If you’re anything like me (and you are reading my website so I think that’s a fair assumption) then you’ve probably heard those two words plenty of times before. Hell, you’ve probably even had several people tell you that if you want to chase your dreams, achieve great success, and be able to set your own path in life then you need to think big. But why stop there? Why stop at thinking big? Thinking is only one part of the success-process (that’s right I hyphenated those two words to make it sound like a 1990s infomercial product - deal with it). There is another, more important, part to fulfilling your dreams: actually doing something about it.
Which is why my motto is: Don’t just think big; do big.
Thinking versus Doing – aka “Paralysis by Analysis”
It’s all fine and dandy for people to tell you to think big but that just puts the entire focus on the thinking, or planning, stage. And I’ll be honest, this is NOT where the most progress is achieved.
Sure, thinking things through and undertaking some effective planning sessions are great tools but they don’t actually get too much done do they? If you’ve got a great idea then sitting down and planning it all the way through just doesn’t work. It blunts your creative flow, it halts your progress, and it drastically effects your enthusiasm. And if you put too much emphasis on the planning stage (i.e. thinking big) then sometimes you never actually make it to the doing phase. This is known as Paralysis by Analysis.
Many people have grand plans and big dreams, but not many achieve them. Why? Because they spend their life analysing the possibilities, they waste their time worrying about every little detail, and they never take a chance to actually do something about their dream.
They think and think and think and think and then think some more just for good measure. They think things through to the millionth possible degree trying to factor in every possible outcome (“so I could quit my job to start my own business but then what if the US President dies in a freak golfing accident which triggers another world war, causing oil prices spiral out of control, and resulting in a massive depression? I'd better not even bother...”) just to feel “safe”. But to be blunt, these people are not being safe. They are just making excuses.
Are you one of those people? Are you making excuses for your life and for why you’re not chasing your dream? If you say no then I say you’re lying because everyone makes excuses for themselves at some point. I still catch myself thinking in this excuse-oriented mindset because it is an easy habit to fall back into. But just because something is easy doesn’t make it right.
The key to snapping this bad habit is to learn to recognise what you are doing when you make excuses and ask yourself why. Why are you making excuses? Why are you holding yourself back? Why are you not even trying? What is it about the possible fulfilment of your dreams that you don’t want?
Most of the time the answers will be fear-based (e.g. fear of failure, fear of new things, fear or change) but guess what? That fear is completely normal. But so is pushing through it.
As I mentioned in a previous article, fear is useless and irrational. It does not actually provide us with much benefit. In an evolutionary sense it was used as a system to invoke sudden bursts of energy (i.e. strength for fight, or speed for flight) to save us from life threatening situations. Except now we don’t face many of those situations in our everyday lives and instead we just create a sense of fear when looking to the future.
When we feel this fear it invokes our natural fight-or-flight mechanism. We are urged to put up a fight or run away. The problem is that there is nothing to fight. The fear we feel is a fear that we created through imaginary negative outcomes set in the future, meaning that what we are fearing has not even happened yet. Because there is nothing to "fight" the result is that we always activate the "flight" option when we are in this fearful mindset. We cannot fight what does not yet exist but we can certainly try to run away from the possibility. This is exactly what we are doing when we hold ourselves back from our dreams through fear.
I would also wager heavily that most fears people have about their dreams are not directly life threatening. I bet that not too many people have dreams that are so dangerous that anything but the successful completion of that dream will mean death. So the question needs to be asked: if you cannot actually die by chasing your dream then why are you fearing it?
Try before you die
Too many people die with regrets, wishing they had followed their inner passion and gone after their dreams. But it is not that they didn’t achieve their goals that really haunts them. It is that they never even tried.
Chasing your dream and missing out is much better than dying without trying.
When I talk about chasing dreams I am not just focused on the actual accomplishment and fulfilment of said dreams but also on the wonderful benefits received just by trying. Here is why chasing your dream is good for you:
Reason 1 for chasing your dream - you live life with purpose
When you coast through life, avoiding challenges and not chasing dreams, then you are not living life with purpose. You are just living from one day, one bill, and one job to the next. But when you chase your dreams then your life becomes filled with a purpose. A strong and meaningful reason for your existence. Suddenly every little action becomes a step towards something greater rather than just a means to an end. This attitude shift makes everyday living a whole lot more fun.
Reason 2 for chasing your dream - you meet wonderful people
When you set your mind and attitude on fulfilling your goals you start sending out different signals to the rest of the world. You start showing a positive, productive, and happy attitude and that starts attracting similar people. You will naturally find those people that are living their lives with purpose and passion. And these people will want to help you succeed. They will share their insights and their experiences and they will do whatever they can to help you on your road to success.
Reason 3 for chasing your dream - you might actually achieve it
Brace yourselves. I know this may sound crazy and far-fetched but when you take action and attempt to fulfil your dreams and goals then sometimes you actually succeed, and in some of those times you even achieve more than you ever could have dreamed of. Crazy huh?
But do you know that there is only one single action that guarantees you will never achieve your dreams? Doing nothing. When it comes to your dreams, doing anything is always better than doing nothing.
Don’t just think big; do big.
And we’re back full circle to where I started this article. I’m not just encouraging you to start living your life with passion, to follow your dreams and find something that excites you, but I’m telling you to do it in the biggest possible way that you can imagine.
If you dream of starting your own business but need money then get out there and find some venture capitalists to pitch to. Prepare a kick-ass presentation, impress them with your idea (and your passion) and then ask them for MORE money than you initially budgeted for. It's your dream, don’t settle for less.
If you have a great idea for a novel series but are fearing your lack of credibility as a writer then sit yourself down and just write the bloody thing. Not just one book, but the whole series of books. By the time you have written your five-book masterpiece I guarantee that you’ll have more than enough credibility and that will result in more than enough success.
If it has been your life-long dream to travel around the world and see every country then do not settle for a quick three week trip squeezed in between work projects. Quit your job, book your tickets and just go. Indefinitely.
That’s how the real dream-achievers do it (another 1990s informercial style phrase). That’s how they succeed. When it comes to their dreams they don’t just think big – they do big too. And so should you.
You don’t know everything. It’s as simple as that and more importantly everyone else around you knows that you don’t know everything. This very thought should be liberating. It allows you to be wrong sometimes, it allows you to make mistakes, and it allows you be honest and upfront when you don’t know something. At least that is how a strong leader sees it. But not a weak leader. A weak leader tries to paint themselves as an expert in everything without realising that they are just setting themselves up for significant and embarrassing failure. By not accepting that they do not know everything (or even just accepting that no-one else believes them when they pretend to know everything) they are forced into an uncomfortable position of always having to give an answer. Even if they have no idea what they are talking about.
The better solution is to accept that everyone has holes in their knowledge and just be honest about it. Saying “I don’t know” is a much stronger option but alas, not many people like to admit they don’t know something. The feel insecure about admitting to a lack of knowledge, even though doing so actually gives off a strong impression of confidence and self awareness.
But admitting to a lack of knowledge is only half the problem. Not only do people pretend to have knowledge in areas they know nothing about but they also tend to drastically overestimate the accuracy of their knowledge.
You could say that these people have no idea that they have no idea. Put in a nicer way – these people don’t know what they don’t know.
People don’t know what they don’t know
This has been proven in many psychological studies but a prime example is the work conducted by Alpert and Raiffa. They tested a set of Harvard MBA students by asking them to make range-based predictions of an unknown variable and to ensure they achieved 98% accuracy. The test was not to measure their actual knowledge but their individual evaluation of their own knowledge.
If we assume that everyone can accurately estimate their own knowledge then the expectation is that we would only find 2 errors per 100 people surveyed. The results, however, were vastly different.
These “experts” over-estimated their own knowledge by so much that the actual error rate was a mammoth 45%! That is to say that nearly half of the test population failed to accurately understand the difference between what they actually knew and what they thought they knew.
This problem isn’t limited to just highly-educated professionals. Similar studies have been repeated with all sorts of cross-sections of society (different race, religion, socioeconomic status etc) and the results are all undeniable. The average error rate is in the 15-30% range (not the expected 2%) and this occurs for all groups tested regardless of the makeup of the individuals within the group.
Applications for leaders (and wannabe leaders)
This has important consequences for those diligently (or desperately?) trying to look like an expert so they can climb the corporate ladder. Put simply: don’t bother.
Don’t pretend to be an expert if you aren’t one, don’t try to seem like you know everything, and don’t try to bluster your way through work (or life) with bullshit and lies. It just doesn’t make sense.
Instead, have enough courage to admit what you don’t know. Be honest and accept the holes in your knowledge. There are many benefits to doing so.
Firstly, by being honest to yourself about your level of knowledge you allow yourself to be continually learning and growing. If you admit that you do not know everything then you can actually ask questions of the real experts and start learning more. That’s right; you can actually get smarter when you don’t care about looking smart.
Another benefit to be gained from not being a know-it-all is that people won’t treat you like one. This is a good thing as it means people will actually listen to what you say. When you always have an answer (even if you’re just making one up on the spot) people will give your ideas and comments less credence. But when you are honourable enough to say “I don’t know” it changes the way you are seen. People give you more respect and are more willing to listen when you speak up later on.
Finally, the biggest and most important part of being a good leader is that your job is to manage and motivate other people to grow. A good leader is someone who knows that their main responsibility is to get the best out of the real experts. A good leader is uninterested in showing off or appearing smarter than they actually are – they only care about delivering the best possible outcomes and they do this by leveraging the knowledge of the experts around them.
A good leader is not an expert in everything. A good leader is an expert at knowing what they don't know and an expert at motivating others. Are you a good a leader?
Everyone has an opinion, and quite often people enjoy sharing (or forcing) their opinions with others. However, opinions are tainted because they only exist in each person’s own frame of reference. That is, each person forms their own opinion based on their own experiences and their own observations of the world. What is “right” for one person is not necessarily right for another. In fact, when it comes to opinions, this is rarely the case I believe that other people’s opinions are not that important to me, and particularly so when that opinion is about me. Other people simply do not have the same level of experience or knowledge about my life as I do and thus their opinions will never be as accurate as mine. I will ultimately know the most about my life, my thoughts, and my desires which means that only my opinion of myself matters.
Which leads me here – writing about how other people form their opinions of us, why these opinions are irrelevant most of the time, and why only your own opinion of yourself is what matters.
Opinions are just a matter of perspective
The first part to the consideration of other peoples’ opinions is to think about how they actually form these opinions. In general, all opinions are formed by a person using their own set of life experiences, knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts as the basis. That is, they form these opinions from their own frame of reference, which is completely different to our frame of reference (which is where we performed the various thoughts and actions that are being judged).
Example: The CEO and the guitarist
To make an example – imagine a successful and happy CEO of a small company walking down a busy street and running into a dishevelled looking man (long hair, beard, no shoes) who is playing a guitar and singing for the passer-bys. From the CEO’s perspective he judges the guitarist as a “bludger” and forms an opinion that he is homeless and in need of a job. He might even give him some money to help as that is what the CEO, from his perspective, thinks the man needs.
Now switch perspectives, and consider the guitarist. He’s not a bludger at all - he actually has a very nice home and enough money that he has chosen not to work. Instead he travels the world and plays his guitar. He looks at the be-suited office workers (including the previously mentioned CEO) as they pass and he feels sorry for them. He believes they are missing out on their life and forms the opinion that they must be greedy and unhappy because those are the only reasons he can think of for why they would continue to work.
Neither perspective is right, but neither perspective is wrong. Each person has a very different set of circumstances which has led them to their current situation and their frame of reference. Their perspective is built from their life journey and as such they can only make judgements and form opinions with that information. Hence why the CEO thinks the guitarist must be a homeless beggar because he simply cannot fathom someone “rich and successful” quitting their job to live a semi-vagrant lifestyle.
And the guitarist suffers the same folly. Because he was never happy at work he cannot believe that other people could possibly be happy at work. He looks at the CEO almost with contempt, believing that he is willing to exchange happiness for money even though he knows nothing about the CEO, his job, or his happiness.
The way opinions are formed
When someone forms an opinion on you they are doing so based on the extremely limited set of information they have been presented with. They align it to their past experience and knowledge and form an opinion that they think suits the situation best. This opinion has no relevance to you because it does not factor in anything else about your life and what you have gone through previously to arrive at this point. Their opinion only considers what they have recently observed.
Look at the (pretty crude) sketch I’ve drawn above. Consider yourself to be the circle on the left. The outer part is what you allow to be seen by others. This is known as your outward-facing "persona". Inside your circle is everything that defines you. That is where your past is stored. That is where your emotions live. That is where your thoughts happen and where your decisions are made.
Now look at person A and person B (the circles on the right). They exist completely outside of your circle and they have their own outward facing persona and their own internal elements. These are what they use when they form opinions of others.
The two coloured cones represent these people looking at you and your external persona to form an opinion. But as you can see, these opinions never consider the full you. These opinions that are formed by others can only look a very limited set of your external persona (remember that is only what you let them see) and they can never reach inside your circle and understand all those internal drivers in your life. As such, the opinions of others are formed solely by them assessing the limited information they can access – the small outward-facing part of your persona they have witnessed.
Of course this means that their opinion is never going to fully align with you. They never know exactly what you know, or what you have seen in your life, so they can never fully appreciate all your internal drivers and why you think, act, or do certain things.
As time goes by and you repeatedly interact with the same people, they will experience more and more of your outward persona. This will enable them to modify their opinion of you but it is still only an opinion that is formed on based entirely on your outward persona. Eventually you may “open up” and allow these people to see parts of what is inside. You may allow these people to look behind the social mask and see what actually drives you.
We do this with our loved ones, but even so we never give them the full picture. We might turn part of our persona into a window that allows them to see inside to understand what drives us. But just like a window on a house, you can never see everything that is inside from a single window. There a rooms hidden from view, and as such, even our dearest and closed loved ones will never have a complete understanding of our internal drivers. The will know far more about us than anyone else but they will still not have the complete picture.
This is not a bad thing but it is just the nature of being human. In the end we are essentially individual creatures living in a coexistent environment, sharing parts of lives through language, emotion, and action. This means that others will only ever understand what we choose to share and then only if we are skilled enough to express ourselves accurately.
Your opinion of yourself is what matters most
Therefore, what truly matters most is your own opinion of yourself. Only you know what your life has been like, what you are capable of, and what you want to achieve. Only you can see all that and form an opinion that has taken everything from your life in to consideration.
But too many people hide from themselves and avoid making assessments of their own actions. I believe that these people are functioning in a purely reactive and “stressed-out” way. They are not living in the moment, they are not aware of their own actions, and they are not consciously in control of their own life.
If you are one of these people then you need to start being honest with yourself and start forcing yourself to assess your own actions. What have you done so far in your life? Have you treated others with respect and equality? What sort of person have you been? More importantly, what sort of person do you want to be? When you start asking yourself these questions, don’t be afraid to answer them honestly for that is the only way that you will initiate positive change in your life.
Remember, your opinion of yourself is what matters most so what do you really think of yourself?
I considered starting this off by saying that honesty plays a very important role in living a happy, positive and successful life but that just doesn’t justify the importance of honesty. Honesty is the cornerstone of all positive relationships and the number one aspect that defines our lives and the happiness and success that we can have. I know this because I used to be a big liar. I was so proficient at lying that it became a compulsive habit. I lied about nearly everything in my life trying to impress others, improve my relationships, and have more success. Funnily enough, none of those things came from lies but I only realised this when I forced myself to be honest again.
Honesty (and a lack of it) influences absolutely everything we do. But it is too easy to not be honest. Especially now, more than ever, with the ability to hide behind the curtain of social media and communicate via text message or email. It is too easy to be fake, too easy to lie to people, and too easy to embellish simply for “social reasons”.
We do this, even though the long-term results of lying are profoundly negative for our lives. The crux of the problem occurs in our usage of lies. We use them as a short-term solution, a crutch to bypass awkward social situations and (wishfully) propel ourselves into a better life. But we blind ourselves by focusing on these short-term immediate (and mostly superficial) gains. Rare is it for someone to observe the long-term negative effects of lying and even more rare is it for that person to be introspective enough to attribute their problems to their earlier lies. Instead we point the finger at something (or someone) else and never understand or accept the full impact lying has.
However, there is a way to break out of this habit. There is a method for awaking yourself from the subconscious action of lying and regaining control of your life by focusing on honesty. This method is called brutal honesty.
About brutal honesty
Brutal honesty is about being 100% honest at all times. It means always saying the whole truth (and nothing but the truth) even if the results make you feel uncomfortable. The idea is to say exactly what you are thinking without dressing it up or hiding it from others. That’s the brutal part.
It’s brutal on you (some people find it almost impossible to actually say what they are thinking) and it’s brutal on others (other people are usually not used to hearing such raw comments). But that’s the beauty of it. Brutal honesty is such a juxtaposition to what the rest of society does that it causes immediate responses and reflection.
Being brutally honest is a very hard thing to do. It requires a great deal of self-confidence, the ability to calmly observe your own thought processes, and a hell of a lot chutzpah!
But the rewards are worth it…
Three reasons to use brutal honesty
There are many benefits to being brutally honest but here are what I consider to be the top three reasons to use brutal honesty in life:
1. You get to be true to yourself
When people lie they are putting on an act, covering up their real identity and saying what they think other people want to hear. But there are many problems with this style of thinking.
The first problem is that none us are mind readers so we don’t actually know what other people want to hear. People have a hard enough time figuring out and controlling their own thoughts but somehow manage to believe it easy to understand what everyone else is thinking in every moment. We make wild assumptions on what people are thinking and then use that as the basis for forming lies and covering up our true identity. Crazy.
But if we focus on being honest; always speaking the truth about our own thoughts, feelings, and desires then we do not need to worry about performing the miracle of mind reading. We can just focus on living an honest life and reaping the rewards.
Remember, an honest person is comfortable with themselves and confident with their own thoughts. They always act in a way that is congruent to their internal drivers and they are respected for doing so. Even if other people do not like what you say they will at least appreciate your honesty and respond in kind. Honest people always receive genuine response in social interactions.
2. Honesty is win:win
What happens if you believe you know what someone else is thinking so you make up some lies (maybe to impress them) and then you find out that they actually dislike whatever it is you lied about? You went to all that trouble of hiding the real you and making something up to impress the person, only to have the complete opposite effect.
This happens all the time when we lie to others. When we try to make ourselves seem different, we create a fake version of ourselves that we *think* the other person will like. But if we’ve read the situation incorrectly (quite easy to do) then we end up in a worse position then we started. Not only is the target person not impressed with us but they have also made a negative judgement of us based entirely on a fake version of ourselves.
When we lie we create a lose:lose situation. If the lie is accepted and liked by others then we now must continue the deceit forevermore into the future which is tiring and emotionally draining. But if the lie is not accepted or liked by others then we incur a different loss. We discover that all our efforts (being fake and lying) were wasted and we’ve been judged on these falsified actions rather than being judged on who we actually are.
But when we are honest we create win:win situations. If we are honest, truthful and congruent at all times then we can accept the response we receive from others. If someone does not like our truth then that is fine. It is their prerogative and their opinion and they are entitled to it. But at least you have both been honest and you both know where you stand.
3. You gain more respect
Honesty is always respected. A known liar will be greeted with mistrust, held at arms-length, and never fully welcomed into any interpersonal interaction. But someone who is known for their honesty will be welcomed with open arms. These people are respected and trusted because you know exactly where you stand with them. There is no second-guessing, no game-playing, and no manoeuvring or backstabbing because you know you can trust what an honest person is saying.
And that level of trust gives an honest person more power. Their opinions will be held in higher esteem, their ideas will be given more credence, and their stories will captivate the attention of others. We look up to honest people and, as such, we give them a greater level of attention and respect.
Honesty has many benefits for our life, and brutal honesty is just taking normal honesty to the extremes. It’s a method that forces us to think about our action and it reminds us to live an honest life that is always true to ourselves.
Do you need a little bit of brutal honesty in your life?
Life requires energy. Just like moving a car across the road, or a plane through the sky, our actions in daily life require energy to achieve any momentum. We need energy to run our daily lives, to perform actions, and to make changes. We need energy to meet deadlines, work towards our goals, and achieve success. Simply put, we need energy to live. But often we use the wrong type of energy. We take the easy (but ultimately flawed) path of tapping into negative energy sources because it can provide instant results. Instant results come at a price though and that price is long-term unhappiness. To overcome this we need to shift our focus. We need to develop the ability harness the positive energy sources in our lives because these come with a much set of side-effects: happiness, fulfilment, and success.
Negative Energy Sources
Negative energy is energy derived from stress, anger, anxiety, hate, and fear. These energy sources provide a quick burst of explosive energy which can be useful in certain situations, like running from pack of ravenous lions. In obvious fight-or-flight examples the usage of negative energy is simply a survival mechanism but do we have a need for such a mechanism in our current society? I don’t know about you but my encounters with ravenous lions (or any creature that is about to eat me) have had a pretty low incidence across my entire life. Zero.
Our society has progressed since simple fight-or-flight times and we no longer experience life-threatening situations on a daily basis. So without the foreshadow of possible death hanging over our heads you’d think we would all be happily smiling and laughing while we skip around town singing Kylie Minogue‘s “I should be so lucky”.
Instead we create other means to justify accessing negative energy sources. Maybe it’s a tight deadline at work, or a disagreement in a relationship, or an upcoming presentation to the board directors. These are not exactly dangerous situations (i.e. they do not have a direct link to our possible death) but we still tend to tap into the negative energy wells to power these activities.
Tapping into the negative energy sources can become the default choice for many because these energy wells typically lie just beneath the surface and are easy to access. It’s like drilling for oil when we know that we have an oil reservoir sitting just under our backyard. We know it’s there, we know how to access it, and we know it will provide a quick burst of energy. We’d be silly not to tap it right?
But this is completely the wrong way to look at it. Just because something is easy doesn’t make it right and using negative energy sources actually has a raft of negative side-effects on our lives.
Negative energy sources are “dirty” energy sources. The side-effect of using them is that they pollute the surrounding environment, degrading it, and making it unusable for anything else. And in this metaphor that environment is our life.
By tapping into these energy wells we release the latent negative energy that is stored beneath the surface. Some of it gets burned up, providing us with a short-term burst of fuel, but more of it seeps out through every nook and crevice and begins to infect our life. Before we know it, the wonderful garden that we had worked so hard on is dying and we are left with a barren plot where nothing can grow.
Worse still is that once we start tapping into negative energy it becomes highly addictive. The nature of this energy is that it provides a quick-burning explosive release fuel. It sustains us in the short-term but after the initial "high" the effects rapidly wear off and we are left with a conundrum. We could spend time seeking alternative energy sources but we already know exactly where the negative energy wells are and we know exactly how to tap them. So we tap it again. We burn more negative energy, we get the explosive “high”, and we achieve short-term goals. It’s pretty easy to see why this becomes addictive.
But this addiction is very near-sighted. It only focuses on achieving short-term and immediate goals and does nothing for our long-term ambitions. That is why we need to use positive energy sources.
Positive Energy Sources
Positive energy sources are things like happiness, contentment, excitement, love, and these sources produce a slower, longer form of sustainable energy when compared to the quick burst that negative energy provides.
It is this slow-release feature that makes tapping into positive energy wells so much harder, psychologically speaking. There are no quick-fix results with this energy. It does not provide instant gratification and reinforcement of our decisions. Choosing positive energy sources is a long term commitment.
Because of this the initial process of tapping into a positive energy well will seem so much harder. If negative energy is like the oil reservoir lying just beneath the surface then positive energy is like solar power. The sun exists and we know that we can technically derive energy from it but doing so takes up a lot of time, effort, and money. And the initial energy returns always feel diminished in comparison to this upfront cost.
That is exactly what tapping into positive energy is all about. Setting it up initially is a lot of work and the immediate results are not in proportion to this effort. The results will seem weak when compared to the explosive fuel that comes from negative sources but the key difference is that positive energy sources are permanent. They provide positive energy forever.
With negative sources we are constantly going back to the well to get that short burst of energy. But eventually the well dries up and we have to move on and find another negative energy source and restart the whole process. We tap it, we get addicted to the short-term burst, we constantly tap the well until it dries up and then we move on. Ad infinitum.
This is where we start seeing the true benefits of positive energy sources. Once we have gone through the initial setup we do not have to do anything else every again. We will just receive a constant stream of long-lasting positive energy.
The other benefit of this positive kind of energy is that we can easily store it to build a backup supply of energy. Each day we tap into positive sources our storage capacity of positive energy increases. This is what people talk about when describing a happy person as “bursting with energy”. Those people have managed to build up such a strong storage of positive energy that, when compared to others, it seems like happiness is just flowing out of them.
And that’s not the only reason we store positive energy. On bad days we can use our backup of positive energy to sustain our daily life. Instead of being forced to look elsewhere for energy we have a reliable and constant stream just waiting to be used. Or, in those times that we face negative situations we now have the choice to “burn” our positive energy to provide the quick solution needed rather than having to tap the negative well. Solving negative problems with positive energy? Now we’re talking!
Finally, there is one more benefit to using positive energy sources – what it does to our surrounding environment (i.e. our entire life). Positive energy sources are clean. They are our natural state and they promote a happy and healthy attitude in our lives. They provide long-term, long-lasting, slow-release energy and they do so with a relatively small upfront “cost”. It does not make sense to choose anything else to power our lives.
Think about the energy sources you use in your life. Are they negative or positive? Do you feel like you are running from one stressful situation to the next with no rest? Or are you in a state of blissful happiness where you are just bursting with positive energy? More importantly, which one would you rather be?
Relationships play an important part in our lives but they are tricky to get right. According to most popular relationship guidance the keys to successful relationships are said to be things like good communication, being honest about your feelings, being affectionate often, showing gratitude, and so on. But I feel these items are missing the point. Don't get me wrong, they are great ways to maintain a strong relationship but they are merely subsets, or derivatives, of a more important relationship requirement: that each person in the relationship is living their own individual lives to their full potential. How we live our life as an individual defines how we live our life as part of a relationship. If we are not true to ourselves, not living our lives to our full individual potential, then how could we fully commit ourselves to building a successful and wonderful relationship? It's not possible. The effort that each person brings into a relationship is directly related to the effort they put in to themselves as an individual.
A wise woman (my mum) once said...
If you are not living to your whole individual potential, then you can never be the full half of a relationship
People that are willing to accept underachieving, mediocrity, or are just happy to be "above average" will get that exact same level of quality in their relationships. Why? Because they will think that to contribute (and receive) "above average" is all they need for their relationships.
Relationships require sacrifices
Being in a relationship requires effort. A lot of effort actually. Ignoring all the nice thing about relationships (romance, passion, etc) relationships are really just the union of two people (unless you're a polygamist) that can function as a single unit to work towards common goals. That sounds a bit cold but stay with me, I'm making a point here. :P
Relationships provide us with many benefits including pooling resources (e.g. money, house, cars), sharing experiences (e.g. travel, new activities), and bringing happiness through emotional connection. But all this requires a concerted effort because sometimes the decisions made as a functioning couple may actually be in opposition to the desires of one of the individuals. This is what most relationship experts call making a sacrifice.
Sacrifices are very important in a relationship. Being part of a relationships requires an individual to consider the needs and thoughts of the other person, and sometimes even place those ahead of their own. That is, there are times when an individual must make a sacrifice for the sake of improving/helping the relationship or the other person.
But, and here's the catch, a person who is not fully living their own life as an individual will be less likely to choose to make a sacrifice. A person that feels like they are "missing out" in their life, that they have not achieved everything they want, or that their life has been wasted, is not someone who will willingly make a sacrifice.
It is only when you are truly happy being alone that you can become selfless and dedicate yourself fully to someone else.
Live your own life
What exactly does "living your own life" mean and why is it so important? Put simply, every second of our lives is spent with ourselves, living in our own minds. We cannot take a break from it, we cannot go live someone else's life, and we cannot simply shut it off if we don't like what is happening. It's our life and we have to live it 24/7.
No relationship that we start will ever come close to this level of time in our lives. Even if we managed to spend every single second with our partner we will still not ever be as fully immersed in the relationship frame of mind in comparison to the individual frame of mind. Our brains are wired to think as an individual and it is only through a conscious decision that we move into the relationship frame of thinking, but even so it is still our individual mind that was activated first and had to make that choice.
As such the attitude we take to our life as an individual is what shapes everything else around us. The way we choose to live, think, and behave as an individual pervades our entire life. As previously mentioned, every second of our life we are living as an individual, therefore every second of our life is determined by how we treat ourselves as an individual. If we do not respect ourselves, or cannot be honest with ourselves, then it is impossible to expect anything else from our life. This includes our work, our family and our relationships.
If you are not fully living your life to your maximum potential then you can never fully contribute to a relationship.
An Example (using Maths!)
Most health relationships function with a roughly 50:50 split of contribution between the two people involved. Let's consider an example relationship with a fictitious couple where the two people have a pretty decent life - they both work in respected professions, both have good incomes, maybe they have some children, a few close friends, they've ticked a few things of their bucket lists, and they are relatively content with their life. But contentment is not necessarily happiness is it?
Looking a bit deeper it is obvious that both are not operating to their full individual capacity. For whatever reasons they are coasting through life, content with being "above average". For this example we'll say that they are both only functioning to 50% of their true individual capability.
Doing the simple math, it becomes obvious that the maximum each person can contribute to the relationship is 25% (50% effort x 50% contribution = 25%) and when combined that only comes to a grand total of 50% effort for their entire relationship. That means their happy little life together will only ever reach half of it's maximum potential. Their relationship may be good now, but it has the potential to be so much better if they just put a bit more effort into their own individual happiness.
This example might seem overly simple but it was done that way for a reason. Because it is actually this simple! If each person is only bothering to achieve 50% compared to their actual ability then they will put the same (or less) effort into their relationships, and the result will always be a relationship that is just good instead of being the wonderful and exciting adventure that it should be.
How to fix it
The answer should have struck you by now, but I'll spell it out just in case. If you are not living your life to your full potential, not chasing your dreams, and not being 100% honest to yourself then you are sabotaging your life and ruining your relationships.
If this sounds like you then you need to start making some positive changes in your life. Find what excites you in life, be honest at all times, try new things, and never give up on your dreams. Do not settle for "above average". Do not lower your standards to accept what is nearby and common, but rather set your goals higher and see what steps up to meet those lofty heights.
I was at a social event recently that was filled with what I would consider to be highly intelligent people, and I was amazed to see a slightly disturbing pattern emerge. What I saw was that many of these well educated people were so hung up on impressing others that they had forgotten how to just be social and have a good time. It was as if life had become one big competition to these people and that in the brief two hour window in which they met it was a "measuring contest" as to who had been more successful and impressive in their lives so far. Pretty sad huh? But the real sadness was that none of them were really all that impressive. Sure they were all university educated and well employed in successful and respected companies, but they were not actually impressive. Why? Because it was obvious that they were too caught up in making their lives sound impressive rather than just actually being impressive.
And so it struck me - people who spend their time worrying about impressing others end up living the least impressive lives.
Impress Yourself, Not Others
If you are trying to impress others then you're doing it wrong.
What other people think of you does not matter at the best times, and particularly so when thinking about how impressive your life is. In order to be a person who impresses others you actually need to stop caring about impressing others.
People that expend their mental energy trying to impress others are projecting thoughts, ideas, and examples from their life that they think are impressive. The biggest flaw with this thinking is that everyone does not think the same. What is impressive for one person may be dull and boring for another.
If a 20 year old man told you how he was excited because he had walked to shops earlier that day you might not be too impressed. In fact you might think that he was a little lazy (or crazy). But what if that man had been in a wheelchair for the majority of his life? What if he had been told that he would never walk again? Would you be impressed now?
Of course you would! And that is a perfect example of why the measurement of your life has nothing to do with others. To that fictional man the act of walking is impressive and that is all that matters. The fact that most other people can do that easily is not the point. His actions are only judged from the perspective of his own reality.
And the same rules apply in your life. Your opinions of your life are what matter most. No one else in this world has the exact same knowledge and experience as you. That means that no one else is positioned as well as you to make a judgment on your life. Only you can determine if your life is impressive.
Stop trying to impress others and start trying to impress yourself.
How to be Impressive
Taking everything I've said into consideration it should be obvious that you do not become impressive simply by trying to be so. You become impressive by living a happy and purposeful life.
And here is how to do just that...
Follow your passion
If there is one thing that is universally impressive it is when someone breaks away from the traditional pursuits of our society to chase their dream. Stories of people quitting their mundane jobs to do what excites and motivates them are naturally inspiring. We love to hear these stories because they remind us that it is actually possible to live our dreams.
Compare the difference in the following scenario. Imagine meeting some new people at a party and the conversation takes the standard "what do you do?" path. The first person is a hard-working office drone in some well known accounting/law/consulting firm, earning a decent living. The second person is barely getting by but is running their own business, writing a novel, and training to become a WWF wrestler. It's pretty obvious which person is more interesting and which person's story would be more inspiring isn't it?
So don't base your life around what you believe others will think is impressive. That "successful" office job is actually not that impressive when compared to the endless possibilities that are available if you only decided to follow your dreams instead. :)
Be humble and never brag
Nobody likes a bragger. If you go into a conversation with aim of bragging and trying to sound impressive then the chances are that you'll just annoy everyone.
What people respond to better is someone who is quietly confident and does not need to talk about themselves or be validated by others. This personality trait is very impressive.
Consider me as an example. I believe what I have achieved in life so far is impressive, at least from my perspective. I'm respected and highly sought after in my career, I am the founder of a software development company, I write articles that touch over 4,000 unique visitors a month, and I actively participate and advise in multiple private equity projects.
But I don't start off telling that to anyone when I first meet them. I generally tell them a very small subset, just glossing over the details, and only if they show enough interest do I go into detail. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for self-promotion but that time is rarely in purely social situations.
If you do impressive things in your life then you should give others the chance to discover this for themselves. They will respect you much more if you are humble about your achievements.
It is amazing how contagious and inspiring a positive attitude can be. If you exhibit a happy and positive attitude towards everything in life then people will find it very hard not to be impressed. Even the most negatively minded person will feel the impact of a positive attitude. Just make sure you're not doing the in-your-face-happy-clappy-my-attitude-is-better-than-yours positive attitude. Nobody likes that.
But seriously, your attitude defines everything in your life, and if you are projecting a strong and positive attitude then you will attract like-minded people.
Imagine the situation where two people are doing the same job and one describes it as "just a boring job that pays the bills" and another describes it as "an amazing job working with great people and getting to learn lots of new skills and processes". Which person would gain your attention?
If you have a positive attitude, even if the face of negativity, then you will always come across as an impressive individual.
Do not worry about what others think
This is the final ingredient to being impressive - stop worrying about what others think.
If you are following all the above steps AND you simply do not care about what others think of you then I guarantee that people will be impressed by you.
When you operate in this mode you give off an aura of passion, motivation, productivity, happiness, and success, which are all highly impressive traits.
That's it. That's how to be impressive. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start being impressive today!
For something different I decided that today I would do a post of my favourite happiness quotes. Some of these are not the traditional happiness quotes you'll see in frequent usage but I like them because they are quirky and funny. Just like me.
Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it. Groucho Marx
When I was in grade school, they told me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down happy. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, I told them they didn't understand life. Unknown
A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. Herm Albright
Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Abraham Lincoln
It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about. Dale Carnegie
When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. Helen Keller
Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it. William Feather
Happiness is the art of never holding in your mind the memory of any unpleasant thing that has passed. Unknown
Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it. Bernard Melzer
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. Denis Waitley
To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others. Albert Camus
True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice. Ben Johnson
Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy. Dr. Robert Anthony
It is not by accident that the happiest people are those who make a conscious effort to live useful lives. Their happiness, of course, is not a shallow exhilaration where life is one continuous intoxicating party. Rather, their happiness is a deep sense of inner peace that comes when they believe their lives have meaning and that they are making a difference for good in the world. Ernest A. Fitzgerald
It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day to day basis. Margaret Bonnano
A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. Hugh Downs
There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. Epictetus
I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen. Abd Er-Rahman III of Spain
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. Albert Schweitzer
He who sings frightens away his ills. Miguel de Cervantes
By making a conscious decision about our everyday attitude we can define the happiness in our lives. We can define the quality of the life we live just by choosing to have a better attitude. Happiness occurs by choice not by accident. Zac Sky (that's me!)
I couldn't resist being a little cheeky and sneaking one of my own quotes in. :)
Everyone has dreams; things they desire for their life, goals they would love to complete, and achievements they wish they could have. But most people do nothing about them. Most people consider dreams to be unattainable. They see them as figments of the imagination, a flight of fancy, and nothing more than something to distract them from their current dreary lives. This is simply not true.
Dreams are nothing more than big goals and every goal is achievable through dedication and perseverance. I believe that deep down everyone realises this but they are simply too afraid to change. They are afraid of their own dreams, afraid of failing to complete them, and afraid of losing their just-better-than-average life that they have been struggling to achieve thus far.
This is how our society has been conditioned. We believe that the only "safe" way through life is to do what everyone else is doing and strive to get just a little bit better than our peers. We've been conditioned (or brainwashed) to believe that chasing our dreams will put everything we have worked towards at risk. It is this fear that causes people to get stuck in a rut, never able to fulfill their dreams and never able to fully enjoy their lives.
But now we have created a stigma in our society around dreams. People that quit their high paying professional jobs to become a painter, or start their own cake shop, or trek around the world for a year are often frowned upon by the majority. This is because we have created a culture of being embarrassed about our dreams.
Dreams are not things to be embarrassed about. What should embarrass you is the thought of going through your entire life without following them - living the same old life as the people next door, and the people next to them and the people next to them, and...you get the picture.
Having a dream is not a crime, in fact it is a healthy and natural thing. And so is fulfilling them. Why do you think the self-help industry is so big and why so many people have a mid-life crisis? Because we have a deep urge within us; a need to fulfill our dreams.
And I'm going to start you off...
5 Simple Steps to Start Fulfilling Your Dreams
I recommend doing the rest of this article with a partner - someone who is like-minded, positive, and also looking to start down the path of dream fulfillment. You can do it alone, in front of the mirror, but I think it works best when done with a partner, or better yet an entire group of friends.
1. Write down all your dreams
If money was not a problem, if you had all the knowledge, contacts and experience needed, what would you do in your life? What do you wish you were doing right now? What would make you 100% happy?
It can be 3, 30, or 300 things. They can be as crazy and absurd as you like (walking on the moon perhaps?) but just make sure your list captures everything you dream of doing.
Go on, write them down now. I'll wait...
2. Verbalise them with your friends and family
Here is where the group aspect of this activity kicks in. Get together with your partner/group and take turns reading out every single one of your dreams (if you are doing this solo then get in front of the mirror and read them aloud). Even if you are embarrassed, you must read them out for everyone to hear.
When reading out your dreams start each one with a phrase like "I want to..." or "My dream is to..." Give as much or as little information as you want, so long as you succinctly explain what your dream is. You do not have to justify any of them, but if you want to share the reasoning with your friends then by all means go ahead.
The listeners are not expected to say or do anything except be positive, but it is good practice to make a mental note of the dreams being stated because you are going to help them be fulfilled!
I don't think I need to say this here but I will anyway. It is highly important that there is no challenging or ridiculing someone for their dreams. They have taken a courageous step to stand up and verbalise their dreams, and to shoot them down is simply not on. If you are this kind of person then do not participate in this activity. If you know one of your friends is like this then do not invite them. This is for positive people only - people who want to see their dreams, and the dreams of others, fulfilled.
3. Start working towards your own dreams
Now that you have finally written your dreams down, and had the courage to stand up and tell people, you can start working towards making them actually happen. You have made them real, not just an idea in your mind, and if something is real it is achievable.
Treat your goals like you would any other task or project in your life. Break it down into small tasks because small tasks get done more often. That way your dream will not seem unattainable and you can tick things off regularly and see the progress. Just make sure you give yourself tight deadlines - don't let it stagnate!
I personally recommend that you aim to do at least one action towards one of your dreams every single day. Even if the action is just spending half an hour researching on the internet, it is wise to get into the habit of using your spare time to work towards your dreams. This will create the mindset that your life is all about following your dreams rather than just "getting by".
4. Help others with their dreams
Now that you know the dreams of those close to you, you can start to help them as well. You can motivate and remind them to follow their dreams, you can support them when they need encouragement, and you can help identify opportunities for them.
By sharing dreams you have made each other accountable. Make sure that the others are working towards their dreams because this will also help motivate you to fulfill your own dreams. Success breeds success and when you are there to witness a friend achieve their dream it will reinforce that dreams can become reality. All of a sudden your dreams will seem so much more attainable.
Not to mention the joy and happiness you will feel when you help someone achieve one of their life long dreams. ;)
5. Tell everyone you can
Now that you have told someone your dreams you should have realised that it is not so scary, and definitely not embarrassing. So get out there and tell as many people as you can!
It might feel strange being so open, exposing your dreams to the world, but sometimes it is the only way that you are going to find the help you need to achieve all your dreams. You never know, you might just meet someone who has a friend with a rich cousin who was looking for a buddy to start a circus act with...how else would you find out about that without telling people?
Tell everyone you meet about your dreams and I guarantee that most of them will be happy for you. If you are met with any negativity just smile and remind yourself that those people are just afraid - they are scared to follow their own dreams and they don't like to see other people achieving success. The best thing you can do is to keep striving for your dreams and hope that you will inspire them to take a chance of their own.
Don't hold back. This is your life and they are your dreams. Make them happen! Image: Stuart Miles