Now

“The time is now…”

“No time like the present…”

“Just do it…”

Familiar phrases all, often used with the intention to inspire, with a hope that they will promote and propel people to act. Such phrases impress on us that the only time to act is now, that the present moment is where you live your life and that is where you can impact it most.

But exactly when is “now”?

The German psychologist and neuroscientist Ernst Poppël suggests that our perception of the present moment, of “now”, is a period of time three seconds long. That’s a small packet of time. By four seconds we are starting to experience the past, and a mere one or two seconds is perceived to be our future.

Of course, as soon as we’ve opened our packet of time and gobbled down the three seconds of “now” we’re onto the next, and the next, and the next… The three seconds constantly refreshes so we have no perception that “now” is only three seconds long.

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Reality Sucks

Reality can sometimes be quite dull. In films, TV programmes, or even the news, reality gets changed and made more dramatic and exciting. It seems that we want the altered, edited and “sexed up” version of reality more than reality itself.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many people get caught up (or caught out) by fake news stories; something that is more sensational than reality is far more exciting.

When a Supreme Court case relating to Britain’s exit from the European Union was televised many people commented on how dull it was. Although this was a momentous and historic case, many on social media complained that it wasn’t as dramatic as fictionalised courtroom dramas they had seen on TV.

The film “Sully” based on the true events of the Hudson River plane crash invented tension and conflict around the subsequent investigation that, according to the real Captain Sullenberger’s accounts, never occurred. The real story wasn’t deemed dramatic enough for Hollywood and had to be embellished.

Are we turning our backs on truth?

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Life Is Not A Game

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Like many millions of people, I love to play video games. I enjoy them; they’re fun, they’re engaging, they’re distracting. I can easily get obsessed with what level I’m on and how I’m progressing.

It’s good to progress, it feels great to level-up, but lately I realised that I was feeling a sense of achievement, when in fact I’d achieved nothing.

That’s the power of a good game – it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something in my life when, in fact, it’s the opposite. I’ve achieved nothing, or at least nothing that I actually had on my to-do list.

I’m sure many people have things they want to do, things they want to achieve, but getting a certain level on Candy Crush probably isn’t one of them. If that’s what you want, then go ahead and do it. There’s no harm in it. Be my guest.

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When We Can We Will

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We all have things we want to do, things we want to achieve. Changing career, learning a language, clearing out the spare room. Some of them are big, some of them are small. Some are dreams, some are goals, some are just “stuff”.

We all also have reasons we don’t get round to doing some, or all, of these things. We seem to be under some sort of illusion that there is a time in the near future when we will “get round to it”, a magical time called “when we can, we will”.

I couldn’t count how many times I’ve fallen into the trap of “when I can, I will”; there are a couple of things on my goals list that seem firmly entrenched in that position. No one is perfect, right?!

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We Are All Gamblers

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I’m sure some of you will disagree with the statement in this blog title. Many of you will maintain that you have never gambled in your life; and by gambling you mean putting down some money on a bet or the outcome of a game. Many people consider it morally wrong. Others consider it a silly way to throw away money.

Some people, only a few, manage to make a healthy living from it. Casinos certainly do well out of it.

But what is gambling? Most of us think of gambling as an activity which involves exchanging cash, placing a bet, putting money on a prediction of what will happen next.

And, in reality, we all do that a great deal of the time. We all have a sense of what will happen tomorrow, and based on these assumptions we build our lives. We build our sense of who we are, of where we are going on an assumption that we are pretty certain what will happen tomorrow, and next week and even next year.

This is not a bad thing; we buy houses, take loans, plan holidays. Like gamblers in a casino, we sometimes lose. Things go wrong that we didn’t expect, and sometimes these things can have far reaching consequences.

Like gamblers in a casino we are subject to ‘gamblers fallacy’. This is the notion that the odds change over time: if your number hasn’t come up in the last hour, maybe that means it’s ‘due’. It is the primary reason many people play the same lottery numbers each week; it’s the belief that over time the odds will mean that their selection of numbers is ‘due’, when in fact there is no increase in odds compared to playing completely random numbers every week.

In life, with our goals and dreams, it’s easy to fall into the trap that given enough time you are ‘due’ a win, a breakthrough. Surely you’re bound to achieve what you want, given enough time. And as more time passes, as those goals and dreams continue to grow, a sense of urgency develops that a bigger win is needed.

It’s like trying to lose weight in time for the holiday of a lifetime – when you’ve got 12 months to lose 40 pounds it’s perfectly achievable. As time passes it becomes less and less achievable, but the desire for that goal doesn’t dissipate. In many circumstances it increases, with the insane belief that 6 weeks before the holiday you can drop 40 pounds!

In just the same way that the gambler in the casino needs a bigger win the more time that passes.

One of the problems many of us face in our lives is falling into a trap of thinking that ‘time’ actually does something. When in fact time does nothing, other than relentlessly march on. The only thing that will move you forward is action – doing more.

The wins are small, and sometimes barely seem worth the effort, but the compound impact of the regular actions make the big difference. No one will notice if you’ve lost a pound in weight over 2 weeks, you won’t feel a difference in your clothes and may still be unhappy with what you see in the mirror, but the pounds over the course of 12 months will be noticed.

A gambler in a casino puts down cash that they will more than likely lose, with nothing they can do to influence the outcome of their bet. By contrast, you’re gambling with something worth far more than money – your goals and dreams, the very purpose of your existence. But the great thing is, you can do something to influence the outcome, through the actions you undertake every single day.

You have no choice on whether you place a bet, you’re already doing it, every day. But you do have a choice about whether you win or lose, through the actions you choose.


Image credit: Michal Parzuchowski | stocksnap.io

Cover Versions

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Creating original content can be very hard, no matter what your field.  Whether it’s writing, composing, leading a business or even inventing, chances are someone has done it before you.

This makes for challenging times, as everyone is trying to bring something new to market, trying to saying something original, trying to tell a new story.

It’s not impossible to be the creator of something truly original, but it’s rare. The narratives of most films can be traced back to stories in Shakespeare, which in turn echo folk tales that were passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years, long before Shakespeare was born.

Your dreams, your goals, your aspirations, it’s likely someone has gone before you and done it already. Does this mean you shouldn’t bother? Of course not. There’s nothing wrong with a “cover version”. The beauty to embrace is that you already have your originality – you.

There is only one of you.

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Inter-Goal Extinction

Interstellar extinction is the term used when objects in space are not visible to us because matter such as gas, particles and space dust get in the way and block our view. Consequently, there are objects in our own galaxy that we’ve never seen, because the concentrations of gas and dust are greater inside the galaxy than they are between the galaxies.

As a result, it is easier for us to see other distant galaxies than objects that are in our own galaxy. When you stand inside your house, you can look out of a window and see distant clouds more easily than you can see what’s going on next door; it might only be a few feet away but the wall in between obstructs your view.

In the same way, we can often see our long-term goals more readily than our immediate goals.

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You Can’t Argue With The Numbers

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Numbers, and in particular mathematics, are considered to be the language of science. As such, numbers take on a particularly amazing quality: they’re immediately associated with facts and statistics. For example, did you know that only 1% of people who set out to achieve a goal actually succeed? The other 99% fail or give up.

Numbers are also used to describe the world around us and, of course, the absolute truth must come down to a number. As Douglas Adams so brilliantly revealed in “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.

Whilst Adams wonderfully highlighted the nonsense of bringing all our scientific discoveries and explanations of the universe down to a single number, there’s no denying the pervasive influence numbers have on our lives. And because we associate them with facts, with science and, ultimately, with the truth, we have a tendency to believe numbers even if they are not backed up with facts. We’ve come to accept numbers as facts. As we’re so often told, “you can’t argue with the numbers!”

But perhaps we should.

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The Great Average

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None of us want to be average, right? Most of us want to be more than average. Most of want to experience more than average. I don’t know anyone who would tell their boss they’re aiming for an average performance this year. I’ve not met the person who would go into a restaurant and expect just average service and food quality.

Our personal aspirations also tend to be more than average, In fact, they’re often closer to exceptional. There are countless role models who remind us how much potential we all have to be exceptional:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein”

– H. Jackson Brown Jr

We all have our personal role models, those individuals that we would aspire to be like – whether it’s in business, science, arts or sports. They may be a “superstar” in their field or just someone you know or work with personally. Either way, we all have individuals who we aspire to be like – their achievements inspire us towards greatness.

The problem is when we look up to such role models we tend to only focus on the greatness of their achievements, not the accompanying failures they experienced.

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Have You Made Up Your Mind Yet?

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What’s on your mind?

How many choices and decisions do you have to make today?

How many long term decisions or concerns are occupying your mind right now?

Our minds are only capable of making a certain number of decisions. This number can vary depending on the type of decisions you have to make; we all know that some decisions are easier to make than others. Our cognitive resources are limited in their capacity to make decisions; and the more decisions you have to make the less cognitive resources you have available.

If you have several programs open on your computer it uses active memory to keep them running in the background. The more tasks you want your computer to perform, the more slowly and more frustratingly it will operate. Similarly, when our cognitive resources are occupied by lots of decisions – from the small to the large – it’s like running a bunch of programs in the background. Those huge decisions you keep putting off, or the small stuff that gets bumped on to tomorrow’s to-do list, all take a toll and leave you emotionally drained, struggling to focus on anything more than passive activities like watching TV or listening to music.

The big problem here is that you need the full capacity of your cognitive resources if you want to achieve your goals and dreams. Sadly that important stuff often gets neglected because our minds are constantly occupied with other decisions and thoughts.

So how do we free up our cognitive resources to focus on the good stuff?

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