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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The Hardest Part of An Easy Life

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Not doing something is often all too easy. Like not making a difficult decision. Or postponing a difficult conversation.

Or not writing a new blog post in six weeks. That’s easy; I just don’t do it.

Not exercising is easy. Not dieting is easy. Not prioritising your goals and dreams is easy. Being a passenger in your own life is easy – sit back and just enjoy the ride. See where life takes you.

Anything for an easy life!

The problem is that it isn’t easy, in fact it’s hard. The weight of your inaction presses down more and more on your mind, and it can become unbearable. Because you do have dreams, you do have goals, you do want more…

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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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It Doesn’t Count

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As a society we seem obsessed with measuring something so that we can put a number on it. Maybe it’s because of our tendency to perceive numbers as facts. But it does mean we risk missing things that could be equally important, or perhaps more so, than the things we can attach a number to.

In business it’s all about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  As we strive to represent performance as a number, the KPIs take on paramount importance in understanding how a business is doing, even though less tangible aspects such as employee engagement, or customer experience are also massively important ingredients in achieving success.

Sadly, it seems that what we can’t count, ends up not counting.

If we overlook or dismiss such intangibles, we limit our understanding. We do ourselves and our businesses a disservice because we’re missing out on important opportunities to learn, to grow or to develop.

The same applies to schools and education. In the UK and many other countries, there is an obsession with school league tables. There’s a considerable over-emphasis on counting the numbers of children who can read, spell and perform calculations to a certain level. Yet there is plenty of truly valuable stuff that doesn’t get counted – and therefore doesn’t count – because it can’t be reduced to a number in a league table…

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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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Choosing The Right Container

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“Work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion”

– Parkinsons Law

When you consider Parkinson’s Law, it makes work tasks sound like gas, which expand to fill whatever container you put it in. Essentially our work, our tasks and activities will take as much time as we give them. This is the power of having a deadline and it is a deadline that turns a dream into a goal.

In the same why that it’s hard to capture gas, it can be hard to capture the tasks and activities that we have to do to turn our dreams into tangible outcomes. When trying to capture gas, the thing you have greatest control over is the vessel in which you intend to store it. When it comes to the tasks for our goals, the vessel is time, so it’s crucial we choose the right sized container.

If you allow too much time the task will expand to fill the time given. But this could lead you to a sense that the task is bigger than expected, or that it will take more time and effort to complete. This can generate a feeling that your dreams are too big; the work that lies ahead seems overwhelming. The years will roll by whilst you feel as though you’ve made little or no progress to living a fulfilled life.

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Can You Hear The Music?

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The other day on a flight home I saw a man reading. But rather than a book, magazine or newspaper he was reading sheet music. I’ve never seen someone read music like that. As his eyes moved across the notes on the page, he moved his hand to the rhythm of the music and hummed along. He hummed to the music that he could hear in his head from what he saw on the page.

As someone without any musical training I found this fascinating. Physically there was no orchestra playing, and yet he could hear the music.

An experienced chef can read ingredients and almost taste what the flavours of the dish will be like. An accomplished mountaineer can read coordinates on a map and understand the challenges of the climb, long before their hands touch the rock face. Sheet music, recipes and maps can all have complex, sense-related information encoded within them, which can be read and experienced.

We live life through our senses. What we hear, see, touch, taste and smell tells us what we need to know about the world. These amazing senses help us survive – there’s a reason we react so quickly when we touch something hot: our senses are helping us to stay alive.

But they do so much more than that. When you taste an amazing meal, or get lost in a beautiful symphony our senses are helping us feel something that goes beyond just the need to survive. They are helping us thrive. They are enabling us to live enriched and fulfilled lives. The same senses that steer us away from danger also allow us to experience the view from the top of the mountain.

But to be successful we have to learn to read the code. We can then unlock the information contained in the notation, recipes and maps that surround us. If you wait passively for your senses to be engaged, then maybe you won’t be in the best position to succeed in your endeavours. Your senses have the ability to visualise the climb, to anticipate the taste of the meal before you’ve made it, to hear the music before it starts playing.

A successful mountaineer climbs the mountain before he reaches it.

Whatever your goals, visualise them, make them real in your mind before you start out. Feel them, hear them, see them, touch them and taste them in your mind. Making it real in your mind gives you more chance of making it real in your life.

Climb your mountain, hear your music, taste your success.


Image credit:  Dayne Topkin | stocksnap.io

 

Looking For The Better Job

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What is your ideal job? Is it the job you are doing right now? If not, what would be your ideal job? What would make it better than your current role?

How we feel about our job has a massive impact on how well we perform in them. It’s one of the many reasons businesses have strategies to engage their employees. It is also a self repeating cycle; if you feel good about your job you are generally better at it – if you are good at your job you generally feel good.

So if you’re not feeling too good about your job right now, what would be better?

Better is an interesting concept when you start to dig beneath it. “Better” is dependant on each individual’s circumstances, and that can lead to some internal conflict.

Let’s start with how you feel: surely a better job would be one that you find more enjoyable? But what if the better job paid you significantly less than what you earn today? Of course, happiness isn’t about material reward, but if it meant that you couldn’t maintain your current lifestyle, could you do it?

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Eyes On The Prize

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“Keep your eyes on the prize”, is something most of us have been encouraged to do at some point. Keeping focused on the end state, the goal, the prize can be an effective way of achieving a target. There is a risk, however, that the eyes on the prize mentality leads to a lack of focus on what needs to be done to get the prize.

Or, perhaps even more importantly, what will you do when you get the prize?

I know many people who have dreams of achieving success in a chosen field or discipline, and yet, when I ask them what they would do once they have achieved that success, they pause and look slightly confused. They’ve not actually thought about what they would do when they’ve attained their success – they’ve only spent time dreaming of it.

It could be that you have a target at work, and perhaps in achieving it you will get a financial reward. But then what? The business goes on and the next prize becomes the focus. This can lead to a feeling of constant pressure, and a sense that the “goal posts” are being moved.

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