Slogans and Labels

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We are more inclined to read slogans than labels. We like sound-bites rather than information. We’re drawn to quick wins rather than long-term solutions.

During the US Election campaign, some Trump supporters bought hats bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again”.  Reports suggested that some of the hats available online had labels stating they were made in China. These may have not been official Trump merchandise, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with hats made in China. But, if you believe buying domestic products is an important aspect of making your nation great again, it’s important to check the label, as well as read the slogan.

Politics has always favoured slogans. And all too often, the electorate vote for the soundbite, not caring about the truth behind it. It seems that, as long as it fits on a cap, t-shirt, or can be plastered in massive letters on the side of a bus, many people don’t care about the truth behind the slogan. In fact some commentators have gone so far as to say that we are living in a “post-truth era”. (Another “sound-bite”, I guess).

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The Uniqueness of Uniqueness

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We are all unique, in almost every way. From our DNA, to our fingerprints, our eyes, our hair, our personality, our dreams and desires – our uniqueness defines who we are.

Funnily enough, uniqueness is completely ubiquitous, it is present throughout the universe. Everything in the universe is unique. There are no two snowflakes, no two grains of sand, no two clouds in the sky that are exactly the same.

Even manufactured items produced by machines with incredible precision, and which may appear uniform at first glance, contain small differences – albeit microscopic – that make them ultimately unique.

I find this infinite variation in our universe awe-inspiring. Everything should be appreciated for its unique beauty in its own time and place.

The fleeting manner in which we encounter so many elements in our lives – the uniqueness of the human experience – should make it even more precious. Whether it’s a friendship which makes a difference when you need it, a chance moment that pushes your life in a new direction, or the simple crunch of leaves under foot on a crisp autumn day, our lives are filled with uniqueness every single day.

And of course, each day is unique in its own way. We can be guilty sometimes of forgetting this; it can be too easy to forget the unique awesomeness that each day brings, and the endless possibilities contained within it.

It can be easy to brush aside a day as just another day – the same, hum-drum, monotony. We wish away the days so we can get to the weekend or the next holiday, when we can feel alive!

To truly appreciate the gift of the possible, to embrace the uniqueness of our lives, of our experiences and of our potential, we have to take ownership for what can be done, what could happen, what we make possible.

Every day, month and year of your life offers unique opportunities to live life on your terms, to seek happiness and fulfilment. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but what other option have you got?

Something as unique as your life shouldn’t be wasted, wished away or spent in a rut of unhappiness. Do what you want. Live your life. Be you.

Embrace your uniqueness.


Image credit: Jude Beck | stocksnap.io

 

To Be Still…

A photo by Mathias Reed. unsplash.com/photos/wEoRDzrgmT8

We are all on the move. The pace of life seems to be forever increasing. Life is fast, work is busy. Too much to do in too little time.

Our lives are a frenetic ball of activities bouncing from day to week, week to month, month to year. And it doesn’t ever seem to stop.

When was the last time you had a moment of pure stillness? A time when you didn’t need to be somewhere, do something, speak to someone? When you could just be still? Is it even possible to be truly still?

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Unplugged…

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I’m sure many of you will have encountered this situation: you leave the house without your mobile phone. For many this induces a palpable sense of panic and fear. Many people will turn around, even if it makes them late for work, to go back and get their phone.

How could we get through the day without it? Our mobile devices have become much more than just a phone. In fact the phone ‘application’ on your mobile device is the part that most use the least.

Our mobiles help us feel connected to the world, help us get our work done, help us record and document our lives. It’s amazing how, in conjunction with social media apps, they allow us to connect with old friends, discover unknown connections that make the world seem smaller, more joined up. Somehow friendlier.

Our mobiles are also a portal to the collective knowledge of the human race. Our history, our humour, our desires are all just a few clicks away and can be carried around in the palm of our hands. They contain so much information for us and about us.

They have literally transformed our lives.

So it’s understandable that we feel panicked when we leave them behind, or when we can’t put our hands on them immediately. But there is also a darker more uncomfortable relationship we have with these devices…

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Happy Endings!

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Everyone wants a fairytale-style happy ending, right? Everything turns out as planned, for the best, everyone’s happy, dreams are achieved. Movies are great at creating the perfect happy ending, against all odds, where it all just “comes together” in the closing scene.

In real life we too want happy endings, our dreams achieved, challenges overcome, happiness secured. However, real life is not the same as a movie; we have two big stumbling blocks:

How do you define happy?

When exactly is the ending?

Happiness tends to be far more complicated and elusive in real life than in a movie. Nothing is ever really perfect; there will always be some lingering issue or concern. The stuff the characters presumably have to deal after the credits roll and the movie theatre gets cleaned up ready for the next showing.

And what is an ending in our lives? The end of the week, the month, the holiday, the wedding, the big event…?

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What Do You Really Care About?

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We are often told what we should care about. We are regularly force-fed an agenda of what is important to us and what isn’t. We are told that the economy is something we should all care about, and be fearful about, and be protective of.

Whilst the 2008 economic crisis was very serious, we also talked ourselves into it. In the six months before the recession hit, the news reported that we were heading for a recession; as a result people stopped spending, people stopped planning holidays and purchasing cars, on the basis that there was a recession coming.

When it did hit, it hit us very hard. And lo and behold, the news reported that it hit us harder than expected because people had stopped spending, stopped planning holidays and purchasing cars! The economy will often take precedence in the news above so many other stories.

We are told what we should care about, we are told what we should know, we are told when we should be scared and even when we should feel joy.

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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

I Don’t Know If I Like It Or Not…

 

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We all have a tendency to play it safe. We don’t want to take risks. We only go to restaurants we know we will like. We only going to the cinema if we are absolutely certain we will like the film. We prefer to engage with like-minded individuals with whom we share similar views or experiences.

If we think there is a risk we might not like something, all too often we don’t take the risk.

In many respects it makes sense to avoid things that you don’t like. But the problem is that when we don’t even try, all we risk is that we might not like something. Perhaps the cost of a meal or a cinema ticket, but in the scheme of your life that’s not a huge expense.

By not doing something because we think we might not like it we could wind up leading a very bland life…

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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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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