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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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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Do I Have Your Vote?

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The freedom to vote is a freedom I cherish. For me it’s not just about the freedom to vote, it represents a wider set of freedoms that accompany living in a democracy. You only have to switch on the news, or look at what is being shared on social media to recognise the value of democracy.

In the UK, and many other countries around the world, we have an amazing level of freedom, and it grows all the time. I am grateful every day for the freedoms I enjoy which allow me to live my life on my terms and pursue my goals and dreams.

Yet I have friends, some very close friends (you know who you are), who don’t exercise their right to vote. It’s not something they cherish. And I guess, when I think about it, the freedom to vote also includes the freedom not to vote; after all if it was compulsory to vote it would probably not feel like a democracy at all.

And my friends are not alone. Many people feel completely disengaged with politics, and feel that there is very little point in voting. What does it really change? Aren’t politicians ultimately all the same? Does it really make a difference?

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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

Mind Monopoly

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Nearly all businesses wish they had a monopoly in their field, to be the only provider. To not just lead the market, to be the market. It would provide a business with limitless profit potential, even if it didn’t generate advocacy from the customers it extracted profit from.

Because whilst businesses want to monopolise, customers generally hate it when they do. Customers want choice, and choice is good for price. Different providers in the same market create variations to meet individual needs, which generally drives prices down.

And businesses today have to fight harder than ever to catch the customer’s attention, to be heard above the competition, to engage them in “why choose us?”

So perhaps the goal now is to hold a monopoly of the consumer’s mind, rather than on the market. If you think about it, some businesses may have already achieved this with you…

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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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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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