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How to Be Greater than the Sum of Your Beliefs

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'A PLACE BEYOND BELIEF' Lumiere Festival, Durham

Folks used to believe that the Earth was flat. Then Magellan came along and proved otherwise. But somehow, there are still people who think the Earth has more in common with a pancake than a football.

People still believe that global warming is a huge hoax, despite overwhelming evidence from the global scientific community to the contrary.

And perhaps most bizarrely of all, there’s a whole heap of people who believe Fox News to be an actual new channel, despite its output.

But let’s not talk about those things. I’m more interested in what you believe.

You beliefs are the things you carry around with you every minute of every day that inform your choices and your behaviour.

Your beliefs shape your world

At first glance, you’d think your beliefs are formed from things that happen to be true, but that belief, ironically, isn’t true at all.

Your beliefs are only thoughts, just really sticky ones.

Believe that people have to earn your trust and you’ll make people work hard for it. Believe that you’re better at what you do than anyone else and you’ll have a hard time when others get their way. Believe that you have to prove yourself and you’ll work and work and work for it ’til you bleed. And if you believe that you’re a pirate you’ll start wearing an eye patch and find yourself a little parrot friend.

It’s astonishing just how much your life is shaped by the beliefs you hold, and it’s shocking that you might not even know it’s happening.

So rather than have your beliefs confine you to a life that’s smaller than you deserve, here are a couple of ways to be greater than the sum of your beliefs.

Strive for meaning

Beliefs provide a framework for thought and behaviour, and when some of those beliefs no longer reflect who you are or what matters to you, something’s mightily wrong.

This is how people find themselves lost and floating, disconnected from meaning in their own lives. Confidence and self-trust evaporate as there’s no foundation, nothing anchoring decisions and no way to know which way is up. Sometimes, and sadly we see this too often in the world, people end up clinging to their beliefs no matter how crazy, dumb or out-dated, simply because it’s the only thing left to trust.

So you have to move towards meaning.

You have to bring into your life the things that matter most to you, and you have to honour, express and demonstrate what matters most even when that flies in the face of a belief you hold. Especially when it flies in the face of a belief you hold.

That’s a sure sign that you’ve outgrown an old belief, and a big clue towards a more empowering belief that you can hold confidence in.

Let go of what doesn’t work

Which brings us to where many people get stuck and turn back—letting go.

Your beliefs are some of the strongest pathways in your brain, able to be activated without any deliberate thought. They’re among the go-to circuits your brain leans on most. You might say then, that your brain has confidence in your beliefs.

That makes them super-sticky, and it takes zero effort to leave them be and just go about your day as you always have.

But a sweet and beautiful life sometimes demands that you let go of what doesn’t serve you any more, and doing that starts with the thought, “I don’t need to keep this close any more.”

That’s it. That all it takes. A gentle acknowledgement that what once might have worked, now doesn’t work so well.

That’s what I did with the beliefs I first held about my illness; maybe one of my best moves ever.

You don’t have to pick it apart or try to understand it, you just need to soften into what your life might be like without that thought, without that belief, without that thing that’s holding you back.

It’s through letting go that you get to grow.

Test new beliefs

Letting go and leaning in to a fresh way of thinking doesn’t need to be a huge upheaval.

In fact, sometimes the blocker to a new way of thinking or a new belief is the belief that making the shift will be hard or painful, or that it might turn you into something you’re not.

You’ll see how beliefs might get stacked on top of one another or how they can lead to circular thinking, so it’s important to find a simple way to cut through that with minimal fuss.

So instead of thinking about it as a fundamental change, a hard process or something that will disrupt, just try on a new belief like you might a new coat.

Take the pressure off yourself, slip into a new belief and see how it fits. Check to see how it makes you feel (clue: if it makes you feel lighter, then it’s a great fit). See what works, and discard the rest.

You are greater than the sum of your beliefs, and it’s by placing your confidence and trust in your ability to explore and evolve that you get to step into that.

So what’s keeping you?

3 Big Reasons You Never Change

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CHANGE

Change.

It’s what strangers ask for and all of us try once in a while.

But while it’s pretty easy to offer up a few coins, changing yourself is often a whole heap of trouble.

Let’s face it, change is hard.

You might want to stop feeling so damn shy in large groups. Maybe you want to make a change in your work so you can feel good about Monday mornings. Perhaps you want to change the way you think about health or your body. You may feel like you have to change your relationship to money, or maybe you’re tired of sitting on your gifts or holding back from your desires.

Change starts by compassionately noticing that something isn’t quite right, and even though you might start the process of changing something, which is fantastic (round of applause), you soon find that one of three things happens:

  1. You get diverted or sidetracked by something else, or just by “life”.
  2. You hit a block or a wall, and things fizzle out.
  3. You rationalise that this isn’t the right time to change, or find some other “reason” to back out.

Look, I’m not here to judge, blame or point fingers. We all do this. It’s how we’re wired.

So here are 3 reasons that change never seems to stick, and a couple of thoughts about how to do things differently.

You get attached to your identity

Your identity is really just a set of beliefs about who you are. You’re the type of person who always sees the silver lining. You’re the kind of person who gets stressed out too easily. Or you’re the kind of person who good things don’t happen to.

You’re all kinds of different things, and all of the beliefs you hold about yourself get smooshed up together to form an identity.

Then you get attached to it. You start to believe that your identity is who you are. When in fact, it’s just a collection of thoughts, beliefs and stories.

Your identity may echo some important parts of who you really are, way down deep. But it will also include some batshit crazy stuff.

Like when you end up thinking you must be a bad person for wanting to change. Or that you’re someone who doesn’t deserve to change in the ways you want. Or that you’ll become someone you’re not as a result of change, and that would be horrible.

So when faced with change, your job isn’t to ask yourself “does this fit with who I am?“, because that will leverage those old beliefs and assumptions about yourself that may well be limiting the hell out of your life.

Instead, ask, when I think about changing this, what kind of person do I want to be?

See the difference? One gets you stuck in thoughts about who you’ve been. The other opens up possibilities based on the kind of experience that really matters to you.

There’s safety and warmth in wrapping yourself up in your identity, and it feels damn exposing to shed that. But when it comes to change—real, meaningful change—you can’t do it without letting go of who you’ve been and finding the confidence to explore what’s next.

You slip into old patterns

The things you do are often as comfortable as an old pair of slippers and as familiar as an old carpet.

Driving a car or brushing your teeth. The way you behave with a friend versus how you behave with a sibling or a parent. The way you approach a personal project you want to get started versus how you approach getting something going at work. The way you deal with conflict versus the way you deal with praise.

These things are all patterns of behaviour—reactions to circumstances—that your brain triggers in order to get you through safe and sound.

When it comes to change, your brain will lean on the old patterns it knows well, and it’ll even reward you with fuzzy-wuzzy feel-good chemicals when you use those patterns.

This automatic triggering of behaviour is functionality that comes right out of the box, and it’s incumbent on you to be aware of whether that behaviour is serving you well, or if it isn’t.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is, you don’t have to unravel or even understand the old patterns of behaviour that might not fit or serve you now. You just need to entertain the notion that there might be a better way. A way that honours what matters most to you. A way that opens up possibilities rather than closing them down. A way that knows how much you love certainty and still says, “Fuck it, let’s try.”

Old patterns don’t need to be an impediment to change, just as long as you’re confident enough to call them out for what they are.

Baggage.

You don’t consider the environment

I love the panda’s and penguins. I think trees are pretty cool. And I freakin’ love breathing fresh air.

I’m all over this environment thing like a climate-change-denier over a GOP rally.

But the environment isn’t just about green issues, it can also stop you dead in your tracks before you’ve even finished tying your running shoes.

Your environment is made from 9 elements—relationships, work, physical, body, nature, spiritual, financial, network and identity. It includes everything around you in your life. All the stuff you encounter and all the things you move through.

As a human being you have a bi-directional relationship with your environment. You can impact it just as much as it impacts you.

And here lies the rub.

You can only grow and change in an environment that’s congruent with that change.

You might have a friend who doesn’t want you to change. Or a partner who doesn’t give you the support you need. Maybe you have a haemorrhaging bank balance. Or a body that’s healthy like a toxic pond. Or perhaps you’re in a job that doesn’t give you room to grow or have a social life that’s as enriching as an Iranian plutonium plant.

Any one piece of your environment can block change like a lack of sunlight blocks growth or drought stops a flower from blooming.

The point isn’t to try to control everything in your life (however tempting it might be), it’s to spot what’s in your environment that takes away from your ability to enact meaningful change and put a strategy in place to accept, minimise, transform or eliminate it.

If you don’t spot it first, something in your environment will bite you on your tush like a puppy smelling brisket in your knickers.

So see what stymies, throttles or denies in your environment. Then tap into the vein of confidence that gives you the power to make a choice, and have that choice be one that helps shape an environment that’s congruent with the change you want to make.

Change is hard. Or at least, it can be.

It can also be sweet and beautiful and marvellous and strange and wonderful and necessary.

What kind of change would you like to make?

Success from Confidence, not Confidence from Success

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The Key To Your Success

Finishing up a confidence coaching session where we hit all the right notes and something clicked in my client makes me feel on top of the world. When I’ve had a day with good people where I’ve been able to riff, laugh and connect, I feel like the most confident man who ever lived. And when I wrap up a corporate gig where I worked my socks off and got the respect of the team, it feels like I could tackle anything.

It’s really damn easy to feel confident when you’ve just got a big win under your belt, and the confidence that flows from success feels wonderful.

But it’s easy.

And it’s temporary.

This is extrinsic confidence—confidence that’s made and fuelled by external events, and when the buzz from the success dies, so does the confidence.

Natural confidence is intrinsic. It doesn’t flow from what happens around you, it flows because of what you already have and who you already are.

A confident artist will throw their heart and soul into their work. A confident piano teacher will love every step as their student grows. A confident manager will give their team what they need to do great work and not get in their way. A confident student will engage with studies and friends without needing to fit in or prove anything. And a confident athlete will love the very fact that they get to play and compete to the best of their ability.

Sometimes people get lucky, sure, but don’t wait for your confidence to be built from events that happen around you. You might be waiting a while.

Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

A core of natural confidence provides the landscape for being of value.

Creating, adding, serving.

And in a beautiful twist, that’s where real, meaningful success happens.

Are you tired of waiting?

3 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Criticism

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Pointing

In College, people saw my calm demeanour and inclination to study and called me boring.

At work once, I came back from vacation to be raked over the coals by my boss for the “embarrassing” way I’d handed a project over to her (just 1 out of 17) and told me I should be ashamed of myself.

And a 1-star review on Amazon that says “What a great name for such a lame book” doesn’t exactly light me up with joy.

While criticism is frequently unwelcome, there can also be things to learn and ways to grow. What’s worse than the criticism itself, is the fear of it.

The fear of criticism is what leads us towards people-pleasing and needing praise. If someone praises us, then we’ve successfully avoided criticism. Phew.

The fears we have around criticism—both our fear before the fact (i.e. what if I get criticised here?) and our fear when it lands (i.e. what does this mean?)—drives behaviour that erodes all confidence and self-trust.

So just how do you deal with the fear of criticism? How do you take something so seemingly painful and strip it of its ability to drive limiting behaviour? How can you remain confident in your capability and sense of self in the face of criticism that’s levelled straight at you?

Here are 3 ways.

1. Don’t go inwards

Living in fear of being criticised is a little bit like living in fear of being eaten by a whale. You kinda like whales, they’re all sea-dwelling and kinda graceful, but hell, if there’s a chance one of them is going to eat you then it’s for the best that you steer clear of Newfoundland.

This kind of thinking pulls your world inside you, making you justify self-protection because it’s dangerous out there.

It’s the same when a piece of criticism lands on your plate. It hurts. It’s hard for it not to, because it’s about you. Right?

Well, not entirely. You don’t know what’s in the head of the person offering the criticism. Maybe they’ve had a shitty day, maybe they’re just transferring pain or anger from somewhere in their own life and you just happen to be there. Or maybe they think they’re always right and that nobody else can touch them.

Criticism is an observation based on someone else’s perception, and it might be as reflective of “truth” as a penguin at the zoo thinking that your pink skin and funny hair makes you look a bit like Miss Piggy.

You’re not obliged to take the criticism and internalize it if it doesn’t serve you to do so, just as you’re not obliged to take a fear around possible criticism and make it yours.

Instead, ask yourself, “What would it be like to let go of this?” and see what opens up for you.

2. Don’t conflate it with your fear of not being good enough

Criticism feels a lot like rejection doesn’t it?

Bad appearance, horrible attitude, shitty performance – when someone criticises you it’s like they’re saying, “This thing about you? It’s not good enough.”

Rejection is what we fear; criticism is the vehicle for it.

Criticism hits that nerve that thinks you might not be good enough after all. It touches that part of you that thinks you’re not worthy of love and belonging and it stirs the fear that you’re fatally flawed.

These parts of you are like an exposed nerve, and when criticism comes your way it’s easy to feel that twang of hurt and turn it into evidence for you being not good enough. And then you just want to disappear.

Criticism is external. Fear of rejection and fear of not being enough are internal. The only reason to connect the 2 things is to confirm your worst fears about yourself.

Instead, ask “How would I respond to this if I was unconditionally whole and already good enough?“.

3. Check in on denial

We finish on a tricky one that probably warrants 5,000 words all to itself.

There may be times when a piece of criticism levelled at you touches on something you’re in denial about.

Let’s say, for example, that I continued to believe that I have a full head of luxurious hair. Then along comes George who says, “Hey baldy, need some polish for that?

Fucking George. Who does he think he is coming over and saying that garbage to me. What the hell planet is he on? Baldy? Why I oughta…

The next time I see George, it’s likely that I’m going to be particularly sensitive to what he says. Maybe I go in on the offensive right off the bat, or maybe I dial up my defences. Regardless, the fear and hurt about what George said is driving my behaviour while all the time I’m pushing away the undeniable fact that my hairline strongly resembles a retreating ice shelf.

Point is, nobody likes to be found out or exposed, especially for something they’re in the habit of pushing away out of embarrassment or shame.

Your level of commitment to a project or a relationship. Your efficacy in a skill you’ve been faking. Your level of honesty with regard to who you are at your core.

The level of fear in this “exposure” can be immense.

Chances are someone who’s in this place knows, at a deep level, exactly what’s going on and exactly what they’re in denial about.

So the task here is to be gently aware of what’s down there. To gracefully and non-judgementally acknowledge what’s true without it being a statement about your self-worth. It’s only through a loving acceptance of what’s true for you that you can take the fear out of any criticism levelled at it.

And maybe that’s the most important thing to remember when it comes to criticism—that it loses it’s power to make you afraid if you already know yourself and trust that you’re good enough.

What’s your experience with criticism? How do you struggle with it, or how do you manage it?

4 Ways Organisations Can Stop Destroying Employee-Confidence

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4 Ways Organisations Can Stop Destroying Employee-Confidence
People are funny creatures.

Especially when they’re all smooshed up together in an organisation and told to work together. Stuff like peer pressure happens. Things like judgement. Pursuing status. People pleasing. Fears of being singled out or found out.

At every level, a lack of confidence in people and a lack of confidence from people is what stops great work from happening.

So I think there are certain imperatives organisations need to own so that their workplace is one where great work happens, all threaded with a single word.

Confidence.

Here’s what I think needs to happen.

The Confidence to Try

There’s a way to get a sale. There’s a way to run a project. There’s a way to track financials. There’s a way to serve people. There’s a way reporting’s done upstream.

An organisation develops systems in order to streamline a process, which is often a good and necessary thing. But when it’s expected that people will simply fit into these systems and execute them, something’s up.

When an organisation places more confidence in the systems than in the people maintaining them, the ability for an employee, manager or C-suite exec to try something new is severely limited.

For people to have the confidence to try something new, there has to be space to think a little differently, the acknowledgement that it’s okay to run an experiment and see what happens and the invitation to innovate systems and services.

After all, when the people in an organisation stop trying to do new stuff because they don’t feel able to, the result is atrophy.

The Confidence to Fail

In my experience, the biggest killer of innovation in organisations is the fear of being laughed out of the room.

People love certainty, and shareholders crave it. So in a world that prioritises results and growth, it’s no surprise that boardrooms are more and more inclined toward certainty.

That need for certainty and the drive for results ripples into every part of an organisation, and it’s not benign.

People don’t speak up and offer up an idea because they don’t want to be singled out or ridiculed for how dumb it might be, and should someone give you a green light there’s zero appetite in the organisation for failure. So the project gets scoped out, rationalised and watered down until the reason for doing it in the first place is obscured under a mountain of hijacked good intentions.

People need to be allowed to fail if an organisation is to innovate.

Tacit and explicit acknowledgement that failure is sometimes what happens is the only way to give people the confidence to fail in the first place.

The Confidence to Get Back Up

With failure comes blame.

Post project reviews or post mortems seek to understand what went wrong and to name the causes. That’s all well and good, but many organisations will run these reviews, ignore the findings and blot the copybook of anyone who’s perceived to be responsible.

Chances are you’ve been there when someone talks about how Larry screwed something up and it all went to shit. You’ll have heard how Janet won’t work with Fred because she didn’t like the work he did that time. Or you’ll have witnessed the excruciating discomfort as someone gets balled out for a failure.

Being labelled and judged leads people to do one of two things. Either they’ll want to disappear and will shrink as they try to never get noticed again, or they’ll go on the offence and come out swinging.

Neither of these is what you might call a happy ending.

Judgement strips people of their confidence. Offering support that enables their own resourcefulness nurtures it.

This is about learning from mistakes, sure, but it’s also about being clear that how people respond to failure is just as important as their willingness to fail in the first place.

The Confidence to Be Yourself

There are some strong personalities out there.

When you’re in a room with people who are louder, funnier, more experienced or maybe more charismatic than you, it’s easy to clam up and hide.

But an organisation’s success isn’t a function of the voices of the loudest, it’s a function of everyone’s best.

Introverts and extroverts both have strengths and talents. Baby-boomers and Millennials can each add value. Men and women can lead equally.

People are hired based on who they are and what they bring with them, but the urge to fit in or act a certain way is a compelling one, especially when disparate people are brought together into a hierarchy. It’s a social drive fuelled by expectations that leads to a homogenised workforce where most everybody holds back.

So when an organisation recognises that it’s responsible for providing an environment in which every employee is invited to show up as they already are and do great work, people will feel more confident in their ability to do just that.

Confidence isn’t a big mystery. It’s not tree-hugging, fluffy clap-trap. It’s not even about delivering a great presentation or chairing an effective meeting (that’s outer confidence, it’s ten-a-penny and it’s easy to fake).

What confidence is, is the vehicle for individuals to do great work.

And that’s where everybody thrives.

How to Get Over The Fact that You’re Deeply Flawed

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This is me. I will try to make my intentions take flight into #reality--- fully formed as awesome worthy and (likely) semi flawed stuff. And if my intentions dont see the light of day I will try again tomorrow and hope the world understands. #intention
Flaws.

You got ’em. I got ’em. Vegas hotels have got a gazillion of them. (Oh wait, that’s floors).

I’ve judged myself for the flaws I have.

But I’ve also learned some ways not to dwell on my obvious and not-so-obvious flaws so that I’m not continually beating myself to a pulp because of them. And I’ve learned some ways to keep my sense of self and my sense of confidence rolling, not in spite of these flaws, but because of them.

Ain’t Nobody Not Flawed

I could look at my flaws and conclude that I’m massively flawed. That would be logical. It would also be true, because I am. So you are you.

Flawed, flawedey, flawed-flawed.

If you think you’re too sensitive, others will share that. If you hate how you react to pressure, others will share that. If you wish you were better at the whole commitment thing, others will share that. If you wish you didn’t shrink away when in large groups, others will share that. And if you wish you  could stop worrying so much, others will most definitely share that.

Flaws connect us.

They make us human.

They make us beautifully imperfect in ways that make us connect with each other and sometimes even fall in love.

Thinking that nobody else shares your flaws or that nobody is quite as flawed as you is, well, deeply flawed thinking.

Flaws Aren’t the Whole Story

If your flaws are all you see you’re missing a heap of cool stuff.

If you have a fiery temper you may also be incredibly passionate about the things you care about. If you have a hard time dealing with personal finances, you may have a wonderfully generous spirit. And if you find yourself getting stressed or anxious when the pressure piles up at work, perhaps you have the ability to empathize with your friends and colleagues.

Point is, you’re not just flaws.

The other side of the coin reveals a whole world of strengths and talents that you can apply in any moment you choose.

The talents that feel like someone’s just switched on the lights when you use them. The strengths that are the powerful combination of your skills, experience and aforementioned talents.

These are the things that makes you a force to be reckoned with, so have confidence in them.

You’re Not “Fixed”

As Carol Dweck ably points out in her fab book “Mindset”, people tend to either have a fixed mindset (i.e. the belief that your intelligence, talents, etc are fixed qualities) or a growth mindset (i.e. the belief that your qualities can be cultivated or nurtured through action).

It probably won’t come as much of a shock to you that those who have a more rounded or richer experience of life tend to be those who have a growth mindset, simply because any failure or setback isn’t seen as evidence of your shortcomings, but simply a thing that happened that you can grow out from.

Your flaws are not necessarily etched in stone. You could, if you chose to, work on one or two of them if doing so would help smooth the road ahead.

I’d argue that it’s better to apply your strengths and talents than it is to expend effort on improving a flaw, but there are times when that’s entirely appropriate.

When your eyesight prevents you from reading or taking part in sports. When your lack of personal management has you haemorrhaging cash. Or when you regularly piss off friends or family by disregarding their opinions out of hand.

The principle of neuroplasticity shows us that our brains continue to grow, adapt and change.

The last thing you are, is fixed.

So there’s ample room for changing things up.

Who Said You had to Be Perfect Anyway?

Perfectionism isn’t your way out of being flawed, it is a flaw.

Perhaps it’s the most damaging one of all, because it will rob you of your confidence and strip you of any sense that you’re okay.

It has you judging every step and beating yourself up for falling short.

Every. Single. Time.

Striving for perfection robs you of any chance to have a sweet, dumb, beautiful life, and nobody but you expects perfection.

Buddhist monk Shunryu Suzuki said “All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement“, and I’d like to paraphrase that, if I may.

You’re deeply flawed and fucking beautiful.

So please, learn to hear that voice that drives you towards perfection and know that it’s bullshit.

A Chance for Course Correction

Sometimes, when you’re running low, in a rut or on the wrong road you’ll become more focused on your flaws.

The grind makes you look at your feet rather than up at the stars.

You beat yourself up more, using tiny details as evidence for not being good enough.

But when you notice that happening, when you notice that part of you that judges and blames yourself for where you are, you create an opportunity for course correction.

You might choose to apply one of your talents and strengths in a new or bold way. You might choose to go where the energy is instead of continuing where it isn’t. Or you might ask yourself some big questions, like what kind of experience you want to have or where you might be able to create real value.

Noticing your flaws, in a peculiar turnaround, can sometimes be the catalyst for meaningful change.

So, how about you? How do you manage your flaws or how do they help you?

Trying Something Crazy to Serve More People

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SERVE

“If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another.” – Winston Churchill

Back in January I gave a away ten free confidence coaching sessions.

They were snapped up within a couple of days, and talking with the people who got them has been fan-bloody-tastic.

I’ve loved serving the people who got those sessions, just like I love serving all of my clients.

Something comes alive in me when I’m using everything I can to serve a client, and that offer in January opened my eyes to the fact that there are many more people I can serve who simply can’t afford my coaching fees.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m opening up 40 coaching slots at vastly reduced rates, purely for people who might not be in a place to think about working with me otherwise.

You can read more about the offer, how it works and how to secure slots here.

Two important things to point out.

  1. Just because these are reduced-cost slots doesn’t mean I’ll hold back or be less inclined to help and serve. The whole point is to serve more people, better.
  2. What you can afford is absolutely up to you, and do consider that there may be people worse off than you when you’re looking at what you can afford.

I’ve never done this before and it might be a little crazy.

But if I can be of service, have fun and add value, then I’m all in.

How to Embrace New Opportunities Without Fear

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Jump Into The New Year
Any new opportunity will come with fear attached.

It’s like the care label inside a new top or that new car smell when your shiny new ride shows up.

It’s just there.

Difference is, a care label won’t prevent you slipping into your new purchase and looking damn fine, nor will that amazing new car smell stop you from jumping into the drivers seat and hitting the road.

A care label or a new car won’t strip you of your confidence.

But a job opening that needs you to step up and deliver at a whole new level will have you trembling in your shoes. Entering into a romance after your heart’s been broken will bring out that fear and make you wanna run. And quitting work and starting your own business is likely to have you shitting your pants about what you’re doing.

So, here are 3 ideas to help you confidently embrace new opportunities without runny-hidey, shoe-trembly, pant-shitty fear.

Does it look like fun?

Put the fear aside for a second, and look at this new thing.

Could it be fun? Could it give you an experience you’ll love? Is it possible that you could have a great time?

If your answer is “yeah”—or maybe even a big, fat, juicy YES—then focus on that instead.

The point at which your energy around doing this thing—whether it’s a new creative pursuit, a physical challenge, a relocation, a career change, leaving a relationship behind or leaning into a new one—is greater than your fear around it, then you have it nailed.

The trick then, is to look for the gold in the opportunity and the richness, texture and joy in the experience, and anchor your energy behind that.

Ask yourself, “What kind of experience am I choosing?”, then make a decision that honours your answer.

Are you just making shit up?

If you’re feeling fear, the chances are that you’re just making shit up.

Fear is something of a drama queen, and will spin you stories about the stuff that could go wrong and how you’ll end up losing out or looking silly in front of everybody.

But fear doesn’t know what’s going to happen any more than you, me or that idiot pundit who tells you that he knows the way it’s going to go.

The stories in your head aren’t real. That includes the one about how Ryan Gosling would totally love you if you guys got to hang out, the one about winning the lottery, buying a huge house up on the hill where you’d hold huge parties filled with beautiful people once you were done eating all the wonderful food and getting pampered to within an inch of your life at that luxury spa in Tuscany, and it definitely includes the ones that fill you with fear and try to tell you that you’ll only fuck it up.

Notice the stories that don’t serve you (the ones that fuel a lack a confidence), remind yourself that you’re better than they would have you believe and ask yourself, “What old stories would I love to let go of?

Will it kill you?

Unless your new opportunity centres around a mission to Mars in a home-made space podual or a radical new approach to deep sea diving that involves holding your breath for a really long time and then counting on the Law of Attraction to manifest you some lovely oxygen, any new opportunity you face is unlikely to kill you.

You might lose out. That remains a possibility. You might get egg on your face. That could happen too. But unless this thing will actually end your life, the rest can be taken care of.

Whatever happens, there’s always a way through. Fear will try to persuade you otherwise, so try responding to it with the question “What kind of person do I want to be?” and see what happens.

Over to you. What helps you to embrace new opportunities without that runny-hidey, shoe-trembly, pant-shitty fear?

Confidence. Let’s Get Some.

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Be Confident

I firmly believe that natural confidence is the antidote to many of life’s ills.

I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

But I know just as well how nipple-bleedingly tough it can be to navigate “stuff”, and I’m entirely aware that a thing called “natural confidence” doesn’t seem at all what you need when all you want is:

a. a frickin’ break
b. a decent idea of what the answer is, or maybe someone who knows how shit works to just come along and tell you what you should do
c. life to ease up so you can get back to how you used to feel

Relate?

So, what I want to do is show you 5 scenarios—5 things that life requires of all of us if we’re to live beautifully—and demonstrate how a little more natural confidence can be transformative.

…On Facing Up

My continuing hair loss is an inevitable crawl toward a shiny-headed retirement. I could try Regaine For Men, a tasty little toupee or even start wearing hats, but I think it’s a much more graceful thing to just accept it and go with it.

It’s a dumb example, but I see it a lot. I talk with people who always struggle because they’re fighting what is. I get emails from people who tell me how much they love their partner but that they’re damaged by the way they’re consistently belittled in the relationship. And I have people asking me how to change their fortunes when they won’t acknowledge their resistance to change.

It’s much easier to push away what you don’t want to see than it is to face it; wholly, non-judgementally and responsibly.

So how does natural confidence help you to face up to what’s true, and why the hell would you want to?

Denial is bliss, they joke, but that’s only true if you’re content to life half a life. Denying what is or suppressing or ignoring a truth about yourself will only ever create conflict and put obstacle after obstacle in your way. It’s like trying to run a marathon in bare feet and saying “It’s fine, everyone runs marathons without sneakers these days. Blood? What blood?

Facing up to a truth requires that you soften into what is rather than harden your resolve toward the way you might prefer things to be.

And that’s scary stuff.

Natural confidence is a partner in that process. It’s the voice that tells you, “It’s okay, this is okay, you’re going to be okay“, and it’s a friend who you can talk to openly who will never feel let down.

Hopes, fears, circumstances, finances, sexuality, relationships, health—these are all areas where we resist the way things are and instead remain in a fantasy of how we’d prefer things to be, even if that fantasy hurts us.

Natural confidence makes it okay to open to truth rather than keeping that door bolted.

…On Letting Go

I was a good kid at school, kept my head down, was liked broadly and was never picked on. Apart from that one time when Adam poked fun at me in front of everyone by calling me every ugly, unpleasant thing he could think of, and everyone turned and laughed at me.

I felt horrible, and angry, and for a long time I hated him for that.

For years that memory would pop up—more because of how I shrank into shame rather than what he actually said—and I’d dream up ways to tear him down or picture what would have happened if I’d punched him square in his smug little face instead of crawling inside myself.

It was much later that I was finally able to let go and not have that memory bring up those same feelings, and I wonder how much time and energy I spent keeping it close.

Have you ever had someone say something bad about you, perhaps at work or in a relationship or friendship? Maybe they criticized how you did something. Maybe they made fun of you. Or maybe they rejected you.

Ever got angry at the way someone treated you or how they treated someone you love? Ever felt let down by a colleague, friend or family member who you expected better things from? Or ever been betrayed in a relationship and rolled around in the hurt?

Or have you sometimes found yourself wrapped in the stress and drama of a situation, content to keep on whining about how it is?

No two ways about it, life is filled with emotive, explosive or evocative situations that pull you into their gravity.

And once you’re in orbit, it’s hella tough to break free.

But it’s not just negative situations that draw us in; we’re equally compelled by comfort and safety. An easy job that doesn’t push you. A familiar relationship that doesn’t require change. A straighforward lifestyle that doesn’t challenge.

We hold things close that might not serve us well for a variety of reasons:

  1. It validates what happened or how you were wronged.
  2. It feeds a narrative that supports something you believe about yourself or the world (you’re not good enough, the world doesn’t care, you don’t have what it takes, etc).
  3. It’s a signpost your brain uses to help you navigate through the world to avoid similar situations.
  4. It keeps you small, and there’s safety in that.
  5. It makes you right, and there’s comfort in that.

When you think about it, it’s crazy how we cling to things that don’t serve us well, things that limit our chances for a sweet and beautiful life and things that even damage us. But we do it all the time, simply because those things known to us.

After a while it gets hard to know where your skin ends and all the stuff you keep close begins, but moving forward meaningfully, integrating learning and growing into what’s next requires a certain freedom of movement.

Quite a good life philosophy too

It’s scary and exposing to let go of something you’ve held close for so long. It’s turning towards uncertainty rather than clinging to the certainty of what’s been and what is.

But damn, it feels so good when you’re on the other side.

Of course, letting go is uncomfortable and challenging, but it’s a process made easier when you can trust you’ll be okay whatever happens next.

It’s easier when you know that you don’t have to define your self or your worth by what’s happened or by those old stories.

Confidence in your self, not in what you’ve surrounded yourself with.

So, if there’s something you think you want to let go of, look and see what there is that continues to drain you or that seeps like an old wound. Look openly, honestly and frankly at how it’s really serving you and the role it’s been playing in your life, then trust, just for a moment, that you could have a different kind of experience. A better experience. A richer experience. A more loving experience. Just explore that; swim around in it; try it on like a new jacket.

And trust that you’ll be okay.

…On Taking Action

Let’s say there’s something you want to do. Maybe it’s switching careers. Maybe it’s getting back into the dating pool. Maybe it’s starting up your own thing or maybe it’s taking a stand in a relationship.

Whenever there’s the prospect of a fresh step or a bold action, there’s also the opposite.

For every desire to quit your job and do something more meaningful, there’s the thought that it won’t work out. For every time you want make a fresh start in a vibrant place, you also wonder whether you’ll just carry all your problems with you and screw it all up. And for every impulse you have to start that project that might just change your life, you worry that actually, you’re not good enough to make it happen.

Bold action is stymied by fear; safe action is encouraged by it.

So how do you leverage natural confidence when you want to take bold action?

Two ways.

1. Bubble-up courage.
Picture yourself about to give a keynote speech to 10,000 people. Or maybe you’re sitting in the doorway of a plane, legs dangling in the sky, about to jump. Or perhaps you’re looking at your wonderful, beautiful, funny and damn sexy friend, moments away from telling them how you feel.

So with your heart racing and thoughts spinning, you dig deep and find that little something you need to take a leap of faith.

That’s the thing with courage; it’s hopeful and optimistic, not concerned with what could go wrong but only looking to create something wonderful, something that matters.

Courage is an expansion, a rising into how you would love to be.

It requires blind faith, not reason.

2. Anchor into self.
When I have a decision to make—do I go down that road or not?—I always find that it helps hugely if I anchor that whole thing into something that’s relevant. Otherwise, making a decision to take action is something that just floats out there, untethered.

I picked confidence coaching because I saw how important it was in clients and it gave me goose-bumps. I’m working to finish my novel because to not do so doesn’t fit with who I am. And I went on a national TV dating show because I’m a firm believer in possibility.

Bold action works best when it’s congruent with who you are. Not only does that congruence of self and behaviour make it easier to act in the first place (because the action will feel more natural and intuitive), but it allows you to put your trust in your ability to act rather than what might happen as a result of that action. Which is huge. And is what confidence is.

Whether you bubble up courage or anchor self and behaviour, I’d argue that bold action is impossible without natural confidence.

…On Being Vulnerable

Being naked is, clearly, exposing.

It can feel awkward. It can feel like everyone’s whispering about you, or worse, laughing. It can feel cold as the air hits your bare skin. And it can feel like you could get hurt any second now.

These are just some of the reasons I wear trousers in public (not to mention the subsequent increase in terror alert levels should I forget), but fortunately for all of us vulnerability does not require the absence of clothing.

The gorgeous Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, and it’s these things that we’re hard-wired to pull back from out of self-protection.

Walking into a new job on day one into a building full of strangers. Going on a first date after a spell out of the dating game. Starting a difficult conversation with someone who might not be expecting it. Meeting a friend for coffee when you want to share a painful, challenging or even joyful experience (yes, easing into and expressing joy requires vulnerability too). Initiating sex with a new partner or wanting to try something new with an old partner.

Life is filled to the very brim with situations that are uncertain, risky or require emotional exposure. But just imagine how cold, hard and small life would be without them.

In fact, whatever “surface” reason clients may think they’re coming to me, 8 times out of 10 the underlying reason is that they’ve developed deep habits to avoid uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure and have been suffering as their life has shrunk as a result.

They tell me they want to feel how they used to feel. They tell me how confident they used to be and that they don’t know what happened. And they tell me how much more they want for themselves.

Vulnerability and natural confidence are perfect together.

Perfect.

Confidence is the capacity to soften into uncertainty.

You get to apply confidence right at the point of choice or change without needing to have all the answers and without your worth being dependent on what happens next.

It might not make it comfortable, but confidence will make your approach into uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure okay. Necessary, even.

You could think of confidence as a natural balm for the discomfort that’s inherent in vulnerability, making it possible to take off your armour even when your craving for comfort and safety is urging you to keep it on.

Note to Self: "Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live." ~ Goethe

That’s easy for me to say and easier for you to read, but that struggle between wanting to move towards uncertainty and wanting to be safe is a bit like trying to paint a smiley face on an angry bear.

Here are a couple of thoughts to help.

You’re not going to die
The urge to pull back from vulnerability is one driven by that scared part of you, so reassure it. You’ve come this far and you’re still standing, and the overwhelming evidence is that you’ll be okay, so develop dialogue and narrative to support that (e.g. I’m not going to die), while talking softly to the scared part of you, letting it know it’s been heard and then whispering it to sleep.

What’s the alternative, really?
Looking at the flip side can be a useful motivator sometimes, so if you don’t act—if you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable—what kind of person does that turn you into? Sometimes in life we diminish through creeping fences—a compromise here or a safe choice there—and the next thing we know, we’re not the person we thought we would be. I’m not interested in pointing fingers or assigning blame, but think about the kind of person you want to be, hoped to be or strive to be, and then make an appropriate choice.

Vulnerability has to be part of your future, otherwise you’re not really living.

Which leads me to…

…On Showing Up

Back in 2011, at my very first World Domination Summit, I received a hand-written card reading, “Step into your greatness. It’s time.”

Step into your greatness
I loved it, and still love it, because it reminds me continually to show up.

See, we’re hardwired to fit in and, to a certain degree, fly under the radar. That’s how our brains believe we stand the best chance to stay safe and free from attack, but it’s a mechanism that clearly has a downside.

I did it when I started out coaching back in 2002; I pretended to be a “good coach”, acted all coachy and made sure I said and did all the right things. Of course, most of it was vacuous horseshit, but I wanted to fit in with my coaching peers and mentors and didn’t want them—or my clients—to think that I didn’t belong.

I acted professionally in a previous career where I was damn successful, apart from how I squeezed myself into a box that was never going to fit and slipped into a major breakdown that took 18 months to recover from.

And for a long time I assumed I had to be 100% heterosexual rather than admitting that a part of me was attracted to guys as well as girls.

So you might say that I’m something of an expert in not showing up. And this, friends, is what I’ve learned.

Showing up is a radical act of love.

It’s not kidding around.

It starts with knowing yourself, moves into accepting yourself and then flows into being that way.

And it’s here that natural confidence helps, right at the point where you meet the world.

It’s confidence that accepts some people won’t get you or like you and that seeking universal approval is no way to live. It’s confidence that makes it okay for you to step into who you are and everything that means, without knowing what happens next. And it’s confidence that allows you to look into those corners of yourself you’d rather not see, and to find love for what you find there instead of judgement.

Confidence is a vehicle for showing up in the world as you already are, and here’s a quick 1-2-3 to help that along.

  1. First step is to see how you might be pulling back, hiding or cutting yourself off. What story have you been telling yourself about how you need to behave or act? How have you been fitting in with how you think people expect you to be?
  2. How would it be if you didn’t need to fit in, meet expectations, play a role or hide a part of you? Let’s say that you could show up as you really are, what difference would that make to you? What difference would it make in your life?
  3. What’s a fresh, new story you could tell yourself, that supports you towards showing up as you really are? What belief or narrative can you create that enables you to show up? Maybe I don’t have to prove myself to anyone, or something like I’m already worthy of love and belonging (thanks Brené).

This takes practice. It’ not a one-time deal. I’m talking consistent, deliberate practice.

But it’s never wasted effort.

In showing up, in being vulnerable, in letting go, in facing up and in taking action, I hope I’ve shown that a core of natural confidence is priceless.

And I’d love to hear your thoughts – what is there in here that jumps out at you? What do you think your take-away is?

The 10 Best Self-Improvement Tips for a Better Life in 2016

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today is the best day of your life

Whether you look at a new year as a blank slate or an oozing flesh wound, there’s one thing that’s inescapable.

Anything can happen.

Well, perhaps not anything. I’m unlikely to become King of the Pandas, your trimmed toenails are unlikely to become heavily traded commodities on Wall St, and Trump ain’t getting into the White House.

But given a handful of exceptions, none of us know what’s going to happen.

What matters I think, is having some pointers, some guideposts, some navigation guides. Things you can carry with you all year long to help you adapt, help you learn and help you grow.

Here then, are the best self-improvement tips for a better life in 2016.

1. Grow, Despite How Uncomfortable it Makes You

Comfort is compelling.

It’s like a warm blanket in a cold world; a way of making sure you’re safe in a world that doesn’t seem to give a rats-ass what happens to you.

But comfort is also what leads people to hate their lives and hate themselves.

Think about it for a moment. You wanna do stuff in life; make a difference, create something remarkable, dent the universe.

I know that much about you, and it’s all very admirable, but right along with those desires is the fear of the unknown, which is when your brains’ operating principle of minimise risk, maximise reward kicks right in and pulls all kinds of dirty tricks to get you to stay exactly where you are because it’s too damn dangerous out there.

We’re hard-wired not to change, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we need to.

Your brain will tell you:

  1. That you don’t need to change. Things aren’t so bad right now, and pretty soon it’s possible that it could turn around. And hey, other people have it a lot worse.
  2. That you’re too special to change. I have something nobody else does, it’s just that the world hasn’t seen it yet. I can’t compromise what I have on the inside by changing what I do or changing who I am.
  3. That nobody understands. Those messages and articles I read about change and doing stuff that matters? That’s all well and good, but the writers of those things just don’t understand who I am and how tough my situation is. I can’t apply the same thinking because my situation is unique.
  4. That everyone else had something you don’t. I bet I could change things if I had an amazing mentor like [insert name here] does. I know if I had their talent and bank balance things would be a lot simpler. And just how far would they have got if they didn’t have all those people helping them? Yeah, they have all the help in the world and I have zip.
  5. That you don’t deserve it. I’m so worried that I haven’t done enough to deserve it. I’m not the kind of person who stuff like this happens to, and other people are more worthy of it than me.
  6. That you’re not good enough to get it. Who am I kidding, I don’t stand a chance out there. I don’t have what it takes; maybe I’m just not cut out for this stuff.
  7. That you can’t trust people. That guy’s such a jerk trying to tell me how I should play things. He’s just in it to make a quick buck. And I hate the way that woman talks, like she’s so great and has all the answers. Everyone’s just in it for themselves.
  8. That it should be easier. If I was supposed to do this then why the fuck is it so hard all the time? Surely that’s a sign that I’m not ready or the time’s wrong?

Seriously, it’s a miracle that any of us get anything done at all.

But people do get things done. People do make a difference. People do create remarkable things. And people do dent the universe.

All it takes is an acknowledgement of 2 things:

  1. There is no staying still in life—that it’s by staying still that your muscles atrophy, your bones ossify and your life shrinks down to nothing
  2. Growth happens by leaning into the unknown—it’s through that stretch and your brain’s wonderful plasticity that you get to learn new stuff, try new things and develop new skills.

Expecting growth to happen without discomfort is like expecting an apple orchard to appear on the moon or the Koch brothers to donate their wealth to charity.

Choosing growth is the only choice you have; it just needs you to soften into a different way of thinking.

2. Create Value, Despite What People Think

How do you create value in a world that pretty much just wants you to fit in and go through life not being noticed?

That’s easy, you can’t.

Creating value can be any one of a gazillion different things. Helping a friend when they really need it. Guiding a team towards a great solution. Giving back to a community in a way that has a positive impact. Creating a course that helps people achieve something. Leaving a room better than when you entered it. Offering compassion when there’s an urge toward cynicism. Doing something for a charity or cause that matters to you. Using a strength or talent to help others create value.

The list is as long as you need it to be in order to fit with your world view, and creating value will always attract opinions from others.

Some will applaud your efforts. Others will want to tear it down.

There will always be an asshole ready to tear chunks out of you for what you’re doing, just as there will be an angel who tells you what wonderful work you’re doing. But you’re not responsible for any of that.

I had people tell me I was being incredibly reckless and thoughtless when I raised money for an M.E. charity, and I get people who say that The Code is “terrible” and “lame”.

If I listened to those folks I’d never get out from under the duvet in the morning. Instead, I continue to look for ways I can add value in whatever measure I can and look for ways I can improve what I’m doing in order to reach more people who might be receptive to the value I want to create.

Haters gonna hate (hate hate hate hate), but you can’t let that stop you from creating the value that, a. you can start making today and b. that the world desperately needs.

3. Hear Yourself

Your brain makes thoughts all day long; helpful and unhelpful, insightful and ignorant, enabling and disabling.

It’s a bit like a long-time recording artist in that regard, churning out record after record with some stone-cold hits as well as some complete ass-mongery.

That thought soup your brain produces is in constant motion, and all the time you let it wash over you it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to get out from under it long enough to do anything that amounts to a hill o’ beans.

So it’s essential that you hear yourself.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET

Essential, so that you’re able to to:

  • spot the bullshit; those stories your brain makes up to keep you safe but are nothing more than fiction
  • choose a way of thinking; picking out a thought or train of thought that best represents you and what’s important to you, rather than having who you are and what matters to you get swept away by a random thought stream about otters or sunsets or whatever else might be spinning around in that noggin of yours.
  • choose a better experience; rather than having circumstances determine your experience, you can develop a sense of mindfulness that means your circumstances don’t need to dictate your experience

Hearing yourself takes practice, but it not only allows you to be aware of where your thoughts are but offers a way of creating enabling thinking that you get to act on.

So come on, start practising.

4. Stop Setting Goals

3 quick facts about me.

I have never watched The Godfather. I was in a Moroccan TV commercial for a yoghurt drink. I’m pretty passionately against goal-setting and the cult that’s built up around it.

See, goals come with a whole heap of trouble…

  1. They create a gap or a dissonance between where you are and where your goal says you need to be. If you’re not very careful, that can lead your brain to conclude that you’re not good enough or lacking something, otherwise you’d already be on the other side of the gap and would already have nailed it.
  2. One word: should. Goals are often based on what you think you should have or should want. Setting a goal based on a should is like trying to win a cuddly bear at the fairground, only the rings you’re throwing are way too small to fit over the bottles and are tethered to lengths of string that won’t even reach. Oh, and the bottles are behind a frosted glass screen anyway. And the guy running the stall has been fibbing about the bottles all along; all he has there is a slowly curling bologna sandwich for his lunch. Point is, shoulds aren’t worth a prize.
  3. Goals always force you to plant your eyes at some fictional point on the horizon, never at what you’ve got right now. Show me a serial goal-setter and I’ll show you someone who’s afraid to ease into the moment they’re already in for fear of what they might see. It’s all too easy to get sucked into dreaming and planning for what might be rather than noticing or facing what is.
  4. There’s no link between reaching a goal and happiness. Those studies don’t exist, and in fact it’s been proven that people who achieve a goal are no happier than those who don’t set goals or who don’t reach them.
  5. The focus of value is all wrong with goals. I spent my first couple of years as a coach working exclusively helping clients with setting goals and then pursuing them. Always—and I mean every single time—we found things on the way that rendered the goal obsolete, out-dated, insignificant or redundant. The value is in the path you take, not where it ends up.
  6. Goals often lack genuine meaning and have little to no tolerance for resistance or obstacles. The motivation behind a goal is enough to get you started, but when things get tougher and resistance sets in, it turns to vapour and escapes.
  7. Goals are a great way to maintain the illusion that you’re in control. There are some things you can control in life, sure there are (where you keep your socks, whether you go for that run and how friendly you are with your barista among others), but life is nothing if not filled with uncertainty. So, if you can feel better by planning and “controlling” things via a goal then your brain will gravitate towards that, regardless of whether it achieves anything useful or not. Bottom line is that living a life where you strive for certainty and control will invite struggle at every step. It’s a recipe for misery.

So, please, stop setting goals. You’re better than that.

What’s that? What’s the alternative? Read on my friend, read on…

5. Start Playing

Having ranted about how much of a shitty strategy goal-setting is, it seems only appropriate that I offer something of an alternative, right?

Here it is…

Play.

Ta-da.

Stay with me, because the alternative is a system that offers the following:

  • a way of focusing on the good stuff you find on the way, no matter where you’re going
  • a mechanism that doesn’t place any judgements of worth or belonging or success on you for not having nailed that goal already
  • a system that automagically strips away all the bullshit shoulds, oughts and half-hearted wants
  • an understanding that your happiness, value or self-worth is not dependent on getting what you want
  • a simple way to plug into the stuff that genuinely matters, and to remind yourself of that good stuff every step of the way
  • a way of seeing things so that how you show up in this very moment is what matters
  • a sense of motion that incorporates obstacles and difficulty without the need to struggle or suffer

Whether it’s baseball, football, Monopoly or Call of Duty, the entire, entire point of playing a game is that you get into the game, play it to the best of your ability and enjoy it, right?

That’s the nub of playing a game versus setting a goal—goals are things you work towards in the hope they’ll happen at some point in the future, whereas games are things you live in this very moment using all you already have (and are).

A goal is something you do
A game is something you live

It requires a choice to engage with something that matters to you, a choice fuelled by 3 simple reasons:

  1. Because it matters to you. It comes from the inside—a need, a will, even a compulsion to engage with what’s important because it’s part of you. Not playing just doesn’t feel right. You gotta get involved.
  2. Because it’s fun. There’s a pull or an energy or a sense that it’s gonna be one hell of a ride. Fuck it, it’s gonna be fun. You gotta get involved.
  3. Because you get better at it. When you decide to play a game that matters to the best of your ability there’s a real, tangible and measurable chance of winning. But even without that, you get to enjoy the very act of playing, learn more about the game and become a better player with everything you do and every choice you make. You gotta get involved.

Start playing, people. Start playing.

6. Be Generous

The world’s a challenging place right now, and amid all the fear, noise and hubbub it’s natural to draw your arms a little tighter around your own world to protect it and keep it—and you—safe.

But those same walls you erect and to keep you safe also serve to keep what’s out there, out there. Protection and safety come at a cost.

It costs you your creativity. It costs you joy. It costs you connection.

Losing those things isn’t just a bit sad, it’s the catalyst for a bitterness that’s malignant and tragic.

But more than what it costs you personally, there’s a wider impact on the people around you. Your friends, family, peers, colleagues, clients and lovers. The more you keep back, the more you’re keeping yourself hidden and disconnecting yourself.

I’d suggest that it’s your responsibility to be generous with what you have.

Gift

Your talents. Your compassion. Your strengths. Your thoughts. Your love. Your time. Your empathy.

Picture a world in 2016 where people steadily become more generous with who they already are.

Doesn’t that sound like a pretty spectacular place to live?

7. Run Experiments

I remember Chemistry class at school, getting my beakers and bunsen burner all set up and taking notes ready to write up later. Pretty much all I wanted to do was tip random shit into random vessels, but there’s something to be said for the scientific method.

Same goes for when you’re trying to make a complex decision or decide on a challenging course of action. The level of doubt, fear and uncertainty can be enough to make you back away entirely.

But you don’t have to invest your whole future in your next decision. You could always run an experiment to see what happens.

Change one or two variables and see what happens. Try something for 5 days and see what there is to learn. Challenge a premise or idea by trying it on for a short time to see how it works.

See, your next choice doesn’t have to be a big dramatic thing that commits you irrevocably (because you’re more likely not bother when it is). You’re allowed to try something, to run an experiment, and then make a choice that’s appropriate to what you’ve learned.

8. Enough with the Masochism

I know for a fact that you’re hard on yourself.

Too hard.

You’re not attractive enough. You should be a better Mum (or Dad, or son, or daughter, or husband, or wife, or manager, etc). You’re not as successful as you wanted to be by now. You don’t have what it takes. You’re a crappy friend. Your face is showing your age. Everyone else seems to be so damn talented.

And that’s just the tip of a flippin’ humungous iceberg.

Your brain runs comparisons—you against everyone you encounter—to see how you stack up in the pecking order. These comparisons are based on 3 factors:

  1. How you feel in the moment. Maybe you’re having a crappy day, maybe something’s just gone wrong or maybe it’s a bad hair day.
  2. How you perceive everyone else. From the outside, it’s easy to perceive that everyone else is doing better than you.
  3. Your darkest fears. In a dark corner of your brain live fears that you’ll never be good enough. You’ll never be attractive enough or smart enough. You’ll never have that spark of something special. You’ll get found out sooner or later.

Any comparison based on those elements is only going to make you feel crappier than a Victorian sewer during an outbreak of salmonella.

It’s comparing your insides with others’ outsides, and not only is it irrelevant nonsense, it’s irresponsible and damaging.

You’re already good enough to live fully in the world.

Being a work in progress isn’t a fatal flaw, it’s a reality that everyone shares.

Stop beating yourself up.

9. Banish the Phantoms

Your brain is one hell of a piece of work.

Especially when it comes to driving you towards certain courses of action that it tells you will be fucking awesome. But there are false motivations that your brain will latch onto, motivations that I call phantom wants, because that’s all they are. Phantoms.

There are 3 of them.

  1. Status. Your brain loves to know where it sits in the social pecking order so it can maintain its position and exert some control over the social environment. Gaining and establishing status is about where you sit in a hierarchy against others—when you lose status your brain will tell you in no uncertain terms that you’ve screwed up, that you’re no good or that others are better than you, whereas when you gain status your brain rewards you by giving you an addictive, feel-good hit of warm and fuzzy neurotransmitters.
  2. Validation. Being validated gives you a sense of being okay, just as you are. It tells you that you’re an okay person, perhaps even a good one, and that you’re on the right track. On the flip side, not receiving validation makes room for speculation that you’re not an okay person; it creates space for a belief that you are in fact, not okay.
  3. Recognition. Receiving recognition is about having your actions and achievements recognised as being of value. It confirms that what you do is good, and that other people appreciate those deeds. Without recognition, doubt can grow that what you’re doing matters or that people value it.

These 3 phantom wants are bio-chemically woven in your brain, which is why they each feel so damn good when they happen. but the drive toward that feel-good high can drive you into behavior that doesn’t fit who you are or even worse, turns you into an asshole.

They’re insipid. Get a taste of them and you want more. See one of them drop and you feel so bad that you’re motivated to get it back by almost any means.

They have you dancing to their tune, even if the dance is one you’re rubbish at.

But with nothing to prove, no validation to be received and no recognition to be gained, there’s only one reason to do anything.

Because you want to.

Remove status, validation and recognition from the equation and the phantom wants disappear, leaving you with a level of want I call a source want.

Your source wants are your unfettered, undiluted, unashamed wants. They’re graceful, powerful and simple. They’re there simply because you wouldn’t be you without them.

They’re freeing, and they’re all you need.

10. Don’t Be a Bastard

This should really go without saying, but given my penchant for the remarkably obvious, please don’t be a bastard.

There are a lot of bastards out there. People who don’t give a rats ass about anyone else. People who go about their days thinking they’re the most important person in the room. People who force their sense of being right on everyone else.

So be one of the good ones. Practice empathy. Try compassion.

As Annie Lennox once said, put a little love in your heart.

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