Notes From a Car Crash

Imagine yourself driving down a beautiful country road in the late summer sunshine – suddenly your car enters an uncontrollable skid and heads straight into the ditch.  There’s nothing you can do to stop it.career change, lifestyle design, start your own business

The car hits the bank with a crunch and lurches into a roll.  As you are flung upside down you have a moment of clarity “I’m not ready to die”.  You cling onto consciousness as the car rolls back over and comes to a halt.

The car is ruined and smoke is pouring from the engine – quick get out.

You test your fingers, toes, legs, arms; it’s a miracle everything seems to be working.  Your head is groggy and your neck is in agony, but most importantly you’re alive.

How do you feel?

It really, really, really could happen

This was my experience just under 2 weeks ago on holiday in France.  My wife and I were driving to the supermarket and on a patch of temporary road surface.

We were driving carefully, and the skid just happened – a freak accident.

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Five Things I Wish I'd Known Earlier in Life

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Anyone who stops learning is old – whether at twenty or eighty” – Henry Ford

This blog was inspired by the Life Lessons Series compiled by the blogger Abubakar Jamil.  Life has a sneaky habit of dropping valuable lessons in our lap, if we take the time to notice them.  Over 30 bloggers have shared their life lessons here and I was asked to share mine.

I know there are a lot of things I wish I’d know earlier in life (don’t have a party at your house whilst you’re not there probably being the top one).  Here are my top 5 learnings:

1. Life is about making memories

When you look back over your life, what really stands out?  The moments where life was at its happiest, saddest, most brilliant?

I remember amazing days – getting married, moving to California having never visited there, the last minute concert we went to, spending a happy afternoon in the park chasing planes with our niece and nephew.

I remember the toughest days – when my wife was really ill and I lay in a field praying for her to get better, when I batted with my parents, when I felt out of my depth starting a new business.

I remember the days where I tore up the plan – goofing off from my accounting exam training to go for beers with friends, wandering the streets of San Francisco and finding a great coffee bar with the best lemon cake in the world.

I certainly don’t remember those days where I battled commuters to work, did my 9 to 5, batted home again and flopped in front of the TV with a beer.

I’ve learned that life is the sum of the memories we make.

This is why taking risks is worthwhile – risks lead to memories – amazing, tough, adventurous memories.

The best way to enjoy life is to live it to the full and make some amazing memories.

2. Nike are right

Just do it” – one of the most enduring slogans of all time.

I have a terrible confession to make – sometimes I suffer from indecision, procrastination and inertia.  I’m human.

Like most of us, I can get caught by the whiff of fear and freeze like a deer in the headlights.

Since starting to work for myself 18 months ago this is a problem I can’t afford for long (there is no-one else to carry the can and keep things moving).

I think deep down I’ve always known the answer is to take action.  Do something (anything) and the momentum returns.

Now I’m getting much better at putting this in to action.  If I need to make an important call, I’ll pick up the phone.  If I’m suffering from writer’s block, I’ll just start writing.

Nike are smart – when I “just do it”, it creates energy and momentum.  Things shift and change – I’m no longer stuck in that moment of indecision and fear.

3. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can”

Growing up, I always thought there were two ways of looking at life and no middle ground:

  • Fate – “sh!t happens” and there is nothing we can do to change it
  • Free Will – we have complete control over our lives and it’s all our fault

Life has taught me that there is a better way of seeing things.

There are some things we can’t control. Other people, the wider world, nature.  Sometimes, bad things will happen to us and there was nothing we could do to avoid it.

I’m learning to deal with these things better (see number 4 below).  I aspire to be serene in dealing with the things we can’t control – that is a lifetime mission.

There are some things we can control. I’m responsible for myself – my thoughts, actions and reactions.

I have a choice in how I behave, what values I follow and how I react to the world around me.  There are things that I can control, although this is not always easy.

It take courage to act with integrity, to show compassion to others, to be grateful and generous.

The final part of the lesson is “grant me the wisdom to know the difference”.  Another big assignment to work on.

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4. Sometimes the bad stuff is the best stuff

When you’re facing a horrible work situation, illness of a loved one, family unrest it feels like the worst place in the world.

Yet it forces you to take a long hard look at life, dig deep, find new resolve and do something about it.  I know I’ve found out that whatever happens and however bad it feels at the time, I can handle it.

In fact sometimes, an unexpected challenge can give us the kick we need to change something important.  I know at work I spent too long in a job I wasn’t enjoying and it was only when an unexpected wake up call came along (which felt terrible at the time) that I was jolted to do something about it.

Looking back that was probably one of the defining moment of my career and life.

5. Aim high – then take it one step at a time

When I was younger, I had a major aversion to long term planning.  I really had no idea what was happening tomorrow, never mind 5 years on.

To me, setting a big, hairy, audacious vision would be ridiculous – nothing more than setting yourself up for failure and humiliation.

I’m indebted to a few amazing people in my life who encouraged me to think a little bit bigger.

My first real goal was to run a half-marathon.  That was ten years ago and my first 1 mile run left me rolling on the floor coughing my guts up.

I made a training plan and looked ahead.  Somehow I stuck with it and found a deeper resolve.  I built up slowly but surely – each run a little further.

Now running is a central part of my life and I’ve finished a couple of marathons, which I’m very proud of.

After this surprising revelation, I started to regularly set long term goals for myself.

I’ve worked towards each one one step at a time.  Sometimes the steps are backward or sideways rather than forward.

What’s amazing is that although each step is small, progress is rapid.  Suddenly you find yourself near the top of the mountain and wonder how you got there.

I’ve definitely learned that even the biggest goals can be achieved if you take it one small step at a time.

Over to you

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What do you wish you’d known earlier in life?  Please do take a minute to comment.

Photo Credit: Faith Goble (Flickr Creative Commons), Boolean Split (Flickr Creative Commons)

How to be your best

What’s the difference between being THE best and being YOUR best?

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Be your best

Read on to find out the  answer – it could make a huge difference to your quality of life and happiness.

Being the Best

Being the best is about beating everyone in sight, reigning supreme, consistently held out as the champion, number one, numero uno.

It’s about winning and losing.  It’s about coming out on top every time.  Taking the gong, the award, the plaudits.  Making the teary thank-you speech (don’t forget your mum and your agent).

It is a noble aspiration to aim for being the best in your field.  It provides motivation, others to compare against, ways to measure how you are doing.

We can revieve acclaim for our endeavours and feed our need to be recognized along the way.  With dedication, hard work, a clear plan and a little luck we might even make it to the pinnacle.

Yet if this is the sole focus of everything we do, it can be destructive and exhausting too.  Time passes, things change, life moves on.

Great champions lose their magic touch and fall from the top.  In sport, think of Tiger Woods’ travails, Lance Armstrong cycling Le Tour with no chance of winning, Roger Federer the world number 3.

In cinema, do you remember F. Murray Abraham, Geralidine Page or Lousie Fletcher? They are all Oscar winners, the best in their field.  They couldn’t stay at the top forever.

Being the best is a temporary status.  It can take a lifetime to achieve and can be snatched away in seconds.

Being the best also requires you to play by someone else’s rules.  Who really defines the best accountant, entrepreneur, geologist, academic, dancer, painter or lawyer.  The best is chosen by popular acclaim, by an arbirary set of rules, some awards, a poll of polls, the whim of a boss or manager.

Striving to be the best is exhausting, disempowering and worst of all the rules can change at any time!

Be your Best

What happens when you try to be your best?

This subtle switch in thinking can untold happiness, peace and achievement.

When you strive to be your best, you set your own rules.  The pressure of constant comparison and striving for success goes away.

You’re in a one horse race and you decide what determines the winner.   Only you can be your best you.

Being your best means being able to look yourself in the mirror every day and say that you’re doing the best you can.  That is all we can ask from ourself after all.  It means learning to enjoy the successes and the failures and to learn from both.  To be better next time.

It means that you can have an off day, give yourself a break and push on.

It also means that you can be flexible in how you approach life.  The end game is all about being happy, living with yourself and finding peace.

You can still set big, hairy audacious goals for your life and career.  However as long as you do your best and can look yourself in the eye, these are open to change at any time.

Learning how to be your best can transform life from an endless struggle to please others and get to the top into a self-directed journey lived without regret.

How to be your best every day

At the beginning of the day, look yourself in the mirror and say your daily intention out loud- “I will be the best that I can be today”.

Each morning, select the most important thing you’d like to get done today and write down that intention in a journal – “I will write an outstanding blog post today”

If you find yourself drifting and procrastinating during the day, close your eyes and repeat 10 times “I am the best that I can be”. Now refocus and put 100% into doing whatever feels most important (that could be work, taking a proper break or whatever feels right)

At the end of each day, look yourself in the mirror and be honest about your day.  If you did your best, congratualte yourself and rebouble your efforts.  If you faced challenges, forgive yourself and work out how to be even better tomorrow.

Over to you

If you’d like a little inspiration to be your best, get free updates from Less Ordinary Living by clicking here.

Please leave a comment and share with others:

  • Do you strive to do your best or be your best?
  • What techniques do you use to make the most of each day?
  • Have you ever been the best and how did it feel?

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley (Flickr Creative Commons) – one of the best out there

Can you really think yourself happy?

The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein

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Think.. positive!

How does the way you think about the world affect your happiness and success?

When I first read about the following experiment (from Feel the Fear and do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers) to explore the power of the mind, I thought it sounded like a joke, so I tried it with a friend.

Please feel free to try it yourself:

  • Find a friend to work with
  • Ask your friend to hold out their right arm horizontally to the ground and keep it as rigid as possible
  • Now try to pull down their arm to their side
  • Now reset the arm and ask your friend to repeat out loud 20 times “I am weak”
  • Now try to pull down their arm again

I was amazed at how much easier it was to pull down the arm the second time.  To test this, we did experiments where I’d leave the room and my friend would choose to say “I am weak” or “I am strong”.

Sure enough, the effect on the arm was obvious each time.

This experiment shows that our thoughts certainly influence our outlook on the world and our ability to perform successfully.

In this case, it shows that our unconscious is pretty gullible.  It will believe anything it is told, regardless of how logical or truthful the statement.

Clearly we don’t get stronger or weaker in the 10 seconds it takes to repeat a phrase, however our mind and body act that way.

Knowing this made me realize that being aware of what is going on in our minds so important – it has so much influence over how we feel about life and how we approach things.

What is going on in your head?

I’ve written before about the voices we get in our head that tell us we can’t do something, that we’re not good enough, that we shouldn’t even bother trying.

Given the experiment, our unconscious mind seems to listen to and believe these messages.

I know that in the past for me, each time I let these gremlins go unchecked, my confidence, self-esteem and ability to successfully achieve goals seems to be diminished a little more.

Many proponents of positive thinking also claim that the opposite is true.  When we repeat positive messages and visualize our goals, our world is more likely to be filled with happiness and success.  Certainly I know that many top athletes and performers often use visualization and positive thinking to enhance their performance.

Change your thoughts – Change your world

We have control over one thing in our lives – our thoughts” – Napoleon Hill

Being a sceptic, over the last two weeks I decided to put positive thinking to the test.  I was fascinated to see what impact if any it would have on the world between my ears and how I felt about life.

What did I do?

  • I developed some positive affirmations (these are usually in the present tense) – “I am powerful”, “I am successful”, “I am focused and productive”, “I am physically strong” and the really important “Whatever happens, I can handle it”.
  • Every morning for a few minutes before getting out of bed, I repeated these sayings
  • Every day when walking or going for a run, I repeated the affirmations over and over again
  • Every time I heard a negative thought or gremlin, I repeated the opposite mantra 20 times

I have to say I’ve been won over.  I’ve felt happier, more confident and seen life as an exciting experience.

Amazingly, I’ve felt more productive, energetic and seem to get more done.  I’ve rapidly advanced my new website project and even seen an uptick in new coaching clients.

It feels like I’m more in control of life and my gremlins don’t come up so much any more.

Sometimes I feel like a Pollyanna for repeating these mantras, but frankly as long as I feel the benefits I’m going to keep thinking positively.

Over to You

If you’re in a positive frame of mind, why not sign up for regular updates from Less Ordinary Living- the guide to an outstanding career and remarkable life.

  • If you’re interested, try following the same positive thinking regime for a week and see how it works for you.
  • What are your thoughts on positive thinking and affirmations?
  • What techniques do you use to control your thoughts and emotions?

Photo credit: Jessica.Tam (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Power of Simple

Has your head ever felt like a whirlpool?

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My head is spinning..

So many ideas, deadlines, projects, priorities, people to see, things to do, good intentions, fun ideas, serious plans, visions, goals and challenges….

Last week I hit the overload point – my head was spinning.  I felt overwhelmed.

The last few months have been really busy building Less Ordinary Living; finding new partners, coaching my wonderful clients, keeping up with blogging, creating new products and service offerings. It’s been amazing and exciting, but exhausting.

I’ve also been trying to stay connected to my friends, take advantage of the amazing summer here in Britain, keep fit and healthy, learn new skills and train for an adventure race in September.

I always have personal development projects on the go too – learning to meditate, keeping promises to myself, taking up journalling.

Finally, last week I got some personal news that knocked the wind out of me.

Life started to feel far too complicated and I didn’t have the energy to cope with everything.

The Power of Simple

This week, I’ve cut back to simple.  KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid…

I looked at what is most important for me right now:

  • To be healthy
  • To grow my closest relationships
  • To get my new website finished

This week, I’ll only do what is needed to achieve this.  The rest is not important – it can wait.

The whirlpool in my head has stopped spinning.

The Power of Simple has changed everything.  I feel calmer, happier and back in control.

Over to You

  • What are your three most important priorities?
  • How do you keep your life simple?
  • How do you cope when things get overwhelming?

Please leave a comment and share.  To get regular ideas on creating a remarkable lifestyle, click here to join our mailing list.

Photo credit : DOH4 (Flickr Creative Commons)