World Cup Wisdom

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Disclaimer: I personally guarantee that this article will not waffle on about football (too much).  To get regular updates from Less Ordinary Living, click here to sing up.

Love it or loathe it, everyone has been talking about the World Cup.

The adventure of football on a new continent, the impact on South Africa and its people, the endless drone of the Vuvuzela, the excitement (if you’re that way inclined) of the games.

For me, I’ve been fascinated by the implications of this global melting pot for how to live life in the 21st Century, so here goes:

1) Teamwork trumps talent

The French national team imploded under the African sun. We had sulks, feuds, players going on strike, and even a player getting sent home for insurrection (top tip: don’t call your boss something unrepeatable in front of all your colleagues).

On paper, the French team is littered with some of the most skilled individuals around.  They should have easily qualified for the knock-out stages, yet they flopped in all their games.  Now they are on their way home to Paris – flying cattle class.

This group of 23 individuals ended up in rival factions, fighting each other and their manager.  On the pitch, they wouldn’t even pass the ball to each other.  The substitutes refused to sit on the bench and sulked off to stand behind the goal.  In short, zero teamwork, or desire to sacrifice for the greater good.

Le Flop Francais shows the importance of teamwork, being interdependent with others, collaborating and caring about those around you.  These elements combine to create something much greater than the sum of individual parts.

2. It’s not how old you are – It’s how good you are

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Viva Blanco!

Cuauhtémoc Blanco – Mexican legend – 37 years old.  By football standards he should be in the great retirement home in the sky dribbling on about his glory days to anyone unlucky enough to get stuck with him.

This guy couldn’t beat any of Less Ordinary Living’s readers in a race to the post box and has a pretty ample beer belly.

Yet, Blanco has inspired the Mexicans to qualification with a series of cameo substitute appearances and even knocked in a vital penalty goal along the  way.

In a game obsessed with fitness and strength, Blanco uses his brain and acute positional sense to do his talking.  He refuses to believe that his time is up and is confounding his critics with his great performances.

Anyone who has ever written themselves off as too old to try something new or make a change should take Blanco to heart.  He shows that with application and playing to your strengths, almost anything is possible.

3. Cheats never prosper

Keidar Keida and Kaka.

Any idea what I’m talking about?

Kaka is the Brazillian wunderkind who is steering his team through the knock-out stages.  Keider Keida is the Ivory Coast midfielder who conspired to have Kaka sent off from their game.

Kaka backed into Keida and bumped his upper chest gently with his elbow.  Keida hit the floor like he’d been hit by a volley of machine gun bullets clutching his face.  He preceded to writhe in agony.

The referee, not seeing the incident put two and two together and made 27. He brandished a red card and sent Kaka packing.

The catch?  In the 21st Century we have multiple TV cameras recording everything and replaying it in super slow motion.  The cheating was obvious and the world saw Keida’s deception in full.  Brazil went on to win the match comfortably and Keida’s reputation is in tatters.

In life, integrity is vital in every action.  Any attempt to cheat, deceive or generally be dishonest tends to get found out eventually.  Thanks to Kaka and Keida for reminding us of that.

4. Take nothing for granted

Espana – glorious European champions.  World number 1.  In more than 30 matches leading up to the World Cup, only defeated once.  Dripping with talent and playing expansive attacking and goal laden football.

Switzerland – dour, unheralded and no record of success.  27th best team in the world.  Patchy recent form.  No star players.

Spain were expected to wipe the floor with everyone they played and march to the final.  Switzerland are well known for poor performances at major tournaments.

Spain 0 – Switzerland 1

In life, nothing is certain and making assumptions can be dangerous.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. Practice is the way to master change

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The roundest ball ever... who knew!

One of the stories of the World Cup is the Jabulani ball.  Years in development, this is the roundest (hard to believe I know) and most aerodynamic ball ever created.  So what?

Well in the first few matches, this extra slick ball kept flying like a leaping salmon up a waterfall.  The players ballooned passes, crosses and shots miles further than planned.

After years of training with and playing with balls that had more drag and were less round, this change put the players of their stroke.

The response – practice, practice, practice.  The teams all went away with the new ball and worked like mad to master it.

By the second round of games, everything looked pretty much back to normal.  Successful adjustments were made (except sadly by the England team).

The bottom line.  When you are trying to make a change, or faced by change the key is practice.  Building up the skills to develop and adapt is vital in life.  The players used their years of intense practice and experience, and a short burst of hard work to adapt to the new ball.

When you face new challenges, learn the sustainable skills needed to overcome them and succeed.

Over to You

What have you enjoyed about the World Cup?

What lessons have you learned?

Photo Credit: DundasFC (Flickr Creative Commons), Celso Flores (Flickr Creative Commons), Shine 2010 (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Power of Promises – How to Never Let Yourself Down Again

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Has someone ever really let you down?  Made a solemn promise and broken it?

career coaching, career change, new career, find work you love

Broken promises?

How did it feel?  Pretty horrible I suspect…

What about the other way around?  Have you ever broken a promise to someone else?

We typically try with all our might to stick to our word, to follow through, to do as we say we will.

Promises are serious and there are strong feelings when they are made and broken.

We place a lot of value on being honest and having personal integrity.

What about a different question – “have you ever broken a promise to yourself and let yourself down?”

I know I have, more often than I’d care to remember. I can’t count how many times I was ready to change “tomorrow”. Somehow it seems much easier to duck out on these personal promises.

The kind of promises we make include:

• “I promise to take better care of myself- I’ll get back into exercising tomorrow”
• “I promise to spend more time with my loved ones”
• “I promise to have a better balance and stop working so much”
• “I promise to start being smarter with my money after the next pay day”
• “I promise I’ll start my new job search next week”

More often than not, we don’t live up to these personal commitments – we screw ourself over.

Learning to look yourself in the eye

If you had a friend who constantly made promises and let you down, what would you think of them? What value would you place on their promises to change? How long would you tolerate their behaviour?

Sometimes we treat ourselves much worse than we treat others.

When you break promises to yourself, you send yourself a powerful message that  you are not important.  You also go against your values around being honest and acting with integrity.

It gets really hard to look yourself in the eye if you keep bombing out on commitments to yourself.

The good news is that learning to keep promises to yourself has huge value for boosting self-confidence, productivity and happiness.

Learning to be accountable means you start to trust yourself. Each and every commitment you keep to yourself builds your self-esteem and faith in your ability to deliver. You learn to consistently do what you say you will.

Developing this sense of integrity will start to radiate into your relationships with the wider world. When you trust yourself, others will trust you more. You’ll find it easier to be honest with the world and call things as you see them.

Finally, you’ll be more productive and focused as you follow through on your most important commitments.

Over to you – Making and keeping promises

If you’d like to start keeping promises to yourself, start today. I started out making one promise per day and sticking to it about a month ago. Some key lessons I’ve learned are:

1. Make promises you can keep – be realistic in your daily commitment
2. Make it your number 1 priority – don’t let anything get in the way
3. Be specific – make your promise clear – I will go for a 30 minute run today
4. Write down your promise – keep it somewhere visible at home and at work
5. Chart your success – keep track of your daily success on a star chart somewhere you see regularly
6. Reward success – how will you celebrate keeping a week of promises?

I’ve found a huge boost in my personal well-being, confidence and happiness comes from keeping personal promises – I hope you’ll find the same.

Please leave a comment and share how you keep promises to yourself.

Brilliant Ideas

Ralph J-P at Potential2Success on how to keep promises to yourself

Steven Covey on keeping promises and New Year’s Resolutions

Photo credit : (Flickr Creative Commons)

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Break free – Learn to beat procrastination for good

Reading time: 2 minutes and 51 seconds

career change, career coaching, find work you love

Time to get moving...

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I’ve been meaning to write about procrastination for ages, but I never seem to get round to it…..

Procrastination is nothing to be ashamed of – almost everyone gets a bout from time to time.  I realized it was time for me to get off Facebook and share some powerful ideas to help you kick time-wasting for good.

Beating procrastination can buy you more time, increase your sense of accomplishment and take away the frustration of feeling stuck.

Learning how to  kick start work projects, do what really matters and sieze the day can have a huge impact on your happiness and success.

What is procrastination?

Psychologists define procrastination as something “counter-productive, needless and delaying” – and that is no fun at all.

We all have some great techniques for procrastinating – some of my personal favourites include:

“I’ll start doing that this afternoon / tomorrow / next week / next month…”

“I’ll just clean the house / bathe the dog / take out the recycling / check Facebook / cut my toenails first….”

“Every time I’m about to start, the phone rings / my boss comes by / I get an urgent email….”

What makes us come up with these fiendish avoidance tactics?

Check your Head

According to the Mind Gym, procrastination is typically driven by our deeper beliefs about the world.  If we can identify the underlying assumptions and motivatiors, we can start to understand and beat our procrastination.

They suggest some common beliefs that lead to time-wasting:

  • Perfectionism – do you strive for absolute perfection in everything you do?  Perfection is such a high bar to reach, this creates a huge amount of pressure to perform.  Trying to write the perfect CV, create the ideal Powerpoint, have the perfect call with that customer is such a daunting task.  It is easy to understand why starting such a task feels scary and is easy to put off.
  • Certainty – “Before I take my dream trip to Australia / start this project on marketing to pharmaceutical companies / go to that yoga class, I need to know all about it”.  The need for certainty can push us to spend years in the research phase and never pull the trigger.  We fear that unless we’re an expert, we’ll be exposed as a fraud, look stupid and everything will go wrong.  So we never start.
  • Fear of failure – starting is the first step on the downward spiral to failure, public humiliation and destitution.  The demonic spectre of failure has stopped many great ideas and projects in their tracks.  This is probably the single largest cause of procrastination.
  • I’m not good enough – when we don’t believe we can do something, we’ll find every reason and excuse in the world not to do it.  The most debilitating thought in the world is “there is no way I can do this”.

Next time you find yourself cleaning out the cellar or re-tweetig that latest fascinating post, take a second.  What are you putting off and why?

Changing Minds

To beat procrastination, start by changing your thinking. Once you’ve identified what is behind your procrastination, try this approach:

Step 1 – Redefine your belief

Start to take the pressure off yourself by rephrasing your beliefs in a less harsh way:

I must get a perfect result” becomes “I’d like a perfect result

I must know everything about this” becomes “It would be good to know everything about this

I’m terrified of failing” becomes “It would be better not to fail

I can’t do this” becomes “I’m not sure if I am ready for this

Immediately, these beliefs become less imposing and less of a barrier to getting starting.

Step 2 – Create a safety net

Now to further crumble your belief.  Add in a get-out clause that makes the belief even less daunting.  For example:

I’d like a perfect result but if I don’t get one it doesn’t matter.”

It would be good to know everything about this but I already know enough to start and I’ll keep learning as I go along.”

These statements take away the terrible future consequences we’ve already imagined for the task.  It is fine if we try our best and we don’t quite reach perfect.  If we do fail, we may learn more than if we succeed.

Step 3 – Go for it

With the newly minted belief in place, it is time to launch in and get started!  When I’ve used this technique, it often feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I always find that just taking action is the best way to beat procrastination

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” Johann von Goethe

Penny for your thoughts

What are you procrastinating about?

  • What beliefs are holding you back?
  • How can you rethink those beliefs?
  • How do you beat procrastination?

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Brilliant ideas on beating procrastination

Positively Present on 5 ways to amp up your morning

Farnoosh at Prolific Living on finding focused intensity

Practical Ideas to avoid distraction from the Art of Great Things

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver (Flickr Creative Commons)

How to Kick your Bad Habit for Good

Reading Time: 3 minutes and 12 seconds

Career change, new career, work that matters, work that you love, happiness

Good habits

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Are you ready to shake off your bad habits for good?

The final part of the mental spring clean is all about habits.  Bad habits can cost us a huge amount of happiness, time, self-esteem and money.  Good habits can make our life joyful, peaceful and successful.

Habits are our subconscious behaviour patterns that we act out, often without thinking.

Habits develop as a way for us to deal with the immense complexity of everyday living. They are mental shortcuts that we adopt to make our life simpler.

For example, almost everyone develops a habit of locking their house on the way out. We perform this complex task several times on most days without even thinking.  I’ve had a few OCD moments where I thought I’d left the front door open, yet on returning it was locked.  That habit is pretty much ingrained.

To end the Spring Clean with a bang, I’m challenging myself and you too.

You’ll stop one of your bad habits, or create a new virtuous one.

I’d love to get 100 of us to experiment and make a lasting life change, so please do leave a comment and take part.

The first step is to understand our habits:

  • Think about the bad habits you have.  Which one has the most serious impact on your life?  How much is this habit costing you?
  • Now, think about what habits you’d like to bring into your life.  Which new habit would have the biggest impact on your happiness and success?
  • Now pick one of these habits, either bad or good, and set a goal to remove it from your life, or create it over the next month.

I’ve selected wasting time surfing the internet as my bad habit and I want to stamp it out for good.

We’ll use a powerful 5 step model for change. I’ll use my challenge as the example:

Step 1: Contemplation. We have to understand the benefits of making the change, and deal with any negatives.

Some of the key questions to answer at this stage are:

  • What is your motivation for wanting to change / create this habit?
  • What are some of the benefits of changing?
  • What may be holding you back from changing?

In my case, I will free up an hour or two a day for the things I really want to do, be more productive and feel happier.  I’m held by from change by pure inbred habit.

Step 2: Preparation. This is where we make our plan for successfully introducing the new habit.  Good preparation is vital to success and some of the key things to do include:

  • Find someone to hold us accountable. I will happily hold you accountable – please just ask.
  • Research as much as you can about the habit you want to change – I’ve spent time researching time management techniques and how to beat an internet habit.
  • Create a clear plan for change and design a process for monitoring and rewarding progress. I will reward myself every day that I’m successful by using the time I’ve freed up to read for 20 minutes.
  • Design contingency plans for “falling off the wagon” and prepare yourself for this happening.

These first two steps may take a few days to a week to complete properly.

Step 3: Taking action. This is where the rubber hits the road. Ingraining a new habit can take several months to achieve and will almost inevitably involve ups and downs along the path.

This step will need you to reward your success and forgive yourself for slip-ups.  Be kind and fair to yourself.

Step 4: Maintenance. Once you’ve taken action successfully, you’ll start to see the fruits of your labour.

The key to maintenance is to find ways to avoid being tempted to relapse.  I might try turning off my wireless network during the mornings to take away any temptation to surf.

Step 5: Relapse. Old habits die hard.  Relapse is a normal and inevitable part of changing a habit. The key to moving through a relapse is to understand the reason for falling down, and to work out the best way to avoid a repeat.

Remembering that almost everyone who has successfully made a change has been through this process can be helpful in forgiving yourself. Once you’ve understood the relapse, it is best to go back to the preparation phase and “get back on the horse”.

Over to you

We all have bad habits we’d like to kick or good ones we have been meaning to introduce.  Please play along at home and pick one to take on over the next month.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what habit you are working on and what difference it will make to your life.

That concludes the Mental Spring Clean!  We’ve looked at Changing the Story we tell the world, the Games we play and how to win them, Beating the Gremlins in our head and changing habits.  I hope you’ve dusted down your attic and found some old gems.

Next up on Less Ordinary Living: Why Work Matters.

Photo credit: Kevindooley on Flickr Creative Commons

How to stop holding yourself back and make it happen

Reading time: 2 minutes 43 seconds

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“You’re not good enough”

career coaching, career counseling, dream job, job you love


“You should keep quiet”

“What a stupid thing to say, you idiot”

“You can’t do that”

That voice in our head has a spectacular talent for running us down.

Our gremlins cast judgment (usually negative) on the past, influence what we do (or don’t do) in the present, and poor cold water over future plans. The have a huge impact on the quality of life we lead.

Dealing with our gremlins is a vital part of any Mental Spring Cleaning.

A friend of mine was telling me about their inability to ask for a promotion at work.

She felt she was totally outperforming their peers, had great feedback from her line manager and had surpassed every goal she had set.  Yet when it came to pulling the trigger and asking, a voice in her head kicked in saying “who are you to ask for a promotion – you don’t deserve it”.

My friend described feeling paralyzed by the strength of this thought and found an excuse to run away without broaching the subject.  Afterwards, she was furious with herself for “bottling it”.

We tried to figure out how this gremlin came about in the first place. Gremlins almost always come from childhood experiences where we create defence mechanisms to protect ourselves.

My friend recalled asking a teacher in primary school for permission to join the school choir and being told “No – you haven’t worked hard enough on your singing”.  Even now she recalled the sick feeling in her stomach that day.

Her gremlin formed to protect her from that feeling, and since then she has always struggled to ask others, particularly in authority for what she wants. On reflection, she recalled many times when she held back from asking for something and told herself “you don’t deserve this”.

Creating these protection mechanisms takes a lot of hard work. We use a lot of mental bandwidth once the emergency red light comes on and a gremlin kicks in.  My friend felt exhausted for the rest of the day – probably because she had used her adrenaline rush for flight rather than fight.

Many of our gremlins are no longer useful to us in adult life. My friend’s gremlin worked well when she was a little girl, but now it was a serious pain in her backside, holding her back from being successful.

6 Steps to bust that gremlin!

If you have a voice in your head that is holding you back, this is a powerful technique to move on. I used it with my friend and it has helped countless coaching clients:

  1. Identify the gremlin you face (how does it manifest and what does it say to you) and give it a name
  2. Understand the gremlin’s purpose and history. Think back through your past to the first time the gremlin appeared.  What was its’ purpose back then (usually protecting you in some way).
  3. Acknowledge the gremlin and thank it for helping out.  Let the gremlin know that it is no longer needed for this purpose.  Tell yourself that you can handle things from now on.
  4. Identify your new approach – how would you like to act differently in the next situation where the gremlin might arise (e.g. for my friend she would like to confidently ask for what she wants)
  5. Ask the gremlin to help out – the gremlin can provide a lot of energy to the new approach.  Ask the gremlin to help you act differently next time.
  6. Set a goal – identify the first time that this energy can help you out and what outcome you’d like.  In my friend’s case she set the goal to go back to her boss and this time she asked for and got promoted.

Over to you

Answer the following questions:

  • What gremlins do you have?
  • When do they appear for you?
  • How do they hold you back?
  • Which gremlin would you like to change the most?

Try the gremlin buster and set yourself a goal.  Leave a comment on what you are hoping to change and email me if you’d like support in this Spring Cleaning activity.

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Photo Credit – Inti (Flickr Creative Commons)