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)

25 Surefire Ways to Get More from Work

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Make work more fun

Whether you want be more successful, more productive or just happier at work, these 25 powerful suggestions will help put some sparkle into your day.  Click here to get regular ideas on career success from Less Ordinary Living.

  1. Start something new – variety is the spice of life.  Start a new project and bring one of your ideas to life
  2. Really listen to everyone you meet – it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own world at work.  Concentrate on listening properly to everyone you meet today.
  3. Take someone for coffee – build a relationship at work by taking someone out for coffee (your boss, your peer, your team member, your client, your customer).  You might even make a new friend.
  4. Take a real lunchbreak – get out of the office, take a walk, get some fresh air and re-energize yourself.   It’s called a lunch break for a reason.
  5. Delegate something – learning to delegate will make you more effective and help others to develop.  Take something off your plate and give someone else a chance.
  6. Read DilbertScott Adam’s cartoon dog puts work into perspective.  Learn to beat the pointy-haired boss.
  7. Re-evaluate your to-do list – take 15 minutes to prioritize.  Focus on what is most important rather than urgent and to those things first.
  8. Do something that will make your workplace better– think ahead about what can make your job better and more enjoyable in the longer term.  Start making that happen today.
  9. Say no – learning to say no to things that don’t fit with your goals and values can be tough – but it is invaluable.  Say no to something today.
  10. Thank an unsung hero – every workplace has it’s share of silent champions who keep everything going.  Take a minute to say thank you and recognize their contribution.
  11. Be brave – if something is not working well in your team, have the courage to raise the issue.  It will never get resolved unless someone takes the initiative.
  12. Offer to help – is someone looking out of their depth.? Get involved and help them learn to be great.  One day you might be the one needing help.
  13. Leave on time – set yourself some clear targets and if you hit them, give yourself permission to leave on time (or even early if you can) and go enjoy the rest of the day.  Because you’re worth it.
  14. Create a power hour – a great way to be super productive – click here to find out how.
  15. Cancel a pointless meeting – sometimes work cultures create an endless stream of pointless meetings that suck up time.  If you have one today, cancel it or excuse yourself.   Use the time for something constructive.
  16. Change your attitude – how are you approaching work?  If you’re seeing it as a negative, feeling disengaged and not enjoying it, you’ve lost before you even begin.  Try changing your attitude for one day and see what happens.
  17. Apologize – if you have a feud or some simmering resentment with a colleague, isn’t it time to bury the hatchet (not in their head).  Be the bigger person and find a way to apologize sincerely.
  18. Learn a new skill – what skill would you love to develop?  Put together an action plan for how to do that.  Here’s a guide for how to ask your boss for training.
  19. Start a tradition – what new ritual can you start to make your workplace better?  A tea-round?  Birthday cakes?  Happy hour on Friday?
  20. Set your visionpurpose is so important to satisfaction at work.  Take 15 minutes to think about why you are work and what you’d like to get from your career.
  21. Drink more water – most offices and workplaces are drier than the Sahara, so stay hydrated to keep sharp.
  22. Listen to your biorhythms – plan your day to take advantage of your natural daily energy cycles – click here to find out more.
  23. Give something back – find out if your company has a community involvement or volunteer program.  Get involved or if it doesn’t exist, start one.
  24. Play to your strengths – we are at our best at work when we use our natural attributes.  Take the VIA strengths test here to find yours.
  25. Write your CV – a great way to feel in control of your career and not feel stuck in a rut.  Dig out that dusty relic and give it a polish.  Writing your CV helps you to feel more confident about your experience and skills.

Over to you

  • What things do you do to enjoy work more?
  • How do you make the most of your working life?
  • Which of these ideas did you try, and what happened?

Photo credit: RubensLP (From Flickr Creative Commons)

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)

Something for the Weekend?

Looking for something a bit different this weekend?  Need a break from the football?   Here are 5 inspiring ways to spice up your weekend…

(And if you want to make my weekend, please join the Less Ordinary Living mailing list to get all the latest juice)

1) Find inspiration – Sharing Life Skills Magazine

This is a brilliant concept – a collection of great writing by some of the best bloggers out there.  Covering personal development, health, psychology and success, it is a fabulous read – something to chew on and digest.  Put together by Jonathan Wells of Advanced Life Skills – this is a project I’m proud to be part of.  Take a read and see what happens!

2) The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun

Brilliant animation from the folks at Box of Crayons about how to enjoy life – Stop hiding who you really are, Stop following the Rules, Stop Taking  Yourself So Seriously.  Pick any of these and it’ll bring more fun into your weekend.

3) Get reading – 5 Great Books

Five brilliant books to get stuck into this weekend (the first 2 are compelling fiction, the last 3 will make your life better):

1. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami – surreal, compelling mystery from Japan’s master storyteller

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon – a touching, funny and wise story about a boy with Asperger syndrome

3. Happiness – Mattieu Ricard – Wise and human overview of happiness by a buddhist monk

4. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey – a personal development classic – still compelling today

5. The Art of Possiblity – Rosamund and Benjamin Zander – funny and smart guide to practices that can make life and the world better

4) Learn to Mediate with Headspace

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Relax this weekend...

A meditation site without the mumbo-jumbo or mysticism. These guys offer practical and clear guidance on how to start a meditation practice.  Highly recommended for anyone looking to reduce stress, find more peace in life and feel happier.  Try the Take 10 Program and let me know what happens.

5) Do Something Worthwhile with LeapAnywhere

A great way to have more fun and do more good?  Leap Anywhere is a great site which has a wide range of exciting opportunities to volunteer across the UK. Search their database for an event near you, get involved, have fun and maybe even make some new friends.

Enjoy the weekend,


Photo Credit: Pink Sherbert (Flickr Creative Commons)

Be a Black-Belt Motivational Master

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Are you a black-belt motivational master?  Do you effortlessly achieve your goals (whilst wearing a cool uniform)?

If not don’t panic – help is at hand to boost your motivational mastery – read on.

Author Dan Pink offered some surprising insights into what really motivates us at a recent talk give to the RSA:

Clearly, the carrot of money simply isn’t enough to get most people motivated.  In fact psychological tests show that money can impair our ability to be successful.

So, if money isn’t the key to personal motivation, what is?

Pink identifies three factors that really do seem to get people fired up and creative- autonomy, mastery and purpose.

He shows how these factors motivate people in organizations to take ownership of their work, fully engage with a problem, and strive for success.

The great news is that these concepts can also help to develop your motivational skills.  Understanding these areas will put  you on the path to being a black belt motivational master.


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Dance to your own tune

Autonomy is about being in control of yourself and being able to set your own path.  It means you’re not beholden to others for direction and validation.

When you take responsibility for your actions and the outcomes, you create the freedom to be successful.

Learning to operate this way creates a rock solid platform for life.  It creates the foundation to express yourself, be creative, explore and grow.

Autonomy shifts the focus of motivation.  Rather than looking to others for recognition, you find it inside – you dance to your own drum.

Take an autonomous moment to yourself

One way to cultivate this is to have an autonomous moment.  Take the spirit of the video and give yourself 15 minutes every day to work on something just for you- whatever that may be.  It may be fostering a hobby (I am on a gardening kick at the moment), exploring your next career step or some creative self-expression.

For this project, find a space where you can’t be distracted.  Be yourself and do it purely for you.  Take responsibility for doing this to the best of your ability and be responsible only to yourself.  Enjoy the time and see what amazing things you can achieve.

As you act autonomously you’ll find your confidence and creativity start to grow and your motivation sky-rocketing.  A black-belt motivational master takes responsibility for their actions.


A clear sense of purpose drives people to do remarkable things.  Steve Jobs has a vision to “put a dint in the universe” and this has driven him to build up Apple over 30 years to its current position.

Finding your sense of mission and direction provides the context for everything you do.  It creates a guiding star to inspire and guide your actions.  It is dynamite for motivation.

Finding your purpose

Finding an overarching vision typically takes self-reflection and commitment to find that spark inside yourself.  Here are two approaches to help you find your purpose:

Stephen Covey provides this tool to write your personal mission statement – a great first step to finding your purpose.

Read more about the amazing work of Viktor Frankl and use the questions to find a sense of inner purpose.

To find more motivation, start introducing your purpose into your daily decision making.  A black-belt motivational master knows the deeper purpose behind every decision they make.


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Are you a motivational master?

As humans, we have an urge to get better at things.  Being an expert is great because others acknowledge your skills and you satisfy your inner craving for growth.

As Dan Pink notes, this is the drive behind the open source movement where well paid professionals contribute their time for free to these projects.  Developing their skills and expertise is the carrot that drives them to get involved.

People who devote themselves to mastery tend to be focused, motivated and successful.  What’s more they also tend to have more fun, as they are doing something they find fascinating.

Developing mastery takes time and practice.  The widely touted statistics suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert.

Yet if you’re doing something that you find stimulating and absorbing that could be the best 10,000 hours you ever spend.

Three steps to Mastery

1. Start with the end in mind – Figure out what your area of fascination and interest is and what mastery would look like for you.  This may be closely related to your purpose.

2. Create the master plan – work out the key steps to get there – Who should you be talking to?  What do you need to learn?  What experience do you need to get?  How can you teach this?  How do you communicate and share your mastery?

3. Practice, Practice, Practice. Get to work and put in the hours. Nothing beats practice.

Striving for mastery this way means that you can enjoy the journey as much as the destination and that is the key to finding endless motivation.

When you develop autonomy, purpose and mastery, you’ll find yourself on the path to outstanding work and a remarkable life.

Over to You

  • What motivates you?
  • How important is it for you to feel autonomous and in control?
  • What is your purpose and vision in life?
  • What are you striving to master and how are you going about it?

Please leave a comment and share.

Picture credit - D Sharon Pruitt, Gypsy4 (Flickr Creative Commons)