Tuesday’s Top Tip

The most successful people in this world understand the importance of cultivating a growth mindset.

They understand failure does not mean they are one, only that they have something to learn. 

They understand that success is not found in achievement, but from falling in love with the process of self-improvement. 

They understand that intelligence and capability are not fixed qualities but things which – with practice, training, and above all, method – can always be improved upon.

I think we all understand this on some level yet many of us can’t help but think we are less than. That we simply aren’t as intelligent, or as capable, or as courageous as other people.

The question is how can we do guard against having this kind of fixed mindset? How can we cultivate a growth mindset instead?

Of course we need a point of comparison. We need standards to measure ourselves against otherwise there would nothing to point toward and nowhere to go.

But why make other people that point of comparison?

It’s important to remember we are all individuals with a very unique set of life circumstances. The conditions of our lives are rarely comparable to others of a different age, race, gender, background…

They are rarely comparable, even, in our moment to moment difficulties. When dealing with the very specific traumas of our past.

Simply getting out of bed for some of us is an act of immense courage given the circumstances. Perhaps demonstrating far greater strength than someone who appears to have his or her life together. 

So what to do? Who should you compare yourself to then? What should be your point of comparison in a world that only broadcasts the best of the best (or the worst of the worst)? 

Simple. 

Yourself.

As a rule for life I’d say, “Compare yourself only with the person you were yesterday.” 

Here’s the trick.

At the end of each day take the time to reflect. Think deeply about the ways in which you have failed to live up to your values and how you can do better. Then find a small way to better yourself and go do it (the following day). Finally when you reflect on that day, reward yourself for having done (or at least attempted) what you set out to do.

That’s enough.

That’s worthy of a pat on the back and an ice cold beer!

But don’t you dare forget to reward yourself either! Rewarding yourself for the things you did well at the end of the day is equally important.

Do this everyday, and then watch as compound interest takes care of the rest.

I promise if you do, it will.

Previous Top Tip

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post to prepare for the best and hope for the worst…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.

Let’s begin!

(As a way to give credit and to say thank you, I’ve linked back to any posts that have inspired my thoughts. I’ve linked back to any quotes I’ve found as well.)


4 x Thoughts:

1) Contacting a friend a day keeps the demons at bay.

2) I have two cycles for you. The first I like to call the Positive Cycle Of Hope. It looks like this: Hope inspires action that creates positive results that generates more hope (repeat). The second I like to call the Negative Cycle Of Hopelessness. It looks like this: Hope coupled with an inability (or unwillingness) to take action creates (99% of the time) negative results that generates feelings of despair and hopelessness (circle back to point 2 and repeat). The point I want to make? Hope must be tied to action otherwise it’s dangerous.

3) Hope is a double edged sword that cuts just as deeply the other way. Although it rewards you when expectations are met it punishes you when they’re not. Of course it’s that suffering that drives you to take action and put things right. However this is a terrible situation to be in if you can’t. (That’s worth repeating). The point I want to make? Be very careful what you hope for in life.

4) What hand the universe deals you – whether or not you have an easy life – is not something you can control. However building the strength to deal with adversity when it happens is something you can. For that reason it’s important to prepare for the worst in life. It’s equally important to believe in your capacity to deal with the worst when it happens. However I disagree with idea that one should “hope for the best.” If you hope for the best it’ll crush you when that doesn’t happen (or worse, when it gets taken away). Prepare for the worst – yes. But don’t “live in hope.” If you don’t have to hope for anything better, I suggest you live in acceptance for what is. Practise gratitude for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t. It’s worth reiterating that hope, although it may save you, will never be what gives you peace.


3 x Quotes:

“Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

– Bruce Lee

“Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear. ‘Cease to hope … and you will cease to fear.’ … Widely different [as fear and hope] are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope … both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.”

― Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Source: Letters from a Stoic)

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

― Maya Angelou (Source: https://drericperry.wordpress.com/2021/01/05/choose-your-attitude-dont-let-it-choose-you/)

2 x Things:

1) This happiness lad podcast: Dump Your Inner Drill Sergeant with Dr Laurie Santos. In this episode, ‘Dr Laurie Santos examines why being a nasty drill sergeant to ourselves is less effective than being a kind coach; and hears from researcher and author Kristin Neff about why developing self-compassion is vital to helping us achieve our new year goals.’ Notes below:

  • Criticising bad behaviour in the past isn’t bad. It fact it’s healthy. But telling yourself you’re a bad person for making a mistake – this is where problems start. You activate the flight fight or freeze response. Except you see yourself as the threat. This serves to protect you by shutting you down. This inhibits your ability to make productive change. 
  • We need to critique ourselves but forgive ourselves. We need to look at what went wrong logically. Think about when a child makes a mistake. How you treat them and try to help and get them to learn. We need to do that for ourselves.
  • Self compassion is linked to higher grit, better relationships, more exercise, better sex… It’s so much better than beating yourself up. It’s not the weak thing to do. It’s the strong thing to do. 
  • There are good ways and bad ways to build self esteem. Telling kids to compare themselves to others. To think they are above average. – This will cause them to always compare themselves. Self esteem then becomes contingent on success. If they fail it deserts them. 
  • Self compassion isn’t dependant on success or failure. We need it when we fail. It’s not denying mistakes but accepting them. Acknowledging that you’re human.
  • Self compassion is about accepting ourselves. Paradoxically we are then more able to make positive change as a result. 
  • Mindfulness is the foundation of self compassion. You allow yourself to feel what you are without judgement. 
  • The more you can give yourself love and compassion the more you can give others the same. Being Self compassionate is not selfish! The more compassion that flows inward the more it flows outward.
  • 3 components of self compassion. 1. Mindfulness. Becoming aware. Validating our pain. 2. Remembering we aren’t alone. Everyone makes mistake. 3. Actively give yourself kindness. 

2) This BBC article: Why You’re More Creative In Coffee Shops. I’ve always felt like I do my best work when I take the time to leave the house and go to a cafe. This research shows why.

“It’s analogous to going to the gym for a workout,” says Sunkee Lee, assistant professor of organisational theory and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in Pennsylvania. “One of the biggest things about coffee shops is the social-facilitation effect: you go there, you see other people working and it puts you in a mood where you just naturally start working as well. Just observing them can motivate you to work harder.”


1 x Joke:

My son has started making a den behind the curtains in his room at night time.

The other night he asked me to join him inside.

While looking up at the stars he asked, “Daddy, where is the moon?”

I replied, “I think it’s hiding behind the clouds sweetheart. But I’m sure if we listen very carefully we can hear it.”

(Silence)

“Do you hear it?” I said. “Listen, Listen, shhhhhhhh…”

(Silence)

At this point I blew a huge raspberry.

My son laughed hysterically, “haha the moon fart fart!”

I smiled while replying, “Yes it did. The question is, which moon?”

And with that we quickly exited the den…


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! I sincerely hope you all have a great week ahead. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.

One bonus question to finish:

What is worrying you most today? What can you do about it? What can’t you do about it?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 18/01/21

Tuesday’s Top Tip

For thousands of years we’ve been told we are fallen creatures – outcasts from the garden of Eden. That we are selfish, weak, deeply flawed individuals unworthy of our creator. Taught that our wants and desires are the root cause of all evil. That these are our greatest downfall against which we must make it life’s mission to fight.

What we’ve been taught is to hate ourselves. 

Now I know many people will argue with me about this. And I certainly don’t mean to lay all the blame at religion’s door. I agree that would be far too simplistic an argument.

But the overriding point I want to make is that it terms of being unkind to ourselves, in terms of seeing ourselves as bad for having certain wants and desires – wherever that comes from – it runs deep in our collective psyches. 

And that’s a big fucking problem. 

For starters hating on our own wants and desires is exactly what gives them strength. Did no one ever teach you that you must embrace your demons?

Yeah me neither.

But a bigger problem is that in hating ourselves, despite being (largely) decent people, we fail to stand up to tyranny and oppression when it’s required. Our self loathing shrinks us as individuals. I would argue that it is this, more than anything else, that allows evil to thrive. (It goes hand in hand with people’s inability to say no when they should.)

So what to do about it?

For starters I suggest you stand up tall with your head held high. That you talk to yourself every morning. You give yourself an almighty pep talk. You become clear about who you are and what it is you stand for. Then I suggest you treat yourself with the same level of care and attention you would your own children. I suggest you make the same level of sacrifice for yourself.

Why?

Because you are far more capable than you know. Because you are far stronger than you give yourself credit. Because you are worth it.

But also because you are inextricably connected to everyone else on this planet and treating yourself badly hurts the very people you love. Because hatred thrives if you don’t.

You’ve all heard of the golden rule right? To treat others as you would like to be treated. While I agree it’s particularly pertinent for those who think they are superior to others, for those of you who suffer from crippling self doubt – who think the opposite – I suggest you flip it on it’s head and consider this second golden rule instead.

That is to treat yourself as you would someone you love. To look after yourself like you would your best friend or your spouse or your mother or your child. To value your life just as highly as those around you. To understand that your life is just as important.

Because it is.

Previous Top Tip

Why You Should Do It For Me

For many people, finding the motivation to do something for themselves can be difficult. When the focus is centred entirely on the self, many lose their will.

It’s not enough.

I believe this is especially true for those who struggle with low self-esteem. The little voice inside your head that says you can’t win, wins. And so you don’t.

Fear wins instead.

If this happens to be the case then why not consider doing what you have to for something else?

If you find loving yourself difficult then consider the love you have for others instead.

Use that to motivate you.

Meditate not for your mental health, but for your family. Exercise not for your wellbeing, but for everyone else who will benefit as a result. Eat a wholesome diet not for you, but for the planet and all those who inhabit it.

I’ll make a deal with you.

If you still can’t muster the strength to do what you need for yourself then do it for me.

Let’s help each other by helping ourselves.

Do it for me and I promise to do it for you.

Mission ImBACKible – How do you fix chronic back pain and what if you can’t?

My mother has suffered with chronic back pain and sciatica for many years now. Sadly she still does.  

Her story is very similar to countless others. A story of multiple misdiagnoses and scans which showed little, if nothing, out of the ordinary. 

Ultimately the frustration over many years led her down the path of trusting a surgeon to remove one of her discs and then fuse two vertebra together.

It didn’t work.

In fact, it made matters worse. 

Forgetting the fat cheque that private surgeon took home, or the many painful and frustrating nights that followed, the happy ending to the story is this. 

My mum can do more or less everything she wants. She can stand. She can sit (although not for too long). She can walk. Her overall range of motion is good. She can pick up and hold her grandson. She can play with and read to him while sat in her lap. And she can do all of this without too much pain.

BUT.

She still suffers from chronic back pain.

She manages her pain by doing a number of daily mobility exercises, walking often and sitting less. When she does sit she uses a pillow for support (to watch tv or have dinner) and stands regularly to stretch. On top of this she occasionally goes swimming or attends a pilates class. She also takes pain killers to help her sleep through at night. All of this means she can still have a decent quality of life.

The main point is this though:

SHE MANAGES HER PAIN. Her pain has not been cured, but SHE HAS MADE PEACE WITH IT. She doesn’t complain about it or let it detract from her day. She simply gets on with life. 

Her acceptance, despite many years of fighting this frustrating, heart-breaking battle, is truly inspirational.

It’s an important lesson I mean to take with me as I attempt to solve/manage my own issues with back pain. 


A WORD OF WARNING ⚠️ 

(I should say, for those who are considering back surgery as an option to help cure their own back pain, proceed with caution!! Surgery should be the absolute last call of action and even then, you better be damn sure you have an accurate diagnosis. 

Peter Ullrich, an orthopaedic surgeon, has this to say,

“The number one determining factor whether or not a fusion surgery will deliver the desired reduction in pain is an accurate preoperative diagnosis, meaning a diagnosis that clearly identifies the underlying cause of the patient’s pain.

Identifying degeneration of other changes in the spine is not sufficient—the diagnosis needs to identify that those changes in the spine are actually causing the patient’s pain. Many people have a bulging disc, herniated disc, stenosis, and other issues with their spine, but no pain.

I can’t stress this point enough.”

If you’d like to know more please have a read of this article).


So what’s wrong with me?

A lot of things but let’s stick to the topic of my back for now. 

I injured my back early on while training for the London marathon in 2014. Instead of backing off though, I ran through it, repeatedly… Stupid, I know. 

Following that I attempted to run a half marathon in new shoes, a month out from the main event, during which something in the back of my right knee gave way… Stupid, I know.

I limped home and didn’t train again till I ran the actual thing. 

On race day I wore a compression top for my back and had both knees strapped. Despite feeling pain in both, I felt committed (having asked so many people to sponsor my brother and I), so I ran the London marathon anyway… Stupid, I know. 

(Side note: I should write a piece on how not to run a marathon). 

I finished in what was probably a record slow time for my age, but I finished! It was an unforgettable day and one that I cherish.

BUT.

It came at a price. 

The long term result is, I’ve suffered on and off with a variety of different issues related to the back and neck ever since. While it’s clearly been nothing serious, as multiple MRI scans have shown, my back has never truly healed either. 

More recently (a few weeks back to be exact), I managed to put my back out lifting weights, bringing on a fresh wave of lower back pain and sciatica that has, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me. 

What if it’s something serious? 

What if I never can never lift weights again? 

What if I have chronic back pain for life? 

What if, what if…. I, I, I… Me, me, me….

STOP!

Take a breath. 

Observe. 

Proceed.

After a long period of catastrophizing and feeling sorry for myself, its clear I’m in a dangerous position of falling down the rabbit hole again.

I need a plan.

So, here it is…

1) Start treatment with my PHYSIO. (I know a lot of people who swear physio off as inconsequential, but I think it has its place. I can’t say it’s ever been a cure to my problems but I have responded positively to it, feeling better after – if only for a day or two. Nonetheless I believe it’s better than not having it, so I plan to continue)

2) Start treatment with an OSTEOPATH. I’ve had success with Osteopathy before, so I’m going to start here before considering other forms of treatment. (Those that I want to have look at include Acupuncture &/or Acupressure, Active Release Technique (ART), Biopuncture and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation (DNS) should the physio and osteopath not prove affective).  

3) In the interim I’m going to get an MRI SCAN to help see exactly what is or isn’t going on in my lower back – hopefully ruling out some more nasty possibilities as a result. 

4) Following that I’m going to take MRI results to an ORTHOPAEDIC specialist for advice on the problem.

5) Research/test out the best WAYS TO MANAGE MY BACK PAIN AT HOME AND AT WORK including the BEST STRETCHING AND STRENGTH EXERCISES plus HOW TO SIT, STAND AND WALK properly. Also what not to do and what other things or tools (shoes etc.) one can use to help (A pilots guide to managing back pain – my next blog post will be a result of this particular research). 

6) Follow up with my results later this year, looking into HOW I CAN PREVENT SIMILAR INJURIES GOING FORWARD and to make sure I have a healthy back well into my old age. I also want to look at HOW TO IDENTIFY AND CORRECT IMBALANCES WITHIN THE BODY (One thing I want to look into is Functional Movement Screening (FMS)). 

7) Regardless of whether I find myself back to full back health or not, I want to look into the IMPLICATIONS OF PERMANENT CHRONIC BACK PAIN. How to manage that going forward? What are the best coping mechanisms people who are in this situation use? (Aside from what pain killers one might use I really want to explore the best PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENTS for coping with chronic pain including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)).