“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman (Source: The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman: A Visionary for Our Time) I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘what do you mean the ONLY … Read more The Only Thing The World Needs From You
The other night, while I was trying to sleep, I started thinking about the post I wrote last week where I stated that hatred is driven – at its core – by a fear of death. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something fundamental. Naturally this started to make me feel a little anxious. … Read more Why Everything Scares You To Death
That’s the most liberating, wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you’re an ass. It’s wonderful. When people tell me, “You’re wrong.” I say, “What can you expect of an ass?” S.J. Anthony de mello – SOURCE: AWARENESS “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent … Read more The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation
“The principle of freedom must be our first commitment, for without this no one is immune against the virus of aggrandizement – the impulse to grab power, wealth, position, or reputation at the expense of others.” – Herbert Douglass – SourCE:The Cost Of Freedom True freedom is a commitment to experiencing the very real limitations … Read more Why Freedom Demands Responsibility
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that you should take with a pinch of salt…
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.
As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.
3 x Thoughts:
1) Something to think about: In your attempts to avoid suffering you suffer more.
3) Expectations – that’s your problem! Expectations of a clean, perfect, fair world. Of kindness from strangers. For people to treat you a particular way. When the world doesn’t meet these expectations your happiness gets checked. Drop all expectations of your external world and instead turn the spotlight inward. Get your house in perfect order before you even consider criticising the world. In fact, as a rule for life, give up blaming and give up complaining. Take full responsibility for your problems. Concentrate only on your circle of control. Make peace with the rest of it.
“Pure attention without judgement is not only the highest form of human intelligence, but also the expression of love.”
– JIDDU KRISHNAMURTI
1 x Thing:
This Mark Manson article: How To Break Hearts and Risk Losing Everything. The article explores why the hard questions in life appear difficult to anyone who has them, but appear easy to anyone who does not. For anyone who is contemplating a major life decision I can recommend giving it a quick read. 3 of my fav quotes below:
“The person who is forever obsessed with their own feelings and satisfaction is a person who is unable to look outside themselves, a person who is unable to take on the perspectives and feelings of others as their own, a person who is unable to hold values beyond their own credit and gain.
“When choosing what to do with your life, emotions can’t be your only reasons. Feel your emotions but do not allow yourself to be defined by your emotions. Acknowledge the feeling and then act based on something more than the feeling.
“There is a difference between what we are capable of doing and what we allow ourselves to do. We often don’t recognize that difference.”
– MARK MANSON
1 x Joke:
My wife was trying to rock my son to sleep the other day so I gave her his dummy to help out.
I said, “You know why they call it a dummy don’t you?”
She replied, “No, why?”
I said, “Because it’s not a real nipple, you dummy!”
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.
One bonus question to ponder:What are you willing to suffer for?
A long time ago (5 years?) I put together this list – 12 personal commandments for living a happier, healthier and more purposeful life. I found it in one of my old note books and thought I’d share with you all.
It was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. As she said in her book, “these aren’t meant to be specific resolutions but overarching principles by which to live.”
Anyway, I recall it being a fun and creative way to help outline any core values you may have.
I should say the quotes aren’t mine, but ones that stuck in my mind from various readings over the years. Anyway, without further ado, here they are:
“Live in day-tight compartments”– Live in the moment. There’s no point in living with regret about yesterday or worry for tomorrow.
“Don’t cry over spilt milk” – You can’t change what’s happened. Only pick up the pieces and move forward. Forgive and forget.
“Pay Rapt Attention”– Meditate daily and show a keen interest in your daily activities and conversations. Stay in the moment and participate fully.
“Act and think the way you wish to feel – be fearless”– Smile and be happy. Stand up tall and be confident. We live in the mind whether we know it or not. The wisest among us use our actions to influence our emotions and not the other way around.
“Count your blessings – Not your troubles”– First – aim to get what you want and then Second – Enjoy it! Be grateful everyday. You’re exceptionally lucky.
“Be Yourself” – Imitation is suicide. Be your best self and embrace your uniqueness.
“Have malice toward none and charity for all” – Don’t waste a second thinking about those that have wronged you. It serves no purpose. We must harbour no bitterness. Instead find time to give and serve those in greater need.
“Order is Heaven’s First Law”– Clearing clutter will help create peace of mind. Set specific measurable goals, visualise them complete, then act on them.
“Lose yourself in action – Just do it” – Secret to being miserable is to have the time to wonder whether you are happy or not. Keep yourself busy. Work daily, Exercise daily and Play daily. The time is now so go!
“Do what’s right, not what’s easy” – The easiest is rarely the best option. Strive toward a higher purpose and think before every word and action.
“Remember life comes from you not at you”– Give up blaming and complaining. Only YOU are responsible for YOU. Be honest with yourself and understand that belief is a choice so choose to believe!
“Look to the stars”– Have faith you can turn around any situation. To profit from your losses is far more important than capitalising on your gains. Take the time to reflect everyday.
Thanks for taking the time to read everyone. Looking back I feel it could definitely use an update! With that in mind, what commandments do you live by (if any)? What would you add (or take away) from the list? Let us know in the comments below. I’d be grateful for the inspiration.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that forces you to make resolutions you can’t possibly meet.
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.
4 x Thoughts:
1) You have to stop pouring water in your glass if you want to drink from it.
2) Concentrate on improving your routine – the actions that you take everyday. This is far more important than achieving any goal.
3) As a rule: The more needs or wants a person has, the unhappier he or she is.
4) A period of reflection does more for the soul than sitting down to outline goals for the year. When we take the time to reflect on our values. When we look deeply at how we have failed to live up-to them. It’s through this deeper reflection that we derive the most insight. Then it’s from those lessons that the goals we really want to chase after become clear. Those goals becoming, in turn, an expression of your true values. An expression of the things that make you feel whole. That make you feel integral.
3 x Quotes:
“Learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively based on finely honed personal values is perhaps the greatest and most important struggle in life.”
– MARK MANSON.
“In a crisis, the inevitable suffering that life entails can rapidly make a mockery of the idea that happiness is the proper pursuit of the individual.”
– JORDAN B. PETERSON
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
– SIGMUND FREUD
2 x Things:
1) This Mark Manson article: 1,273 People Share Their Best Life Lessons from 2020. Mark collated a series of the most common lessons learnt from his readers after asking them the question, “What have been your biggest lessons from 2020?” It’s about a 20 minute read but well worth your time. I’ve listed my favourite 3 lessons below:
You Only Really Know Who You Are When Everything Is Taken From You
A Crisis Doesn’t Change People; It Amplifies Who They Already Are
Most Things Are Both Good and Bad at the Same Time
Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation.
Cultivate a reputation for being dependable. Good reputations are valuable because they’re rare (easily destroyed and hard to rebuild). You don’t have to brew the most amazing coffee if your customers know the coffee will always be hot.
Selfish people should listen to advice to be more selfless, selfless people should listen to advice to be more selfish. This applies to many things. Whenever you receive advice, consider its opposite as well. You might be filtering out the advice you need most.
Defining yourself by your suffering is an effective way to keep suffering forever (ex. incels, trauma).
Keep your identity small. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. It prevents nerds from working out and men from dancing.
To start defining your problems, say (out loud) “everything in my life is completely fine.” Notice what objections arise.
Sometimes unsolvable questions like “what is my purpose?” and “why should I exist?” lose their force upon lifestyle fixes. In other words, seeing friends regularly and getting enough sleep can go a long way to solving existentialism.
Human mood and well-being are heavily influenced by simple things: Exercise, good sleep, light, being in nature. It’s cheap to experiment with these.
You have vanishingly little political influence and every thought you spend on politics will probably come to nothing. Consider building things instead, or at least going for a walk.
Bad things happen dramatically (a pandemic). Good things happen gradually (malaria deaths dropping annually) and don’t feel like ‘news’. Endeavour to keep track of the good things to avoid an inaccurate and dismal view of the world.
1 x Joke:
I’m happy to report that this year we gave 2020 the send off that it deserved! That’s right ladies and gentleman, we were in bed by 9:30.
Before that, however, we managed to have a wee party with close relatives. Of course it wasn’t a New Year’s Eve party so much as a “Truck Off 2020 party.”
Why “Truck Off” you ask?
Well, as I explained to my family, all you have to do is ask my 2 year old son to say it! Because he struggles to pronounce the “tr” sound in truck, when he says “Truck Off 2020,” he means it!
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! I sincerely hope you had a wonderful New Years Celebration! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.
One bonus question to finish:
What’s the biggest lesson that you can implement from 2020?
I don’t care much for New Year’s Resolutions. The idea of sitting down to make a list of things I must or must not do. Frankly it makes me want to jam a pen in my eye. (Which would, incidentally, be less painful than watching as I inevitably fail to stick at any of them.)
My feeling is the exercise is more about indulging false hopes than it is about setting specific, measurable goals. Where we end up writing out these fairy-tale type lists. Where we say that this year we’re finally going to become the perfect version of ourselves – the person we were always meant to be.
Instead of coming to terms with who we actually are and the hand we’ve been dealt. Instead of appreciating what we have and accepting what currently is. Instead of taking stock and reflecting on the painful lessons of the previous year.
Instead, we make the same mistake by charging head first into the new year – setting our expectations sky high and then… BAM!
2020 smacks us in the face with a baseball bat (or a cricket bat if you’re British).
The question then becomes, what’s left?
What’s left when your identity as a super high-achieving what-the-fuck ever comes crashing down to earth? (Side note: terrible pun for a pilot.) When all your goals, aspirations and plans go out the window faster than a teenage boy climaxes? (Side note: just terrible.) When your partner leaves you? When your career is left in tatters? When close relatives or friends pass away? When your own health deteriorates and you become wholly dependant on others?
That’s what’s happened hasn’t it? For so many of us this year. It’s forced us to ask some very difficult questions. To come to terms with difficult life circumstances out of our control. To think deeply about our relationships and our careers. About the values that define us.
In my eyes that’s what this time of year should be about. Not about how you’re going to have a rippling 6 pack or a fat bank account. But about reflection. Looking deeply at both how you have lived up the values you say you hold dear and in what ways you have failed. And then from there, looking to course correct. Using the valuable lessons of the past year to steer your ship.
Goals are then meant to be an expression of those values. Of who are at your core. The version of yourself that makes you feel whole. That makes you feel integral. They should change throughout your lifetime as you evolve. They should move depending on your unique life circumstances.
Goals are, at the end of the day, simply something to shoot at. The results of which matters far less than the process – than the the actions that you take everyday. That define you as a person. That are based on an increasingly clear set of values or overarching principles that have strengthened over time. That help to keep your head above the water when all else fails. When shit hits the fan and all you’re left with is a fat waistline and zero dollars in the bank (thanks again 2020).
But here’s the trick that nobody taught you. The moment you tell yourself in absolute terms you have to do something, you’re going to resent doing it. You’re going to hate it. A bit like telling yourself you can’t have sex until you get married – you’re going to be thinking about it your whole life until you do. Not only are going to hate doing or not doing that thing, you will become tied to it. Your self worth will become entirely dependent on whether or not you stick to that resolution or achieve that goal. And if you fail, well, you’ll probably feel like jamming a pen in your eye.
The truth is you don’t have to do anything. With the exception of breathing, sleeping and eating, you don’t have to do shit (ok you have to do that as well but you get the point). Nor should you think in those terms. It’s like Troy said in his previous post, the language you use matters. You don’t have to write in a gratitude journal. You get to. You don’t have to be part of saving the planet for our children. You get to be. You don’t have to eat your vegetables or go for a run at 5am (you definitely don’t have to do that). You get to live a healthy lifestyle.
So what’s the only new year’s resolution you’ll ever need to make. Simple. Don’t have one. That way the habits you want to form might actually stick. That way they won’t matter so much if they don’t. After all tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow, thankfully, is another year.
Thanks for reading everyone! I wrote this post for Pointless Overthinking yesterday. Thought I’d share with you on here as well. As always I’m curious to get your thoughts. Resolutions – yes or no? Are specific measurable goals the way to go instead? What about being clear about our values? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. I hope you all had a wonderful New Years Day.
“Learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively based on finely honed personal values is perhaps the greatest and most important struggle in life.”
– Mark Manson.
“In a crisis, the inevitable suffering that life entails can rapidly make a mockery of the idea that happiness is the proper pursuit of the individual.”
– Jordan B. Peterson
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
– Sigmund Freud
I’ve always felt that a period of reflection does more for the soul than sitting down to outline any goals for the year. When we take the time to reflect on our values. When we look deeply at how we have failed to live up-to them. I believe it’s through a deeper reflection that we can derive the most insight. It’s from those lessons that the goals we really want to chase after become clear. Those goals becoming, in turn, an expression of those values. An expression of the things that make you feel whole. That make you feel integral.
Something a fellow blogging buddy of mine said in response to my earlier post, The Things That I Will Miss got me thinking. He said – to paraphrase slightly – “It’s not so much the things that I will miss but the things that I have learnt.” And so I thought, as part of my personal end of year review, I’d ask the question to you dear readers:
What are the things that you’ve learnt from this most tumultuous 2020?
To get the ball rolling (and for a bit of fun) I’ve put together the following list. A kind of rough draft taken from a quick look back at what I’ve written this year. It’s far from polished but then again – it’s the holidays! Anyway here you are – 24 Invaluable Lessons From 2020. I hope you enjoy.
Hope without action is dangerous.
If you can’t act you must accept.
Acceptance is something you must practise.
Honesty is the ultimate form of kindness.
Honesty has to be the gold standard by which we measure our leaders.
Protecting our freedoms means protecting the truth.
The truth is hard. Avoiding it is harder.
The truth is more important than your emotions.
Freedom and responsibility are synonymous
Think as one. Always assume a position of collective responsibility.
You are either being racist or anti-racist. There is no such thing as “not racist.”
No black. No white. Only grey.
We must embrace our demons.
It’s ok to cry (especially as a man).
Looking after yourself = looking after others.
Happiness does not exist without gratitude.
A question for clarifying motivation: Am I doing this because of love or fear?
The other side of shame is a better person.
Better is better than perfect.
Routine has everything to do with developing a growth mindset.
Enthusiasm increases intelligence.
Success is what you alone define.
Spirituality = Awareness
Prepare for the worst. Believe in yourself. Expect nothing.
Thanks for Reading Ladies and Gentlemen. I am of course curious, what have you have learnt this year? What would be on your list? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions. Let me finish by saying it’s been an absolute pleasure connecting with all of you this year. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. To each and every one of you – for lifting me up. For making me think. For challenging me. For making me laugh. For everything. You have been a life line for me. I wish you all an infinitely brighter 2021. AP2 X
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that provides you with 90% protection from COVID19…
Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely 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 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…
4 x Thoughts From Me:
The problem with regret is that it takes you away from the present moment. Yet that’s exactly where all the opportunities lie to put things right.
We are not the labels we place on ourselves. For example no one is successful. It’s simply something you enjoy for a moment before it‘s gone. Learning to simply be is one of life’s most important skills for this reason. It allows us to see what we truly are.
In a world where people are so afraid of what others think of them, honesty will take you far.
I believe we all instinctively know what is right and when we have failed to live up to our own values. We just need to be brave enough to feel our ‘own’ shame when we’ve fallen short. We need to process it and then move on a better person. But there has to be a willingness from the individual to feel that shame. When that shame is placed on us by society it twists us. So we resist it – we repress it. Individuals ultimately act in accordance with how others do, not in accordance with what they are told. We are a society that loves to say the right thing without doing it. We need be one that does the right thing, with no need to say it.
3 x Quotes From Others:
“Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” – C.S. Lewis
“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.” – Seneca
“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” – Booker T. Washington
2 x Things That Helped Me Grow
1 – This interesting video: How Trump Has Divided America by cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian who explains why using something called Terror Management Theory. He goes onto explain how we can begin to bring people together using a scientific and spiritual world view called The Cosmic Perspective. It’s well worth a watch!
How to increase gratitude? Write a gratitude letter for someone. It’s deeper than a thank you note. You are thanking someone important in your life for helping you or for being an important role model.
Another thing to create greater happiness is to write in a gratitude journal. Both have benefits but the longer term habit of a gratitude journal will have more enduring benefits.
How to apologise to someone? If you want it to be accepted you have be sincere. You have to acknowledge your wrong doing. (ie. not saying – I’m sorry you feel that way or I’m sorry you got offended). There needs to be a commitment to improve. From economic perspective it has to be costly for the apologiser. You make a commitment of some kind. If I do this again I will. Or I will do this to make up.
The value of an apology is not just to cleanse you conscious or to make the other person feel better. The idea is more to repair and then grow the relationship. From an economic perspective then an apology is a great thing because it creates a future benefit.
Why people fail to apologise? 3 main reasons. You have a low concern about the victim of the relationship. You don’t care. You have a perceived threat to your own self image. That you are going to look bad. You have a perception that the apology won’t be effective. You think it’s too late.
If you can think of 3 things to be grateful for every day perhaps it is also worth thinking about one thing you can take responsibility for? Have a forgiveness or apology section and add that to your gratitude journal – something to say you’re sorry for and what you are going to do to make amends.
1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:
Struggling for a good (terrible) joke this week folks so thought I’d leave you with another comic that made me chuckle. Hope you enjoy.
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. Till next time… Have a Happy Monday Everybody!
P.S. Don’t forget to exercise you silly muscle this week!
A couple of bonus questions for you all: What is something you can apologise for today? What is something you can forgive?
(Thank you all so much for reading.If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)
If you value the rights that millions have died for, vote.
If you value the planet that we live on, vote.
If you believe in living a life of greater purpose and meaning, vote.
If you believe in securing a better future for your children, vote.
If you believe in looking after one another, vote.
If you care for those who have lost their lives this year, vote.
If you believe in honesty, compassion, kindness, responsibility, love… vote.
Look your children in the eyes and ask yourself, what’s in their best interest – really dig deep. Ask yourself what is best for them, for your fellow Americans, for your fellow humans.
Really ask yourself the question.
Because if you really love them you cannot, in good conscious, vote for the person that will hurt them. Don’t let pride form your narrative. Forgive yourself for any and all past mistakes. Make amends by putting yourself on the right side of history. It is never too late to do what’s right.
It was late the other night that my wife told me about her sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things she sets herself to do – of always feeling pushed to do things – of feeling “the need” to do things – that she sometimes feels driven by an underlying sense of ‘not good enough.’
I paused to take in what she was saying, before climbing into bed next to her.
She’s certainly not alone, I thought. I knew those feelings well. I suspect those feelings are probably shared by the vast majority of young professionals driven by certain expectations of society, of their parents, of their conditioning to be the best version of themselves.
As I responded, in one of my rare moments of clarity, I remembered a question that I wrote down from a podcast I heard a few weeks ago. It’s something I’ve asked myself repeatedly since, as a way to guide my actions , especially when I’ve felt a strong resistance to them – like my perceived need to keep up with my own work.
The question was this:
“Am I making this decision because of love or fear?”
– Dr Vivek Murthy
I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I climbed into bed I asked my wife what her motives are for doing (she’s a yoga teacher FYI) what she’s been doing? Is it because she believes strongly in the cause, to help others, or does she feel pushed to perform, to be better because of some perceived need to prove something to others or, indeed, herself? Is it from, on some level, a feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough as she is right now?
I went on to explain something that dawned on me about why my own motivation towards work had stalled so many times in the past.
I never felt good enough. I was scared what others thought. I was scared that I would underperform and not be seen as good enough in the eyes of my coworkers. I was so scared of ‘being found out’ for who I thought I was. Of confirming a long help belief – a false one – that I wasn’t good enough. The same has been true of my writing.
Thinking back it’s no wonder my motivation died. It’s no wonder when I sat down to do the work I needed that it was such an enormous struggle. It felt like walking through quick sand as I ploughed ahead while fighting the stress, anxiety and sometimes, full blown depression, that had consumed my heart.
If only someone had shouted, “you are good enough you fool – you know this – you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons!!”
Alas, I know that wouldn’t have helped. True insight and understanding has to come from within and that takes time. It has taken years to grow in my heart. It still is.
LOVE AS MOTIVATION FOR WORK & LIFE
The last six months – since the world of aviation has been brought to its knees because of the coronavirus pandemic – have given me, like countless others, plenty of time to reflect.
With regards to work I have come to realise that framing my motivations, to be clear that they are coming from a genuine place of love, is what I need to do. Whipping myself into shape doesn’t work in the longer term. It’s too hard.
As I explained to my wife, when I sit down to prepare for work, for a flight or simulator check, whatever it may be, the question I have started asking is, am I preparing from a place of fear or love? And, if I am feeling fearful, what is it that I’m really afraid of? Why am I doing what I am? If it’s because I feel the need to prove something, then I know I’m coming from the wrong place.
Of course preparing so you don’t fuck up in such a way that the flight ends in catastrophe is one way to think about things. Ultimately that’s our goal – Safety absolutely, rightly, comes first. However there’s a big difference between preparing or working from a place of all consuming fear, versus love. Even if you still feel fearful, if you’re coming from a place of genuine love, that will give you strength to carry on. To stare down the eyes of the beast.
I relayed some of those loving motives, as they applied to me in my work, to my wife.
To honour and protect my fellow crew members whom I owe it to perform at my best as I know they are. To do my best for every single passenger we transport – to make sure they arrive at their destinations – that they make it home safely to their loved ones. To remember I am providing for my own family through this job – that gives us everything we need to live a happy, healthy and secure life. To remember I love myself – self preservation because I want to be alive – so I can be around for my family and friends. So my wife has a husband to love her. So my son has a father to lead him.
There’s something else at this moment in time too.
Although there isn’t a huge amount of flying to go around at the moment – I realised the small amount there is, is an opportunity to be part of something, to help in a way most others around the world can’t. To help bring the few people who need to travel for very urgent reasons. To help bring critical supplies, medical or otherwise, to areas of the world who desperately need it. To help the world keep turning to some degree at a time when it has all but ground to a halt! It’s a gift to be able to do something more than simply stay at home during this pandemic. I know millions of others would give a lot for the opportunity to do the same. It’s something to be extremely grateful for.
While these might seem like obvious motivations, I can tell you they are easily lost, or have been for me at least, in a profession so heavily driven by perfectionism – to prove your competency, and that you know everything there is to know. The pressure to prove yourself isn’t part of the the job I relish.
Yet, when I allowed myself to think in these terms, I found myself itching to get back into the righthand seat for the first time in a long time. To be a larger part of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic – even if that means I only get to fly a single sector. I want to help in any way I can. Through my wiring and my profession.
I now realise just how important it is to remind myself of my real motives when I feel anxious, especially when plagued by self-doubt, to help refocus the mind and bring me back to the present.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I relayed these thoughts to my wife that night, it was interesting to hear that for the charity classes she had been organising, from which she earned not a penny, she had felt none of this resistance. She believed in the cause strongly, for a number of reasons including bringing people together from their homes at this difficult time globally. So they too could do something more than just sit at home – to contribute to charities in need, while showing love to themselves. A beautiful act of self-compassion extending outwards.
It’s obvious isn’t it? She had been acting from a place of love and the motivation for doing so was effortless.
Do you know that feeling, after you’ve written out your to-do list, despite how it’s suppose to make you feel, when all you want to-do is crawl under a rock and die?
You know, when a slow and painful death seems preferable to confronting the mountain of tedious work you feel you have to-do?
And so you slowly put down your to-do list, walk over to the couch, gently sit down, carefully pick up the remote control and turn on NETFLIX. Which you then proceed to binge watch for several hours…
A bit like a psychopath who completely disconnects from all his or her responsibilities and emotions?
I’m sure you do.
Anyway this got me thinking.
Why exactly does writing out our responsibilities on paper cause some us to run away from them faster than a teenage boy climaxes?
After all we know this kind of behaviour doesn’t help us, yet we can’t help ourselves. Sometimes all we want is to tell life to go fuck itself and so we do, even if that means fucking ourselves in the process.
The real question, of course, is how can we stop our to-do lists from making us feel like shit and actually help us get shit done instead?
Well fear not my fine readers for I’ve complied 5 simple tricks – as partially backed by science – to help you not only write a to-do list that doesn’t make you want to tell life to go fuck itself, but carry it out as well!
You’re very welcome!
1 – DO THE THING YOU FEAR THE MOST FIRST
“The task you’re avoiding isn’t always the one you hate. Sometimes it’s the one you fear. The one that’s most worth pursuing.”
The science shows that making a plan to complete a task provides the same mental relief as completing the task itself.
Which is exactly the point. Writing a to-do list is suppose to make you feel better so you can actually get started with something.
It’s suppose to get you in the mood… (Yeah baby!)
The problem for me, and I suspect countless others, was never a matter of productivity, but what it was I actually chose to accomplish during the day. I now realise I used my to-do list as a way to constantly defer the shit I was most afraid of.
I’m not talking about homework assignments here of course. I mean things like confronting my depression by asking for professional help or having certain difficult conversations with certain family members about shit I really don’t want to talk about…
Yeah, you know, the shit you really need to be doing first!
It was pointed out to me, in Adam Grant‘s excellent worklife podcast episode – ‘the real reason you procrastinate,’ that it wasn’t the tasks I was avoiding but the emotions I’d attached to said tasks.
The problem with ignoring these tasks is you inadvertently give those emotions (the thing that you’re actually afraid of confronting) greater hold over you. Thus the longer you leave said tasks undone the harder they become to-do.
Unfortunately there’s only one solution.
However scary they are, the tasks that you fear the most are exactly the ones you should be pursuing first. Not tidy the apartment!
Well it’s a classic Catch 22. By doing the very tasks you’re afraid of, you’re helping to confront and resolve those emotions that caused you to avoid those tasks in the first place.
If you don’t want to live with those emotions any longer, then you have to stop avoiding them. You have to rip the bandaid off. If you don’t it’s only gonna hurt more later on. Believe me!
Of course I realise this might not be what you want to hear so I thought I’d offer a few more tips that can help you do what’s necessary by putting things into perspective.
2 – ASK YOURSELF, “WHAT WOULD I DO IF THIS WERE MY LAST DAY ON EARTH?“
It’s important to be very clear about what your most important tasks are on any given day. Often we’re not. A great way to do this – something I do every morning as part of my journalling routine – is to ask yourself the following question:“What would I do if this were my last day on earth?”
I’m guessing your to-do list would look markedly different.
Things like telling your family how much you love them. Apologising for any major wrong doings or forgiving those that wronged you would also probably appear. Remaining as present as you possibly can be. Paying attention to every waking moment for the truly precious moment that it is! Sitting with and observing any difficult emotions. Allowing those emotions to come out (instead of watching NETFLIX). Taking a walk outside to feel the elements – wind, rain, hail or shine! Simply being…
You get the point.
Of course you shouldn’t take this question too seriously otherwise you’ll probably bin your to-do list altogether and tell your boss to-go fuck himself. Perhaps not in the best interest of your future self…
Still this is a great question because it helps align your to-do list with the values you hold closest. It helps to prioritise the things that you really should.It also puts thing into perspective.
The truth is you don’t have to-do anything. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and self-loathing by thinking so. You don’t have to-do anything if you don’t want to.
You get to do those things.
Which brings me to my next trick for reframing your to-do list. That is,
3 – WRITE A GET TO-DO LIST INSTEAD
Put that at the top in big bold capital letters: GET to-do.
Not only does this set yourself up to be more grateful for what you feel you might have to-do, it also helps to take the pressure off.
You get to do it, you don’t have to do it.
Keep reminding yourself of this important fact.
I’d add another small tip.
Write out 3 things you’re grateful for today before you write out your get to-do list. I could show you some science that shows just how beneficial having a gratitude practise is, but I don’t want to bore you.
You know all this.
The point to label is YOU GET TO-DO THESE THIHGS. One day you’ll be dead and you won’t get to.
It helps to keep that in mind.
4 -KEEP IT MODEST AND BE SPECIFIC
How much do you really need to-do today?
So many of us put everything down we’d like to complete and then burn out after realising we’ll never be able to achieve all those things.
You’ve got make it manageable.
Don’t say I’ll write one blog post or go for a 10km run or finish reading that book. Say I’ll write one paragraph, jog for five minutes and read one chapter.
Simply taking a step in the right direction is enough.
So what if you didn’t quite get everything you wanted to-do done?
The most important thing is that you enjoyed it. You’re never going to enjoy it if you’re always racing towards the finish line.
And if you really don’t manage to complete much, if anything, of what you intended, then please refer to point number 5.
5 – SHOW YOURSELF SOME COMPASSION
‘You can change some of those emotions by showing yourself compassion.We procrastinate less when we remind ourselves that it’s part of the human condition. We’re not the only one suffering from it.’
A tough one to finish I know. The truth is I’m awful at being kind to myself.
This is why, every morning as part of my meditation routine before I do anything else, I practise a loving kindness meditation for everybody including myself.
After all it can’t be called universal compassion if it doesn’t include yourself.
It’s important to remember we’re all fallible humans at the end of the day. Things like confronting our demons aren’t easy. It takes time to find the courage.
Go easy on yourself if you don’t do that scary task.
Who honestly get’s everything they mean to-do in a day? Really? I certainly don’t.
That said, I tell my wife I love her every night before bed without fail. I make sure I spend a couple of quality hours with my son – laughing and playing with him every afternoon before dinner. I meditate every single morning and take every opportunity to practise mindfulness whenever I can. I always go for a walk outside as a way to remind myself that I’m alive and how fucking amazing that is!
Quite frankly the rest can fucked. Occasionally it does!
The older I get the more willing I am to say, so the fuck what? Tomorrow’s another day right? If you fall off the horse today, simply get back on it tomorrow. Falling down is inevitable. Getting back up is what matters.
(As always I welcome ALL opinions on this blog. If you have any other tips about crafting the ultimate to-do list I’d be very keen to hear from you in the comments section below! Thank you all so much for reading!)
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
When we voted in men we know lied to obtain their positions, what were we really saying?
Did we vote in the way we did because we refused to acknowledge our previous mistakes?
Will we vote the same way because we don’t have the balls to admit we were wrong?
Let me be more blunt.
What the shitting fuck has happened that we allow a man who almost only talks in complete bullshit to remain in office? Who is actively and openly preventing others from accessing the truth?
What the fuck has happened to our values?
When did freedom of speech become the freedom to lie your fucking ass off without repercussion?
You know that boy who cried wolf – who caused the death of all those villagers? Shall we vote him into power?
Great fucking idea.
Should we protect freedom of speech? Yes, of course we should. We should even protect the right to lie. But to allow people – the president of the United States none the fucking less – to lie without consequence?
What the fuck are we teaching our children?
How can we as a democratic society be ok with a man who actively seeks to prevent people from accessing the truth? This is a heinous crime.
I’m sorry for my anger and I’m sorry if you’re offended, but the truth is far more important than your ego. Actually I’m not sorry, fuck your ego. (I say that with love. I really do.)
To ask difficult questions means to confront some difficult truths.
Here are a few.
Democracy isn’t failing.
It’s not the republicans or the democrats fault. It’s not the presidents fault.
It’s our fault.
We together are all responsible. Regardless of whether you voted for that man or not.
Somewhere along the way we stopped trying to understand the other and it became a game of us against them.
In that moment we all lost.
That policeman who killed George Floyd. Who do you think is responsible for his death?
We. All. Are.
None of our hands are clean.
So long as we continue on our path of accumulating wealth while others starve.
So long as we continue to rape the planet will while we sit eating imported steak dinners simultaneously discussing how bad it is for the environment then joking how delicious it is.
So long as we sit quietly while someone with strong opinions talks about how our Black/Hispanic/Chinese/Female coworkers are less able. You know, the type of person who opens a sentence by saying, “I’m not racist but… I’m about to say something very fucking racist.
So long as we continue to think in terms of us vs them instead of a collective we. So long as we keep looking at each other as the enemy. So long as we allow those who we hate to be people we hate. We’ve lost.
I’m ashamed to say I’m guilty of all theses things.
You’re a hypocrite then? Is that what you’re telling us?
Yes. Yes I am. Absolutely. Both hands in the air.
I’m a pampered middle class white man who has enjoyed the privilege without even knowing it. My ignorance has been a disease. In no small way the colour of my skin has been an advantage that allowed me to succeed ahead of others who I’ve no doubt are more qualified, more intelligent and harder worker than I will ever be. All because I’m white and they’re not.
You know what. I don’t welcome it. It’s made me weak and I don’t welcome it. I honestly don’t welcome the easy life I’ve had.
I want a level playing field. And on it I want to compete with all my brothers and sisters regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. I want to embrace them at the end. Win, lose or draw. I want them to challenge me – to be able to really challenge me, so I can grow.
Do you think the athletic world benefited from allowing black people to openly compete with white people? Of course it did. Why the fuck don’t we think that true equality wouldn’t benefit us all? Of course it fucking will.
It will make ALL OF US STRONGER.
You see what we did when we marginalised and made groups of people unable to compete with us on the same level playing field? We made ourselves weaker. We made ourselves weaker because we made it easier for us by making it impossible for others.
Now we’re so fucking weak that equality feels like a burden. It feels like sharing wealth and opportunity is an affront to our being.
I’m wrong. My way of living is wrong. I’m so far from what is right it hurts. But you know what. I’m willing to admit it. Are you?
Are you willing to say I’m wrong or is your ego too fucking precious? We should all be encouraging each other everyday to openly say I am wrong and ask the question, how can I be less so?
Quite frankly if you don’t have the balls to admit you’re wrong, you’re a coward.
Is this making you uncomfortable? I hope so. It’s making me uncomfortable. Which is why I know it’s where I must go. If you’re uncomfortable it’s because I’m challenging your beliefs.
THATS A GOOD THING EVEN IF IM WRONG.
Let’s have the discussion. Let’s have the conversation. Let’s try to understand each other. Let’s move closer together.
And let’s stop giving power to those who aren’t willing to do the same.
Please, I bet of you, for our children’s sake. Let’s value our fucking values again.
(As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. This is just me venting. Please don’t think I would ever direct that at you. I’m simply trying to get myself to wake up to the ways I can be better.)
Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)
Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 brilliant thoughts from me, 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have made me grow.
As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile.
Love to all X
(To my 2 regular readers: you’ll notice I’m playing around with the title to see what works best to attract more readers. If you have any ideas about a good title for this weekly post please do leave them in the comments at the bottom. I’d be grateful for your suggestions.)
4 x Brilliant Thoughts From Me:
Why it’s helpful to think you’re not a good person: A good person implies something black or white. You either are or you aren’t. This fixes your mindset. You believe you’re a good person and go at lengths to avoid being proven otherwise. You also become defensive about that belief. You feel threatened whenever this comes into question and so avoid the very conversations you need to hear so you may become a better person. We should drop the notion of what we think it means to be a good person. The way I look there is no such thing. You’re either trying to be a better person or you’re not. Don’t try to be a “good person.” Just try to be better one.
We are nothing if not all those who came before us. We will be nothing if we don’t act for those who come after. A better tomorrow has to be the spirit by which we all live.
Just remember when you think you hold the moral high ground, that even Hitler thought he was doing the right thing.
A deliberately easy life makes us unhappy because it makes us bad at dealing with life’s inevitable difficulties, however small. Conversely a deliberately difficult life makes us happy because it builds emotional resilience. It also teaches us appreciate and enjoy the everyday most take for granted.
3 x Admittedly Better Quotes From Others:
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – C.S. Lewis
“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” ― C.G. Jung
Why do well intentioned people who believe in the good often do nothing? How can we deal with these parts of psychology so we can overcome our insecurities over acting?
Any comment however awkward is better than silence.
Beliefs do nothing by themselves.
You’re meant to feel awkward – if you’re standing up for marginalised groups of people and you’re afraid of getting for saying the wrong things. Maybe feeling awkward- putting yourselves in those awkward positions and having those awkward conversations means you’re doing the right thing.
We need to accept we are not good people yet. We need to aim for being slightly better (slightly less horrible) human beings.
It’s actually a higher standard. By never assuming you are good you are always looking for how you can be better. By admitting you’re not a good person you can understand where your blind spots are and work on fixing them.
To become better allies we need to switch to having a growth mindset.
Simple three letter word for developing growth mindset: YET
I’m not a good person yet but I can be if I put in some work.
Reminding ourselves of our capacity for growth can have a profound effect on our willingness to engage in difficult social situations. To own up to our mistakes and our motivation to become better people. It helps us break through the discomforts that come with trying to be an ally.
It’s morally wrong to leave the burden to speak out with only the marginalised groups. Science shows that it’s more effective when some one whose not from the marginalised group points out bigotry.
We have far more influence than we realise. A study found that a white person speaking out against racism was looked at more positively than a black persons using the exact same words. The recipient also showed more willingness to apologise and make amends if it was a white person who had spoken out against them.
We need to use our white privilege to end white privilege.
If I’ve learnt one thing from BLM movement its that silence means death.
Not everyone has to or can be on the front line but everyone needs to get off the sidelines.
If Nelson Mandela -A political prisoner of one of the most racist regimes of the second half of the 20th century – can become its leader, than anything and everything is possible.
“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families and communities to nature,” – Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”
Ming Kuo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Illinois who studies urban greening, said parents, like Shore, have described how their children are “completely different” when they have access to green space. Dr. Kuo’s research has shown that access to green space decreases aggression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, and boosts the immune system. But she also was quick to point out an unequal access to green spaces across socioeconomic and racial lines.
1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:
I went to see a Physio this week about a recurring back problem I’ve been having.
He asked me to take my top off and stand directly opposite him so he could examine any imbalances.
Comparing my triceps he commented, “You’re seriously right handed.”
We were in ear shot of a couple of good looking ladies working out in their gym.
I tried to think of something witty to say.
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions about why that is,” I replied.
While smirking I continued, “I hold my boy with that arm.”
The physio laughed.
The girls did not…
Till next week,
Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!
P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!
Hello fine readers and welcome to my Happy F***ing Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the shittiest day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly less shit fashion.)
This week it contains 4 thoughts from me, 4 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to this week.
As always I’ve finished with one something silly to hopefully make you all smile.
Love to all X
4 x Thoughts I’ve Been Thinking:
If you want to be an expert at something it’s best never to consider yourself one. That way you’ll always be open to learning and growing.
Why we need to give ourselves real problems: If you don’t have any real problems your mind will create them. Those problems – the ones created by the mind – are the hardest to solve. Give yourself real problems that are larger than you – such as helping others and the world at large – and your mind won’t be so concerned with creating problems for itself.
Acting from a place of simply wanting to be better vs a place of feeling inadequate. There’s a big difference! In both cases you want to be better but if you’re trying to make up for something you feel you’re not, it’s much harder to actually do so.
A Better You = A Better World.
4 x Quotes I’ve been Pondering:
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton
“Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work.” – Novelist Jennifer Egan
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Enlightenment is an accident – but meditation makes us accident-prone.” – American Zen Teacher Baker Roshi
3 x Things I’ve Been Listening/Reading/Watching this week:
1 – This Mark Hyman Podcast episode about How To Live In Flow-Motion. In this mini episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy Mark Hyman talks with Reverend Michael Beckwith and Dr. Andrea Pennington, about how we can connect to our highest selves. (I loved Rev. Michael Beckwith’s description of what he sees as the 4 stages of spiritual growth: ‘The first is the victim stage where everything happens to us. We are constantly looking to blame others for our lives – we cannot grow in this stage. The second stage is when we apply learned laws of the mind to the real world (we are accepting and taking responsibility for our reality by asking empowering questions). The third stage is the flow state (‘being in the zone’) – where our higher purpose acts through us. The forth stage is the being stage where we are act as one (with the wider world).’) The video version of this episode is posted below:
2 – This No Stupid Questions Podcast: Is Incompetence a Form of Dishonesty?In this episode Stephen J. Dubner and Angela Duckworth debate two questions: Question #1: Is it immoral to slack off at work when others are depending on you to do a good job? and Question #2: How valuable is it to have a personal mission statement? I found the debate on the latter particularly interesting. My notes and quotes from the show are below.
MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:
Often people have too much emotion around failing so avoid trying in the first place (instead of simply acknowledging mistakes without emotion and then seeking to understand/correct them).
What do competence and honesty have in common? There is a standard and there is integrity. It matters if you reach it or fall short.
There is a psychological phenomena where if you feel you have credit, morally speaking, in one area people feel they can slack off in another. (You ordered a Diet Coke so you can order super sized fries). This accounts to both incompetence and dishonesty. You’re telling yourself it’s good enough when it’s not.
The problem is satisfising is not a great way to look at morality. You have a standard which is good enough as opposed to continually reflecting on how you can be better
Better is a better goal than perfect
Perfect puts us off because we tell ourselves we can never attain that and so give up on simply being better in the first place.
On having Top level goals (a personal mission statement):
What is it? It’s a mission statement. It’s the why behind everything you do. What is the why behind everything you do?
It’s important to be clear about your core principles and values.
‘Improve human kind’ is too abstract – A good mission statement should be a specific statement about the mission.
There’s a trade off between abstraction and specificity. Too specific and there is no flexibility.
It can be very useful way to point your moral compass in the right direction.
A good top level goal helps better direct and prioritise low level goals (such as your todo list – which are more specific)
“Use psychological science to help children thrive” – Angela’s Top Level Goal
“Everyday try to suck a little less” – Stephen’s Top Level Goal
In psychology we distinguish between Approach Motivation vs Avoidance Motivation. One you want to get better. The other is you want to fail less.
Trying to eliminate mistakes is more motivational than trying to be better because the latter leads you to compare yourself with others.
Top level goals are not necessarily needed for everyone especially if you have your priorities in order. However if you’re stuck or unsure of what direction to take in life it can help.
Trying to say what you’re all about (10 words or less) can be a very valuable exercise. Particularly useful for leaders.
If a top line goal or mission statement is well written in can help. But too vague and it’s lost.
When you take away art you take away people’s voice. This becomes a pressure cooker for disaster.
People need their voices. They need healthy ways to express their thoughts and feelings. It’s going to be an explosive time when people are allowed to express themselves again.
When my 15 year old son asks if I can join the march despite the threat of covid I ask why. When he replies that a white knee on his neck and structural inequality are a bigger threat than covid what can I say?
History often forgets what has comes before
It’s up to the older generation to be both inside and outside the house. To be encouraging the noise outside the house but also listen on the inside and make the changes needed to fix this.
We must lead by example. Don’t wait for others to put their hands up. If you know the answer then speak.
Knowing the answer is getting on with it.
Its easy to fixate on how bad the past was – to talk about our history. To look and marvel at how far we’ve come. But this can be self defeating for our future.
We should always be thinking about where we are going
Diversity of thought is so important. To have people who think completely different to you around you. To get you to think differently.
How do we change the ratio of ethnicity in the work place? By diversity of thought.
Art and artists. Everything is born of our imagination. Everything. Look forward with your eyes open.
If you want to make it in this world as a black mane you have to be twice as good as a white man.
This intention is feeding a generation.
Telling our children to be twice as good has become a huge advantage because we have become multifaceted. We are no longer simply hustling on one front but multiple fronts.
Our progress is coming home to roost.
While our burden has become our strength and made us better it has come at a cost. We don’t want our children to keep growing up worrying about having to be twice as good and fight racial inequality.
Change is coming but it isn’t going to happen over night. The mistake we’ve made is thinking the storm has passed. The storm is still here.
The future is alive and well in our children. Look – it’s already here! They are out and fighting. They already see themselves as a joint generation. We didn’t and they do. This is progress. Stay positive and believe in the change. Get on board. It’s happening. Get on board. If you don’t you’ll end up drowning.
1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:
We were talking to my parents over video call the other day when my mother apologised for arriving a little late. She explained she had been busy baking buns. Something she’d been doing a lot of recently. #covidlife
I said, “It sounds like you’re on a bit of a roll.”
I got the usual sarcastic moan.
I continued, “It’s ok, I can see how it must be a lot of bun!”
The laughter was deafening…
Till next weeks terrible joke,
Happy Fucking Mondays Everybody!
P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!
The following is a letter I wrote to my son two years ago, shortly before he was born. I thought I’d share the story this Father’s Day in the hope others might also gain something from what was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. For a number a reasons I also wanted to remind myself of the importance being honest has in holding all of us accountable. To remind myself to be honest, not only with myself, but my family too. The major reason is my most gorgeous wife is pregnant with our second child. This letter is for both of them. Before I continue I’d also like to acknowledge my own father whose love and forgiveness has helped save me from the brink on more than one occasion, including this example. To him and everybody else, have a very Happy Father’s Day! I hope you all enjoy reading. This one is truly from the heart…
I am writing this letter with the purest joy in my heart as we anticipate your arrival into the world. Your mother and I can’t wait. We love you and will continue to do so indefinitely…
I’ve decided to write this letter in an attempt to work out exactly what kind of role model I want to be for you going forward. Of course much of I what I’m saying won’t make any sense for a long time. And in truth I’ve written this for my own benefit as much as yours, so that I may better become the father I want to be for you. The father I need to be. That said I hope that one day you’ll find some strength in these words – that by defining some clear values to follow they can serve as a moral compass for when life becomes more difficult. If nothing else when you do come to read this perhaps you’ll understand that your mother and I have only ever wanted the very best for you.
I should say much of what I’ve written is a critical analysis of my life. A reflection on the mistakes I’ve made in the hope that by highlighting some of them, you may avoid the same pitfalls. Of course struggle is a necessary part of life. We often have to make the mistakes in order to learn from them and my hope is not that you avoid the same ones. That is unrealistic. I only wish that you work things out a little quicker than I did and that you never allow your problems to consume you as I have. Hopefully these words will help.
Given the colossal number of mistakes your father has made, I have a great deal I want to share. For that reason I’m going to split this into a series of letters covering twelve values that I hold close to my heart. Twelve values that I wish to honour you by and help raise you with.
For this first letter I felt it appropriate to start with my feelings about honesty and why I believe it’s so important. Honesty, like all the values I plan to cover, is still very much a work in progress for me because the truth is, I still have a great deal to work through. For now, at least, I hope by opening up, it will help hold myself accountable to the very values I say I believe in. The values I wish to teach you. I have shirked responsibility for far too long during my privileged lifetime. It’s no longer good enough for me to simply say the right things. I have to act on them as well. I have to be the best father I can be. It’s my responsibility to you. To honour you through my values. That starts with being honest. Here I go.
(I might add that I’m not sure exactly how my words are going to be taken and to my family and friends who read these letters, I’m sorry if what I say offends you. I only mean to be honest but that means saying the things I haven’t. It means being honest with you as well. I’m only trying confront my own demons here but if they help you too then great. That’s all I mean to do. I’ve refrained from using names in my stories but I think a number of people will be able to work out who I’m talking about. A number of family members including my mum and dad I have referenced directly as such.)
BE HONEST WITH THOSE YOU CARE ABOUT
I believe that honesty forms the basis of any meaningful relationship. It’s what builds trust. Without trust relationships break down and lose their meaning. I’m sure you’ll have heard of a story called the boy who cried wolf. It’s a classic example about how a boy’s deceitfulness cost him the trust of the very people he depended on. What I want to stress to you is to the importance of being open and honest with those you care about. Especially to your family. We’re here to help but It’s difficult for us to do so if you’re not honest.
Allow me to tell you a little story about four adolescent boys.
Once upon a time four adolescent boys were caught smoking at boarding school late one evening before their bedtime. The teacher who found them confiscated their possessions including a small tin that one of the boys had used to store his tobacco for rolling cigarettes. Unfortunately for that particular boy, he also used this tin to store cannabis where he still had left a tiny amount.
The next day the four boys were called to the principal’s office where they were confronted about what the teacher had found. “I’m going to give you a chance to be honest with me”, the principal said calmly. “In this box belonging to you we found some cannabis. Now we can’t prove the rest of you have also been smoking but if you have, I want you to tell me now. If you have, I will respect your honesty and try my best to help you. I promise you your punishment will be far less severe if you’re honest with me. If you really haven’t been smoking drugs, you will be free to leave. I’ll give you a moment to have a think.”
After a while the principal turned to each boy and asked them one by one if they had ever smoked drugs. Of course the first boy who owned the tin had no choice but admit. He had been caught red handed. The second boy however was conflicted. He felt guilty for he had helped pay for the drugs in his friend’s tin. He also wanted help. Help he hadn’t known how to ask for but that was now being offered. The problem was he was sacred. He was scared of the repercussions. More than that though he was scared of what his parents would think. The thought that he would be a disappointment to them broke his heart. He looked up at the principal while struggling to fight back the tears and admitted the truth.
A little later on the second boy was left to sit in front of the the principal while he called his parents to inform them what had happened. Afterward the principal handed him the phone. The boy was petrified. He had expected his father to yell. To be angry and tell him what a disappoint he was. He trembled as he answered the phone. What followed however took the boy by surprise. His dad wasn’t angry or disappointed. He didn’t shout and tell him he was a disappointment. Instead his father simply expressed concern. Concern for the well being of his son who he loved so dearly. His message to the boy was one of love and understanding. He had even expressed pride about the boy’s courageous decision to be honest. What the boys father gave him was reassurance and love when he needed it most. It took everything in that moment for the boy not to break down in front of the principal. I remember it well. You see I was that boy.
My honesty in that moment got me out a hole I’m not sure I would have escaped. My father’s love in that moment was the hand that helped pull me out. A helping hand that couldn’t have existed without my being honest. It took the extremely difficult decision to be honest to get the help I so desperately needed. It was one of the most courageous decisions I ever made. I also believe it was one of the most important.
I often look back at that moment in my life and wonder how different it would have been had I lied. What the repercussions would have been. I’ve no doubt I would have been caught eventually and expelled. In fact that’s exactly what happened to one of the other boys in the story who had denied taking drugs. He was later caught purchasing them in full view of another teacher outside the front of the school and then expelled. As for the rest of us we were suspended. The principal made sure there was no permanent record after we left. He rewarded our honesty by protecting out future. By giving us a second chance.
Of course my problems didn’t go away overnight. They’ve taken much longer to overcome. However I believe it was that moment that ultimately set me on the right course. It was that moment that taught me the importance of being honest with those you love as a means to help yourself, even if I didn’t see it right away. Of course that’s not to say I wouldn’t have figured this out eventually but I can assure you I wouldn’t be where I am now had I lied in that moment. The courage to be honest, especially when you need help, is one of the most important lessons I could ever teach you.
HONESTY HELPS YOURSELF AND THOSE YOU LOVE
One of biggest obstacles to being honest is that it often requires having difficult, uncomfortable conversations. Whether being honest with ourselves, our loved ones or someone we just met. It is for this reason we often shy away from it. Most of us politely agree with someone we disagree with, or deny our own problems or wrongdoings out of fear of the social ramifications. We’re often afraid of upsetting someone or confronting a difficult truth about ourselves and then having to deal with our own emotions. However you’ll help no one, least of all yourself, by being dishonest with those you love. We might not like to hear what you have to say, but your honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do, whether you’re opening up about your own mistakes or wrongdoings, or whether you’re confronting someone about theirs.
When you’re honest with someone you let them know why you believe they were wrong (or you were). Whether you’re right or wrong, what follows is an honest conversation where both of you are forced to think about something differently. Right or wrong, you will learn something and, if nothing else, you will have gained further trust from the person you’re confiding. If, for example, you avoid being honest for fear of upsetting another person or worse, for fear of being wrong, one of two things will happen. Either you won’t learn what you need to, or the person you’re talking to won’t learn something he or she needs to. You, or they, will continue to think you, or they, are right, potentially reinforcing damaging beliefs whereby neither of you learn anything. I’ve seen this so many times during my life (in fact I’ve been guilty of this on countless occasions while I’m being honest…), where avoiding difficult conversations because ‘it’s easier’ has only led to the reinforcement of negative behaviour over the years. By avoiding that difficult conversation it becomes increasingly difficult to have that often necessary conversation the later you leave it. Believe me!
I was dishonest with my family about my own problems for years. I was afraid of what they would think, so instead of turning to them I shut down and turned inward (and if you’re reading this Mum and Dad, I’m truly sorry). I think in some stupid way I thought I was protecting them by not burdening them with my problems. Ultimately it hurt them more. I made things worse for myself too.
I hope as a family, we will always be able to say what needs to be said to one another so that together we can grow. I promise that we will aim to be as open and as honest with you as we possibly can be. We will always be here to help you no matter what. But the hard truth is we can only do so, so long as you remain honest and open with us. It is the pain of honest confrontation that generates trust and respect in those you love. It’s also what’s needed for those you love to help you. It’s what’s needed for you to help them.
“There is no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Whatever my aptitude of talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetimes learning experience… The best pilots fly more than others; that’s why they’re the best.” – CHUCK YEAGER
To do this think about the goals you want to achieve most -ones that align you closest with your values – then write out a detailed plan by asking yourself where, when and how. The more detailed the plan the better. Finally review & modify as necessary everyday.
2 – Show Up Everyday.
It’s important you form the habit by showing up every single day. Remember you’re telling yourself something important when you show up on the bad days as well as the good. Even if all you can manage is 10 minutes, 5 pushups or 1 paragraph – whatever it is you’re working towards – make sure to show up!
Dweck advises the “next time you feel depressed, think about effort as a positive, constructive force, not a drag – try it out.”
3 – Don’t Let Any Failure Define You.
Remember you’re not your failures. Remember you only ever really fail when you decide to give up. Remember to keep the idea of a growth mindset in the forefront of your mind.
As Dweck points out, “When people believe their base qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. When depressed it is only more of a reason to hang on and do what’s necessary to keep your life on track.”
If you keep going, keep learning, keep growing – you will prevail.
Don’t. Give. Up.
4 – Study To Learn Not Simply Pass.
“Those with a growth mindset take charge of their learning and motivation. Instead of plunging into unthinking memorisations of course material, they said, “I looked for themes and underlying principles across the lectures… I went over mistakes until I was certain I understood them.” – CAROL S. DWECK
Loving the process is key. Find your passion by defining the values that mean most to you, then build your life around them. If you can do that, you will have a natural hunger to learn. Success will then come about naturally as a by-product of simply doing what you love. You’ll also realise that ‘success’, as defined by society, is something completely different.
5 – Seek feedback/Ask for help
“The person who asks is a fool for five minutes, but the person who does not ask remains a fool forever.” – Ancient proverb.
“True self confidence is the courage to be open – to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source. Real self confidence is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.” – CAROL S. DWECK.
Seek constructive criticism, not praise. You can always improve. You can always grow. Forget about feeling stupid or disengaged and think about learning and how to improve instead. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to put up your hand.
6 – Praise effort not talent.
“Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.”–STEPHEN GROSZ
Make sure to praise effort for trying to achieve something difficult, even in failure. Never praise natural ability or talent, especially when they complete something easily.
One of the worst parenting compliments to give, is telling children how clever they are. Far better to apologise for something being too easy and then challenging them to do something more difficult. Following that, praising their effort even, or perhaps especially, if they fall short. Then encouraging them to think about how they could have done things differently. Finally encouraging them to keep going.
7 – Be honest but be constructive.
When criticising it’s important we give our honest assessment but equally important we offer advice on how to improve. Don’t simply judge, teach. Think of helping that person to grow by giving them the tools with which to improve.
Be sure to tell them how you really feel. It’s not always easy but honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do.
8 –Find the time to reflect.
Look back at bad experiences and understand that it doesn’t define your intelligence or personality. Instead ask what can I learn from it? Do this every day if you can. Ask how could I have done better? What are the lessons I need to learn? How can I grow from here? Show up the next day with those lessons fresh in the mind.
Don’t settle for good enough when you can be great. Don’t settle for great when you’re capable of being extraordinary. Keep going and form the habits of champions.
9. Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes.
“Unfortunately people like things that work against growth. People like to use their strengths to achieve quick, dramatic results – they don’t take their weaknesses as seriously as they might” – Morgan Mccall
Dweck says, ‘you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.’ Blaming and complaining get you nowhere. If you stand up and take responsibility for your mistakes, you’ll gain the respect and admiration of others. You’ll also put yourself in the mindset of wanting to learn and grow. This is what it means to be a true leader.
Dweck notes, “Leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by external needs.” That means taking full responsibility for your life and your mistakes.