It’s all about the story.

Controversially, I’m not starting off this year discussing the craft of goal setting or how to be super focused for 2016. Rather I wanted to share some thinking around stories and the important role they play in shaping our reality. If you find yourself asking a rugby sized team for their opinion on a challenge you have or wonder why you keep receiving the same results over and over this may present some enlightening insights into how you can change your story to positively impact your internal and external world.

Personal branding is the latest in a slew of buzz phrases in personal development land. And it’s certainly worth a thought. In marketing we talk about positioning, leverage, engagement and targeting however a large chunk of a product or service’s success is the consistent story which is being told internally and externally. Our personal brand or story is no different.

As we are all very aware our thoughts and actions create our reality. If we’re not happy with the results we’re getting in one area of life, the answer is simple. Change the thoughts and the consequential actions. And as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog the story you are telling your audience is also the story you are telling yourself – only you are the person hearing multiple times over.

story

When we are ‘high on life’ from the potential of a new relationship, exciting career opportunity or weight loss achievement for example our flurry of positive energy is infectious. The majority of folk are drawn to our stories like bees to a honey pot and as Jon Gordon writes in The Energy Bus, those who are not are quickly dismissed as we float or fly between groups spreading gently or loudly our tales of success feeling confident, enthused and full of momentum.

However as we know life isn’t always like that. There are times when we might miss out on a promotion at work, a family member hurts us with unkind words or despite efforts our health goals are just not happening. We tell one colleague, we share it at home, next we tell a concerned family member and with some friends over brunch. Before we know it, we have a team of experts giving their opinion on our situation and we’ve given this story so much energy it’s has its own TV show.  This wasn’t our intention of course. We were simply after some insights.  But now the aftermath results in multiple phone calls to see if we’ve taken the advice, our instinct is clouded with judgement of others and we are becoming the starring role in our increasingly dramatic story.  It feels heavy, confusing and weighs negatively on our minds.

 

When our stories are having a negative impact we have a choice. We can choose a different script. Rather than buying into the story, we can choose not to give it as much energy.  We can decide to confide in the person who knows us best. Ourselves! Check in and query what is this actually about? If a person displays an attribute we don’t like, is this something we don’t like about ourselves? Are we sabotaging results by playing the lead role and what are we getting out of it?  If we want to air our thoughts and bounce ideas, choose only a couple of key people who aren’t going to turn it into an episode of Home & Away whether that’s a trusted friend, mentor or coach. And a final note own your story. Be wary of becoming a dumper, someone who offloads dramas onto others leaving them in the wake of our problems.

Let me be clear. This isn’t about being inauthentic and fabricating picture perfect stories of our worlds. Nor is it about suffering silently when we feel hurt by a situation and need help dealing with it. It is simply suggesting we become conscious of the daily scripts we are running, own them and be prepared to change course when they are no longer useful.

Some questions for you:

  • What is the main story you are running with right now?
  • How much negativity vs positivity is there?
  • Is it going to move you towards the life you want and make 2016 your best year yet?
  • Do you need to understand your story further and consider how it might need to be tweaked in order to move you forward?  laptop

As Rebecca Campbell wrote in Light is The New Black “She left the old story behind her and stepped into a new once upon a time”.

The Repeater

Life is speedily passing us by. We’re busy with family, career, friends, saving money, spending money, networking, socialising, renovating and enjoying holidays. We’re often so caught up bouncing from event to event we don’t even notice the consistent feedback we’re getting where a repeated action is not working for us. And even better we usually rationalise it by convincing ourselves ‘Well, that’s how it’s always been’.

Consider this. burgerYou go to Maccas (in an absolute emergency of course!) and order the same combo every time – not ‘lovin’ it’ but it’s what you know. Next time you order it again and are similarly disappointed with the taste.  Frustrated, you complain to your buddies.  When you head back again (potentially with a monster hangover) you order the exact same combo and are surprised it still tastes the same. Yes, you are in a spiral of a repeater combo mistake!

So yes, you guess it … you could  be ordering the very same combo in relationships, career, health – anywhere in life.

Where in life do you find yourself going ohhh wait a minute, I have been here before? The scenery, staging, lighting, people and content may be different but it’s the same combo and deep down you know it! Perhaps you’re an evidence gatherer searching tirelessly to make the right choice? A course-aholic – once you finish the next course then you’ll be ‘ready’? HFordDo you play the victim card a little too often – bad stuff always seems to happen to you? Are you a rescuer –  endlessly needing to save the world?  Do you have to be right all the time and are prepared to bring forth your shiny sword to defend yourself? Are you a ‘grass is always greener’ type never completely fulfilled or do you run at the speed of lightening when confrontation heads your way and have multiple unresolved disputes lingering in your mist? Do you trust people too much or not enough? Or perhaps you rush into decisions impulsively without considering all the consequences?  In The Monk Who Sold Ferrari by Robin Sharma it teaches how you will keep being served the same lesson in life until you learn it. Only then you can move forward on to your next exciting lesson – ole!

How to get out of Repeater Mode. 

Find your calm zone to sit and get real about your patterns. What repeated mistakes are you making? Where is it glaringly obvious but you’re so caught up in everyday life that they whizz by like the Mercedes in the Formula One. When you break down those repeated actions are they in all areas of your life or just some? It might be worth getting a trusted friend/ guide to help you on this (if you’re ready to hear it) as sometimes it’s easier for others to see.

Don’t give yourself grief about your mistakes – you had to experience them fully to really ‘get it’ & it’s where the growth happens. However be man or woman enough to admit you were probably getting something out of your repeater – you may’ve even formed a bit of a story about yourself that went quite nicely with your bag of fries let’s be honest!

Progress is a conscious choice. Commit to breaking up with your repeated pattern that is holding you back from moving forward and growing into an even cooler person. Acknowledge it, learn from it, then choose a different combo. It’s going to be easy to slip back into the old pattern because it feels secure and comfy so you’ll need to be on high alert and practice some solid self-awareness or have a friend/ mentor at the ready to keep you in check.

Reflecting on your repeated mistakes as with your weaknesses is a chance to take control of your life and having more say over how you shape it. If you leave it to chance, hoping the results will change by themselves you are potentially handing your life over to being shaped by accidental and external events.

TWB_260In The Winners Bible by Dr. Kerry Spackman comments that while self analysis is not glamouress task,  it’s where you build a platform for change “allowing you to grow and become an advanced soul, rather than an adult with a child’s personality”.

So get down and dirty with the realness of being a human – you’ll come out better off. As Henry Ford said “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”.

A short & sweet lesson in Being.

How often to do you find yourself rationalising with a friend  “Well once I have my fancy new kickers,  tropical break in Bali, sleek road bike, renovated villa or complete makeover then I’ll be cooler, relaxed, faster, more settled or hotter and then I’ll definitely be happy”. No matter what it is – a little or large purchase , a relationship, a new job, weight-loss or a move to a new city we cleverly convince ourselves this ‘thing’ will bring us that one step closer to being happy, fulfilled and completely 100% satisfied.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I L.O.V.E to shop. I know a change of scenery brings feelings of a fresh start and going from single to loved up is undoubtedly brilliant but there’s a lesson here which has been around for a while and always worth a refresher.

No matter where you go, there you areWhen you focus on the having instead of the being you are less satisfied and fulfilled long term.  You are also hugely attached to that exact want providing a feeling that you crave but once it stops giving you the feeling you look for a new shiny thing to fulfill youAnd as someone who has lived in 7 cities I can vouch for that fact that no matter where I go, there I am. I take the same stuff with me in a wee magical back pack and somehow it follows me everywhere I go!

So what to do? Turn it on its head. Instead of focusing on Have. Do. Be we consider the Be. Do. Have.

Focus on how you are being. Yes, you want to have a smaller bootie, a slick set of wheels or an apartment better than anything on The Block but how about looking at WHO you want to be first and then think about what you might be doing and having as a result of this change of focus.

If you have a job interview for example rather being attached to your shiney new job and all the great things it will give you why not focus on who you are being in that interview. Are you being eloquent, intelligent, analytical or smart and savvy – by focusing on who you are being you will be demonstrating how you will act in your potential job and then bring yourself closer to having more long term satisfaction. Similar to my moving of cities I often believed a new job would bring fulfillment but after the glitter and tassles wear off those same feelings of ho hum soon crept in because I had been so focused on what the job would give me rather than who I would be.

I read this great quote from renowned designer Diane Von Furstenburg yesterday in the April edition of #Next magazine  “I tell my grandchildren before they go to sleep at night, think of the person you want to be, and start having fun being that person. Because that is the person you’ll become”.

So who are you going to dream of being tonight? And how will that play out tomorrow?  We are human beings after all.

The Daily Gratitude Project

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. She’s about to go all ‘Oprah’ on me.  But as many of you know I have read a few (!) books on happiness and one of the biggest takeaways is that gratitude is an essential ingredient for feeling happier.

For those of you who read my blog about my bouncing time with Tony Robbins you may recall I committed to 90 days of practicing gratitude following his routine. Every morning for 10 minutes (I’m taking his word for it) he meditates on what he is grateful for. Controversial in itself as for most meditation is about clearing the mind as much as possible. However here’s what he suggests:

Dedicate 3 mins to thinking about what you are grateful for right now, today, yesterday. So that’s everything from the wind in your hair, the colour of the green leaves, a beautiful sunset to a good cronut (!), a big break through you’ve had, your bed, the laughs you recently had with a friend. Whatever.

This is followed by 3 mins of being grateful for those outstanding folk in your life and/ or sending people love who come up for you and you feel may need it (hint: they may not be close friends and family – it’s fascinating who ‘shows up’). Just the act of sending love and good feelings has been quite transformative for me.

Finally 3 mins meditating on gratitude for what is coming into your life. So if you have a vision board – it is that! Spend time feeling yourself achieving your goals and being grateful for them coming into your life.

I realise this does not add up to 10 mins but by the time you drift from gratitude for the hot chups you ate last night, to sending your over-friendly neighbour some gratitude then launch into visualising your ridiculously amazing future you’ll find ten mins goes like that!

A couple of key points.

  1. Doing it when you first wake up in bed usually ends in you falling back to sleep. Get out of bed or at least sit up. Do it somewhere comfortable but not so comfy you end up dribbling on yourself.
  2. To help with timing I use the Simply Being appmusic so I know when my time is up – nothing like a bit of ‘calm ocean shore’ to keep one focused.
  3. I love a good multi task so I attempted the ‘gratitude-drive’ – though potentially talked to myself so not the best look let alone the concentration levels. I had a few gratitude ‘runs’ though sometimes was side tracked by the ‘vistas’ en route to Bondi.  My favourite locale is a little spot above a local beach first thing in the morning where nobody goes and the ocean just stretches out forever. The only distraction is the odd large Aussie ant crawling scarily close to my shorts.
  4. When you notice yourself drifting off thinking about whether you needed that cronut or not – just observe it (don’t freak out and tell yourself off) and bring your mind back to your gratitude.
  5. I get it. Some days are completely rubbish & you really don’t feel like it. Or you have those well meaning folk who tell you how you should be grateful for something that in that very moment you are not feeling so grateful for – perhaps a screaming child or a horrific flu that is ‘just telling you to slow down’. Hmph. Perhaps on that day you just focus on very simple things that are good – like the sun, a fresh towel or one nice thing someone said to you.

I can 100% say that incorporating this 10 mins of daily gratitude has had a huge impact on how I deal with the everyday especially those days when I’m a bit flat or running low on the happy tank. I can tell you that because at the start of this year it slid out of the habit pattern (oops) and I really noticed the difference.  I’m pledging to do another 90 days it felt so good. Thanks old mate Tony!

Try it for 7 days and let me know how you go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Happy Buddha, Mekong Delta. Vietnam.

Sign up for some lovin’ this Valentine’s Day.

So, yes yes it’s Valentine’s Day this week. And as the smug happy loved up ones prepare in excitement and the not so in love ones make plans to avoid it, I decided to go on a completely different tangent and make a big deal of SELF LOVE. Before you barf in a bucket or think I’m going on some vain rant please hear me out.

A quick google revealed a few stories around the origins of Valentine’s Day but the most consistent is based on a Roman priest from around the 3rd century who allowed soldiers to be married against the Emperor’s law. He was martyred and later canonized. The first actual  Valentine’s Day card professing one keen punters true love however was not send until around 1840.

Controversially this Saturday I’m proposing we all take a little moment for ourselves –  whether you’re loved up with someone or not – give yourself some self-love time.  Without sounding particularly dodgy or suggesting you buy yourself a new Audi Quattro or Tiffanys earrings let me explain.

Every week I meet many resilient, good looking, smart men and women single and in relationships who often appear very self-confident. However somewhere along the way they have decided that they are not worthy or loveable and look for ‘evidence’ to help prove their point – “No one looked at me at the pub” “I never heard back from that chick, I must be a loser”, “I’m not smart enough to have my own business”   and they build up a big database of ‘facts’ to fall back on when rationalising their situation. And then when someone does say something nice about them it means the absolute world because they are in a habit of looking for external validation to make themselves feel good.

And how do I know all this so well? Yes, from my clients but also that was most certainly me for quite a long period in my twenties and early thirties.

I would cringe when people said ‘you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else’, I would run if people said ‘just start by loving yourself’ and eventually I gave in and just said yeah, of course I do. But like a wise woman or two have told me it is not what you say but it is the action you take that counts.

And when I look back, those actions they were not too great. I loved to go out, have too many vinos and then become ‘entertainment on wheels’ by getting people to laugh at my ridiculous stories of encounters with blokes, a faux pas at work or just a general public embarrassment like walking around the city with my skirt tucked into my undies.  I loved the laughs I received, the validation I felt from making people say “Oh my god Bec, you are hysterical” and the popularity I felt.

speakself

The problem with this was over time these stories were wearing down the Bec love. Every single bad word/story I said about myself my ego heard. Like a good quote I read the other day “Be careful what you say about yourself, you are listening”. And my mind didn’t get to hear it just once. Oh no, I have a large circle of lovely friends across the globe so each story was retold like a stuck record numerous times.  And as we know the survival part of our mind absorbs negative thoughts like Velcro and any positives are like Teflon which allowed the old ego to gather plenty of repetitive evidence over time to say Bec, you are not worthy of your own lovin’. While others were being entertained I was starting to feel like rubbish.

I was also not ‘being’ true to myself about what I really wanted to do in terms of career. I stayed in a ‘safe’ job for years but I knew it wasn’t where my passion lay and I felt disappointed and frustrated with myself that I didn’t have the guts to get on with something I found more fulfilling.  I was also trying to gain the approval of others close to me to ‘do the right thing’. Worrying about getting approval from others is very debilitating.  As I read somewhere once  – the amount of approval you require from others is in direct correlation to how you feel about your own self-worth. The less you have for yourself the more you require from others.

Once I let go of trying to be the entertainment dolly bird and getting approval from everyone (self-acceptance is a big part of this but that’s another blog topic) and focused on what was going to make me truly happy in a career and then actually doing the gutsy out of comfort zone stuff that made me proud, the self-love and respect slowly began to build. Becoming more mindful and present, taking good of my body, staying centered and holding myself to my values and boundaries all contributed. Going a little easier on myself when life wasn’t going to plan, being open to learn from my mistakes and surrounding myself with ultra supportive family and friends were key too. It’s very much still all a work in progress but the self-love odometer is look a lot healthier. Though yes, I still share the odd ridiculous story now and then. You have to be able to laugh at yourself right?

But wait. Isn’t all this self-love getting a bit selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed and self-oriented? Sure, there are some folk who can take it a little far, giving themselves a sense of entitlement and being unable to learn from their failures. However for the majority of us the more self-love you have, the more you encourage others around you to express themselves in a similar light, allowing for healthier relationships and welcoming in people and situations which support you on your life project.  It’s a win-win.

So this Saturday set aside some time for thinking about where your self-love is at. Does it need some tweaking or re-engineering? I know of a few friends who have a good half hour of self-love every morning (!) with exercise, journaling or meditating just to keep them focused and centered especially when they are feeling a bit off balance. As a famous kiwi icon Rachael Hunter said (in a Pantene ad no less) “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”.

Valday