Monday, November 24, 2014

7 Tips for your Personal Evolution

Evolution:  the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex

Evolution is not simply a theory but an active force, one that has been actively present in shaping your life since birth.  As children we embraced this evolutionary force.  It helped us to learn and to grow; to crawl and then walk, to speak, to write and to read, to ride a bike and drive a car, to play ball, to paint, to add and subtract, to swim, to ski and to sing.

When we were younger we evolved rapidly and continuously.  We were almost like sponges, soaking up new experiences, experimenting and trying new things, simply to learn something new.  This rate of evolution slowed down as we aged though, as we began creating boundaries for ourselves, restrictions and limitations on 'who' we thought we were or could be, until our growth and evolution did not become a constant but an exception.  It became ruled by choice, and so many of us, as we age, begin to choose not to grow or evolve further.

I understand that this wasn't always a conscious choice, that no one explained to us that giving in to our negative beliefs and our fears meant that we stopped evolving, that we stunted our growth, but it happened none the less.  Additionally, few of us were ever told that the more we gave in to our fears and held ourselves back from evolving further, the more we would begin devolving, becoming less.

We were all born to be 'more' though.  When young you weren't satisfied with who you were, what you knew and what you could do.  You continued to push, to learn more, to do more, to try more.  When did that slow down or stop for you?  Why?  Are you done?  Have you evolved to be the best 'you' possible?  Is there nothing left for you to discover about yourself, to learn or experience?

We are built with an infinite capacity to evolve.  We can continue to learn new things, to experience new things, to develop new skills, to uncover hidden talents until our last breath.  Why then do so many of us 'settle' along the way?  At what point did you decide that you were 'enough'?  Often it wasn't even a conscious choice. We maybe took a break, sat back and got a little too comfortable, complacency stealing over us like a warm blanket we became reluctant to kick off.

You can choose to take notice though, to remove the blanket of complacency and to begin actively making choices that jump start your evolutionary path.  Use the following suggestions to help you continue your evolutionary journey...
  1. Surround yourself with new ideas.   This may mean speaking with people unlike yourself, or reading a book or journal outside your current area of expertise.  You never know what you are likely to think about something until you put yourself into the position of needing to think about it!
  2. Recycle your beliefs about... you!  It is often our beliefs about ourselves, who we are, what we can do or what we should do, that create limitations to our growth.  Question old beliefs to uncover new ones.  You are far more capable than you likely give yourself credit for.
  3. Try things on, see what fits.  Things we may dismiss out of hand may be a better fit for us than we thought, but we won't know unless we give it a try first.  Nobody expects to 'like' raw fish, but you have to try Sushi to know for sure.  Taste it, try it, take it for a spin. The old adage 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' is your mantra here.
  4. Resist Resistance.  Still the little voice inside your head that is telling you No, that is scrambling to pull the Complacency blanket back over your head.  Expect resistance.  Embrace it and lead it forward with you, helping it learn that there's no point in resisting what you're going to do anyway.
  5. Focus on Learning, not Teaching.  Teaching is great, but if all of your energy goes to teaching then your focus is solely on 'what you know'.  Learning is all about discovering 'what you don't know'.  Learning leads to your growth, teaching leads to someone else's.  
  6. Feed your Curiosity.  One of the greatest sources of learning is our curiosity.  The more that you feed yours, rather than stifle it, the more you create a learning mindset.  Have a question about how something works?  Seek out the answer.  It doesn't matter whether it leads you to something that enhances your job prospects or not.  Train your brain to realize that it is all right, once again, to ask questions, to admit to not knowing something and to seek answers.
  7.  Choose a goal bigger than you are.  If the goals you set for yourself are all within your current level of capability then you are not required to stretch or to grow.  Choose a goal that is larger than yourself to push you to learn, grow and evolve further.  
Constant evolution should be the goal that we all strive for, to be constantly pushing ourselves to be more, to know more, to do more.  With this mindset it means that our choice is not to 'Evolve OR die trying' but instead to 'Evolve AND die trying'.  We should all end our lives with the same curiosity and dedication to growth that we entered the world with.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Making Your Luck

My eldest son is 'lucky'.  He has won more contests and free stuff over the years than anyone I know. Most are envious of his luck, typically lamenting how they just aren't that lucky, that fate somehow hasn't treated them the same.  However I know from first hand experience that he makes his luck.

He wins more contests because he enters more contests.  If there is a chance of winning anything, he drops his card into the slot, fills out a ballot, completes an entry.  Most people I know don't do that.  They determine that it isn't something they are interested in, not something they'd use, they don't want everyone to have their contact information... and they don't 'win' as often.  In essence, you can't expect to win 'it', if you're not in it!

This discrepancy though got me to wondering about whether this same attitude relating to contests and giveaways exists within the larger context of 'luck', especially when it relates to life opportunities. According to Dr. Stephann Makri, in looking into why some people seem 'luckier' than others, serendipity is more than just an accident.  Apparently 'lucky' people all recognise opportunities that present themselves and take action on them.  In his book The Luck Factor, author Richard Wiseman concurs that some people aren't necessarily luckier than others, they are just quicker to spot and take advantage of opportunities.

There is some research supporting the view that extroverts tend to be a little luckier than others, but this is simply because they tend to engage more people and more connections tends to correlate to having more opportunities.  It stands to reason then that luck can be cultivated, we can indeed create our own luck.

The following are some key tips to help you increase your Luck Factor...

Prepare yourself for Chance.  All of the studies indicate that those considered to be lucky tend to be much more open to new opportunities.  Exposing yourself to new opportunities and perspectives increases your chances at continuing to have more opportunities.  To practice your openness begin by looking at a situation that you have an established view and opinion on and then come up with 5 plausible alternative views.  Learning to broaden our perspectives helps prevent us from closing ourselves from new opportunities too quickly.

See Serendipity everywhere.  Serendipity is described as chance encounters that lead to happy outcomes. Don't just prepare yourself for chance, begin actively seeking it out.  Serendipitous events surround us, but we have to see them in order to act upon them.  You have probably experienced them a couple of times in your life, a chance encounter with someone that connected you to an unexpected opportunity.  However, as with anything, you see more of what you attune yourself to see.  You may feel that you saw no orange cars on your drive in to work but, primed to watch for them, you see five on your drive home.  Watching for serendipity helps to see and experience more of it in your life.

Take a Break.  Although conscientiousness has its benefits, it is no true friend to serendipity.  Being too rigidly focused on the tasks at hand creates a tunnel vision that limits your ability to give chance a... well... chance.  You have to allow yourself to be a little off track and loose in your thinking sometimes to be open to 'interruptions' to the process.  As we get older it may be more difficult for us to experience 'luck' in our lives because we often become more set in our thinking and our habits of behaving.  We need to relax and loosen up a little to give room for chance to step in.

Say Yes.  When we are first faced with new opportunities our first reaction is usually a combination of Intrigue and Anxiety.  Your path is determined by which one of these feelings you give in to.  Over time, we tend to develop our habitual responses and patterns of behaviour by selecting one response more than the others.  This is why some people's path is paved with more happy coincidences and opportunities, while someone else's path is riddled with regrets and roads not taken.  Managing your fears, developing your courage, increases your 'luck'.

Embrace Failure.  Not every opportunity turns out well or works out for us the way we would have liked. However, lucky people are resilient.  They don't view failure as a reason not to try again in future, they simply learn what they can and need from the failure so they can apply those learnings to the next opportunity.  Most successful business owners have had failed businesses first.  That's what taught them what it took to be successful.

Use the above tips to strengthen the 'luck' that you experience in your life.  We get more of what we work on and for in life.  Some may describe the result as 'luck', others may see it is a the by-product of work and focus.  Gary Player, a professional golfer once said...
"The harder I practice, the luckier I get"
Cultivate and build your luck by building your awareness and openness to it.  There is no reason to simply sit back and wait for opportunity to knock.  Why not open the door and invite it in?

To check out more on this subject, and to get even more ideas on boosting your luck, check out The Luck Factor for yourself...

Monday, November 10, 2014

What Are You Waiting For?

What are you waiting for?

For Monday?
For the New Year?
For someone  to love you, notice you, admire you?
For you to be thinner, wiser, in shape, better skilled?
For the perfect moment, perfect place, perfect person?
To be perfect yourself?

We all have dreams and ideas.  We all would love for them to come to fruition.  The only thing separating us from those whose dreams become a reality... is taking action.  We have to break the habit of 'waiting' and learn to make the most of the moment we are in.  There will never be a better time.  There is a Chinese proverb that states "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now."  You can get caught up in recriminations about not having taken action sooner or you can simply begin.  Now is better than never.

For many of us, our fears serve to hold us back and prevent us from fulfilling our dreams.  Two of the biggest and most common fears that limit our success are the Fear of Failure and the Fear of Rejection.  However, giving in to these fears creates hesitation and indecision instead of action.  We can learn to conquer our fears by cultivating a habit of courage, the courage to take action.

The following ideas are offered as suggestions, ideas and perspectives to help you narrow the gap between your intentions and your actions.  Use these as a guide to help you shift from inaction to action, to help in moving out of the 'waiting room'.

1.  Don't wait for 'Perfect'.  There is no perfect person, time or place. There will always be something that is not 'right'.  If you focus on what is 'missing', rather than everything that is there, you will never be satisfied and will therefore never move forward.  Focus instead on everything that is 'right' about the opportunity and your skills.  Recognise when things are 'good enough' to move forward.  Conditions will never be perfect, but they will often be good enough to get started.  Use your actions to help drive them closer to the perfection you seek.

2.  Do.  Build your confidence, your track record, your experience, and your action-taking-muscles by simply Doing-Stuff.  Taking action and getting things done is the best proof of your ability that there is.  You can't just think about doing, you need to take action. The longer that ideas sit in your head the weaker and more distant they become.  The more that you learn to take action, the easier that taking action becomes.

3.  Deal with your Fears by Taking Action.  One of the best cures for your fears is to simply push through them by taking action.  It is typically all of our 'worrying' that feeds our fears.  Taking action eliminates the worry, teaching us that things were not as bad as we had made them out to be.  A great lesson to take forward when we challenge other fears that are holding us back.

4.  Ideas Alone Don't Bring Success.  It is not your ideas that make you successful but the implementation of them.  An average idea - acted upon - will take you further than a dozen brilliant ideas that are simply taking up head space.

5.  Shift What Ifs to Why Nots.  What ifs are worries.  These are thoughts of 'what if this happens?' that hold us back.  In an effort to avoid them we fail to take action.  Instead, shift your 'what if' scenarios to 'why not' scenarios.  Why not try?  Why not you?

6.  Small Steps.  Instead of thinking of the giant step needed to shift you from here to there, break it down into small, manageable steps.  When we view 'everything', all at once, it can seem daunting.  However, look only to what you can do Now.  What is one small step that you can take - right now - that moves you forward.  Do it.  Then look for the next small step you can take... and repeat.  Every small forward step takes you closer to your goal.

You have dreams, you have ambitions, you have ideas waiting to be implemented.  There will never be a better time.  If you are not currently moving forward on fulfilling your dreams then it is time to seriously ask yourself... What am I waiting for?  Listen to the answer and then take steps to eliminate those barriers, giving you a clear path to truly achieving everything you want from your life.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Keep On Keeping On

We all have dreams.  We all have goals.  Some of us reach them, some of us don't.  

We all hit obstacles and roadblocks that deter us.  We experience setbacks and failures.  Some of us give up in the face of these challenges, some of us don't.

Often the key difference between those who 'make it', and those that don't, is simply that successful people keep on keeping on.  They see the hurdles and obstacles as simply something that needs to be overcome.  They don't allow themselves to become overwhelmed and demoralized by the challenges, they don't listen to the critics, to the armchair quarterbacks that find it easier to sit back and share 'why' something won't work rather than jumping in and helping something to succeed.  Instead, they keep their eye on the goal and find another way.

They learn from the lesson of failure, determining what didn't work and why, and fix it.  Each setback creates a stronger and better defined path to the future they envision.  It's not an easy journey.  The path is littered with the detritus of those that have walked it before but abandoned the effort along the way.  Those that didn't manage to stay the course are far too likely to help you abandon your efforts than they are to rally behind you and help keep you on your path. Having you abandon your dream helps vindicate their choice to abandon theirs.  Don't let their loss of faith cause you to lose yours.

If everyone simply gave up when things got tough then we would not have electricity, we would never have walked on the moon, we would never have broken the four minute mile; there would be no Apple, no polio vaccine, no cars.  The luxuries we enjoy today came not from people that only had a dream, but from those with the dream and the perseverance to see them through.

What path are you standing on?  Is it the path leading to the fulfillment of your dream (you know the one!) or are you standing on some side path?  The walking may be easier there but it is a path that never reaches your desired goal.  It may veer close occasionally, giving you a glimpse of the dream once again, but if you don't push through all of the scrub brush and rubble separating you, and get back on the path to your dream, you will simply continue to walk the path you're on, demoralized by the reminder of the abandoned dream.  

Perseverance is a powerful thing.  It can help us to achieve great things in our lives.  Success often comes not to those that are smarter or stronger but simply to those who keep at it a little bit longer, those that hang in and keep on trying.  

Successful people are clear about what their dream is though.  If your vision is to be a successful entrepreneur then you don't stick with a poor business concept and keep 'trying' to make that work.  Learn from that mistake and choose a better vehicle.  Many successful entrepreneurs that you speak with had many unsuccessful businesses first.  We often learn best through trial and error, but we have to recognise and learn from the attempts.  Are you learning from yours?

We all get knocked down by life.  The only thing separating those at the top, from those at the bottom, is the climb.  If you give up at any point during the climb you will not, can not, reach the summit. Those who succeed are those who simply kept moving forward, one small step at a time, knowing that doing nothing was not an option.  Sometimes, the greatest secret to achievement and Success is to simply Keep on Keeping On.