Don’t just dream in your sleep, it’s just lazy

New Year is a time when we traditionally reflect on the past year and look forward to the coming one.  Sadly most New Year’s Resolutions aren’t kept.  I am not a fan of New Year resolutions.  They tend to be so negative, so hard.  They are usually about giving stuff up and frequently seem to be more about pleasing others than doing what you really want.

But if instead you set a New Year goal, then that might be different.  A goal tends to be positive, it’s something you actually want and as such is worth working towards.

Which sounds more likely to be achieved a resolution to give up smoking or a goal to be smoke free for the whole of 2014?  Giving up chocolate or a goal of eating healthily for 2014?

Most of us aren’t very good at setting goals for ourselves but it isn’t too hard to create some powerful goals that really give some momentum.

Most of us tend to focus on the immediate future and don’t pay enough attention to the long term so everyone should have a long term goal that sets a certain direction – a business might call this it’s mission statement and most businesses have one.  But individuals tend not to.  If this is something you have never really thought of before it can be surprisingly difficult.  Ideally a good coach would help you with this, if you don’t have a coach then ask yourself ‘what do I want to be remembered for?’  Some people imagine their own memorial service – if that is a little macabre try thinking about what you would say if asked to give an inspiring speech about your life to your old school.

This long term goal may be a little fuzzy, you may not know how to achieve it and it may (should?) feel challenging.  That’s good.  Remember a lot can be achieved in a lifetime, we often underestimate how much.   This isn’t a dream – it is something you are going to have to work hard to achieve.  And you may not even know what the first steps look like.  Remember this is your life, you are not seeking approval or kudos from others. When you find your True Purpose you’ll know and you’ll relish the challenge it brings.

As the timescales get shorter we are usually better at having goals.  Ideally try to set a few goals over the medium to long term. You will have more one year goals, but don’t overestimate what can sensibly be achieved in the short term.  Make sure that your goals cover different aspects of your life and don’t focus on just one area.

All goals must be stated positively, be things that you can control and be in tune with achieving your mission in life.

Write your mission and your goals down somewhere you will keep seeing them, put them firmly in your future  (see yourself having achieved them). Review them regularly.

And then start taking action.  A goal without action is just a dream.  Knowing how fabulous your mission is, it will be hard to stop you from taking action.

So I’ve given up giving up, I’m resolute that I won’t be making any resolutions.  I will however be reviewing  my (and maybe creating some more) goals this New Year.

This New Year dare to dream, take action and be fantastic.

“She wanna move around and hold onto the dreams that she’s dreamin’
she wanna lose the frown and turn it upside down, and start livin’

Ah ah ah, don’t blame the time on your wrist
for not doing what makes you tick.
Don’t blame the clock on the wall for running round
with nothing at all”

Swim Deep – Honey

Whatever you want…

Recently British Marines ski instructor was trying to help a few of us with some generic tips and he told a story about how ridiculous a group of highly trained soldiers look when they are really visualising a complex move.  Standing in a line , eyes closed moving in unison through a series of movements.  They may look a bit odd but it’s a commonly used technique in all sports.  Visualising and mentally rehearsing something is almost as good as actually doing it.  He also reminded me that key to good technique was looking where you were going – ‘lead with head’.  All very interesting but as I am not planning on skiing this year perhaps not that relevant.

Or is it?

You see this concept of visualising your goals works in all areas of your life, not just sports.  If you visualise having that tricky conversation with your boss or partner and achieving the outcome you want it really helps to keep you on track when you have the real conversation.

And if visualising a successful outcome helps us achieve success what happens when we get anxious and visualise all the things that can go wrong?  If we focus on what we don’t want surely we are setting ourselves up to fail.  Anxiety is a reminder that we are not thinking about what we want, but the opposite.

So as we are at that time of year when we tend to review the past year and look ahead to the coming one I suggest that, as maintaining the status quo is unlikely, we all focus on whatever we want to achieve.  At the very least it reduces anxiety and that in itself feels like a positive step.

Thank-you

Much has been and will continue to be written about the remarkable life of Nelson Mandela by more authoritative and erudite authors than I am.  And yet I feel compelled to mark this moment and reflect on an incredible story.

There are many things we can learn from Madiba, I won’t presume to identify his greatest achievements or characteristics.  Instead I’ll leave that to you.  I urge everyone to look behind the sensational headlines at the real man and his story and ask yourself ‘What small thing can I learn?  What will I do that is different, better?’

We can all feel sad at his passing and humbled by his greatness and if we all take one small action to change our behaviour and really do something differently his legacy will truly live on.

For me I am struck by how he was fully present for everyone he met.  Be they a disabled child, a lowly worker or a senior statesman he gave them the gift of his full attention and made them feel very special.  So be careful – when we next meet I aim to give you a damned good listening to.

Let me say thank-you to those who love many
Let me say thank-you to those who still play fair

John Cougar Mellencamp

Perhaps vampires is a bit strong but…

I don’t want to worry you but we are surrounded by vampires.  They are sucking the very life out of you right now.  They are feeding on you and dragging you down.  If you don’t fight back you will become one of them.

I don’t mean the fictional blood sucking villains that have enjoyed such a renaissance of late.

These are real. they seem to be everywhere and often disguise their true intentions by posing as friends and colleagues who have your best interests at heart.  We all know the kind of person who, after a brief conversation, leaves you feeling emotionally drained and somehow ‘soiled’.  They are often easy to spot and so avoid.  But sometimes we have no choice but to interact with them.  And sometimes they seem like really nice people and then when you realise….it’s too late.

These emotional vampires lead fairly empty lives and so seek to feed on others’ emotions.  It works best for them if their victims are in a highly emotional state.  They seem to find it much easier to create a negative state such as a sense of unease, fear, tension than a positive state such as joy.   They come in a variety of forms but share a lot of common traits including believing that they are the most important person around, whose needs are the most important and by definition whose beliefs are correct.  They are always right, always know best and failure is never their fault.

It is easiest to avoid them but sometimes we all have to deal with them and as a wooden stake through the heart might be controversial these days there are other ways to protect yourself.

Remaining calm and measured is the equivalent of dangling a bulb of garlic round your neck.  By remaining calm and choosing our response rather than letting our animal brains hijack us into being emotional, we remove the very stuff they feed on.  Of course we all have negative emotions – even the highly trained Buddhist Monks recognise these emotions.  But we do not have to dwell on them, we can move on and choose another state.  Look for the positive in any situation and be accepting of the issues you are faced with. Feeling sadness or anger will not create a solution, but it will drain your energy and so make life harder.

Of course before we become vampire slayers we need to carefully reflect.  Are we infected ourselves ?  If so we have to work harder to create meaningful, positive goals and cultivate inner calm.  The good news is that if you recognise a tendency to be emotionally needy in yourself you can do something about it before you stop showing up in the mirror.