Personal Growth, Productivity

Never ever ever give up (and how to reach your biggest goals)

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You hear it all the time: “don’t give up!”, “keep going!”, “you’re almost there!”.

Easier said than done, right?

We’ve all been there – we’ve set a tough goal, we’ve worked towards it, and when things start getting really hard we feel like giving up. We reason with ourselves. We say things to ourself like “it’s ok, you got this far and you’ve learned a lot from the experience, so nothing is lost if you stop now.” But why is it that when we see someone else struggling with an ambitious goal, we feel the compulsion to motivate them to keep going so that they’ll reach that goal?

It’s far easier to yell support at someone than to be that person, struggling through each difficult step that will get you closer to the finish line. And when you are the observer, you really want them to reach that goal, and it’s so clear to you that all they need to do is keep on going. As the observer, you aren’t going through every motion that the active participant is experiencing. As the observer, you are oblivious to the internal struggles of mind over matter. As the observer, the solution may be clear but the obstacles to the motivation to continue may be hidden from view.

Take on this idea: the next time you are struggling with a tough goal you’ve set for yourself and you’re stuck in an internal quagmire, wrestling with your own motivations, try to step outside of yourself. Allow yourself to stand outside of who you know yourself to be. Look at yourself as though you were the observer, looking in from the outside. Taking on this different perspective may just give you that extra motivation you need to push on through.

As the observer, you can ignore those internal struggles and focus on the bigger picture. You can look at the goal from a more holistic view, and you then realise that whatever the internal struggles, the goal is greater and those ideas of giving up pale in significance to what is at stake here. If you give up, what will you miss out on? What sweet victories are on the line here?

These questions should help you decide whether to “battle on” through those internal struggles to get closer to your goal, or whether to stop where you are and move on. Whatever you decide to do, if you’ve looked at the situation from another perspective you can rest assured that you thought carefully before making that decision and you can accept it for what it is.

 A fool-proof* method to achieve your biggest goals

Several years ago I completed some intensive personal development work, during which I was given this fantastic tip as to how to schedule activities in order to achieve big goals. It’s a pretty simple tip and works wonders. Ready for it? Here it is: work backwards.

Rather than planning forwards in your diary, go to a page in the future that represents a date by which you want to achieve a particular thing. Be it a weight loss goal, the completion of a large project, or even an art exhibition opening night. Note down what you want to achieve on that date. Ensure that you write out the end result using the SMART format (if you don’t know what this is, look it up – it’s good stuff).

Once you’ve written out your goal in your diary, start to visualise what attaining the goal will look and feel like. Close your eyes for a minute and think of how you will feel and what you will see on the day you’ve achieved that goal (and do your best to really “feel” that you are there – this can help a lot). Psychology research tells us that visualisation is very powerful: in some cases, visualising yourself completing an action results in far better outcomes than in the absence of that visualisation. An example I heard about recently involved dart players: in this particular study, participants who visualised hitting the bulls eye – without even physically practising – performed as well or better than those who physically practiced and didn’t use visualisation techniques!

Once you’ve got your goal and date clear, start working backwards through your diary and noting what items you will complete in order to achieve that end goal. For example, if your goal is to go on a worldwide holiday departing on the 30th of September, work backwards and enter in all the items you will need to complete to make that goal a reality. Such as: 29th September – check in online; 22nd September – buy travel insurance; 15th September – finalise all hotel bookings; 1st August – pay for flights; 1st July – have all required money saved up; 1st June – book flights; etc. Hopefully you get the idea.

This technique is wonderful for so many reasons:

  1. You know what you want to achieve, in a solid and measurable sense
  2. You have a plan of how to get there
  3. You have clear and concrete actions which you need to start taking in order to get yourself to that goal
  4. You’ve broken a big goal into smaller steps so you can see that it is actually achievable
  5. You’ve mapped out the major steps, so you can see – today – how realistic it is to meet that goal on the date you’ve .


It’s great to follow this method because it sets up realistic steps to take you from here to there. Often when we have large, lofty goals they can start to look impossible to achieve. But when they’re mapped out in such a way, you can suddenly see the result and, more importantly, how to get there. After all, you aren’t going to get to your goal without all the individual steps it will take to get there. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Mapping those steps will give you the plan you need to get there.

/ Daisy

*fool-proof provided that you keep yourself motivated to continuously hit your own targets

Personal Growth

Looking for advice? Ask yourself.

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Are you someone who likes to get a second opinion? Do you seek out advice often? And when you are given the advice, do you act on it?

Advice is an interesting thing. For some of us, what we are really looking for is vindication: someone who will recommend that we do what we are already thinking we should do. It can feel reassuring to hear someone else echo our own thoughts. For other people, they seek advice but don’t actually absorb the advice and walk away, unchanged. For others, the advice given can seem absurd: now why would I go and do that!?

The truth is, we all seek and accept advice differently. I’m sure there are many reasons for why we treat advice in a particular way, and I’m sure it would have something to do with our individual world views. But beyond this, I have a proposition; an idea on how to get advice without asking anyone else but yourself. Because, let’s be honest: even when you ask someone for advice, you’ll probably only accept it if you agree with them, right? 

Here’s a way to ask yourself for advice, and to accept it.

When pondering upon your issue at hand, try to look at yourself as if you are someone else. Just imagine yourself floating outside of your own body, and looking at yourself. You are now somebody else looking at yourself, and somebody else looking at the issue. Now, ask yourself the question you would ask a dear friend. Now that you are someone else, what would your answer be? What advice would you give to yourself? You are now looking at  yourself, and the issue, from the outside-in rather than from the inside-out.

Be kind, be considerate, but most importantly be completely honest (honest doesn’t mean cruel, by the way!). You are asking yourself, after all, and you are the most important person in the whole world. Don’t give out advice that will completely devastate you! Plus, there’s probably no point in coming to the best advice if you won’t act on it. So, be honest and also allow yourself to accept the advice, without judgment. Action comes after acceptance.

…OK, so I get it, this all seems a bit strange. Just a little existential, perhaps. But please, give it a try. This is what I do when I’m stuck on a decision. Although I tend to ask for advice externally, it really does help to ask myself the question – as someone else – in the first instance. Because if I’m honest with myself and imagine that the issue at hand is one that belongs to a friend rather than myself, it would be pretty easy to know what to say. Have you noticed how we humans tend to rush in to provide advice – often when not even asked?! I think that when it’s an issue that is personal, it can be difficult to see beyond your fears and see what the solutions are. So, try to look at it from another point-of-view.

I was reading an excellent book recently, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and something that Stephen Covey wrote reminded me of a lesson I learned a long time ago: there is always a third way. Too often people get stuck in the binary way of thinking: that you either have Option A or Option B. One or the other. The solution is I quit my job, or I stay. But people stuck in this way of thinking forget that there is always a third way. Covey’s book talks about this in a lot of depth, and the third way idea encompasses ideas about synergy: that where there is a collaborative relationship where all parties are values-focused and have shared goals, alternative solutions arise that are better solutions that those that can be reached in silos.

I’m a big fan of the third way idea. I carry it with me always, and I get excited when there are opportunities to think up new alternatives. Because finding the third way is a creative process – you won’t get to a third possible solution unless you’re thinking beyond the “this-or-that” typical solutions. So, try it for yourself. Step outside of yourself, give yourself the advice as if you are speaking to a friend, and be creative in that advice – look beyond yourself as a singular human and think about other possible solutions that are out there.

Well, I hope that some of this thinking is useful to you, in some way. Remember that life is creative and solutions are numerous. There will always be issues that are thirsty for solutions, and it’s nice to remember that you may be able to help yourself find the solution, by yourself.

/ Daisy

Personal Growth, Productivity

How to get out of a funk and get into action

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Have you ever found yourself sitting on a comfortable couch, thinking about all those things you need to do, but all the things you aren’t doing? You start feeling lazy, tired, and maybe just a little down. You know there’s plenty you could and should be doing but for some reason you just aren’t motivated.

It’s tough. It can feel like a downward spiral: once you get into that funk it can be hard to pull yourself back out.

So, how do you pull yourself out of a funk?

A few years ago here in Sydney there were some terrible bushfires taking place. On the radio I heard an interview with a psychologist who talked about how some people panic in such situations, and simply freeze; not knowing what to do. If you freeze even for a few seconds, this could be the difference between surviving and perishing. The psychologist advised that in such situations it is best that you start doing something, anything. Something simple and seemingly useless could actually save your life. Apparently, when you start getting into action – whatever it is that you do – something happens in your brain which puts you into an active state which then perpetuates. Hence you are starting to do the things you need to do.

Maybe this is the secret to getting out of a funk: get into action. Do something, anything. Even something simple and unrelated to what you want to do. Just do something that is active in some way, which will then put your brain into the active state and spur you into further action. It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary, just do something.

I tried this out recently. I was in an especially lazy state (watching a tv show, drinking some wine, starting to feel lazy), and I absolutely had to get something done that night. Rather than let myself settle too far into the lazy state, I had to do something to get myself out of the funk and into action. Rather than allow the procrastinating thoughts to overcome me, I pushed them aside and actually pushed the majority of my thoughts aside. I thought more about the Thing I Had To Do, and let that guide my actions. I therefore minimised my thoughts, narrowed my focus to the one thing I needed to do, and I got out of the funk. I simply took on a simple action which was unrelated to that thing, and I gained momentum and did what I needed to do, quicker than I would have thought possible. It all started with the thought of what I needed to achieve. And from that, a simple action led to the thing getting done.

I think it can be one of those lessons that can seem “easier said than done”. Breaking out of a funk can be darn hard!! However if you remember that you can take a simple action (a small step), that’s all you need to do to begin the chain reaction to productivity. Just take one small, active step and watch how your brain changes and you get yourself into action. You might even surprise yourself.

Best wishes


Personal Growth, Productivity

Want more money and time? Learn to say “No.”

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Growing up, my dad was always – and still is – a highly cautious person. He would repeat little phrases that he concocted, which were designed to help protect us from doing anything dangerous.

Hearing his little phrases was helpful to me – not only from a security point of view, but as I grew up I realised that they were applicable to a range of other situations which could be “dangerous”: such as, spending money that you shouldn’t.

One such phrase was, “if in doubt, don’t.” This was mostly applicable to situations when you are driving. If you are in a tricky situation and you are doubtful of whether to turn, wait until you are certain. If in doubt, don’t.

I’ve learned to apply this to shopping expeditions! I’ve been in plenty of situations where I’ve been in a dressing room, wearing some outfit and staring at my reflection; feeling really unsure of whether or not to purchase the thing. If I apply the phrase, it works! If I’m unsure, I just don’t bother going through with the purchase. Chances are that if I do buy it despite the doubt, I’ll feel guilty, I won’t wear the thing, and every time I look at it in my wardrobe I’ll feel bad that I’d spent money on it. Just don’t go there.

Sure, it can be easier said than done, and I’ve certainly bought many outfits that I was doubtful about at the outset. But, if you are strong and you repeat the phrase, it really can work.

I’ve also applied this phrase to drinking with friends. I adore a drink (or three!) with a friend over a nice meal, but I’ve learned to stop when I feel that I’ve had enough. If I’m doubting whether to have another drink, then I know my answer. I’ve learned to be strong within myself, and to know when I feel that I’ve had a good amount and I don’t need any more. I’m not sure of how exactly I’ve mastered this, but it’s taken time and plenty of practice. To this day my partner is amazed that I am able to just stop.

I was reading about self-discipline in some psychology texts, and apparently it’s the single greatest indicator of a person’s success. If you can master it, then imagine what you can achieve! We all know that to be successful – in whatever pursuit you are interested in – it takes determination, but most especially it takes dedication. You need to stick to your goals; ploughing through and working at those details that may be tedious and boring. You need to continue to work at those goals and truly stick to them in order to see outcomes. Self-control is all about that. It’s all about managing your own self and avoiding the temptations to do something more “fun”. And the good news is that self-discipline gains momentum as you exercise it. Think of it as a muscle: the more you exercise self-control, the better you become at it. Mastery takes practice.

By coincidence I recently attended a convention for women in business, and one of the speakers had a similar phrase, “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” I rather liked that. In other words, unless you are totally enthusiastic about an opportunity, your answer is “no”. Not only can this help in your decision-making, but by saying “no” to an opportunity you allow the space to take on another opportunity. And an important note to remember is that every time you make a decision – this can include not making a decision, which is in fact making a decision (the decision to stay with the status quo) – you choose how you spend your time and what you take on. I think it’s easy to forget that by saying “yes” to an opportunity, you are choosing to invest something into that opportunity (be it time, money or effort), and therefore choosing to not invest in another opportunity. That is, every time you say “yes” to one thing, you are saying “no” to another. So, take those decisions seriously and think about what you are giving up for that decision. More on that in a future post…

So, try the phrase “if in doubt, don’t” as a first step. If you can practice saying no to those opportunities that you really aren’t that keen on, just think about the space that opens up for those opportunities that really get you excited!

Best wishes

Art, Personal Growth

Art is immortal

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I don’t know how I came up with the idea, but when I was a teenager I had a realisation that of all the things you could do in life, creating art is a practice that is truly immortal.

Growing up in Sydney: a highly developed, relatively expensive city to live in; I had the belief that one should aim for a well-paid career that would contribute to society in some way. I would think through the various options: lawyer, doctor, scientist… While I dabbled in some way in the peripheries of these fields, I’ve come to realise that my initial idea about the immortality of art holds a lot of credit. The more I thought about the various career options, I came to see – perhaps ironically – that being an artist may be the most noble and everlasting occupation one could choose.

When you create a piece of art: be it visual (a painting, film, photograph, documentary) or audible (music, for example), it can truly live on beyond your time on this earth. I was reminded of this when we received the sad news of David Bowie’s passing this week. I read about how very driven David was in his final year (not to mention throughout his life, of course). Only close friends and family knew of his illness, and according to his colleagues his energy and motivation were extraordinary. One colleague described being “in awe”. He was completely present in the moment, and plunged himself into his art. He knew of its importance. And indeed, his art will live on well beyond his life – and already is.

Another good example of the immortality of art is Vincent van Gogh. Throughout his entire life he had only ever sold one painting. And yet, he was driven throughout his life: dedicated to his practice, he worked tirelessly to create what are now recognised as true “works of art.” I’ll bet he never imagined that there would be an entire museum dedicated to his work, and yet there he was: working doggedly throughout his life with very little money to his name. His dedication was complete, and many generations have enjoyed his work since.

I remember hearing a spiritual leader pose the question, what if people were paid commensurate with their contribution to our society? I thought it was a very good question. Imagine how different the world would be: artists, musicians, spiritual leaders would probably get paid a lot more than accountants. And yet here we are where the opposite is true. But, I suppose we do live in a market-driven society which explains a lot about pay scales and salaries.

In any case, it’s an interesting thought to ponder. What is the contribution you would like to make to your society? Is pay grade more important than artistic expression and inspiring people to look beyond what they already know? I personally am passionate about the Arts, and always have been. I can see the real value that the Arts contribute to society and to individuals, and it’s interesting to think about how that contribution may last well beyond your own lifetime.

Best wishes