selfdevelopment

health, Personal Growth, Productivity

A new kickstart: Get yourself into action


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I’m trying to create a beautiful space where high motivation meets the relaxed feel of lying at the beach. I think I’m almost there.

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the beach these Summer holidays, and it’s been absolutely wonderful. Being with nature and off my phone has helped me reconnect with the simple pleasures of nature, and taken my mind off looking at the clock and checking emails.

Now that it’s “back to work” time, and although it’s taking me a little time to get motivated, I don’t want to completely lose those gorgeous feelings of freedom that being in nature without (much) technology brings. So, I’ve determined that I’m going to keep things simple, and just get s*** done. Get the work done while maintaining the magical summer feelings of freedom that #beachlife brings.

For example, this website. These blogs. It’s been far too long between writing. (In fact, I’m too embarassed to look back to when the last post was published. I have a feeling it was early 2016, if not earlier).

I’ve come to realise that to tick off the long list of things I want to do, I simply need to do them – while reminding myself all the while that nothing will necessarily take much time. Usuallyit’s the thoughts of “that will take so long!” that stop me before I’ve even begun. That’s probably because I expect perfection in everything I do. But, I have to remind myself of the wonderful advice from Sheryl Sandberg, “Done is better than perfect.”

It’s about getting s*** done –  getting a lot of s*** done -, and not expecting perfection. It’s about letting go of the thoughts and feelings related to my list of things, and just working through the list without those feelings having power over me.

Just take it one step at a time. As a mentor once said to me, think of it like you’re going to eat an elephant. It might seem like a huge feat, but how you get there is simple: just eat one chunk at a time.

And on that note, this is one chunk. Just a quick write-up on my site: nothing perfect, nothing worth angsting or worrying about. Just another bite of the elephant that is my long to-do list.

Onward! Time is wasting and it’s the only resource that exists which we cannot get more of.

/ Daisy

health, Personal Growth, Productivity

How to develop healthy habits that will improve your life (and how to get rid of toxic habits!)


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Have you ever taken the time to question your habits? To step back, look at your own habits, and question why you have them? Furthermore, have you thought about what these habits may be doing for or against you? You may be surprised.

I came across this idea when I was reading some of Professor Dan Ariely’s work (Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University). Ariely writes about how habits are developed, and emphasises the importance to step back and question these habits. Apparently habits are created stemming from an initial positive experience, and that experience may have occurred as a relatively random decision in the first instance. The example he gives is the habit of buying a morning coffee, every day, from a particular cafe.

You may have walked past a cafe one day, and decided – on a whim – to buy a cup of coffee there. With that first coffee you’ve had a positive experience: the coffee tasted warm and good, the service was friendly, and you left feeling satisfied. From that first cup of coffee from that particular cafe, you begin the habit of returning daily to buy a cup of coffee. Over time, the habit becomes ingrained and it becomes a part of your daily routine.

But wait; stop for a second. Why are you visiting this particular cafe every day, and following through with this habit? If you think back to what kicked off this habitual act, you may remember that it was a fairly random decision made without much importance attached. In fact, you may not even remember the first time you went to the cafe. Over time it’s become a habit that you fulfil daily. In one way, you’ve become enslaved to this habit.

It’s good to stop and question why you are honouring this habit. What is it costing you? Are you missing out on trialling other cafes in the area? In fact, do you even need that coffee?

A coffee a day may be a relatively small expense, but it adds up over time. And just think about other habits you may have that are not necessarily helping you. Do you have a habit of ordering pizza delivery every Friday night? Do you enjoy watching mindless television every weeknight when you get home from work, to “de-stress”? Do you buy yourself a pastry for breakfast every Monday morning as a reward for starting a new week of work?

It’s worth looking a little deeper into these habits. What are they costing your wallet? What are they costing your health over time? And, what might you be giving up for these habits? Looking at the example of watching mindless tv is a good one: you may complain that you don’t have time to work on your dream goals, but then you justify spending a few hours five nights a week to watch television that won’t fulfil you or improve your mental capacity. Even just two hours every weeknight adds up to 10+ hours per week: that’s more than one complete day at work, every week. That’s definitely worth looking further into.

So, what habits do you have? Here’s an exercise suggestion for you: grab a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil, and spend around 5 minutes thinking through your regular habits. It may help if you think about the many spheres in your life, e.g. work, friends, meals, entertainment, exercise, sleep. What habits do you follow in each of these spheres? Are these habits helping you or harming you? If any are harming you, what will you do to start a new habit?

Here’s a tip: create habits that help you in the long term. Ariely provides some great lessons in exactly how to do this. The theory is “reward substitution”. Here’s an example.

You are aware that to live a longer and healthier life, you need to exercise regularly. You are aware that in the long term you will have a far lesser chance of developing cardiovascular disease, should you choose to run after work. How do you achieve completing that run as a habit? You may be dreading the discomfort of getting outside and running around, especially after you’ve worked a full day. Plus, the goal of a longer and healthier life may just seem so far away that it’s hard to grasp in the present.

How do you do this?

The reward of regular running is a longer and healthier life: a long-term goal, which is hard to see today when you’ve just returned from work and you’re feeling exhausted. The alternative choice of just flopping yourself down on the couch after work is immediate and probably seems more appealing. So, the trick is to substitute the reward. That is, rather than focus on the long-term reward of a longer and healthier life, create a reward that you will receive straight after you return from your run. For me, what tends to work is knowing that I can drink a vanilla protein shake after my exercise (they are delicious!). If I force myself to get out there and go on that run, I know that I have that delicious reward available as soon as I get home.

As you work out what reward substitutes work for you and motivate you, you may find that you will develop habits that benefit you.

Try it for yourself. What habits do you have that are unhealthy or making you unhappy? What habits are holding you back from achieving your goals? What habits would you like to develop that are going to be good for you? Work out which reward substitutes will work for you, develop a system that will make these habits stick, and get into them!

/ Daisy

Personal Growth, Productivity

Poor decision-making: have you fallen for the Sunk Cost Fallacy?


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Are you familiar with the term “sunk cost”? Do you understand it’s meaning? If you do understand it’s meaning, have you ever thought of applying it to situations in your own life? Applying this concept and looking at where you may have fallen for the “sunk cost fallacy” may surprise you.

When I was at university studying business, we learned about the concept of a “sunk cost”. A sunk cost refers to money spent that cannot be recouped. For example, if you purchase fuel for a fleet of company cars, that money has been spent and cannot be recovered. In other words, the money has been “sunk”.

In business we were taught that once that investment is sunk, you mustn’t dwell on it: the idea is to accept that the investment is sunk, and you move on.

When making a business decision, sunk costs should not enter the discussion because the money has already been spent and has nothing to do with the future direction of the business. According to Dr Elizabeth Essex who has a PhD in Organisational Behaviour,

“It’s a common business tenet that sunk costs should never be considered a relevant factor in decision-making. Using sunk costs as a factor in a decision is simply trying to justify past choices.”*

So why then, do we tend to factor in sunk costs when making decisions in our lives?

I suppose it comes down to us humans being fairly irrational.** We tend to think that if we’ve invested time or emotions or money into something, if we later choose to walk away, we feel as though we’ve wasted that time, emotion or money. We tend to think that if we stick at it, the investments already made will somehow have been for something. However as Essex points out, in that situation we are simply trying to justify that past decision; that is, we are being driven by our ego rather than by logic.

Here’s an example that I’m sure we can all relate to. Your friend (or perhaps yourself) continues to date someone even though both parties are clearly not happy in the relationship. The tumultuous relationship continues on and on, and you stick at it because you feel as though walking away would have “wasted” all that time you had spent together.

Another example: you chose to study in a particular field. After years of study you then enter that field and after some time, you realise that you don’t really want to continue working in that field. Despite knowing that it isn’t quite “you”, you continue to work in that field because you feel that walking away would have “wasted” all those years of study.

Ironically though, in both of these examples whilst the person continues on with the consequences of that decision to continue despite not being happy, they are forgetting another important principle. Opportunity cost.

Again something I learned when studying business, opportunity cost is the cost of the lost alternative. That is, when you make a decision – whatever it may be – you are also making the decision to not take an alternative path. There is a cost in that lost opportunity.

Following on from the above examples: the tumultuous relationship may make both parties feel as though their decision is wise – that they haven’t walked away from years of investment in the relationship. But the reality is that they are also choosing to continue to be unhappy. They are also choosing to give up alternative possibilities (which could be many and numerous, e.g. finding another partner to have a happy and fulfilling relationship with). Likewise, in the example of continuing on with a career that doesn’t meet your needs you are also choosing to not explore alternative career prospects that may give you satisfaction and fulfilment.

 

Interestingly, when we learn to stop considering sunk costs in our decision-making, not only can we move on from an unhappy situation sooner and embrace new possible future paths (how good is that!?), but we grow from that experience. In whatever “bad” decisions we make, there is always opportunity for growth and learning which we take with us into the future.

So, have a think about it. Where in your life have you taken sunk costs into your decisions? Are those decisions costing you dearly in terms of lost opportunity? Be upfront about it, because the sooner you are, the sooner you can make new decisions and embrace new and exciting possibilities!

/ Daisy

*”Sunk Costs: Definition and Examples” from Study.com (Available: http://study.com/academy/lesson/sunk-costs-definition-examples.html). 

** If you still think we are rational beings, please please please read some of Professor Dan Ariely’s work on irrationality. It’s fascinating!

health, Personal Growth, Productivity

How to perform despite the anxiety


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If you’re anything like me, you tend to become a bit of a bundle of nerves when a large event is on the horizon and you need to perform. You feel the pressure start to mount, you think about all the opportunity that is riding on how you perform, and you start to feel perhaps just a little panicky. You realise that it’s a great opportunity, but you also realise that you need to perform up to a particular standard to ensure that the event goes well.

I’m here to tell you that there are some good ways to help overcome the anxiety, and to help your performance improve. Hopefully some of my tips-from-experience will help you for your next “performance”.

When I was in high school, there came a time when I had to choose which electives I would take up for my final years. After having initially selected French and Geography (which I knew I’d get high marks in), I changed my mind and chose Drama and Art. I had a feeling that I needed to study drama – I had been a painfully shy child and knew that taking up Drama might help me overcome this shyness. Thankfully, it did! Through studying Drama – where I had to memorise lines, get up on stage in front of people and perform as a character – I learned that speaking in front of people is a performance piece. Getting up on stage with all those eyes staring at you and all those people judging you is very daunting at first. You wonder what they think of you and what they think of your performance: good? bad? the worst they’d ever seen?

We tend to judge ourselves pretty harshly, don’t we!

Through forcing myself to get up on a literal stage and act in front of people, I realised that I was OK with it because I was acting. I wasn’t “me”: I was someone else. Whatever the audience thought about “me”, they were actually thinking about the “character”. This arms-length way of seeing the performance allowed me to step outside of “me”, and to get on with the job of performing without needing to worry about people’s opinions of me on top of what would already be a challenging task. By seeing the performance as an act, I find that it becomes far easier to perform.

Besides, the big secret that we tend to forget is that each of us has these fears. We are always wondering what other people think of us. Whoever gets up on that stage is wondering what everyone else is thinking of them. So, if we are all wondering what everyone else is thinking of us, your audience is too busy thinking of what others are thinking of them to really be that concerned with opinions of you. Once you realise that everyone else is worried about what everyone thinks of them, you can start to let go of the concern that everyone is thinking about you. No offence, but you aren’t that special 😉

The next time you have a “performance”: be it a presentation at work, a sales pitch, or a job interview; think of it as if you are about to get into character. You will be acting. Obviously, you want to be authentic and still be “you”, but the beauty of seeing the performance as an act is that you get to choose the character. You get to choose a character that inspires you. For me, it’s someone who is courageous, always passionate, dedicated, and out to make a difference. By getting into the zone of the “character” you aspire to, you can think through how a person with those traits would perform. Plus, by being a character on stage rather than “you”, you can blame any performance mishaps on the character rather than yourself, and therefore you have less riding on this performance and you can relax a little and just ease into the performance.

Does that make sense?

Time for an example.

How would a courageous, passionate, dedicated person act?

They would speak at a loud volume (not too loud), they would speak clearly – not too fast nor too slow – and with passion and energy in their voice. They would speak emotively and would be enthusiastic using a variety of tonality as they speak.

Now, get into character. Practice speaking and holding yourself in the way that such a character would. Practice in front of a mirror, a pet or a trusted friend. Are you convincing as this “character”?

Once you can feel that you are acting and in “character”, you can start to see the separation between yourself and the character. With this separation comes freedom. Any words spoken or actions taken are that of the character. You are channeling this character and bringing them to life in front of an audience. Any opinions of the performance therefore, are of the character and not of yourself.

Let yourself go. Enjoy the mode of performing and focusing your energies on delivering a solid, inspiring performance rather than over-worrying about what the audience thinks of you.

By focusing your energy on what actually matters – on a solid and successful delivery -, you will have more chance at success. After all, if you focus your energies on worrying about everyone’s opinion of you, you will be far more likely to stumble and let your nerves get the better of you.

Try this for yourself. I’d love to know what you think, and if you’ve experienced this kind of performance or if you’ve tried something similar.

Now, get out there and give it a good go! Inspire people with your words and your energy. You have so much to contribute to others, and if you let the thought of people’s opinions stop you, that’s a real shame. Don’t let those thoughts get in the way of what is possible.

/ Daisy

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