We’ve all experienced being let down. We’ve all been failed. We’ve all been disappointed. But when living in a world of imperfect people, that happens. It’s called life.
But not everyone sees it like that.
I didn’t either.
I’d play the victim.
I’d want a pound of flesh from those I believed caused me pain.
I’d not let it go.
But I soon realised that playing the victim wasn’t endearing.
Neither was it mature.
It was childish and it hurt.
And to be honest, it irritated me.
I irritated me.
Because deep down I wanted to be free.
Free from the weight that came with being a victim.
Free from the lies that reinforced my negative script.
Free from the isolation caused by my unwillingness to change.
There had to be a shift.
I needed a different perspective.
And looking at life through a different lens was the solution.
Yes, I’d been failed.
But I’d also failed.
I’d failed to make my concerns known.
I’d failed to acknowledge my needs.
I’d failed to ask for help.
Yes, I’d been failed.
But I’d also failed.
So taking responsibility for my failings was liberating.
Because I was free to escape the baggage that comes with being a victim.
I was free from the thoughts that shaped my behaviour.
And I was free from the isolation caused by my distrust of others.
From where came the shift?
It came from accepting responsibility.
By taking back the power I’d given away.
Because that’s what happens when we play the victim.
We give away our power.
We sit silently, waiting for others to take the lead.
And yet despite our discontent, we remain quiet.
There lies the pain — its in the indecision.
Our failure to choose whether to stay or to go.
To remain silent or speak out.
To trust or to mistrust.
To assume the best or to question every motive.
From where comes the shift?
It comes from a realisation that passivity and resolution cannot co-exist.
It comes from seeing that openness is the key to mutual understanding.
It comes from looking for the good in every situation.
And that’s where victims get it wrong.
That’s where I was once stuck.
I failed to see the good.
And instead focused on what I perceived to be the bad.
Because that’s what victims do.
They see the problems, but not the opportunities.
They see the lack, but not the abundance.
They give away their power and live in self-pity.
— and there lies the pain.
Where might you be playing the victim?
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In overloading our brain we limit our ability to perform at our best. This is why finding ways to manage the use of our brain is important to our effectiveness.
Each day we’re faced with making thousands of decisions. Some decisions are mundane, like what cereal to have. Others are more serious, like whether to sell our home or not.
The thing is, decision making is taxing on our working memory — the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, comprehension, learning and processing, and working with new information.
So what can we do?
The mental demands of responsibility
I occasionally feel overwhelmed with the number of thoughts going through my mind, let alone the decisions I need to make. And in the past I’ve suffered with tension headaches as a result of the load.
When this first started happening I began to see that just like the muscles I train in the gym, my mind could only take so much before it felt like it was going to fail.
So I started to consider how to look after my mind and ease the stressful load, and soon realised that a simple solution was to begin occupying less space in my mind.
This was good to know because it meant I could start having more control over my mental well-being and have more mental capacity to function at my best.
Here are 4 things I practice that have worked for me.
#1. Avoid unimportant decision making
Though it might sound strange, the first is to remove the need to make decisions altogether. One example of this for me is having a simple wardrobe consisting of mainly black t-shirts and jeans.
Also by taking a few minutes to put out the clothes I need for the morning — gym, work, or DIY — the night before, I don’t have to decide what to wear when I wake up, so can give my mind to more important things.
#2. Use routines to remove distractions
There are loads of distractions throughout the day. Text messages, phone-calls, and countless app notifications can pull our minds from giving our best to our most important work.
So though some may not like or understand it, I remove these distractions by turning off notifications and regulating calls and emails.
For example, by limiting when I check email, I reduce the amount of decisions I’d have needed to make had I read them on an impromptu basis throughout the day.
#3. Store ideas on an external (brain) hard drive
Some things are stored on my internal mental hard drive. For example, significant memories and dates. But I keep other things on an external mental hard drive that I can refer to when needed.
For this I use Evernote, of which I’ve been a fan for some years now. Evernote is a brilliant app that allows me to organise my thoughts and ideas into a single digital work space that I can access at anytime.
Using Evernote helps to keep my internal hard drive free, as I can dictate, write, or even store photographs for later reference whilst on the go.
#4. Share thoughts and feelings with others
I’m by nature a secret introvert.
What that means is that I can be quite intense in my thinking and have a constantly running inner dialogue that can take it’s toll on my mental energy.
Though it has its benefits, my continuous thinking can lead to an overuse of my working memory and become a distraction preventing me from giving proper focus to other important tasks.
In sharing, either by writing in my digital journal or speaking to someone, I free up the space in my mind that those thoughts and feelings would otherwise keep occupied.
Wrapping it up
Our brains can only manage so much and our capacity to make good decisions depletes throughout the day.
So with needing to make decisions each day, it’s key to our effectiveness that we limit as many non-critical decisions as possible in order to reduce the likelihood of decision fatigue.
Keeping space free in our brain for high level decisions, reflection, and idea creation, is key to performing at our best.
What do you do to keep space free in your mind in order to perform at your best? Share in the comments below.
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We don’t all have photographic memories and the ability to remember everything we learn, but there is a way to better recall what we learn.
Though I struggle with the discipline of reading, over recent years I’ve grown to see its value and developed it into an enjoyable habit.
With help from apps like Audible I’m able to read more books than ever before. I listen while doing housework or DIY, traveling, but mostly while in the gym exercising.
The books I enjoy reading most are on leadership, entrepreneurship and personal development. I’m inspired by the lives of others, the challenges they’ve overcome, and the valuable lessons they’ve learned.
Just as interesting to me are approaches to building and developing teams, systems and processes, and the implementation of ideas. It might sound weird, but I find it all fascinating.
But I sometimes feel frustrated by an inability to retain what I’m learning and find myself asking questions like:
- Where am I applying what I’m learning?
- Where is there evidence of what I’m learning?
- What can I do to best retain what I’m learning?
So as someone who values personal development, it was as a bit of a light-bulb moment when I came across a helpful concept called the Learning Pyramid.
The Learning Pyramid
The development of the Learning Pyramid in the 1960’s — widely attributed to the NTL Institute — outlines how we learn.
A summary of their findings was that learners retain approximately:
- 5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture
- 10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading
- 20% of what they learn from audio-visual
- 30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
- 50% of what they learn when engaged in group discussion
- 75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned
- 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately
Practice, teach and implement
These findings got me thinking. In order to retain what I learn I need to teach others or use what I learn immediately — I need to practice, teach and implement.
For many, including myself, this is the scary part, as it goes beyond head knowledge to action. And we all know that with action will inevitably come mistakes, and with mistakes, exposure — eeek!
But the reality is that without practise and implementation we won’t make mistakes. And without mistakes we can’t retain what we learn.
Mistakes help us to learn
When faced with mistakes we become more focused, seek to problem solve, and attempt to make corrections. This is the process that helps to consolidate our learning.
Mistakes are good because they cause us to think about the actions that led to them in order to change them for the next time we face a similar situation or problem.
Truth is, if we don’t teach or implement what we learn, we can’t make mistakes, and if we don’t make mistakes, we retain less of what we learn.
I’m going to give thought to how I can more intentionally practice, teach, and implement what I learn. Maybe I’ve already started by writing this blog post, eh!
What about you, how good are you at retaining what you learn? Add your comments below.
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We all know the saying, sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me — and from a young age we were led to believe its true too.
Yet those of us who’ve been on the receiving end of names and spiteful words will testify to that maxim being untrue.
Words can hurt.
What people say can harm us.
And worse still, what others say can have lasting impact on our lives.
The little girl in the superstore
The potential damage that words can cause came into stark reality during a recent trip to a local superstore.
Having collected most of the items we needed – cereal, milk, fruit and vegetables – I skillfully maneuvered my way through the isles before getting to the checkout.
As I approached the checkout, stood in line, and began to unload the contents of the trolley onto the conveyor belt, I heard a woman shout at the top of her voice, “You’re so stupid!”
With the other fifty or so shoppers queuing and paying for items, this grabbed my attention. And as I looked across the isle I saw that she was shouting at a spirited little girl, no older than 6 years old.
“You’re a stupid little girl!” she bellowed again. And with this, the girl visibly shrunk within herself, clearly humiliated by the woman’s outcry.
In that moment, I was angry and felt a deep sense of compassion for the girl.
My anger soon turned to a compulsion to address the woman — to express empathy by acknowledging the challenges of parenting — but to also make a plea for her to consider the impact of her words.
So I did. In the privacy of the car park I politely beckoned to her and requested to say a few words. I was pleased that she gave a few seconds of her time.
Yet, although I sensed a reluctance to acknowledge her actions, I hoped — for the sake of her children — that she’d consider the power of her words.
Stop to consider your words
Our words are powerful — having the potential for irreparable destruction or great comfort. Knowing this, its important that we learn to THINK before we speak.
In other words we need to consider whether what we’re about to say is:
- Truthful – is it evidenced based?
- Helpful – will it be useful in moving the other person towards becoming a better version of themselves
- Inspiring – will it lift the other persons spirit?
- Necessary – does it actually need to be said?
- Kind – is it motivated by a desire to do the other person good?
I don’t know about you, but I know first hand the damage words can have, for as a child, I too experienced being called stupid.
What we say to others matters.
Our words have the potential to shape lives.
And that’s why we each need to THINK before we speak.
How are you using your words and what impact do you think they’re having?
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There’s not one person who goes to bed thinking of how they can take steps towards achieving nothing. Truth is, we all dream of leaving a positive legacy in life.
Regardless of how apathetic, unmotivated someone may appear, everyone wants to make a difference and contribute towards something great.
So if this is true, what’s stops many people from becoming or doing who or what they desire to become or dream of accomplishing?
I think it boils down to two things. One, the belief that they’re incapable, and two, the fear of making mistakes that will reinforce those beliefs.
Though there are other factors that hinder people — some within their control and some not — I think these two are the main obstacles to people making their desire to impact others a reality.
I’m going to confess that I’ve long struggled with both of the obstacles just mentioned, so know how crippling they can be.
For years I’ve lived with a desire to inspire others through relationship, writing and speaking, a longing that despite these barriers I’ve not been able to reject.
In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker J. Palmer puts it like this,
“Vocation at its deepest level is, ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.”
Call it vocation, calling, destiny, purpose, or whatever, for everyone, there’s just something we can’t shake off, and for me, it’s steadily grown over the years.
The trouble is, when plagued with doubts about my ability, and fears about getting it wrong, it can be hard to take the steps necessary to realise these aspirations.
I have a few, but here are just three affirming statements I use to help me overcome these two obstacles that you too might find helpful.
#1. “You’ve got more capacity than you think.”
Yes, we’re capable of accomplishing more than we think, but that’s not to be confused with being able to accomplish whatever we want, which I personally think is a lie that leads to heartache.
But though we’re not all going to be the next Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, or Bill Gates, we’re all capable of growth — of becoming better today than we were yesterday and tomorrow than we are today.
What matters is that we don’t limit ourselves, but instead commit to the daily development of character and competency, from which we grow towards being the very best version of ourselves.
#2. “Making mistakes is key to your learning.”
There’s no such thing as success without failure. Michael Jordon once said,
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 time I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
A growth mindset trumps a fixed mindset every time and being prepared to treat our efforts as a learning experiment frees us from the tyranny of a belief that says mistakes are bad.
To accomplish our best, we need to face the fear of what it’ll look like to be wrong, to make mistakes, and to fail at reaching the mark, yet go for it anyway.
#3. “Embrace the struggles — they’re good for you.”
Without some degree of resistance we can’t grow, as for genuine growth to happen there needs to be some resistance.
Best Buy founder, Richard Schulze, said of struggle,
“With every episode of struggle there is a learning opportunity.”
In understanding that things happen for us and not to us — a healthy perspective to have when facing challenges — we learn to accept each struggle as being one to embrace for our development.
Bring your talents to the table
Not only do we all want to make a difference, we each have a responsibility to use our talents for the good of others. If we don’t, someone somewhere will miss out, and we wouldn’t want that!
When doubt and fear prevent us from stepping out and offering our contribution to those around us, using these personal affirmations can go a long way in giving us courage.
What, if anything, holds you back from making your unique contribution? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
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The idea of being busy, if we’re not careful, can become a badge of honour that gives a feeling of importance for some, or a means of gaining sympathy for others.
Do you ever find yourself rushing from one thing to the next? Are you often late? Have you ever reached the end of the day with a wrenching feeling of not having accomplished anything meaningful?
If you answered yes, the chances are you’re too busy.
It was Henry David Thoreau who said, “It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” From this we can see that busyness isn’t the issue, but rather our ability to be busy doing what’s best.
Taking responsibility for our busyness
Just in these last few days, when asking someone how they were, I was met with the response, “Busy!” This got me thinking.
Why is it that we get caught in the rut of busyness? What causes us to speak about our busyness with resentment? And, who is actually in control of our busyness?
I believe that the answer to these questions lies in our willingness to take responsibility of our lives and being deliberate about the choices we make.
What I mean by this is that when presented with an opportunity or a request of some kind, in most cases it’s down to us and no-one else to make a decision as to whether we accept it or not.
For example, when recently asked to speak to a group of children on behalf of a national charity, I declined. Likewise when invited to get involved in a white collar charity event, I turned the offer down.
Because I knew that had I said ‘Yes’ to the speaking engagement, the time required for preparation would’ve impacted my other commitments, and had I agreed to participate in the charity event, I’d have had to change my training routine.
Despite both requests being for ‘good’ causes and being ‘good’ opportunities, I had to make a choice about where to give my time, and more importantly, my energy.
It’s that simple. Saying no meant I could avoid the stress of fitting more into my life.
Saying no also spared me the frustration of not being able to give my best, which in the case of the white collar charity event, most likely saved not just my male ego but my teeth!
You see, the myth is that we’re unable to make a choice about what we take on or leave alone. Sadly, this myth leads to a belief that we have to do it all.
Approaching life this way is more detrimental than we realise, as it impacts our ability to perform at our best in any given task or area of responsibility. This results, ultimately, in mediocrity and frustration, and in the worse cases, poor health.
The cost of saying yes to everything
I know first hand the affect of trying to do everything. It doesn’t pay — quite literally! I’m also aware of just how difficult it is to say no when it involves letting people down and risking not being asked again.
But the cost of saying yes to everything and living a life characterised by busyness, in the long run, is neither good for us or others, because by saying yes to some we’re inadvertently saying no to others anyway.
Sadly, some of the things we say no to are the very things we ought to be giving a resounding yes to. This is where being conscious of our boundaries is essential.
For example, taking a phone-call when your son or daughter is attempting to tell you about their school day, browsing an email while on the phone, or looking at Facebook when you should be writing.
And just so you know, I’ve been guilty of each!
These examples force us to think about how and where we divide ourselves, and though often subconsciously, the unhealthy habits we’ve formed along the way.
Deciding to make a change
So how can you be sure of giving yourself to what you should be giving yourself to and committing to the best things?
I want to suggest you begin by considering — just as I am — these three questions:
- What do I believe to be my purpose in life?
- What am I most passionate about in life?
- What might I need to say ‘No’ to from now on?
There are many other questions you could ask yourself, but these are specifically aimed at getting you to start thinking about where and to what you should prioritise giving your time, energy, and resources.
Choice is a gift – don’t give it away
Except for in extreme circumstances, choice is a gift we’re all fortunate to have.
With it we’re empowered to take actions that are aligned with our values and beliefs, and through the choices we make we’re able to move towards doing the things that we believe fit our life purpose.
So next time someone asks you how you are and you’re tempted to tell them how busy you are, stop and think about which of your choices are the cause of your busyness.
And then before answering, give some thought to where it’s within your control to make a change.
What do you think about busyness? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
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It’s important for us to know when to slow down, take a break, and give ourselves a chance to recover.
Learning to recognise when it’s time to take our foot off the pedal is really important for not just us, but for the health of the relationships we have with others. Self-care is not only key to our own well-being, but equally as important for those we lead, work with, and hope to influence, as our care for others will be less effective when we neglect our own health.
Self-care isn’t selfish
Take for example the instructions given by an in flight air hostess who, in the case of an emergency, instructs passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before attending to anyone else. At first hearing, this could sound inconsiderate or even selfish, but then for one obvious reason it starts to make sense; if you die through lack of oxygen, you’ll be no good to anyone else.
The same applies for us in all areas of life. If we’re not well, we’re less likely to be able to care for the well-being of others. But despite seeing the logic in the importance of caring for ourselves, its not always easy.
When dedicated to something — whether in a personal or professional capacity — it’s easy to get so involved that we overlook our own health, stop looking after ourselves, and fail to see the signs that we’re at risk of burnout. And for those who are driven, goal focused, and who lean towards ‘working hard’, this can be even more difficult, as stopping can feel unnatural, ridden with guilt, and laden with other negative beliefs.
So, if you find yourself burning the candle at both ends, here are five signs that you may need to consider taking your foot off the pedal, having a break, and getting yourself back into working order:
#1. You don’t want to get out of bed
If when your alarm clock goes off, you feel more inclined to curl up under the duvet and hide than face the tasks of the day, you probably need to give thought to your emotional well-being.
#2. You have less patience than normal
Having less patience can often indicate a decrease in emotional capacity. Whenever you start becoming snappy or irritated with those closest to you, or taking things personally, it’s worth looking at how you’re doing.
#3. You’re reverting to unhealthy habits
If you’re aware that you’ve had unhealthy habits or addictions in the past, and are finding yourself reverting back to them, then it may be that you’re using the instant gratification found in those behaviours to meet a deeper emotional need.
#4. You’re caring less about important things
When things get difficult its sometimes easier to bury our heads in the sand than it is to face life. Becoming distracted by activities not linked to our life goals and purpose, are often an indicator that we’re drifting, and in need of rest.
#5. You’re avoiding things you usually like
There will be a number of things that excite you. For example, meeting with friends or exercising. However, if you’re feeling less motivated to do them, or making excuses not to participate, you’ll likely find that you’re emotionally tired.
Some useful questions to ask yourself
In addition to considering the above five signs, some helpful questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering about your emotional well-being could include:
- Am I finding it harder to concentrate than normal?
- Am I feeling physically lethargic, tired, or exhausted?
- Am I feeling more cynical or critical about situations or people?
- Am I often feeling tearful or sad?
- Am I finding it hard to stay motivated?
Answering these questions honestly will help to give you an indication as to whether you need to simply take a break, or seek support for other conditions such as depression.
It’s important that we give thought to our care for self, as making self-care a regular and consistent practice is essential to our own health, and to the effectiveness of what we do both personally and professionally.
And making a start doesn’t have to be that difficult. In fact, you could simply start by taking the following steps:
- Take 10-15 minutes to assess how you really are (e.g. refer to the points and questions above)
- Identify some things that are consuming your emotional energy and apply the four D’s principle,
- Identify some things that bring you real contentment (e.g. exercise, pampering, prayer, walking in nature, listening to music),
- Schedule in time (actually put it in the diary, as you would a meeting) to do one or all of them,
- Keep your promise to yourself!
Practising self-care demonstrates a valuing of life and purpose
The benefits of choosing self-care are countless, including an improvement in our overall sense of well-being, our relationships with others, and our productivity. In pausing to assess our well-being, and going one step further to implement any necessary changes, we’re also acknowledging our mortality and helpfully reminding ourselves that we can’t do it all.
But most importantly, as we commit to assessing our wellbeing and choose to practise self-care, we make a statement of self-love that expresses the value we place on ourselves.
Which of the points most resonate with you, and when was the last time you practised self-care?
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The fact that I came across a porn site while searching for something on parenting, really concerned me!
Recently, following an disagreement with one of my sons, I stopped to reflect on how I could’ve managed the situation better. This led to me going online to look for helpful resources on parenting, and in particular being a good dad.
One of my life goals is to be the best dad I can be, so it was in that context that I went in search of advice on managing conflict in the best way possible. Because of our fallout, I was also feeling emotionally vulnerable.
So with that, you can imagine how disconcerting it was to have typed in what would’ve been a legitimately appropriate domain name in the hope of finding something useful, only to be led to a porn site.
Fortunately, the landing page only revealed scantily dressed females along with multiple hyperlinks, and not any hardcore images. Yet, in that moment of vulnerability, I was faced with having to make a decision.
“Do I consider the options presented on the page and click on a link, or do I press the backspace button and return to the last URL page?”
Though it felt like a lifetime, and though the temptation was real, I’m grateful to be able to say that I chose the latter and returned to the previous URL page. I’d escaped the lure of instant gratification once again.
Now, please hear me when I say this. That was just one victory among many loses.
For in the past, when faced with a similar temptation, I’ve made a different decision, become lost in a virtual world of lustful perversion, and made to live with the guilt and shame of my choice.
Pornography is good?
For many, there’s no issue with porn. Some would even consider it a healthy form of recreation.
In fact, you may think that porn is good. And to be fair, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a red-blooded man (including me) who’d argue against the appeal of pornography.
So you know what, I totally agree with you – porn is good.
Well, it is on the surface! And that’s why it’s so appealing. Because it offers so much by way of instant gratification and pleasure. And for men in particular, it’s pleasing to the eye.
But its the long term affects of pornography that I have issue with; the impact it has on my relationship with God, myself, my wife, my family, and the wider community.
I also know that by watching it, I’m silently supporting the exploitation of the thousands being trafficked for sex against their will for the pleasure and financial gain of others.
That’s why as much as I’m tempted, I choose to refrain from looking at sites that I believe taint the God-given gift of marital sex, objectify women, and imbed unrealistic ideals about body image, in the minds of its viewers.
Pornography is addictive
Truth is, just like alcohol and smoking, porn-use can become an addiction. I know too well the addictive power of pornography – of how its use can form an unhealthy, distorted view of women in the mind.
Research has found that porn-users, once addicted, were unable to stop using pornographic material as a sexual stimulant without help.
This inability to stop was despite negative consequences such as divorce, loss of family, and problems with the law (for example, sexual assault, abuse, or harassment in the work place).
Some professionals go as far as to suggest that pornography can be a more difficult addiction to break than cocaine. That being true, its fair to say that we ought to treat it with caution.
Pornography in the media
Martin Saunders recently published a helpful article in response to 50 Shades of Grey (the movie), scheduled for release on Valentine’s Day. In it he gives thought to how pornography shapes our brain and shares some other considerations.
The same movie, which has been dubbed by critics as ‘pornographic, exploitative, sexually violent, and anti-romance’, has caught significant media attention from critics who’ve gathered over 25,000 petitions to boycott the movie.
Despite the controversy, some see porn as harmless. Others argue it’s benefits as an aid to perk up their sex lives.
I’d suggest that if you need to watch someone else perform sexually to feel aroused with your lover, then there’s a deeper flaw in your relationship.
Okay, I know that to some my response may seem a little un-laddish and unmanly, but my attitude towards pornography has been shaped by my own experiences and awareness of its power and destructive nature.
You may be unaware, or in denial, about your own addiction.
Its because I believe that everyone’s entitled to their own view and able to make their own choices, that I’m concerned that a pornographer would choose to use a legitimately sounding domain name to host a porn site.
Just think, there’ll be other dads out there seeking encouragement and direction on how to be better fathers to their children, and instead of finding resources that help them in their efforts, they’re being directed to pornography.
And that makes me angry!
Because in my view, when I struggled with addiction to pornography, I wasn’t being the best dad or husband I could be. My porn-use didn’t help me to be a better husband to my wife, or father to my two sons or two daughters.
It actually did quite the opposite.
Over to you
Would you consider porn a positive or negative influence on your life?
How does your attitude to porn impact the way you view women?
Where would you place yourself on the five stages of pornography addiction?
Who would it be helpful to talk to about your attitude to pornography?
Our thoughts about goals, and the options available to help us accomplish them, are what determine our chances of success.
The size or complexity of a goal isn’t what decides the odds of you achieving it. And though some goals may be beyond your current level of skill, knowledge or confidence, these aren’t what cause you to succeed or not.
What causes you to achieve your goals in just about anything in life is your ability to lay hold of the not yet. It’s in focusing on the not yet, that you develop a mindset that helps you to see everything you do as an opportunity for growth.
Carol Dweck, in her Ted Talk, speaks about the power that comes from believing that we can improve.
In focusing on the not yet, we see that our current reality doesn’t have to be our future one, and that with faith, and a recognition of our ability to choose something different, we’re capable of shaping a new reality.
For example, if you were asked to play a piece of music on the guitar without having any previous experience, the current reality would be that your level of skill would be insufficient to fulfill the task.
However, assuming you’ve no physical or mental dispositions preventing you from playing the guitar, with time, resources sufficient to your needs, and some focused, strategic effort, you could shift your level of competency.
In fact, Josh Kaufman in his book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything FAST!, suggests that its possible, with just 20 hours of “focused deliberate practice”, to acquire a new skill and perform it to a good level of proficiency.
The point here is that in proactively changing your level of skill and competency, it’d be possible to move towards creating a reality that differs to your existing one.
Be open to the possibilities
Your ability to achieve and experience success in any effort starts in your mind, and is dependent on how open you are to considering the possibilities. What you think, and what you’re prepared to see, matters!
“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.” Dale Carnegie
Just think, when you look at a goal and see only the obstacles preventing you from accomplishing it, you’ll fail to give thought to the options that could help you achieve what you’d otherwise count as being impossible.
But when you give proper thought to the number of choices that could support you in your efforts to reach a goal, you’ll grow in hope. And guess what? Your chances of succeeding will increase!
Take for instance the example of learning to play a piece of music on the guitar. Let’s say we’ve listed as the possible options that would help you in reaching your goal, all of the following:
- Take guitar lessons
- Read a book on guitar playing
- Follow instructions from a guitar manual
- Ask someone who plays to teach you
- Watch Justin Guitar video tutorials
- Commit to daily practice
- Listen to the piece repeatedly
Even if some of these routes were unavailable to you, what we see, with a little exploration of the options that could support you in the accomplishment of your goal, is that your chances of success seem more likely.
In fact, the probability of you successfully accomplishing your goal to play the piece of music on the guitar, will increase in line with the number of possibilities you’re open to.
Your success depends on more than just the possibilities
But though drawing up a list of options that could help you reach your goal is necessary and good, to effectively move you forward towards changing your current reality, there’s more needed.
I’d suggest that for you to reach your goal, in addition to having looked at the possibilities, you’d also need to be intentional about these three things.
- Choosing the best options,
- Setting clear goals for their implementation, and
Choosing the best options is key to keeping you aligned with what you want to achieve, setting clear goals will ensure you stay on the correct path towards your destination, and execution will keep you moving forward towards completion.
Along with believing that achievement is possible, when these three factors are in place, the probability of you actually experiencing success in reaching your goal, will multiply.
Ultimately, your ability to achieve depends on your mindset; you’re beliefs, expectations, and the stories you tell yourself each day. So to realise success in just about anything in life, choose to think that anything is possible.
Over to you
What goals are you reaching for at the moment, and how open are you to the possibilities?
What stops you from taking action to reach your goals? I asked that question for years until one day I realised that it was all down to one thing – the way I think.
The more I talk with others – both adults and young people – the more I realise that those who fail to take action to bring about the outcomes they say they long for in life, have one thing in common.
I’ve also found this to be true for myself, so over the years have sought to address it. And it’s this – that the degree to which we take action to make changes in our lives that’ll help us to achieve our goals, is directly linked to our thought process.
Your thoughts are powerful
Your thinking is key to your progress. Both your inactivity and activity, are the result of your thoughts. Your thinking drives everything and it’s the difference between you being successful in reaching your desired outcomes, or not.
Henry Ford famously said,
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Henry Ford
Though arguably a simple concept, I’m saddened when I see the potential in others – particularly young people – not being realised because they fail to see this principle and make a conscious decision to do something about it.
Our mind is like a gateway to our being, so what we allow into our minds will shape who we become and what we do. Without first acknowledging this, our chances of success in every area of life will be almost impossible.
Why is this? Because our thoughts, whether negative or positive, are powerful.
Such is the power of our thoughts that they’re able to determine whether we act in a way that’s either supportive or detrimental to our success. They shape our worldview, how we feel, our decisions, and how we determine our priorities.
What you think impacts your outcomes
With the average person thinking between 50,000 – 60,000 thoughts a day, it’s important to understand the significance of thoughts on our lives.
Our thoughts trigger our feelings, our feelings govern our actions, and our actions determine our results. They have the capacity to either help or hinder our ability to reach our potential, realise our dreams, and make our greatest contribution.
As such they need to be cultivated and managed.
Just for a moment, think about how many of your thoughts are negative, potentially destructive, or obstructive towards helping you reach your goals.
A thought example of mine over the years has been, ‘I’m not smart enough’. This thought, rooted in comments made by other significant people during formative years, led to a feeling of a fear of looking stupid.
This thought and resulting feeling have led to procrastination, withdrawal and various other negative actions that have served to protect me from potential humiliation.
For example, as a teenager, instead of attempting a task that I feared I’d fail at, I’d choose to be rude to teaching staff as an avoidance strategy. I didn’t want to run the risk of failing and looking ‘stupid’.
I’ve since learned, that if left unchecked, my thoughts will always veer towards the negative and result in me not taking opportunities to develop the confidence needed to grow personally, whilst simultaneously helping others.
When I consciously manage my thoughts, and make an effort to think differently about circumstances, people, and myself, I make better decisions, have healthier relationships, and feel more empowered and confident to fulfill my life purpose.
What about your thoughts?
Having seen an example of mine, take a moment to consider one of your own negative thought patterns. Think about the impact it’s had on you. Give thought to how its possibly hindered your progress in the last week, month, year, or longer?
This is important to consider, because if you don’t first recognise how your thoughts have impacted your progress, your potential future success could be limited by the thoughts that’ve been an obstacle to any past achievements.
Thinking differently will change your feelings and outcomes
Equally, now consider what it’d be like if the majority of your thoughts helped you towards successfully reaching your goals. Imagine for a moment the impact of those thoughts on your feelings, actions, and resulting outcomes.
The possibilities would be endless.
By simply deciding to notice and modify your thoughts so they’re more supporting of what you want to achieve, you’ll increase the chances of getting the kinds of outcomes in your life that you really want.
So, having briefly considered negative and positive thoughts, here’s a question for you.
Which thought patterns would you rather commit to, those that hinder you from reaching your goals and experiencing growth, or those that’ll open doors of opportunity for you to walk through with confidence?
My guess, if you’ve read this article, is that you’d want to work on developing the thoughts that’ll help you to reach your potential, maximise your influence, and make your greatest contribution to the lives of others.
After all, that’s what you’re here for, right?
To make lasting change to the way you think, you need to first commit to understanding your thought processes. Once you’ve done that you can work on modifying your thoughts so as to change your feelings, actions and outcomes.
Sadly, too few people realise or accept this, and as a result walk through life struggling to achieve their goals because they’re captive to the thoughts preventing them from moving forwards and reaching their potential.
But you can be different.
Start by being honest with yourself and looking at how you think about your life. Then choose to change your thinking. You can decide today that struggling through life because of destructive thoughts doesn’t have to be your story.
Over to you
What thoughts are currently stopping you from achieving your goals and dreams, and what could you replace them with?
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How good would it be if you knew how to improve and become better at anything and everything you did?
Just as you are, I’m committed to getting better at what I do. So with each passing day I find myself asking questions like:
- How am I aligned to what I believe is my life purpose?
- Where can I make more impact in the lives of others?
- What do I need to do to keep growing and improving?
Whether it’s being a good husband and dad, bettering my creativity, developing the effectiveness of my leadership, or continuing to create my ideal lifestyle, I’m intentional about making improvements towards reaching my goals.
Now, its not always the case that I’m successful in what I want to achieve, and when this happens I have to take stock of what I either have or haven’t done that resulted in the outcome I got.
One thing that has always improved my performance
But there’s one thing that’s always raised my game, improved my performance, and helped me to get better in everything and anything I’ve ever worked to improve.
When applied, this one principle is the only thing that’s always given results and has been neither complicated or expensive. In my view its actually proven to be the simplest way to be more successful at anything.
And what’s great is that with a little thought and effort, you too can apply it. You won’t have to attend any conferences, training courses, or even purchase lots of eBooks.
All you’ll need is clarity on what’s most important to you and a little investment of your time and energy. Yes, that’s all. If you set aside some time to get clear on what you want, you can improve in anything when you apply this one principle.
And it’s simply this…
Be around people who are better than you at what you want to improve
When asked about mentoring influences in an interview with The Great Discontent, Designer and Illustrator, Mikey Burton spoke about having competition from those he most associated with, and how it challenged him to continually improve.
Jim Rohn says,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
What this basically means is that the company you keep will determine the level of success you experience in the areas of life that are most important to you. You can improve by association.
To be a better parent, watch and learn from those who parent the way you’d like to. If you want to be a better leader, spend time around effective leaders. To grow in your faith, commit to being around those passionate about living out their faith.
And if you want a vibrant and successful marriage, guess what? Get time with couples who not only look like they’re in love, but who actually love each other and display the kinds of marital characteristics you most admire.
Your personal and professional development will be shaped and influenced by those you spend most of your time with; those you’re in relationship with. So to win, simply spend time with successful people.
Your success will depend on some conditions
However, to benefit most from this simple tip for getting better at what you do, you’ll also need to understand the importance of applying the following:
- You must be intentional. It will take effort on your part to firstly identify the areas of your life that are most important to you and that you want to develop. This is key to deciding who you will want to spend time with.
- You must be humble. It will take understanding that you don’t have all of the answers, and being willing to acknowledge the experience and gifts of those who are ahead of you in the areas that you want to develop.
- You must be teachable. It will take continuing to see yourself as a learner and being willing to take on board and apply the wisdom of those who you’ll be learning from.
- You must be grateful. It will take showing appreciation to those who are helping and mentoring you, and communicating the significance of their contribution in your efforts to improve and succeed.
- You must be you. It will take remembering that you’re designed uniquely and that your contribution will look and sound different to those you’re learning from. Apply principles, don’t be a clone.
So there you have it. It really couldn’t be more simple.
To get better at anything in life and increase the chances of success in everything you do, spend time with people who are better than you at the things you want to improve in your own life.
When you start to invest time with people who are ahead of you, and you remember the five conditions I mentioned above, you’ll grow from strength to strength in reaching your desired goals.
You’ll also become better than you ever dreamed possible at the things you most value and have long observed others doing so well. The level of your improvement then, is dependent on those you give most time to.
Over to you
Who do you need to start spending more time with?
What do you say to yourself when approaching the finishing line of a project or task? Do you ever find your energy levels waning or your motivation dipping?
You see, I’m fairly good at having ideas – lots of them. I’m also good at positioning people to get things done — by identifying strengths and delegating accordingly.
But the challenge for me has always been in the finishing.
Why? Because I get bored easily.
Yes, I’m one of those visionary creative types that have a tendency to jump from one thing to the next out of sheer excitement at the possibilities to do and learn new things.
I’ve often wished it were not the case, but I’ve come to accept that that’s the way I’m wired. In fact, the last time I completed the Belbin Team Role assessment, Completer Finisher wasn’t one of my strengths.
No surprises there!
In fact, at the last time of completing the assessment, I came out as Plant, Shaper, Coordinator, and Teamworker in fairly equal measure. I know, you don’t need to say anything, I’m a bit of a strange mix!
That said, in growing more aware of my strengths and allowable weaknesses, I’ve become more conscious about how I approach tasks and projects.
So for example, I set deadlines for quick wins because I know that in doing so I’ll find it easier to persevere in moments when I’d otherwise be tempted to move onto something new and more exciting.
Finishing feels great!
But you and I know that finishing is key to our success in anything we do.
And though we might not be Olympic athletes like Bolt, we can relate to the feelings of elation that come from crossing the finish line and accomplishing our personal and professional goals.
We know that the rush of having achieved a long sought, and fought after goal, is fantastic.
Yet, we often don’t make it across the line, do we? Something gets in the way and for whatever reason, despite our best efforts and good intentions, we don’t accomplish what we’d hoped for.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Firstly, by avoiding some common goal setting mistakes we can set ourselves up for success. But also, by simply changing our mindset, we can begin the process of taking steps towards achieving all that’s most important to us.
The mindset of high achievers
Those who achieve great success, start the process by choosing to think differently. In fact, its the way successful people think that sets them apart from those who fail to accomplish as much.
It’s not intellect, resources, or even luck, that most determines what makes some people more successful than others, it’s mindset.
So here are a number of phrases that I recently came across from co-authors B. J. Gallagher and Steve Ventura stating what is most commonly said by high achievers. The first ten are theirs, the remaining ten my own.
Before reading them, it’s good to note that these types of statements, words, and phrases are key to your leadership success. So I’d encourage you to consider how frequently you use them.
Here they are:
- “I won’t wait for others to take the first step.”
- “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
- “If not me, who?” If not now, when?”
- “Let me have a go at it.”
- “I will not pass the buck.”
- “You can count on me.”
- “It is my job.”
- “Just do it.”
- “I will.”
- “Leave that with me.”
- “I’ll get it done.”
- “What can I do to help?”
- “I can.”
- “I’m on it!”
- “I’ll handle that.”
- “That’s possible.”
- “Job done.”
To be a high achiever and accomplish the things that most matter in our lives, we need to become comfortable with making such statements to ourselves and others.
Each speaks of taking responsibility, of being proactive, and of being committed to finishing what we start. Equally, each is typical of, and necessary for, leadership effectiveness, growth, and most importantly, impact.
Questions to consider
Which of the phrases do you need to say more of? What other phrases or words would you add to the list?
Despite efforts to control, plan and shape our futures, no-one can escape the reality that some things are simply outside of our control.
As a family we have a regular film night where we use our Netflix account to project onto the wall our movie of choice. One of my personal favorites has been A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The story sees the near perilous and unfortunate events that follow three orphaned siblings whose uncle, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), is determined to kill them in order to acquire a huge inheritance left by their deceased parents. What’s clear throughout the film is that the children have no control over the events they experience.
Just as with the three orphaned children in the film, life has a way of presenting each of us with a series of unfortunate events that can — if we allow them to — derail us and prevent us from becoming the best version of ourselves.
Life presents challenges to us all
Like the children in the film, you have no control over the totality of your life experiences, and have in some way been on the receiving end of some degree of misfortune. I don’t know about you, but though I’m grateful to have been raised in a loving home, I didn’t determine when, where, or to whom I’d be born. That was definitely beyond my level of competence!
Neither was I able to predict traumatic events, ill-health, bereavement, or periods of depression that would impact relationships, motivation, and performance. I’d no idea, and my guess is that when facing trauma, you didn’t either. Each of us could identify areas of life and experiences that seem unfair. Unfortunate things happen to us all, so despite your best efforts, there’ll be times when you can do very little about it — if anything at all.
There is some control over life’s challenges
But although there are circumstances beyond the power of your control, you’re not totally powerless to them. Even when faced with challenges outside of your power, you remain in control of the one thing that you can change; your choice of attitude. Believe it or not, your attitude fuels your success and stokes the fire of your hope.
If harnessed well, your attitude is powerful beyond measure — more important than your education, bank account balance and your past experiences. Your attitude towards anything is powerful enough to change everything. In fact, you have more power than you probably give yourself credit, as it’s actually the control you have over your attitude that’s most important when you’re facing life’s challenges.
Choosing the meaning of your experiences
Not one of us can be certain of what tomorrow will bring. Neither tomorrow or good fortune is promised to anyone. But rather than allowing your experiences to become an obstacle to your well-being and progress, give energy to defining how you interpret the meaning of your experiences in order to gain greater control of your future.
For example, as a teenager, like many other young people, I went through a period of being bullied. Growing up I could’ve interpreted the meaning of my experiences in one of two ways (1) that I was weak, my life mattered very little, and that nobody liked me, or (2) that those who bullied me were hurting and insecure so sought a sense of power by targeting me, simply because they could.
Now, though I struggled with number one for a long time (and still to this day occasionally catch glimpses of it), I’ve conditioned myself to opt for option two, as it’s a far more productive and healthy interpretation of the events I experienced. This also makes my interpretation of the events more powerful than the experiences themselves.
Overcoming the odds
Despite the vain attempts of some who seek to bring doubt and negativity into your life, it’s possible, with the right attitude, to overcome great odds and fulfill your purpose. Such was the case for Richie Parker, who, the result of a non-genetic limb defect, was born without arms, and whose condition would see him face physical limitations that many wouldn’t dream of.
In response, many around him said he’d not reach the level of independence or do the things that others would take for granted, like riding a bike or driving a car. There were those who’d written him off before he’d even begun. Yet, despite the challenges, he and his family determined that he’d be given every opportunity to live a normal life and succeed, just like his peers.
With support from his parents, coupled with his drive and the cultivation of a healthy attitude, Richie had other ideas and overcame great odds.
“I don’t listen too much to people when they tell me I can’t do something. There’s not a whole lot that’s gonna stand in my way.” Richie Parker
Now, following an internship that was supposed to last ten months, he’s a respected Vehicle Engineer for Hendricks Motorsports, one of the most successful race car organisations in the USA. And what’s most remarkable is that to do the work of an engineer, Richie, as with most other things he does in life, uses his feet.
Be an example to others
Richie Parker is a brilliant example of how attitude can make all the difference to the way you face the difficulties that life presents. His story shows that with the right mindset, its possible to achieve great things against the greatest of odds. Watch the video of Richie’s story and then answer the following questions.
- What life experiences have become an obstacle to your success in life?
- How would a shift in your interpretation of your experiences impact you?
- Where can you make the first change to your attitude in order to move forward?
The story of Richie Parker is remarkable, as it not only gives hope, but challenges us to have a different perspective. For as we look at his story, we’re invited to be grateful for what we have and to change our attitude towards difficult life experiences or circumstances.
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Are you a dad? Do you ever plan to be a dad? If you answered yes, then this post is for you.
Having been a dad for over 19 years, I know firsthand that it’s no easy task, so I’ll say upfront that for a multitude of reasons I feel unqualified to write this post on how to be a great dad.
That’s in no way an attempt at gaining sympathy, it’s just the plain truth – ask my children!
Like so many of the dads I know, I’ve failed on numerous fronts at being a good dad, and that’s something I’m learning to live with.
Yet, in my own personal pursuit of becoming the best I can be, in what I believe to be the most important role I have in life, I’m writing this in the hope that it’ll help to encourage, and at the very least, provoke the thoughts of other dads.
Writing a blog post on what characterises a great dad evokes a variety of emotions. I think about my own father, our relationship past and present.
What I’ve observed, learnt, and experienced from his fathering of me and how that has shaped my life.
And I also give thought to the many mistakes I’ve made as a dad, and relive the pain that has come as a consequences of some of my many mistakes.
But in considering these things, I thought sharing some reflections would be helpful for other dads, who like me, take seriously their responsibility to father well, and who’d consider themselves as ‘works in progress’.
The list I’ll present is short, for there’s no doubt many other characteristics I could’ve added. Indeed you too could add to the list, and I’d invite you to do so by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.
1. Show unconditional love
To be honest, this goes against much of our natural inclinations. When children comply, they’re easy to love. But when they’re disobedient, disrespectful, or deceitful, it’s less likely that we’ll want to sit in the same room as them, let alone have fun and spend ‘quality time’.
Yet though this is true, great dads understand that the love they show to their children can’t be dependent on their child’s behaviour or choices.
Instead, they recognise the importance of addressing their own inner process — what their child’s behaviour is evoking in them and why — and then acting graciously and objectively.
They are deliberate about telling their children they love them everyday and show as much affection as possible.
They also know that taking a look at what’s missing in the relationship, and likely causing their child’s behaviour, is their responsibility.
In addition, they understand that despite discovering what they may not want to see, initiating and making change is a necessary must.
2. Lead by example
The best thing a dad can do is model what they want to see their children become.
John Maxwell says of leadership that it’s “caught, not taught.” This would be true of the kinds of values, attitudes, and behaviours we want to see in our children.
The best dads are those who communicate their values not simply with their words, but by how they conduct themselves, in the choices they make, and by how they prioritise their time.
If we want our children to be generous or hospitable, then guess what? We need to learn to be hospitable and generous.
For our children to recognise the importance of exercise for well-being, then guess what? We need to exercise.
And if we want our children to see the importance of their ongoing development, we too need to invest in our personal growth – spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
3. Allow your child(ren) to make (some) mistakes
Again, this is a hard one, for there’s nothing worse than seeing someone you love make poor decisions that’ll increase the chances of them coming to some harm in the long run.
I’ve seen a couple of our children choose friends with poor character, spend money irresponsibly, get caught up in unhealthy relationships, and develop poor habits.
What I’m growing to understand is that as painful as it may be to observe, its important for them to make these mistakes.
For it’s in the making of mistakes that they’ll have the opportunity to learn from them, just as I did (and continue to do!) when I was growing up.
Good dads allow space (not life threatening space) for their children to encounter failure, knowing that with maturity, these experiences will become points of reference for future — hopefully better — decisions.
4. Praise and affirm your child(ren) in public
The health of a child’s view of self is a high priority for every good dad.
I’m not talking here about praising a child who cannot hold a note to the point where they have an unrealistic view of their abilities and then go to audition on the X Factor — we’ve seen enough of those!
But rather, positively affirming and encouraging further growth in the things we recognise in them that are ‘good’.
For example, one of our sons does in fact have a good voice, which I first noticed when he was fairly young.
Having recognised it, I acknowledged it, encouraged it, and then affirmed it in front of others. All of which was done intentionally.
Over time this will impact his confidence, and more importantly, increase the likelihood of him utilising a gift he’s been given.
5. Encourage your child(ren) to reach their potential
Every child has the ability to achieve greatness and make a positive impact in the world around them.
And with there arguably being opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve success, as never before in history, it’s only right that a child should be challenged to maximise their potential.
Good dads know this and make every effort to encourage their children to reach towards their best in everything they do. Though there needs to be a balance — which I’ve failed miserably to maintain at times! — it’s important.
Raising the the bar of expectation with regard to everything from attitude, behaviour, character and desire to fulfill purpose and achieve, is what great dads do. They don’t allow their children to settle for being average.
They know that their children have one life to live, and that the joy and fulfillment they’ll get along the journey, will be in part, related to their willingness to reach their potential.
6. Discipline your child(ren)
This can be an area of much debate, and I’ve been guilty of getting this one wrong at great cost in the past.
Discipline is a part of a good dads repertoire. Why? Because good dads know that to allow their children to not face consequences for poor choices is to to set them up to fail in life.
In the real world, there are costs for poor choices, and children need to learn that from an early age.
Showing disapproval of unacceptable behaviour, attitudes, or words, through appropriate discipline, provides dad with opportunity to help children to understand that there is a better and more acceptable way.
7. Teach your child(ren) to be grateful
It’s so easy to go through life with little or no appreciation for the many blessings we have. And so it is with our children who have more choices and opportunities than we ever did. Some of which are literally at the tips of their fingers.
This is why good dads work tirelessly to instill in their children a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the things and many freedoms they have.
Great dads know that helping their children to see the value in all they have is important in them developing an attitude of gratefulness.
From given them responsibilities around the house that encourage them to play their part, to saying a short prayer of thanksgiving at the dinner table, good dads are intentional in their efforts to cultivate a heart of gratitude in their children.
In closing, I would say that being a dad is one of the most rewarding responsibilities in the world. At the same time, as any dad will know, it’s also one of the most challenging too. But with focus and purpose, although we’ll never perfect it, we can get better.
Here’s a reminder of what we looked at:
- Show unconditional love
- Lead by example
- Allow your child(ren) to make (some) mistakes
- Praise and affirm your child(ren) in public
- Encourage your child(ren) to reach their potential
- Discipline your child(ren)
- Teach your child(ren) to be grateful
Over to you
Of the 7 tips listed, which one did you most connect with? What was the most challenging for you? When thinking about being a better dad, what would you add to the list? Share your thoughts and comments below.
If you found this post helpful, please share it with someone who you think would enjoy reading it too.
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What’s key to your leadership success? Good character, yes! Integrity, yes! Humility, yes! But what else?
Core to every accomplishment is effective leadership. So our attitude towards leadership development is important if we want to continue making an impact in the lives of others.
Knowing what helps us to be more effective in our leadership results in greater success. So in this post I offer three principles, that when applied, will grow your capacity to lead well.
Once read, let me know what you think and also what you’d add.
1. Know yourself
Our success is impacted largely by who we associate and work with, and key to leadership success, is a willingness to recognise areas of weakness.
This self-awareness positions us to know where we need support in the accomplishment of our goals.
“You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.” Mother Teresa
Good leaders know that they’ve limited knowledge, skill, resources, energy and time, so they commit to working with others.
Daniel Priestly, in his book Entrepreneur Revolution, describes it as, ‘smart people being the ones that surround themselves with smarter people.’
The wise leader knows that the degree to which they succeed is dependent on who they surround themselves with.
2. Break the rules
Our leadership success will depend on our willingness to tread new paths, pioneer, buck the trend, and on occasion, break the ‘rules’.
But breaking rules isn’t about being unethical or maverick, its about being prepared to break convention. And this can sometimes simply be, not meeting the expectations of others.
It’s rare that we achieve something momentous by doing the norm, fitting in, or settling for the status quo.
In fact, its when we follow the call on our hearts, and step beyond our comfort zones, that we experience growth.
Leaders who want to be successful in accomplishing their goals, must be willing to follow their heart, take steps of faith, and break from the pack when needed.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
Leaders learn to embrace failure, and develop a growth mindset, which enables them to process failure differently.
They understand that each failure, when considered an opportunity to learn and improve, is in fact an opportunity for increased personal growth and progress.
Why? Because they know that when they stop failing or making mistakes, it’s a sign that they’ve become stagnant, and worst still, comfortable.
Failure is important to our success because it nudges us towards continued self-awareness and growth.
The wise leader knows that being fearful of failure will cripple their chances of success.
There are of course other factors that determine the measure of a leaders success, but every experience of growth will be in direct correlation to the degree in which these principles are applied.
Here’s a reminder of what they are:
- Know yourself
- Break the rules
- Don’t be afraid to fail
Over to you
What other principles would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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What would it be like if you were consistently effective in everything you did? How would you feel? Brilliant, right?!
Whether it’s a great marriage or improved health and fitness, truth is, we can all experience greater measures of success in our lives if we develop the personal disciplines that compliment what we want to achieve.
Yet for many of us, what often happens is that we face the frustrations that come from our lack of self-discipline, and are left wondering where we’ve got things wrong — again!
I know the feeling of disappointment associated with failing to be consistent in the things that matter most. And as a parent, husband, and small business owner, I’ve suffered firsthand the consequences of a lack of discipline.
But what I’ve also found in my experience is that alongside the power of setting specific goals, there are five steps, that when applied, make me more effective in every area of my life.
Have a read of these five steps that I think are key to developing a new discipline, and let me know what you would add.
1. Know the ‘why?’
This is the most important step, because there’s no point in even approaching the issue of becoming more disciplined, without first acknowledging why the change is necessary for the achievement of a desired outcome.
Start by being honest with yourself and seeing that without change your outcomes will remain the same. Seeing why you need to make the change is the first step towards developing a particular discipline.
Without this recognition, you’ll remain blind to the reality of how your lack of discipline affects your life. And worst still, when things get difficult, without the motivation that comes from knowing why you’re doing the stuff you’re doing, you’ll be more likely to give up.
2. Do one thing at a time
Leading on from recognising our need to be more disciplined, the next step is to take an approach that’ll set us up for success.
The reverse is true too. Unsuccessful people are those with unsuccessful habits. They do things that prevent them from reaching their goals.
So deciding on one discipline at a time is important, as making too many changes at once will make success harder.
Real and lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does the development of a new discipline or habit. It requires time, commitment and patience.
Key to you being more effective in developing a new discipline is to identify where to begin and then commit to one thing at a time.
3. Set goals
Once clear on the discipline we want to develop, we need something to aim for that makes what we’re doing more tangible and real. We need a goal.
In developing a new discipline, having a plan needn’t be a scary or complicated thing. We can make it as simple as we like.
For example, one of my disciplines is to read a portion of the Bible each day. Another is to give at least one affirmation to my wife and children each day. Another is to journal.
I’m clear on why I’m doing each of them, and though they do require me to be intentional, neither of them are too complicated.
4. Ask for the input of others
We’re all creatures of habit, and this applies to whether the habits are good, bad, or ugly.
Having the support of others can be more helpful in the development of new disciplines than we might think.
Why? Because firstly, others see our blind spots, and secondly, when we give them permission, they can hold us to account.
I know that for myself, when I’m tempted to give up on something, being held to account by another creates in me a renewed sense of commitment.
5. Make a start
When all is said and done, the development of any new discipline isn’t going to happen if all we do is think about it.
For any chance of success in achieving the goals you’ve set yourself, you must make a decision to start the work required. You must take action.
In order to realise effectiveness in any area of your life, you’ll need to commit to the moment by moment practice of your newly developed discipline.
We all know that without discipline we can’t succeed. Equally, we know that being consistently disciplined can be our biggest challenge.
Self-discipline, believe it or not, is learned behaviour developed through repetition and daily practice, which through focused effort becomes habit.
So though we must allow for mistakes, learn to forgive ourselves and move on, we ought also to give our best in the pursuit of each new discipline.
Over to you
Which new discipline do you want to develop? What stage are you at in the 5 step process I’ve shared? What’s stopping you?
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In thinking about our own leadership, we’d all benefit from considering what it is about some leaders that make them worth following over others.
I recently considered some of the things I’ve observed in leaders that resulted in me willingly following them. The list was extensive. But though my list was big, for the purpose of this post, I’ve kept it to just six.
Based on my list, here are just a few of the leadership attributes that I think would make you a leader worth following. You may have others, so let me know what you think in the comments below.
#1. You have a desire to make a difference
Influencing change is at the heart of leadership. All effective leaders want to make a difference.
We’ve all been given talents to be used for the good of others and a responsibility to love and serve those around us. And deep inside, leaders know this to be true.
As a result, they have a desire to impact others and make a difference.
#2. You learn to live with your imperfections
All good leaders, despite knowing they’ll make mistakes, will continue in their efforts to influence positive change because they’re passionate about something and driven in their pursuit of fulfilling purpose.
We all have something good to contribute, and equally, we’re all susceptible to getting things wrong. But strong leaders know this, embrace it, and work through it.
The effective leader is the one who’s committed to personal maturity that’ll equip him to best serve others.
#3. You learn to monitor the voices in your head
Every leader knows that niggling voice. The one that seeks to keep them quiet, tells them not to rock the boat, and attempts to convince them to give up or settle for less.
The growing leader recognises and battles the voices in their head. Why? Because they know that their thought life is key to their effectiveness.
#4. You help to solve problems
Leaders solve problems and rectify things.
Good leaders always seek to answer the ‘why?’ question in order to influence change for the good of those around them.
We all encounter problems daily, but the effective leader is the one who doesn’t just see the problems, but feels compelled to address them.
Ken Robinson says,
“The role of the creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.”
Therefore, good leaders aren’t expected to have all the ideas or answers.
In fact, the best leaders are those who acknowledge their limitations (see #2) and are secure enough within themselves to take on board the ideas of others.
#5. You make things happen
The best leaders recognise that leadership is about getting things done. They know that ideas without implementation is hallucination.
Effective leaders understand that leadership isn’t simply about having great ideas, but about moving ideas forward and somehow making them become a reality.
Ideas alone count for very little. As such, its those who make things happen that are best positioned to change the world and leave a lasting legacy.
Great leaders are those who are able to balance vision, faith, and pragmatism, whilst remaining true to themselves and their values – by no means an easy feat!
They don’t just dream, they do.
#6. You take your responsibilities seriously
A true leader isn’t content with simply getting things done. They see what they do as fulfilling a call to something bigger than themselves. Why? Because they take their leadership responsibility seriously,
Whether they’re raising children, developing a business, or cultivating a relationship with a spouse, the most effective leaders efforts are purposeful and with intent.
Leadership isn’t beyond your reach
Leadership is too often perceived by many as something out ‘there’, unattainable, and only for the ‘chosen’ few. But the reality is something quite different.
We’re all called to lead. And every one of us have the resources to grow in our leadership capacity and influence real and significant change.
Over to you
Which of the six attributes stood out most to you? What would you add to the list? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
Have you ever woken up feeling a little downcast? Of course you have. Whether a person of faith or not, from time to time, we all do.
The other morning was one of those days for me. I felt heavy and unsure about what seemed like an uncertain future.
But then I prayed.
In fact I prayed with Mel, my wife. And though the uncertainties didn’t go, or somehow vanish into thin air as if by magic, after praying I was filled with a sense of hope.
I love this quote from Oswald Chambers, who said,
Now I know that prayer isn’t for everybody, but along with meditation and consciously thinking about positive things, I’ve found prayer to be one of the most rewarding disciplines of my life.
And by prayer, I’m not talking about the stereotypical being on bended knee – although that too has its place, I’m simply talking about taking time to speak to God about what’s on my heart and mind.
Though helpful, as with most disciplines, it can often feel difficult to do. There have been countless times when I’ve been so swamped with tasks that I’ve not given time to pray – and as a result have suffered the consequences.
So here, after having such a bad start to the day, I thought I’d share three things prayer did to change my day and make me sing too.
Let me know what your experience of prayer is in the comments below. I’d love to hear!
#1. Prayer reminded me of God’s grace
You see, that’s the power of prayer. It causes us to look beyond our circumstances, and reminds us of our need for God’s help and his grace in times of need.
Prayer causes our efforts and abilities to become secondary and prioritises God’s power and purposes instead of our own.
When we pray we communicate to God that we trust him, his motives, and his agenda, more than we do our own.
It’s similar to the account of Jesus’ betrayal and resulting death, where despite knowing he was about to die by crucifixion, Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane helped him submit to God’s purposes over his own well-being.
#2. Prayer shifted my perspective
Through prayer there’s so often a wonderful transition too.
We move from a place of despair, despondency, and disillusionment to one of hope and courage. This, particularly in our greatest time of need, is often what we need most of all. Simple hope. Simple courage.
Prayer reminds us of God’s promises and causes us to look through eyes of faith at ourselves and the world around us.
In those moments when I struggle with depression, prayer is often the key to unlocking the joy I long for.
#3. Prayer provoked my soul to give thanks and be joyful
The result of spending moments in prayer or reflection extends beyond a change of perspective that lifts us from despair.
When we pray, our souls are refreshed and we discover the faith, strength and vigour needed to experience victory throughout the day.
In some instances, as it did with me the other day, prayer even causes songs to rise up in our hearts. And not just any song, but songs of gratitude, thanksgiving and joy.
Songs that speak of the goodness of God and that help to keep us hopeful for the future.
We all have something to be thankful for don’t we? Of course we do!
So stop and consider for a moment just 10 things you’re grateful for. Doing so will lift your eyes from any difficulties you’re facing and cause you to feel a whole lot better!
A song in my heart
One of my favourite songs is by Worship Artist/Leader, Israel Houghton. His song, Just Wanna’ Say, captures so well what happens when we take our eyes off of our circumstances and consider the goodness of God.
Whilst I was in the kitchen later in the morning, this song kept going around in my head much like the those annoying Spice Girls anthems of the 90’s. Only difference was, I was pleased with what I was hearing!
So whether you’re a person of faith or not, I dare you to watch his video without moving, even just a little bit!
Over to you
What do you do when you’re feeling emotionally low or discouraged? How helpful has prayer been for you? If you were to pray, what would you want to pray about today?
Sometimes life presents more questions than it provides answers. Yet it’s often the questions of life that help us to make changes for the better.
Each day I become more aware of wanting my life to count for something. I dream big, remain hopeful, and continue to believe that both are important. As a husband and father I want to love and lead well and see my wife and our four children succeed to be the people they’re capable of becoming.
I want to impact others — to inspire and encourage. My growing desire is to influence positive life change in anyway possible. One day at a time. One dream at a time. One life at a time.
But as I get older (gosh that sounds like something an old man would say, doesn’t it?) I’m learning that life is to be discovered, that we all take different paths, and that each step is shaped by our world-view and experiences.
So here are three questions I ask myself that I think have the potential to radically impact your life if asked and answered with consideration and sincerity. Have a look for yourself and see what you think.
Who in my life really knows me?
We all long for relationship and thrive best when part of community in which we’re able to give and receive. Yet sadly, the reality for many of us can be quite different.
We can feel lonely, isolated, and far removed from anything remotely related to genuine connection with those who know and care for us. And I’m not talking about Facebook ‘friends’ or Twitter ‘followers’ — they don’t count.
I’m talking about people we feel comfortable to share our fears, hopes, aspirations, successes and failures with. Those we’d shed tears with, openly acknowledge our weaknesses to, and with whom we can simply be.
Where in my life am I still learning and growing?
From an early age we’re like sponges. We soak in everything around us and have an insatiable appetite for learning new things. Our surroundings intrigue us, and we find most things exciting. But as we get older and the responsibilities of life take hold, we can become settled, lazy, or fail to recognise the value of learning (note I didn’t say education!).
Hands up, I’ve been guilty of this — and it wasn’t without great cost. Les Brown says,
“Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else.”
So now, as if wanting to make up for lost time (well, being honest, that’s exactly what I’m doing), I’m constantly challenging myself to ask questions that will help to boost my learning and become a better today than I was yesterday. It’s only when we challenge ourselves to continually learn that we have any shot of reaching our true potential in life.
What do I need to change to improve my life?
I firmly believe that we all have the potential to change. Am I saying that we can do it independently, or that we’re somehow the commanders of our own eternal destinies? No, I’m not. However, we do have the capacity to influence and shape our life’s — and we do this through the choices we make. But more significantly, through the life story we write.
In looking at our lives through a lens, we can each become screenwriters. By taking time to review our story, and by considering the vision we want for our future, we can take steps towards changing our life script. We can create a better and more desirable future for ourselves, if we’re prepared to put the work in, or course!
As Jim Rohn said,
“Your life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
If we want healthier marriages we can create them. To improve relationships with others we can determine to communicate in ways that are healthy even in conflict. And if we want to be physically healthy, we can choose to exercise and eat sensibly. Again, how our future shapes up is largely influenced by the choices we make and the cost we’re willing to pay.
When we decide to make changes that improve our lives, whether that’s breaking unhealthy relational ties, watching less TV, eating healthier meals, or spending more time with those we love, we increase the chances of reaching our true potential and helping others to do the same.
The opposite is also true, as if left to chance, life simply happens. It slowly drifts to nowhere, and our potential is missed.
What question jumped out at you the most, and more importantly, how will you respond?
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I stepped outside of my comfort zone the other week by conducting my first ever reader survey.
The survey results were helpful, so in this blog I’d like to say thanks to all who took the time to support me, and also share some of my findings.
With no idea what the results would tell me, it was a challenge to put myself out there and see what you, my readers, had to say. Overall though, your feedback was encouraging and insightful.
But despite my insecurities, the ‘Why?’ behind doing the survey was most important: being able to make decisions about the direction of my blog in the future.
So, as it was my first survey, I tried to keep it as easy and specific as possible with only ten questions. And this is why it would’ve taken no more than two minutes to complete.
In fact, the fastest completion time was exactly one minute! You can take a guess as to whether it was a male or female, can’t you?! :)
Survey findings were helpful
Anyway, the survey has been helpful in giving me a snapshot of who my readers are, what’s most important to you, and what you’d find it helpful for me to write more about.
So for those interested, in this post I want to share some of the findings of the survey and summarise some of my conclusions.
Summary of survey findings
In summary, my reader survey told me this.
Insights about my readers
- Readership by gender was 50% male, 50% female. Nice!
- The majority of my readers surveyed (50%) were between the ages of 31-40 years. The second largest group were between 41-50 years (25%).
- Those between 18-30 made up less than 7% of my readership, with those over 50 years being around 18%.
- Almost 64% of those surveyed were married, with approximately 30% being either single or co-habiting. Just 6% of readers would categorise themselves as having been divorced.
- The biggest challenges readers faced at the time of survey were ‘not having enough money’, ‘not having enough inspiration’, and ‘not having enough time’.
- Almost 60% of readers found insufficient finances a big life challenge.
Insights about my blog
- Over 70% of my readers first came across my blog via Facebook. With the remaining readers having been introduced to my blog through recommendation. No first time readers came via Twitter.
- Approximately 70% of my readers have read my blog for less than a year, with the remaining 30% showing a commitment for over two years.
- Most surveyed (50%) said they read my blog ‘usually’ with almost 30% saying they ‘always’ read it, about 15% saying ‘occasionally, and a small percentage reading ‘rarely’.
- With regard to the topics I address, over 70% of those surveyed said they’d like me to write more about my faith, and in particular, the application of my faith through life challenges.
- Other topics to cover included productivity, which came second, followed by social media and marriage.
- Over 70% of readers said that the frequency of my posts were ‘just about right’.
- More than 80% of those surveyed would recommend my blog to others. :)
Some of my blog reader survey conclusions
As mentioned, these insights have proven helpful to me, and though I’ve not yet determined the direction my blog will continue in just yet, as a result of these findings and comments, I’ve concluded the following:
#1. I’m reaching those at a similar stage of life – I too fall into the 31-40 years age range; the demographic of the majority of my readers (50%). The next group were 41-50 years (25%), so I’m connecting with both.
#2. Female readers engage more than men – the gender split of my readers surprised me (50/50). I wrongly assumed that the majority of readers would’ve been female due to the level of their engagement elsewhere on Facebook and comments.
#3. Write more about my faith – though I want my blog to be accessible to all, which is why I’ve not used it as a platform from which to ‘preach’, I’ll start to share more about the role my faith has in helping me through some of life’s challenges.
#4. There’s no pressure to publish more – having thought considerably about more frequent posts, hearing my readers say that the frequency is ‘just about right’ (over 70%), I can breath easy. Phew!
#5. Be encouraged to keep giving – the purpose of my blog is to inspire, encourage, and help others to take more control of their lives. Reviewing the results and reading some of your comments has helped to affirm that I’m adding value.
Having received your feedback, I’m now better positioned to write content that is most useful to you, and will also be able to make changes that will serve you best.
Again, thank you for your support – it means a lot!
Over to you
What else would you say the survey results say about my blog, and would you have added anything else?
Do you have a passion to see others do well? Could you use your experience, skills, and knowledge to help others reach their potential? You should consider being a mentor.
Good mentors are those who give others a headstart. Whether they’re a new parent, employee, young person, or an aspiring leader, a good mentor can make all the difference.
What makes an effective mentor?
This is the question I asked myself in preparation for a workshop I was invited to deliver.
I immediately thought back to when I was a school Learning Mentor, and then later as a team leader in order to list the skills I felt were most important for effectiveness in my roles.
The list was comprehensive and included the ability to ask good questions, listen actively, set goals, show empathy, and be non-judgmental.
After that, I considered those who’d mentored me over the years.
I thought of the qualities that had helped and inspired me, and among others, came up with these seven.
Read through them, see how they might apply to you, then add your comment at the end.
#1. An effective mentor is a lifelong learner
Personal development is important. Good mentors are committed to nurturing habits that help their growth. They also take responsibility for setting and reviewing ongoing personal and professional goals.
By keeping an open mind, mentors model the importance of learning to their mentee’s.
#2. Effective mentors see the bigger picture
Good mentors see the big picture. They don’t consider their meetings to be informal chats or catch ups, but recognise that their purpose is to facilitate another persons’ growth.
They’ll consider their role in the mentee’s life as significant, and count it a privilege to help them in reaching their goals.
#3. They know the importance of being transparent
Effective mentors build rapport. This’ll mean being vulnerable, open, and transparent. It’ll require being human! They’ll share insights, wisdom and advice from their own experiences, failures and successes.
#4. Effective mentors practice what they teach
Good mentors who are those who take their own advice.
The mentors who work best with others have themselves had experience of being mentored. They value mentoring because they’ve known the benefits of having a mentor as part of their development.
#5. They believe that life change happens
Effective mentors believe that people can change.
They’re committed to helping people take steps to make the changes necessary for them to discover, develop, and flourish in their purpose.
#6. They offer guidance and feedback
A mentor is someone who will offer constructive feedback. This will prove invaluable in the growth of anyone being mentored, as they can use this to identify strengths and areas for development.
“The delicate act of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Steven Spielberg
Good mentoring empowers others to reach their potential.
#7. They’re committed to the process
Good mentors take their responsibility seriously and know that lasting change takes time. They see the relationship as an investment, so will follow through when needed.
They allocate structured time, as they understand the value of meeting consistently and regularly, rather than on an ad hoc basis.
It’s through structure that mentors establish rapport, build trust, and help people to best make progress.
We all need to be mentored
Both personally and professionally, we all benefit from having a mentor. And by working with a mentor that has these seven qualities, we increase our chances of success in all areas of life.
Also, as we develop these qualities for ourselves, we too become better mentors to others.
Over to you
What’s been your experience of being mentored and how helpful was it? In what area of your life might you benefit from having a mentor now or in the future? Who are you a mentor to, and what are you learning in the process?
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I’m conducting a Reader Survey to help improve my blog. So, as a reader, I’m asking if you’d mind taking just two minutes to help me?
Though I’ve blogged for a while now, I’ve not yet conducted a survey of my readers to see who you are or what you find most interesting.
I know, shame on me, eh!
Many of you have given encouraging feedback over this time (on Facebook for example), and a number of you have subscribed to receive my posts by email.
Let me take this opportunity to say thanks for your support, it means a lot!
Making changes to my blog
I’m planning on making some changes to my blog, which may even mean taking it in a different direction — and I’m excited about the possibilities!
So, after listening to some helpful webinars and thoughts from professional bloggers like Michael Hyatt, and Jeff Goins, I thought it’d be good to first do a survey to get a better understanding of my readers.
Yes, that’s right, you.
Why am I doing the survey?
The aim of the reader survey is to:
- Provide a snapshot of who you and the other readers are
- Give me an idea about the kind of content you find most useful
- Help me in deciding the changes to make that will serve you best
You can see why this short 2 minute reader survey is needed, right?
Your input is important for my survey
Because I aim to provide content that’s helpful and relevant to you, for my survey to be a success, I need your input.
In taking part you’ll help me to know what’s important to you; and this’ll help me with deciding what to offer you and other readers in the future, and to understand how I can make my blog most helpful to you.
The survey is short, anonymous, and will take less than 2 minutes. Seriously, it really will take just 2 minutes or less!
So, please, will you help me out?
Thanks in advance for your help. I appreciate it.
See you on my blog again soon. :)
Success comes at a cost. And accomplishments, great or small, aren’t easy to come by because like it or not, achievement requires self-discipline — lots of it!
Being honest, my biggest challenge is self-discipline — or lack of! And it’s an area I grow more aware of and want to challenge daily.
The trouble is, I find it hard to do what I say I want to do! For example, my intention was to write from 5.30am this morning, and guess what, it’s just gone 6am.
This isn’t uncommon for me and it gets on my nerves. Or rather, I should say, I get on my nerves. Self-discipline has been the biggest obstacle in the pursuit of my goals.
What is self-discipline?
Self-discipline can be defined as doing the things we don’t feel like doing in order to gain the things that are best. Or having the ability to take the right action regardless of how we feel.
Though some would disagree, self-discipline is the ultimate freedom. Yet despite it being so alluring, its one of the most difficult attributes to acquire because it goes against the grain of our innate tendencies.
Stephen R. Covey said,
“The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions.”
It’s easier to snuggle under the duvet instead of going on a morning run. To indulge in more cake, rather than eating fruit. To complain or gossip instead of speaking positively or making change.
The thing is, though I’ve often said I ‘want’ something, I’ve always found it hard to do the things I know I ought to be doing in order to get it. Can you relate?
What’s the motivation behind self-discipline?
As my motivation to impact lives and add my contribution grows, so too does my awareness of the importance of self-discipline.
This is because I see where my lack of self-discipline results in my growth plateauing. And when my growth plateaus, I’m less effective.
The power of self-discipline
When combined with faith, planning, goal-setting, perseverance, and passion, self-discipline is a powerful attribute that’ll help us towards succeeding in any endeavour.
It was Napoleon Hill who said,
“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterwards.”
Self-discipline is key to effectiveness. And we don’t need to look far to see that. Those who’ve achieved any level of success, are those who’ve had self-discipline.
From elite athletes through to musicians, self-discipline and sacrifice have been a common attribute to being successful.
Self-discipline is possible
Self-discipline intrigues me. Life change excites me. And the fact that transformation is possible causes me to thank God daily. So if like me, you also struggle with self-discipline, there’s hope yet!
What’s true is that self-discipline isn’t an attribute solely for an elect few — it can be developed. For example, over the last few weeks I’ve replaced my caffeine intake with herbal tea.
So, if you want to be more disciplined, here are four steps I’ve been taking and have found helpful in developing my own self-discipline, that you too could try.
#1. Focus on one thing at a time
I’d bet that you could name several disciplines that you’d like to develop, or at least try, couldn’t you.
My list would include learning to play an instrument — competently, becoming a skilled BJJ practitioner, and learning a new language — probably Spanish. And there are others that I’ll not mention now.
What would be on your list I wonder?
But developing too many disciplines at once makes it harder for you, as your chances of success are not only dependent on your perseverance and competence, but largely on how much energy, resources and time you’re able to give towards making progress.
What this means is that by focusing on one discipline at a time, you’ll increase your chances of success by funneling your resources towards reaching a smaller number of goals. And in doing so, we make it easier to develop your new discipline.
For example, if January’s focus was to run for 20mins three times a week to improve fitness and lose weight, then February’s discipline could be to give daily affirmations in order to reach towards a goal to improve relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
#2. Create small wins
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the best when it comes to dealing with setbacks and failures — especially when they’re linked directly to my goals.
This is why it helps to create small wins when developing self-discipline, as a constant barrage of defeats can lead to despondency and an increased likelihood of quitting. And believe me, I’ve had enough experience of this to know how it feels.
The good thing is that the better we know ourselves the smarter we can be in creating multiple wins — by breaking our goals into smaller chunks — to give us the feel good factor that gives the momentum needed to help us make continual progress.
For example, it may better to do eight 20 minute sittings and write 375 words in each, than two longer blocks of 1500 words when trying to reach a word count of 3000, if writing 1500 words can be too demanding in one sitting.
And linked to step #4, creating small wins is an important part of the process of developing self-discipline.
#3. Set simple rules
Okay, if the thought of ‘rules’ makes you uncomfortable — which for some it will — perhaps it might be better to think of this as agreeing a ‘code of conduct’ with yourself.
Either way the idea here is to set some conditions to which you’ll commit to upholding regardless of how you feel, what your friends are doing, what the weather is like, or what your spouse says. These are commitments that’ll be upheld despite what others are saying and you won’t budge.
- ‘I’ll be in bed by 10pm each night’
- ‘I’ll check email between these times during the day’
- ‘I’ll read for 20-30 minutes a day’
- ‘I’ll run three times a week come wind, rain, or shine’.
Or using my earlier example, ‘I’ll drink mint tea or water instead of coffee or tea’ in order to wean myself off of caffeine.
#4. Reward yourself
The sense of achievement is a motivator. Especially when we accomplish our worst tasks first. And this is why creating multiple small wins is such a good thing to do.
So, in knowing this, we need to allow ourselves to experience a sense of achievement as often as possible and reward ourselves too.
Why is the sense of achievement and rewards important?
Because rewards are key to the formation of a new habit, to develop a new discipline, you need to give careful thought to how you’ll reward yourself when you do well.
Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, says,
“Only when your brain starts expecting the reward — craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment — will it become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.”
In other words, our habits are driven by rewards — or achievement. And what this means is that once we’re aware of what we like to receive, we can start the process of reinforcing our new discipline by treating ourselves whenever we take steps in the right direction.
Think about that for a moment and consider how that would apply to you. Ask yourself: ‘How do I reward or treat myself?’
A reward could be as simple as checking off items on our to-do-list, drinking a protein shake after a work out, interacting on social media for five minutes, or treating ourselves to a weekend break upon the completion of a long project.
Our rewards for self-discipline will all depend on our available resources and how much we know what we’d respond best to.
Self-discipline takes time
What we’ve seen is that self-discipline can be one of our biggest challenges and that developing any new discipline takes time.
Our approaches to developing will look different, as will how we reward and motivate ourselves towards improving in the areas we want to progress and succeed. And that’s normal – what works for one won’t work for an other.
We’ve also considered four steps that can help us to be the people of self-discipline that we want to be. So, although we know it’s not easy, what matters most, is that we’re willing to take the first step.
Over to you
In what areas of your life would you like to develop your self-discipline? What steps to developing self-discipline would you add to the list? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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Volunteering gains us experience in different environments. We can also get an inside view on how things work in a new sector or industry.
But besides the obvious, other benefits of volunteering include:
- having fun and meeting new people
- developing leadership and management skills
- retraining for a new career
- improving health and well-being
- acquiring vocational qualifications
- improving CV
- references and recommendations
- gaining industry related experience
- developing existing skills
So when recently questioned about volunteering, I first considered a couple of things. 1) what I gained from volunteering, and 2) as a team leader, what attributes I most admired in volunteers.
My own experience of volunteering
The first opportunity I had of working with people was as a volunteer. As a youth worker I shadowed a remarkable man by the name of Peter Brown, at a popular youth provision in South East London.
Shadowing Peter gave me invaluable insights into working with people. It also helped me identify my ability to work with others in a supportive and developmental capacity.
Like others, unknown to me, was that volunteering would shape my future. I’ve since volunteered in a variety of contexts including, counselling, coaching, photography, and pastoral work.
Attributes I admired in volunteers
Among others, the things I’ve most admired in the volunteers I’ve led are as follows:
A desire to learn and grow
One of the qualities I admire is having a desire to learn, grow and develop new skills. One young man would often ask questions about the way we did things in order to further his understanding.
He would also make a habit of asking for feedback, guidance and suggestions on how to improve. A commitment to use every experience as a learning opportunity is appealing to a team leader or employer.
A willingness to take initiative
Leadership isn’t easy. And anyone who’s led will know this all too well. As such, the people in my team who showed initiative were much appreciated because they lightened the load.
In stepping up to the plate when needed, they gave me the freedom to focus my energies where I was most effective. Though I’m sure I didn’t acknowledge this enough, I’d try my best to affirm their contributions often.
A desire to make a difference
Volunteering provides an opportunity to make a difference. The youth leaders in my team who caught this value made more of an impact than those who looked at volunteering as simply, ‘giving up their time’.
The difference between the two groups; the first recognised that their time and energy was an investment into the lives of the young people they supported on a weekly basis. Their volunteering served a greater purpose.
So why volunteering?
Put simply, volunteering offers you the chance to develop the types of skills that employers want. Also, by volunteering, like me and countless others, you’ll get clearer on your passions and what you’re naturally good at.
Over to you
Where might you be able to offer your time and energy to volunteering? What are your passions, and where would you like to make a contribution? How could volunteering help you to develop new skills?
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We all want to use our time productively. But its not always easy, and as a result, we can often find our time dwindling and our productivity decreasing.
I want to use my time well and I’m guessing you do too. Yet, if you’re similar to me, you’ll sometimes feel that you’re failing to use your time productively and often falling short.
Life’s demands can cause us to feel stretched beyond capacity, so if we want to achieve our goals and be most effective, giving thought to our use of time is even more important.
In view of this I want to share three steps I’ve been practising to increase my productivity from day to day. Hopefully you’ll find them useful too.
#1. For improved productivity review and prioritise your tasks
As well as at regular intervals throughout my day, I’m developing a habit of using 10-15mins each evening to review my daily productivity by asking questions like:
— What have I accomplished?
— What could I have done better?
— What did I do well?
But I don’t just review in the evening. I also ask questions during the day aimed at encouraging me to consider how my actions are moving me towards what’s most important to me.
For example, I might ask, “How is writing this post meeting my goal of influencing positive life change?”
This kind of honest reflection has increased my productivity, and hasn’t been too laborious either. All that’s needed is a little uninterrupted time and some commitment.
#2. To improve your productivity start the night before
Having to think about routine tasks inhibits my productivity takes up brain space. The impact of these tasks, for example, getting my exercise gear ready, can be lessened by giving myself a head start.
In leaving my exercise gear out, I achieve more because my mental focus is given to exercise, not on having to locate my shorts, Gymboss, or trainers.
To improve your productivity, try starting the night before. Put out your gym clothes. Tidy your work space. Cut and soak the vegetables if you’re expecting dinner guests the following afternoon.
Its a simple step to increasing your productivity, but it makes a huge difference.
#3. Improve your productivity by starting with your BIGGEST (ugliest) task first
Mark Twain once said,
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
By your worst task I mean what Brian Tracey describes as your ‘Frog’ in this short video. The idea is that we’re to complete the tasks we’re most likely to procrastinate on first, as they’re often the ones that’ll add most value.
If you’re unsure of what your frogs are, here’s a hint — they’re the things you often least look forward to. It could be making a cold call, initiating a difficult conversation, or meeting an important report deadline.
One of my frogs is doing a killer leg workout, but getting them done gives a sense of achievement which provides motivation for other tasks.
Okay, I’ve shared three simple, yet practical steps towards improving productivity that have been working for me. As a reminder they are:
- I prioritise my to do list the night before and review progress
- I prepare for routine tasks in advance
- I start with the tasks I least look forward to — my frogs!
There are many ways to improve productivity, and what works best will be different for everybody. The important thing is that you give thought to making the best use of your time in order to improve your productivity and effectiveness.
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Over to you
How effective are you with your time and what could you do to increase your productivity? Share your tips in the comments below.
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Every time we say ‘Yes’ to someone, we’re saying ‘No’ to something or someone else. This is why learning to set boundaries is important.
During a recent workshop, I was saddened when a lady revealed her inability to say ‘No’. She spoke of being someone who always gave in to the requests of others, even when at a cost to herself.
Now, just to be clear, I think sacrificial giving is good. But putting other people’s needs first doesn’t mean we should disregard or ignore our own.
But what was most unhealthy in this ladies case, was an admission to saying ‘Yes’ when she didn’t want to, wasn’t able to, or didn’t agree in principle, with what she was being asked to do.
Here was an example of the importance of learning to set boundaries. For this lady, not having boundaries, resulted in her not being true to herself – a struggle that many of us can face.
Boundaries protect you
Boundaries are the lines we set between ourselves and others. They protect us by helping others to understand what’s most important to us and how we want to be treated.
I work from home. So in addition to building a business, I invest energy into my marriage, family, and developing relationships in our local community.
Each requires energy, so it’s important that I learn to set boundaries and manage the opportunities and requests that come my way. But this isn’t always easy!
Why? Because when invited to be involved in a project or activity, I want to say ‘Yes’. And sadly, this hasn’t always been best for me or those I said ‘Yes’ to. On these occasions, good boundaries would’ve helped.
Now though, having experienced burnout, I’m more aware of the need for boundaries. So, here are four things I consider when setting mine that you too may find useful.
#1. Set boundaries to what’s important
Be clear on your values. By understanding what’s important to you, you’ll be able to make decisions based on what you want, rather than be guided by other people’s expectations.
#2. Set boundaries based on your self awareness
Be clear on who you are. And more importantly, on who you aren’t! Understanding yourself better equips you to make decisions based on what you can, cannot, or actually want to do.
#3. Set boundaries but be flexible
Rigidity can be as unhealthy as having no boundaries. We should keep open minded about the possibilities for growth and learning that new opportunities offer. Saying ‘No’ may prevent growth.
#4. Setting boundaries will result in some guilt
We can all feel guilty about saying ‘No’, so a sense of letting people down isn’t uncommon. Your boundaries will upset some and frustrate others, but sticking with them will be best for everyone in the end!
Considering your boundaries
Without boundaries the lines in our personal and professional relationships become blurred. And when blurred they become unhealthy and ineffective.
This is why it’s so important for us to consider where our boundaries should be. In setting and making them clear for ourselves and others, we protect our relationships and well-being.
Over to you
How clear are you on your boundaries? What would others say is most important to you? Where might you need to make some changes?
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What an occasion! The wedding dress, the ceremony, and the speeches. But after the big day and the honeymoon, the real work of marriage begins.
I’ve had the privilege of officiating and speaking at several marriages. And with each one I was reminded of the beautiful thing that marriage is – the joining of two people with a desire to share life together.
With Mel and I having just celebrated our 18th year of marriage, I can say that marriage is truly a gift. Being able to share life with a companion is quite special, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
One failed marriage is one too many
Every couple wants their marriage to work. All who say “I do!” on their wedding day want a healthy marriage. But sadly, for different reasons, too often their dreams are short lived.
Life places obstacles in the way of success in marriage. And what can happen is that the honeymoon period ends, the relationship erodes, couples disagree, and the marriage fails or ends in divorce.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
There is a hope. Your marriage can be a success!
When husbands and wives remain humble and commit to thinking of their spouse’s well being more than their own, their marriage has a greater chance of success.
As with every relationship, your marriage won’t be without it’s challenges. But giving thought to these 6 things will give you a good chance of making your marriage work.
#1. Have a vision for success
Be clear on what you want. To have a healthy marriage it helps to first know what you’d like your relationship to look and feel like. Once you’ve worked that out together, develop some goals for your marriage.
Your goals should be as specific and as measurable as possible. For example, ‘we will have a date night at least once a month‘. The aim of each goal is to move you towards the vision you have for your marriage.
#2. Pick your battles well
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always best to express your feelings. And for the success of your marriage, this is an important one to remember.
In marriage though there will be many opportunities to go to war, the marriage that lasts will be the one where battles are chosen carefully. The question to always ask is, “How important is this?”
#3. Forgive daily
Remember, you and your spouse are human. You’ll make mistakes, fail to meet each others expectations, and even hurt one another. This is true.
Though the degree of hurt you’ll cause will depend on the wrong done, for your marriage to be successful, you’ll need to learn how to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive. And to do both quickly.
Our commitment to forgive needs to be a daily one, as holding grudges will destroy even the best of relationships. It’s also helpful to recognise that we need to learn to forgive ourselves too.
#4. Communicate openly
The way you communicate is very important to your marriage. Both husband and wife need to develop healthy communication skills, especially in conflict, that will help both to feel listened to, validated, and understood.
For your marriage to work you’ll need to be polite and respectful.
#5. Don’t go it alone
Having a support network is a must. For your marriage to succeed you’ll need to have people around you who’ve bought, worn, and framed the t-shirt. People that have weathered some storms.
It’s also important that you’ve some friends who you can simply have fun together with!
#6. Stick with it!
Typically, when people see happy couples, they fail to understand that behind the smiles and laughter are many unseen tears and scars which, having been shared, have served to strengthen their marriage.
But the health of your marriage won’t be measured solely by the number of good times you experience. Truth is, the success of your marriage will be determined by how well you work together to get through the setbacks life throws at you.
It’s in how you support and continue to be there for one another that will determine the health of your marriage.
Over to you
In which of these areas might you and your spouse need to make some changes or put in some work? What else would you add to the list? Share your comments below.
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During the course of life we’re always learning. But how we approach our learning makes all the difference to who we become.
The idea of lifelong learning has been batted around for over a decade.
It’s described as being the ongoing, ‘voluntary, and self motivated pursuit of knowledge’ for the purposes of furthering personal and professionally development.
My ongoing growth is important to me. I’ve no doubt that yours is too. Yet, despite this being true, lifelong learning is hard work. It requires effort and commitment.
To measure progress of my own learning and growth I find giving thought to the following four questions helpful. Have a look and try answering them for yourself.
I’d like to know what you think.
#1. What is my attitude to learning?
“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning you go to school.” T. D. Jakes
Life is a journey of events. As T. D. Jakes put it so well, with each day comes an opportunity to learn new things.
With each interaction, success, and failure, we have the potential to learn valuable insights about ourselves, others, and the world around us.
Our attitude to learning is important. And as such, we should approach each day with a sense of excitement and anticipation.
#2. Where am I committed to learning?
“You must feed your mind with reading material, thoughts, and ideas that open you to new possibilities.” Oprah Winfrey
Learning doesn’t happen by chance. And though we can learn through observation, interaction, and experience, we learn best when there’s a conscious effort to nourish ourselves.
As we nurture our minds and spirits, we become more receptive and open to new insights and possibilities.
#3. How am I applying what I’m learning?
“It isn’t enough to know what’s right, it’s applying the information and knowledge that you have.” Charles Stanley
The principle here is simple. Acquiring knowledge isn’t the essence of real learning. Real and effectual learning happens through application.
Growth comes not from what we understand in our heads, but by applying what we learn.
We’d all agree that it’s right to be patient with others. Yet its only through practice that we get better.
#4. Who am I sharing my learning with?
“Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” Rita Pierson
I want my children to become their best. Any loving dad would. As a result I try to help them see the importance of their ongoing growth.
This encouragement isn’t reserved for academic or sporting achievement, but more importantly, for character.
Truth is, to become our best — in whatever context we find ourselves in — we need to maintain a childlike attitude in the way we approach our learning.
Which of the above questions do you most relate to? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Action: Schedule 15 minutes before the end of the week to answer these four questions for yourself.
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When asking friends about the benefits of giving affirmation, they can list them. Yet, when asked how good they are at giving affirmation, they confess to not being as good as they ‘ought to be’.
To give affirmation is to positively assert approval of someone or something. Our affirmation can be given in recognition of a person’s skills, personality, or actions.
If you’re like me, you’ll be inconsistent with giving affirmation. I fail to acknowledge the specific contributions of others through the affirmation and praise that’ll help to encourage them.
My problem is that I assume they know how much I appreciate them. I then fall into the trap of expressing nothing meaningful about the value they add to my life. It shouldn’t be that way!
With that in mind, I wanted to offer three reasons why we should consider giving affirmation to others.
#1. Giving affirmation to others changes our perspective
Pointing out the negative isn’t that hard. In fact, it comes quite naturally to many of us.
Whether it’s a colleague, spouse, child, or even ourselves, we tend to spot too easily what we don’t like. By default we find it easier to see what isn’t working, what’s least effective, and what most frustrates us.
Identifying the positive, however, requires effort. But when we commit to looking for the strengths and good attributes in others, we tend to find them.
It’s like a game I’ve played with my children called ‘Yellow Car, No Return.’ It never ceases to surprise me how many yellow cars we spot once we start to look for them.
The same is true of the things we can affirm in others. When we look for them, they show up. This shifts our attitude and perspective, and in time, helps us to develop a new habit.
One of looking for what is positive and giving affirmation to people, that encourages their growth and confidence.
#2. Giving affirmation to others helps build relationships
I know of no one who at heart doesn’t need or value affirmation. To have a sense of doing a good job and adding value is core to living with a purpose.
This is where giving affirmation is invaluable. For when offered appropriately, we communicate to others that we value them and their contribution. In doing so, we connect and establish rapport.
Positive affirmation empowers others and strengthens self-esteem. Receiving affirmation also helps to increase their confidence, resulting in improved well-being and performance.
When we receive evidence based affirmation, we feel good. So it goes without saying that if you’re someone who affirms others, they’ll be more likely to want to be around you.
By giving affirmation we lay the foundations for building positive and healthy relationships.
#3. Giving affirmation makes way for constructive feedback
If you’re known for giving affirmation, your criticism — if required — will be better received. People who ordinarily look for positives, afford themselves the privilege of offering negative feedback when needed.
When seen as someone who looks for the best in others, people feel safer in your company. They’ll also be less likely to feel judged and will be more open to your input. This is a good platform from which to offer constructive feedback.
We all have areas that can be developed. Our performance, behaviour, attitude, and character can all be improved with the helpful input of others. And generally speaking, we all want constructive feedback — delivered in the right way of course!
As with feedback, how we give affirmation is worth giving some thought to, so here are some things to consider:
- Overcome feeling awkward
- Be clear on what you want to affirm
- Choose an appropriate time
- Start with a smile
- Make it personal by using “You”
- Give it in the present tense
- Make it specific
- Give supporting evidence
- Put it in writing
- If appropriate, make it public
- Say it from the heart
By making a daily practice of giving affirmation, you’ll have a more positive outlook in life, be the kind of person others want to be around, and position yourself to be able to offer feedback that’ll help others to be their best.
Over to you
How good are you at giving affirmation? Share your comments below.
Action: Choose one person you can affirm. Make a list of the affirmation you can offer. Tell them before the end of the week.
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Valentine’s Day offers a great opportunity to express gratitude for our loved ones and spouses.
It may not be for everyone, but Mel and I have always tried to mark the day for ourselves and our four children. It hasn’t necessarily been anything grand, but we’ve done something.
Admittedly, Mel is better at marking the day than I am, but that’d be true of most occasions in the calender year, including birthdays and anniversaries.
However, having been married for almost 18 years, and knowing each other for over twenty five, Valentine’s Day helps me to remember that she continues to be my best friend, confidant, and trusted companion.
So, though she’ll probably kill me for doing this (see #8), here are just ten things that I find most special about her:
#1. She’s generous
Mel has always been someone who thinks of ways to give to others. Whether through a physical gift or a text, email, telephone conversation, or a listening ear over a cup of tea, she is the most generous and giving person I know.
#2. She’s loyal
Over the years I’ve admired Mel’s loyalty. Her consistent commitment to others astounds me. This is a strength of hers that sets her apart from many people I’ve known.
#3. She’s honest
This one has often stung me, but it’s true. Mel, in her commitment to the relationships she values, is open about what she thinks and will share lovingly where she detects something that could be detrimental to someone’s well-being.
#4. She’s funny
As I write this I chuckle! Why? Because I picture Mel sharing one of her classic one liners, getting tongue tied, or keeling over with laughter by the kettle at one of her own jokes.
#5. She’s forgiving
With the challenges of life and family we’ve had many disagreements. Yet Mel has proven to be a person who forgives quickly and holds no grudges. This has had a remarkable impact on our relationship and the relationships with our children.
#6. She’s an encourager
Mel loves to see people make progress. And anything I’ve done that has had any degree of success, has been largely down to Mel’s constant support and encouragement. She is a remarkable cheerleader and believer in people’s ability to achieve.
#7. She’s a great listener
There are times when I need to process externally. Days when my journal just isn’t enough. On those days, Mel is able to provide me with a space that is both safe and accepting. I know our children benefit hugely from this too.
#8. She’s humble and unassuming
Though one of the most gifted, warm and beautiful people I know, she prefers to stay out of the limelight.
#9. She’s resilient
I’ve seen Mel stand strong in the face of adversity. Yet despite any challenges, she remained true to herself and continued to give to those around her. Her resilience is a wonderful attribute of her character.
#10. She loves God
This is by far her best attribute and the one that most attracts me to her. As her husband, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing first hand her increasing love for God. And with each passing day I see this growing love blossoming in and through her.
#10.1. She’s beautiful (notice how I slipped that one in?) :D
Need I say any more? Well, okay then — I think she’s hot! And the more she develops in character, the more beautiful she becomes. I’m blessed!
Over to you
How about you? What is most special about your spouse or loved one? And more importantly, when did you last tell them?