Friday
Aug222014

Have a little help from your friends

Throughout my years as an athlete I have so many memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life, crossing the finish line in my first Ironman and achieving goal times and places in certain races will be moments that I’ll treasure forever. However other than those key successes or big disappointments I find it hard to remember the details of each race, they all merge into one and individual race memories are few and far between, all except one area where I hold vivid memories of - those moments where I connected with my supporters during races. 

I’ll never forget riding out into the middle of nowhere during an Ironman race and off in the distance I saw this crazy bunch of people all dressed up in costumes and making a lot of noise and realising they were my friends and family, or the time I had hit the wall in a marathon and Jan, a close friend and member from the gym, telling me to ‘stick at it’ when I passed her. I remember these moments so clearly and I think that is due to these people being a big part of my experience as an athlete, and I’m not just talking about during my race days.  

There’s the saying ‘we stand on the shoulders of those who come before us’ and while I know this meant in a more evolutionary context, those who came before us paved the path for us as we move forward, but I think there’s a nice adjustment that can be made to this saying ‘we stand on the shoulders of those who support us’. 

No goal is totally achieved by one person alone, a big part of any change, growth or achievement is having people around you to support you. If you look at any period in your life where you progressed as a person I’m sure you can identify certain key people who were alongside you giving you all different types of support. Without these people who knows if you would have succeeded, maybe you would have but I think we all understand how important having support is. 

One thing I find interesting around the idea of support is that it’s often neglected in the planning process when you are trying to create change in your life. We can develop these amazing plans around how we are going to move towards an area of change but we don’t commit a huge amount of time considering who can support us, how they can support us, what we need to communicate to them, and what we need to do to give back to them. These questions are very important to ask yourself when you create your plans and goals because if you can identify good answers and allow those around you to know how they can support you, you are giving them the tools they need to help you. 

Sometimes I see people trying to achieve fitness goals who haven’t done a very good job of  communicating to the people in their lives about how they can support them. This makes it harder for them to be successful because they can often feel resistance when they move away from their normal behaviours as they focus on their goals. For example, your partner comes home from work and out of the blue you tell them that you have to leave because your running group starts in 15 minutes or you need to leave work early because you have a class that you need to attend, but you only tell your boss 30 minutes before you need to leave. Both of these situations could be avoided if you had put some pre-planning and thought into how these people could support you towards your growth, what they needed to know to make it easy for them to support you and what you needed to do to make it work for them as well. 

There many different types of support that we need when we move towards change and the one thing I have learnt is that the majority of people in our lives want to support us and are more than willing to do their bit to help.  Our job is to become a master of understanding how they can support us, using great communication around what they can do for you, how you can make it easy for them and to make sure we give back to them. 

If you can apply this thinking to your planning there’s a much higher chance that you will be successful but  more importantly you’ll also build stronger connections with these special people in your world.


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Friday
Aug152014

What do you think about 'The Secret'?

A while ago my mum text me with the question ‘What do you think about the Secret?’. It was on a Saturday night so I didn’t get around to responding immediately but I did think to myself what the heck is mum on about? The next day I gave her a call to find out what she meant, apparently she had been at a social gathering with friends and someone had recently read The Secret and mum was interested in knowing my thoughts on it. 

I’m sure many of you reading this have heard of The Secret, this book that came out in 2006 and  was based on a film by the same name. It’s popularity sky-rocketed when The Oprah Winfrey show featured it, from there it became an international best-seller and generated millions of dollars in sales. 

The basic premise of the book is the Law of Attraction. To put it simply, the Law of Attraction is the idea that our thoughts and feelings have the ability to manipulate a “universal energy force” to our liking. Our thoughts and feelings attract a corresponding energy to ourselves, so if our thoughts are negative, we attract negative things, if our feelings are positive, we attract positive things. The essential message of “The Secret” is that we all have the power to determine our own destiny by simply thinking it.

I have seen the film The Secret and I remember thinking how it was pushing it’s claims to a level that was beyond far fetched. In the film, a true believer in this idea talked about how whenever they were trying to find a car park they used The Secret to think the perfect park into being true. Lo and behold when they arrived at their destination the perfect park was free. I can 100% guarantee that no matter how much you try to use The Secret there is no way you will get the perfect park every time. The other thing I found interesting about The Secret was that it only promoted personal gain, it was all about what ‘I could get’ not ‘how can I help others’, maybe this is a reflection of our times.  

I feel that one of the big problems with The Secret is that it is promoting a style of thinking that promotes blind hope in a way that doesn’t allow people to deal with the real hurdles they need to overcome. It’s easy to see why this is attractive to people, if I want something all I have to do is think about it - if only it was that simple!. 

While our thinking does have a lot to do with our success, the type of thinking we do is important in moving towards this success. This can be seen in the way that people use visualisation, some think that if they visualise the final outcome they want it will magically appear, for example, I want the perfect home so I’ll visualise it. The use of visualisation in this way has been proven to be completely ineffective in achieving goals.  

The real value in a tool like visualisation is when we use it to identify problems we are likely to face on the path we are moving towards and to then strategically explore the options we can take when we are confronted with these challenges. We can pre-determine these actions, visualisation allows us to put or thinking towards actionable steps that we can implement which will start to move us towards our desires. 

It’s a good exercise to explore your own thinking skills, are you good at strategic thinking? Have you developed ways to create a realistic picture of where you currently sit in any given area and what the next steps forward are? Have you learnt critical thinking skills? Have you developed your ability to look at a problem from many different angles? These are the types of thinking skills we want to put our time into developing, not ones that promote blind hope. 

I do wonder if the promotion of blind hope thinking just ends up hurting the person who buys into it. If you commit to using The Secret but nothing changes, what does that say about you as a person? I imagine this may reinforce negative self-perception in some people. 

The more realistic path may not seem as easy but the chances of you creating it are a lot higher when you use the right type of thinking skills, this is one area where many of us can develop and improve on.

 

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Friday
Aug082014

Is your optimism or pessimism holding your back? 

Sometimes you read a book or an article where the writer is describing a certain personality trait and while you are reading it you identify with it and think to yourself, this is written about me. A couple of years ago I experienced this when I was reading Daniel Kahneman’s amazing book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’. There was a section where he wrote about optimistic people and how their optimism gave them many advantages but it also had a flip side of weaknesses.  Me, being a glass half full kind of guy, identified with the words Kahneman had written and it gave me a deeper understanding of where my optimism could hold me back and how to overcome this. 

Since reading Kahnemans’ work I have thought long and hard about how my optimism impacts on the way I approach my life. One thing I have discovered is that I’m very generous to myself when it comes to positive self affirmation to chance situations that actually have nothing to do with decisions that I make. Let’s say I find the perfect park right outside the main doors of the shopping mall, I tell myself ’I’m a lucky person, good stuff always happens to me’. In this situation I reaffirm that this chance situation has happened because I am a good person, conversely I never self associate with negative chance situations. An example is if I tripped over something,  I don’t think “I’m clumsy” but rather “everyone trips up at times”.

You can see how this optimistic thinking could lead to an unrealistic perception of myself and therefore it’s important that I identify when I am doing this so I can stay realistic about where I need to develop as a person. Although this is important for the optimistic person, for the glass half empty or pessimist, it is just as important that they become aware of when they take ownership in a negative way in a chance situation and blame themselves. 

For example, roadworks on the way to work cause you to be late, the pessimistic person may think “this always happens to me, I should have taken an alternative route, it’s my own fault”, or if you get injured when playing sport, the glass half empty person may think, ‘nothing ever goes right for me, I can never be successful’. We all experience bad traffic and if you play sport you are going to get injured at some stage, both of these situations have nothing to do with your decision making or your personal character but when you place ownership on these negative times, it can lead to you restricting yourself. 

If every corner you turn in life takes you to a place where you are up against a wall which reinforces that you are getting it wrong, things are going to be tough. Sometimes situations do occur due to the choices we make, but sometimes they don’t and we have to be careful we don’t blame ourselves. We can be very unfair on ourselves during these times, unfair in harmful ways.

If you are reading this and can identify with this behaviour, what is the cost of this to yourself? Does being this way keep you away from who you want to be or what you want to do in your life? 

For both the optimist and the pessimist there is value in learning how you deal with chance situations. The first place to start its to become aware of when these occur and see what thoughts you naturally have, are they positive or negative? Once you gain an understanding of where you sit, you can develop strategies around how to see the situation for what it actually is, an out of your control chance situation. You can then lose the ownership of it and put yourself in a place where better thinking can allow you to develop yourself.

Life can be tough and it’s best that we don’t make it any tougher than we need to. By taking some time to think about how you deal with your chance situations and developing healthy ways of approaching them you can make better decisions for yourself, decisions that can help you grow realistically. 

 

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