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The best/worse interview I ever did

Recently I did an interview which may have been either the best interview I’ve ever done or it may have been my worst.  

Through my work I’ve been very fortunate to interview some very impressive people, from world leading sports people to globally recognised influential thinkers in many different areas, I enjoy listening to and learning the insights they offer and how they approach the world. As I have the opportunity to do these interviews, in the back of my mind I have a wish list of people who I would love to sit down with and dig deep into their thoughts. 

A few weeks ago I managed to arrange an interview with someone who has been on my wish list for years, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced "Mee-high" “Cheeks-SENT-me-high-ee") is a distinguished Professor of Psychology who created the concept of a ‘flow state’. A flow state is when someone totally loses themselves in an activity, it’s a place where time seems to be suspended and you are totally absorbed in the activity you are doing to the highest level possible. Sports people often talk about how they “get in a zone” where nothing can go wrong and how it seems effortless, this is flow.

Finally the day came, I was about to interview one of my thinking heroes. I jumped on Skype and managed to spend 90 minutes talking to this fascinating man. When I got off the call I wasn’t sure what had just happened, had I just done the best interview I had ever done or had it been my worst?

If you asked me what my objective was leading into the interview I would have told you that I wanted to get Mihály to share what flow is and how my listeners could apply it into their lives. I wanted him to open us up to the deeper side of this concept and it’s fair to say that I didn’t do a great job of achieving this particular objective.

I started the interview with this question; ‘Before we get into flow tell me a bit about where you come from’. This question opened a treasure chest of experiences that blew my mind away, Mihály is an older man now, in his 80’s, and to say he has lived a life is an understatement. He started telling me about escaping his country during the war, being shot at on a train by soldiers while under the age of 10 (and how this was exciting at the time). It was from this point on I knew that this was going to be a different type of interview. No longer was I trying to dig into ‘flow’, I was now becoming the grandchild sitting next to his granddad hearing about life. Over the next hour I sat with a glint of admiration in my eyes and a smile on my face as I was absorbed by this life, I was loving every minute of my time with Mihály.

Eventually I managed to bring up flow but by now it seemed insignificant, Mihály had already given me so much wisdom, he’d given me the wisdom that comes from a life well lived. 

My interview with Mihály got me thinking about how we deal with the older people in our lives, and I’m not just talking about those well past retirement. Have you ever found yourself shutting off to an older person when they start sharing their stories with you? I know I have, for some reason many of us can undervalue what the older people in our lives have to offer. It may be that you need to show more respect, or maybe you have heard their stories before so you shut off to them but the unfortunate thing for those who shut themselves off is that they are missing an opportunity to gain valuable insights to life that only time can teach us. 

As we are heading into the social catch-up, family and friends get-together season I challenge you to go into these interactions with an attitude of exploration.  Ask them questions, interesting ones, hard ones, revealing ones, ones that show their strengths and weaknesses, their struggles and successes, ones that allow them to pass on their wisdom to you. I guarantee that if you do you will walk away from that conversation with a new understanding and wisdom.

I walked away from my best/worse interview with Mihály with a little more of this wisdom and for that - thank you Mihály. 

This piece orginally appeared in The Press


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Fitness Behaviour 66 - What am I giving up? 

There are certain behaviours that end up coming at a cost to our self respect. The lost of self respect can come with many negative consequences on our life. In this episode I take a deep look into this idea and give some thoughts how to regain and maintain your self respect. 

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When is the best time to plan your way out? 

I was speaking to a lady the other day who told me that she always felt like a failure, this perception of herself was based ons several experiences in her life where she had tried to create change but hadn’t been successful at it. While most of us can be hard on ourselves sometimes (often unrealistically and unfairly) this woman had proof that she was a failure, every time she had set a plan to create change she hadn’t followed through. History reinforced that she would be stuck in this place forever.

Obviously this is a challenging place to live in all the time, I asked her what she went through when she knew she had failed, what went through her head, how did she feel? She was very honest and told me how she was extremely hard on herself and went to a very negative place. I asked how long she would stay in this negative place for - she replied that it could last a while.  

I was curious to find out if she knew how to get out of her rut so I asked if she was actually able to shift from this place and if so, how? I found her answer very interesting, she told me that she would finally get to a point where she was sick of feeling that way which triggered her to actively do something that would make her feel better about herself. It was at this time, when she was in the most negative place at the very bottom - that is when she tried to plan the change that she needed. 

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt when trying to help people create change is that many of us are terrible at the planning stages of creating change. We create plans that are well ahead of our current ability which leads to us failing and through experience I’ve learnt that when we are in a bad place, this feeling of failure is multiplied tenfold and the fallout is magnified. Why is this the case?

I believe that when the stakes are so high we want change so badly and the outcome we want is so important we throw all our energy and resource into making it happen. When we are in this place we create a totally unrealistic plan, which, if we were in a more rational place we would have a clearer view on what was a bit more realistic.  

It appeared that this was the problem the lady I was talking to was going through. She would fail at something, feel terrible about herself and when she was in this place she would create a new plan to get out of it but because she was desperate she would create a plan which she never had a chance in succeeding in. Hence she continually experienced failure and was now self identifying with it all the time. 

This is a difficult situation because what this lady is seeking would improve her life so she has the right motivation, so what would be a better way to break this cycle and become better at planning and succeeding? A good starting point is contemplating when is the best time for her to do her planning. If she is in a negative emotional space it may be helpful to remind herself that being in that headspace isn’t the best time, she may be better to spend time finding healthy ways to deal with those negative emotions first.  She may discover that talking to a few supportive friends, doing some writing or going for a walk puts her in a better headspace.  Once she is in a more rational and positive place she can sit down a create a realistic plan for change that she knows is achievable.  

When life gets on top of us and we become overwhelmed we can become desperate to find a way out. Creating a plan for change seems an obvious way forward but sometimes it might be better to allow time to deal with the emotional place first. Through healthy outlets we can work our way through the negative and then we can sit down and plan our change with a more rational and balanced head on our shoulders - this will give us a higher chance of being successful in creating the change we seek. 

This piece orginally appeared in The Press


If you enjoy my pieces you can get them emailed to you when I put them on the internet. This way you won't have to come back to my website to check when a new piece is out. Don't worry I won't spam you. If you want to join up just put your details in here: