So you want to start something, poke the box, step out in faith to do something risky? Great! When are you going to do it? Oh you haven't decided that bit yet, its just an idea you want to get going on sometime soon?
Does this sound like a familiar conversation from your head or with people around you? I suspect that we are all guitly of procrastinating, especially when time is precious and initiatives are risky.
You really need to put some dates in your diary though, for time that you will spend doing these things that you want to start. Stop reading and go fetch it, or your calendar or whatever planning device you use and mark in it the day or hour when you plan to start.
Right, now that you have done that, here is another new idea for you, with dates already associated with it. When was the last time you stepped aside to consider your spiritual position, to reflect on your higher purpose and to strengthen that aspect of your existence? Maybe you go to prayers regularly or have a planned time of meditation or similar. Many of you probably don't though, but might have considered doing something. But what is 'something'?
I am part of a group who runs wilderness retreats for people just like you, who want to take some time aside and consider life in all its fullness. These wilderness retreats will take you to an island and give you time to reflect but also guide you in some activities that assist you in that process. Generated from a Christian perspective they are designed to be inclusive and give you space for your own expression and thoughts in an inspiring and wild setting.
To know more, read the flyer below and then contact us for any further discussion of how it works.
I've just read Jana Kemp's book, No! How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life, and thought it might be helpful to mention since a number of people I have talked to recently have mentioned an inability to say No! or even just no.
First of all, its useful to remember that saying no to someone does not need to be you rejecting the person, being deliberately difficult or obstructive or trying to damage what the requester represents, be it a job, charity or friendship situation. Life can carry on after you have said no and people will not hate you for the saying if you do it politely, deliberately and firmly.
However if you say yes and don't mean it, that can ultimately get you into more bother when you don't follow through or your yes turns out to have been maybe at best and you start to lose repsect. Unless of course you manage to achieve everything you promised in a fit of superhuman power. And then collapse and pay the price yourself.
Throughout the book, Kemp talks about the Power of No, and she takes Power to stand for:
Purpose - what actually needs to be done here?
Options and resources - even if say no can I offer anything in return or make other suggestions
When - what is the actual deadline and if I say no now can I propose yes for a different deadline
Emotional Ties - how do you feel with yes or no and other feelings related to the request
Rights and Reponsibilities - what are your rights if you say yes or noe.g. rights to call on others to help, recquisition resources for the project
They are certainly topics worth considering before you unthinkingly say yes again but once you have done that you'll need to be assertive in the way you put across any no answer. Be clear, polite and if possible friendly and stick to your guns. If necessary repeat your bottom line until they get it.
The book goes on to look at the idea of self-defence; sometimes you need to say no to defend yourself, your time, health and position. There is also discussion on the ethics of saying yes or no, especially when you don't actually mean it.
I can imagine if you are really struggling to say no a lot of the time and it causes you stress that there are definitely helpful ideas in this book; you probably want to pick and choose which bits you read though.
At the end of the day I suspect, like all self-help type books, it might only take you so far and having someone external (partner, family member, friend or a coach) dedicated to helping you will reap far greater rewards. Get in touch if you want to know how a coach could help you in your particular situation.
Just to prove that I too am capable of balance in my life occasionally, and to disarm the critics that claim I work too much, I provide evidence in video form.
How many of you work pointless extra hours? I was talking to someone recounting a tale of her boyfriend doing long hours and staying late because he loves what he does but yet no-one appreciates it and she thinks that a lot of the efforts and new initiatives will be wasted when the management scrap them. Dan Ariely deduced by experiment what a lot of us know instinctively; that work, however fun and apparently meaningful, when it remains unacknowledged becomes a drudge and we descend into a state of demotivation.
Last Friday was apparently Work Your Proper Hours Day according to the TUC because they are concerned that, on average, a British worker provides their employer with 7 hours a week for free. Does that include you?
If we love what we do (and I feel myself very fortunate to be in that position) then it is often easy to do extra - tearing ourselves away is hard. If we are perfectionists or even just someone who revels in a job completed properly, then likewise, leaving before it's finished is anathema. This is dangerous because we don't resent working extra and we don't notice the adverse effects so easily.
The problem is much more obvious when there is the expectation that we will complete these overtime hours whether we like it or not. As a one off we might do it but as soon as it becomes a regular feature of what we do, we resent it in much the same way that we resent any of our work that goes unacknowledged.
At what point should we stop and say, "That's enough extra unpaid hours!" and go home? There are many parameters to take into account, primarily the impact on our boss (and their subsequent reaction towards us) and the impact on our customers or service users. Yes, the company may now rely on us doing a certain amount of free overtime and will struggle without it not to mention the level of customer service possible decreasing. If you look at the flip side though, what is the effect on us if we don't stop working extra - as we deteriorate in our ability to work at peak levels, we suffer, our company doesn't get the best from us and the service to our end-users becomes sub-standard.
If your boss or company is not showing their appreciation for your extra hours, maybe its time to say, "No more".
Another video format blog - watch and think; if you agree strongly or disagree then feel free to leave a comment.
I went to buy a new car yesterday; something to do with having delayed replacing the timing belt and then matter being removed from within my control - a lesson learnt. There were so many cars on offer, even once I had narrowed down what I thought I wanted, that I was a little bit like a wee boy in a sweetshop, unable to make choices.
In fact, although the car I eventually bought was the first that I looked at, it required several hours of umming and aahing in order to make the decision. Daft really, given that my purchase ticked all the boxes I had created. I could justify it by saying that it was a big purchase and I need to ensure I make the right decision, but actually I was just dithering and not committing.
How often is that what we do? We do the research - lots or little depending on how impulsive a person we are - and we know the decision that we want to make, but something stops us. Is it fear of getting it wrong, of the consequences of our decision coming back to bite us on the bum, that stops us? Maybe instead its that the second choice option is also appealing and we don't want to let go of that possibility. It might even be that we kid ourselves that if we hold out for long enough something will come along and remove the need for a decision. Finally, I know for me that I sometimes don't want to make a decision for the practical, within-budget option because part of me is still lusting after the shiny, sexier, more expensive alternative.
Yesterday it was very much the fear of consequences problem. Despite having studied engineering for several years, I am something of a duffer when it comes to cars (I can see some of you nodding in agreement as you read this) and I was concerned that once I got the car home it wouldn't work properly. Daft and once I told myself this, I just went for it. I'm buying it from a reputable garage with a 6 month warranty. Logical thinking won the day. That and having a friend to chat to and lay out my thoughts with.
Isn't it amazing how voicing our thoughts to someone else, writing them down or even speaking them into thin air, gives us a new clarity, an understanding of our own idiocy or a new take on the things holding us back? It helps if they understand where we are coming from but actually the family dog would probably do. That process of going from brain to mouth or hand seems to make us process things in a different way.
What decisions are you putting off just now? Who is listening to you as you talk them through to gain that extra clarity of thinking that you need? And if the answer to the second question is 'no-one' what is stopping you saying "Have you got five minutes for me to run something past you?" If its fear that it is a daft idea, then you maybe need to rethink or find a different person. However someone who disagrees with you is more likely to give you objective feedback and will also make you think more clearly about how to present something to them - don't always look for the 'yes' men who boost your ego but might not spot the flaw in your plan.
Stop dithering and start committing because the excitement of the new future can't start until you do. Once the decision is made then your plans can unfold before you and your dreams can be realised, but whilst you keep thinking, you're stationary
Even if you don't follow football, you may have come across the news about Andy Gray and Richard Keys making (wrongly) critical and sexist comments about the female assistant referee, Sian Massey (left), during the Wolves vs Liverpool match at the weekend.
Sky Sports was not impressed with their employees and you can almost hear the MD, Barney Francis telling them to stop doing it, because it is "entirely inconsistent with our ethos" blah blah.
I suspect (although I may be wrong) that Sky are more upset about the effect on their viewers than they are by the nature of the comments and want the pair to stop behaving in that way. However when you listen to Alyson Rudd and Karen Brady who have both commented on it, they have a diferent take on it - that people should stop thinking in that way and therein lies a difference.
I have talked often this month about stopping doing things that are unhelpful for whatever reason, and that seems to have resonated with a number of you. We know it to be a useful practise even though it can be hard. How much harder though is it to stop thinking in a particular way?
If you were to examine your attitudes and ways of thinking, would you find thoughts that need to be altered, assumptions that need to be challenged, beliefs that need to change? Are you willing to even look, knowing how painful the results of that examination might be?
It takes boldness to challenge ourselves and maybe we need to empower a close advisor to do it for us. Only then can we look at altering our mindset and changing what we think.
How much more powerful is it however to change our thinking? Rather than merely treating the symptoms we are going to the root cause of a malaise. If we just behave in a different way, that is inherently contrary to our thoughts, we will develop internal stresses for ourselves and naturally revert back to something in line with our thinking.
To see ourselves as others see us is no longer enough. We want to be able to look inside ourselves and read our thoughts and be willing to change them if necessary. Its a big task but with a big effect.
I've just tried to get a doctor's appointment. Nothing serious - I just thought that maybe I ought to get a proper professional opinion on my back. The system with our surgery is that you phone up at 0830 and make an appointment. I phoned at 0829 and was too early and they told me to phone back. So I did, repeatedly, for the next 15 minutes - probably of the order of 50 times. At 0845 it was no longer engaged and I got through. "Sorry we have no more apointments for today".
They say that 'if you always do what you have always done, you'll always get what you've always got'. If you don't make changes then don't expect different results - in fact I think there is another quote that suggests that he who does expect something different is an idiot.
What kept me doing the phone thing? Was it misguided or was it an exception to the rule, suggesting that perseverance will pay off in the long run? There are obviously two sides to this argument; the one that suggests you need to change something each time to eventually find success and the counter argument that says if you know that success is just round the corner then keep going.
Edison is the oft-quoted example; was it 10,000 failures or 10,000 iterations before he produced the lightbulb? What I only found our recently though was his perseverance with Direct Current (DC) in the face of one of his students championing Alternating Current (AC) - the stuff that now comes out of power sockets in your house. He even went as far as trying to sabotage the introduction of AC, saying it was unsafe.
What things are we doing that we need to evaluate and possibly stop because it's taking us in the wrong direction? Which actions do we need to persevere with because we know that they are going to get us to the goal in the end? If we can distinguish between these two, we could be on the way to great things.
I slipped on the ice on Sunday - vicious nasty black stuff formed from the layer of sleet the previous night. A comic book fall - my legs went out from under me and I landed on my back. On the steps. Really rather painful and I probably should have gone to A&E rather than getting on a plane to Germany, but work beckoned. Thankfully this week I am only running outdoor team building sessions which doesn't need a huge physical input from me otherwise I would be in a spot of bother owing to my enforced movement impairment.
It has made me think though, particularly following a conversation I had with some older ladies about their inability to do crafts now that the arthritis has taken hold. What will we do if and when we lose the ability to do the things we love?
Have you stopped to consider it or are you, like me, guilty of thinking that you will simply be as able as you are now until suddenly you get hit by a bus? I don't want to think of my faculties failing - who does - but in the back of my mind there has always been the thought that one day I will not be able to do outdoor activities at my current level. As for planning round that, I seem to have done nothing.
When is the right time to start planning for that moment, given that the timescale is completely unknown? When I'm 40 or 50 or 60? Or now, whilst it has impinged on my conscious and has become much more of a possible reality? I know that if I wait until I am better again, I will lose the impetus and that probable picture will fade from memory.
Change is never easy and the first step in managing it is to accept it as a reality and let go of the former things. Only after that can we reprogramme and move into the new beginnings. What stage have you got to in your future thinking?
I was away over new year with some friends and their children and the theme of 'stopping doing' cropped up quite often, particularly as we were accommodated in someone else's quite pristine new home. Of particular concern were the games of ice-hockey on the wooden floors and the integrity of the glass balcony rail. Thankfully everything survived intact and we left the house the way we had found it.
As well as the children though, we did have several discussions about the way people who have stopped doing something, such as work, can then fit other things in their place. Retired people have more flexibility and so can make use of good off-peak offers and one of my friends has just finished part-time study for a Masters and we talked about being more available at home. This all led on to thinking about the busyness we experience daily. Hopefully over Christmas at some stage you were able to stop. To sit. To be. The holidays will be over very soon though (unless of course you're already back at work - sorry) and the busyness starts all over again.
What could you do differently in 2011 to make more time: not actually extra hours over and above your allotted 24 but more available hours within the day? What would you stop doing? The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible talks about there being a season for every activity under the sun, including a time to keep and a time to throw away - some things we can instantly identify as being precious and we must keep them, others will obviously be jettisoned. There will always be activities howeve, that are like the keepsakes from our childhood - when space is at a premium we need to make some hard decisions. How do we decide?
Jim Collins talks about the 20-10 problem which says:
Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first one told you that you had won £20 million with no strings attached. The second phone call informed you that you had no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently tomorrow and in subsequent weeks and months? In particular, what would you stop doing? Maybe your 2011 assignment should be to find your answers.
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Nick has been writing for mass consumption ever since he was sending newsletters home from the Philippines 20+ years ago. He has carried on putting finger to keyboard, branching out into magazines, manuals and recently submitting lots of words for books. He has always aimed to be entertaining but at the same time challenging. If you like something, feel free to pass it on to someone else, but if you are challenged by it then even better - write a comment, start a debate, add to the fun.