I have given numerous keynote speeches over the years, and invariably one of the most common questions I am asked afterwards is: What would you tell your younger self?
This is such a great question and given the forum that I am usually in; I typically don’t have much time to provide a comprehensive answer. My usual response is “Don’t worry so much”.
If I had the time to address the question further, I would respond with the following life lessons:
The grades you get in school do not determine your worth.
Do not place your worth on a grading system that compares your intelligence against someone else’s. Everyone learns in different ways, and that is okay. (Ironically I was a D student in Mathematics throughout elementary and high school, yet I spent much of my previous career working with numbers and Profit & Loss analysis – turns out I wasn’t bad at mathematics after all).
Don’t spend your time worrying about things and ‘predicting’ future problems.
I used to be a professional worrier and I was very good at forecasting future issues – the vast majority of which never occurred. Live in the present moment.
“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe. I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened. Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.
Don’t judge and formulate fixed opinions. Be open to other viewpoints. You don’t have to be right.
As is typical with the young, I tended to read and become passionate about various causes and world events and held firm on the need to be right. I have since learned that none of this matters. Everyone wants to be loved, valued, validated and respected. And giving love, value, validation and respect is far more important than being ‘right’.
All the challenges and problems you face will help you to grow and become a stronger and better person.
I wouldn’t have believed it at the time, but in hindsight, I now realise that all experiences, even the challenging ones, were for my evolution and growth.
Love your body.
I came across a photo recently of myself on the beach in a bikini taken roughly 20 years ago. Why was I so worried about my body? Gravity was kind back then – everything was where it was supposed to be!
Enjoy your natural hair colour
I now spend a small fortune highlighting my hair to get it to look like my natural hair colour and to cover the grey.
Take good care of your health and wellbeing — practice daily self-care.
I learned the hard way that we cannot serve from an empty cup. If you don’t love yourself and take care of yourself, you cannot love and take care of others.
Do not equate your net worth with your self-worth.
The amount of money you make does not determine how worthy you are. Society teaches that the more money you make, the ‘better’ and more ‘powerful’ you are. This is nonsense. No amount of money takes away the low lying feeling of doing something you do not want to do. Regardless of how much money you make, if you are not happy, it is not worth it. Money does not validate your worth.
Finally, in all those moments of self-doubt and worry – go inwards.
Get quiet, meditate, tune out the noise, and the answers will come. Do not seek external validation and answers. The answers are not there. They are within.
These are a few of the life lessons that I would tell my younger self. How about you, what would you tell your younger self? Share with me; I would love to know.
Healthy Body = Healthy Mind
Regular exercise reduces our risk of major illnesses as well as decreases our risk of anxiety and depression, and as a bonus also aids our sleep. However, many people do not get sufficient exercise because they have adopted a sedentary lifestyle. As a society, we spend more time than ever at jobs which require us to sit all day, and our choices for relaxation usually include inactive activities such as reading, watching TV, scrolling social media or staring at our phones and computers.
And, to assuage our guilt for not exercising, we typically offer up excuses. I am sure I am not the only one who has told themselves the daily lie of ‘tomorrow I will go to the gym’ or ‘tomorrow I will start exercising’ or I ‘don’t have time to exercise’.
However, consider this analysis when bearing in mind that there are 24 hours in a day:
When we consider this analysis, the excuse of having ‘no time’ falls flat.
Several years ago, I decided to drop my excuses, and I became an avid runner. I went from only ever running for a bus to gradually training myself to run long distances ranging from between 6 and 9 miles at a time, four to five times a week. Once I got past the first 20 minutes of each run during which time my body and mind complained, and cursed about how much running sucked, I began to love the rhythm of my breath and the sound of the steading pounding of my feet on the pavement. Initially, my body would scream in objection of feeling the cold air upon leaving the house with nothing but a long-sleeve thermal top and yoga pants on, but eventually, I would warm up and thrive in the raindrops splashing on my face. My mind would start to clear, and I would get into ‘the zone’, logging mile after mile.
Now, I am not suggesting that running is for everyone; however, I recommend finding a physical activity which you enjoy that you can commit to for at least 30 minutes each day. The reason being is that exercise produces endorphins and serotonin, which improves our mood, and which directly and positively impacts our mindset. And, having a positive mindset is what ensures that we actively work towards building and living a happy, fulfilling life. Furthermore, exercise not only impacts our mindset, we physically feel better for it. Exercise overall increases your quality of life.
If you find yourself offering up excuses to yourself as to why you can’t exercises, consider asking yourself the following key questions:
Many people struggle to sleep at night, and this directly impacts their mindset. The consequence being that without adequate sleep, we can feel groggy, dazed and too tired even to motivate ourselves to make meaningful, positive changes in our lives.
For many years throughout my career, I averaged 3-4 hours of sleep a night, which eventually led me to develop insomnia.
I didn’t schedule a set time to go to sleep but instead made it a habit to flop into bed at around midnight but not before first checking my Blackberry and answering a few emails. I would then fall into a deep sleep which lasted exactly 2 hours every night without fail. Subsequently, my mind would decide that 2 am was the perfect time to solve the world’s problems, plan my day and think about all the things I needed to. I became acutely accustomed to staring at the bedroom ceiling, making mental to-do-lists while my husband slept blissfully next to me. And then, finally, after tiring myself out from all my problem solving I would fall into a deep, blissful sleep at around 5 am only to have the alarm clock go off at 7 am to start getting ready for work.
This cycle of poor sleep lasted years which meant that I felt perpetually tired and wired. I was tired because I was so exhausted from lack of sleep. I was wired because I was constantly working in overdrive mode and pounding my system with technology right up until the last minute before going to bed. In effect, I never gave myself a chance to slow down and clear my mind.
Sleep is essential to our wellbeing, yet many of us are sleep-deprived and acquire a sleep deficit each night. Work and family obligations consume much of our time, and when we add not making sleep a priority to the equation, lack of sleep becomes a habit. Which means we do not obtain the optimum 8 hours sleep a night required for our physical and mental health.
Additionally, research shows that the light from our computers, phones, TV’s and other forms of technology suppress melatonin (which helps control our sleep and wake cycles) which leads to disruptive and poor sleep. Poor sleep contributes to overall fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, poor decision making, short temperament and depression as well as raises the risk of serious medical issues.
In essence, we need to make sleep a priority not only for our health and wellbeing but also so that we can have a clear and focussed mindset to live a positive, fulfilling and meaningful life.
To address my own insomnia, I implemented lifestyle changes which included:
If you have poor sleep habits, and want to sleep better, consider implementing the following:
Enjoying a warm bath
Writing in a journal
Listening to an audiobook or podcast.
By making these small changes, you will notice an improvement in your sleep as well as your day to day mindset and wellbeing, which will not only benefit you but also those around you.
According to a Deloitte study, 58% of people check their phones within 30 minutes of going to sleep. Considering this, ask yourself the following questions:
Consider keeping a sleep diary to gain an awareness of your sleep habits. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just write down the following:
Once completing this exercise for a week or two, consider if there are any changes you need to implement to improve the quality of your sleep.
We live in a global environment, with many of us working extensive long hours, the norm of working the standard 9-5, Monday to Friday, now a distant memory. And, because our working lives are now becoming so integrated into our personal lives and our personal time, it is vitally important that we carve out time for ourselves each day to slow down and check in with how we are feeling.
If we don’t do this, we can end up living in autopilot mode and, without realising it, we can impact our overall health and wellbeing by being in a constant state of ‘doing’. I know this because, in 2013, my world came crashing down around me when I started suffering from panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression – all born from burnout. At the time I was living in a perpetual state of autopilot; going from meeting to meeting, conference calls to conference calls, and from one commitment to the next, with no time in between each activity, to just take a moment and breathe, be present, and check-in with myself.
Unfortunately, my experience with burnout is not unique.
Burnout can impact us due to work pressures as well as pressures in our personal life; however, we put steps in place to mitigate burnout. One of these steps is having daily mindfulness practices to check in on how we are feeling and by using these practices to calm down when we become overwhelmed.
What is mindfulness exactly?
To those that don’t know what mindfulness is, it can seem a bit ‘woo woo’ and can induce feelings of scepticism. To the inexperienced, one may think that mindfulness involves incense sticks, chanting, hot yoga, yogi’s in sandals and robes and hippies sitting in the lotus position.
Mindfulness is not this.
Mindfulness is quite simply paying attention to the present moment. It’s not about emptying the mind and attempting to ignore and push all thoughts away. It’s merely taking a moment to understand what we are thinking and feeling in the present moment with no judgement about the thoughts or feelings. And, it’s about releasing and relaxing any feelings that may be overwhelming.
Does mindfulness require a unique, quiet setting?
No. Mindful breathing can take place at home, in the office, on a bus, in a waiting room, during a walk – you name it – anywhere.
Is mindfulness time consuming?
No. Implementing just 5-minutes of mindful breathing decreases stress, and increases both personal, professional and social wellbeing.
How can I implement mindfulness into your daily life?
To learn how to apply mindfulness into your everyday life, watch this video.
That’s one of the ultimate questions in life, right? How do we live life happily? Most of us have happy moments, but how many of us are truly happy, living the dream?
I suspect not many because many people are asleep in life – unconscious -– living in autopilot mode, living in the past and the future, but rarely, if ever, in the here and now. And, to compound the issue, many feed their unconscious state with distractions – TV, social media, and the internet to name but a few. And, at the same time, the voice in our head (the ego) provides a constant running commentary of judgements, observations, and dramas based on the past and future projections. Which, as a consequence, this leads many to live in a distracted, drama-filled life rather than a present, empowering, happy life.
It’s a pretty bold statement that I am making about society as a whole, I know.
But think about it, how many of us leap out of bed and race around unconsciously getting ready for work? And then while commuting to work, plug into technology – the Blackberry, iPhone, Smartphone or headphones acting as our commuting companion? And then on arrival at work, fill our days with meetings on top of meetings, conference calls on top of conference calls, and add to the never-ending To-Do List caused by the “do more with less” work culture? And then, finally, upon finishing work, on the commute home, plug back into technology during our journey? And then once again, on arrival home, distract ourselves by surfing the internet, mindlessly scrolling social media or watching made-up drama on TV or the News?
There are a great many people in society living a version of the above scenario. But hey, if you’re not convinced by what I am saying then, Google how many hours the average person works and consumes media. If you do, it will become evident that we are quite literally working, scrolling, swiping and watching our precious lives away.
And we tell ourselves that this is living. That this is what life is.
It is what unconscious living looks like. And, it is the reason why many are not truly happy, living the dream.
Since there are so many people in society that have accepted this way of life as what life is, means that we, as a society, have adopted a herd mentality. Rather than question the norm, we have become a part of it, meaning we are living a collective unconsciousness – a collective disempowerment. A collective unhappiness. A collective dissatisfaction.
Living in a distracted, unconscious state does not create happiness or a healthy society. Instead, it produces disempowerment and helplessness – a feeling that life happens to us rather than for us. Think about it – how many times have we said or heard someone say, “One day I will,” or “I want to” or “When I get”? These are all disempowering statements that suggest we do not have agency over our life - that in the future we will be/do/have, but until then there is dissatisfaction and lacking in life. And all the while we are waiting for the future to happen, we end up sleepwalking through life, living in a state of inertia, with the incorrect assumption that we have an infinite amount of time to live.
So, what is the solution? The solution to breaking free and living life happily, living the dream, regardless of what life throws at us?
It’s a simple one.
The solution is to wake up, get rid of the distractions as much as possible and live in the NOW. To become aware of every single moment of our lives. To get into the habit of continually asking ourselves “Is what I am doing or thinking right now, helping me to live a happy, meaningful life?”. And, if the answer is, no, then we need to proactively work to stop doing it or thinking about it and take different actions that will lead to a happy life. That is what having agency is about –recognising that we have the power to control our thoughts, behaviours, and actions. We don’t have to live in autopilot mode. We can forgo the herd mentality and choose differently.
So, my question to you is this – are you truly awake? Are you in control of your mind and what you put in it, or have you filled it with distractions, autopilot mode and incessant ego chatter?
Not sure? Okay, here’s a simple test to determine the state of your mind:
Go sit down somewhere for 5 minutes and think of nothing.
* * * *
You couldn’t do it, could you? Your mind chatted to you the whole time, right?
No judgement if it did – my mind was the same way until I got rid of the distractions and proactively trained myself to think and act differently. That said, in the interest of full disclosure, I still haven’t mastered this. It’s a work in progress; however, I now have the conscious awareness of when I am falling back into unconscious living.
Perhaps this exercise has woken you up to how distracted your thoughts are and how unconscious you are living. If that’s the case, then my questions to you now are these:
Contact me if you need help with this.
I wish you a great, purposeful, happy life.
Hi! Welcome to the Mindset Coaching Blog, where I will be sharing with you how to develop healthy habits and empowering beliefs.