100-Day Challenge, Day 66. Truth Hurts. A lot.

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I have long been an advocate of integrity excellence, a fundamental (but not exclusive) element of which is honesty. The principle of truth, spoken loud. The valued exercise of telling it like it is, even when doing so discloses, as Al Gore would put it, an inconvenient truth.

And the inconvenient truth on Day 66 is this: while I maintain that the Principles of Excellence in the physical and mental spheres always work, I have failed to work the Principles. I have known what to do, but I have failed to do it.

In my defence, the ‘excellence’ I have sought to perform in the competencies I look to possess has resulted in my being appointed a ‘Masters Mentor’ with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and I look to produce high-quality work on a professional level. I still do my funky thing for all those I seek to serve.

But physically I am a wreck. I am no further forward in terms of weight loss from Day 1. Exercise-wise I have the genuine reason of a knee injury which, as much as I tried to compensate through different approaches to exercise, just got too painful to move. Even walking was challenging. Where I failed most of all was to not adapt my eating habits (a) to lose weight ‘at all’ and (b) to compensate for the inability to work out.

The ultimate weight-loss principle is and always will be ‘eat less, move more’. I started this Challenge by using the ‘move more’ approach and that worked. But when the injury kicked in I did not then apply the ‘eat less’ approach and that has meant, well, failure. There are 34 days left so I can still do something, but I am not going to hit my original target unless Montezuma seeks terrible revenge, and as far as I know I have not offended any Mexican gods.

Of course, as a personal development writer this has to reflect on my reputation – a bit. I occasionally feel like the clown who is sad inside: the clown, promoting laughter and entertainment while forever crying inside. But part of my challenge might be that I eventually face the possibility that I am comparing my situation, and potential, to that of the truly great writers, performers and coaches in this field, and looking to play like Ronaldo while only having the talent of a (insert name of good, non-International football player here).

I am reluctant to settle for less than ‘perfection’. Nobody should do that. But even perfection is subjective, because as soon as it is achieved someone will always come up with an even better version of it. And even if I did approach an ideal version of me, that very approach would inevitably identify an even better ‘better’. That ‘even higher standard’ could be identified because one of the giants in my field found it, even if I didn’t. And then I would think ‘here I go again’.

Anyway, I will carry on moving ever forward, seeking to finally achieve those elusive, higher levels of personal congruence that will enable me to truly walk my talk and be the individual I would dearly love to be.

Perhaps, as I write that last sentence, I realise that I have to ask myself some sobering questions:

“Am I willing to work hard enough to be the man I want to be? Exactly how dearly do I want to be the best ‘me’ I can be? Do I want it enough? And – finally – do I actually have a clear idea of what that best ‘me’ will look like when I finally get to ‘be’ that person?”

I guess we’ll find out. But one thing must apply. I won’t blindly adopt other peoples’ standards and measure the final ’me’ against those. They have their values, beliefs and behaviours and they are not necessarily mine.

The ultimate identifier and judge of my congruence with my values and unifying principles will be – me. Eventually.

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100-Day Challenge, Day 59. And a word about personal development philosophies

Holidays. Despite not going nuts on food and drink, and spending hours walking about, the curse of a holiday reared its ugly head and I gained two pounds. Suffice to say, the original objective is now impossible unless I suddenly obtain the capacity to train like George Foreman (in his boxing, not grill days). 41 days to lose 31 pounds is not impossible but when I achieved something remotely near that (losing a stone in 2 weeks) I spent the 14th day in bed and I suspect that my 55-year-old metabolism is not the same as my 40-year-old metabolism. Do any readers have suggestions or experiences that might be fun for others to read?

Speaking of holidays, how do you do yours? As a coach/trainer I find that I spend a lot of ‘time-off’ thinking about ‘time-on’. For example, as I toured many book shops during my break I found myself gravitating to the self-help section, and then cursing myself because I want to focus all my energies on Principle-Centred Self-Leadership and the writings of Stephen Covey. I’d pick up a book and then put it back – I don’t need to read these things any more! Why?

This is a piece of advice I give any clients of my courses. Find the ONE philosophy and system that floats your boat – and stick with it.

Why do that? Why do that and not explore potentially better alternatives to improved living and personal development?

The reasons are two-fold.

1.       When looked at deeply, the teaching is basically the same, even if the terminology and examples differ slightly. In The 8th Habit, Covey touched on this very subject. He was at a big-name leadership shindig and during a discussion with other greats he made this point – that fundamentally, what they taught using different words was the same stuff. All agreed. (And this is why seeing a book on leadership with a ‘new, different, better, latest leadership teaching’ tagline leaves me cold.)

2.       Trying to apply one system is a lot easier than trying to jump between different ones. Canfield’s Focusing System, Ziglar’s Goals Method, Allen’s Getting Things Done, The Seven Habits and others – all great, but you can’t ‘do’ any of them consistently  – and effectively – when you’re trying to ‘do’ all of the others. Find and use one system – I prefer the 7 Habits version because I have been applying it for 22 years and it works. But you might like the others. Just find ‘one’ and stick with that – or you’ll fail while desperately trying not to because your time is spent trying to juggle alternative technologies.

Recap – the philosophies are generally the same; the methodology serves those philosophies, but in slightly different ways. And different strokes suit different folks.

Find one route, and stick with that.

100-Day Challenge, Day 44. And about a ‘Cure’ for Stress.

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This week I have been mostly exercising every two days, eating sensibly and producing like a dervish. I discovered that ‘being on holidays’ equates to ’90-120 minutes a day dealing with voluntary tasks’, in that two days of this week felt like I was one of those CEOs who claims to get a million emails a day. Every single one I dealt with generated two more, I swear. Hence this input on Stress.

Stress is self-imposed. (Cue anger.) Okay, let me temper that a bit.

On Monday I went to Cardiff Yes Group, a post-Tony Robbins event ‘alumni’ event where personal development lecturers keep the audience ‘on track’ with their commitments. All are welcome, and there are UK-wide events available.

The speaker suggested that (one of) the reasons for stress arise from overwhelm and an inability to cope with change and pressure because life/we/bosses etc haven’t allowed time for our neurology to get respite from the constant changes of direction (e.g. from interruptions like constant demands for attention from emails). That inability to cope can be genuine and physical, or it can be a perception. By that, I mean that the stress is all too real to the sufferer but if they weren’t so pressured they’d realise they could control it, if they only knew how.

In other words, the stressed individual says, “I have 101 things to do and I just can’t see a way to do it.” The individual with a control strategy says, “I have 101 things to do today and 8 hours in which to do them. Do-able.” That is 480 minutes – about 4.5 minutes a ‘thing’, and for every ‘thing’ that takes a minute, that rate expands.

Time management might seem like a management cliché but in my opinion, from years of applying it, time management properly taught, accepted, encouraged and applied is an absolute – yes, absolute – cure for stress.

Please understand, I am not talking about stress resulting from trauma, accident, disaster, relationship failures and so on. That’s different, even if some relevant TM training can help. I am talking about task overwhelm in work and in the home.

Charles R Hobbs, in his epic book ‘Timepower’, suggests that high self-esteem is served by the ability to be in control of events. I am fairly confident when I suggest that those with genuinely high levels of justifiable self-esteem (as opposed to ego) rarely suffer from work-related stress. And that is because they are, or they feel they are in complete control of what’s ‘appenin’, OR they know that they can take control – even of the unexpected. They have techniques and approaches that enable that control.

In the mid-1990s I had what I call ‘an episode’ where this 6’ tall, macho, fightin’, drivin’, chasin’, action-man copper left a boss’s office in tears and went home before his shift was due to start. (Short version, I think it was slow burn.) Fortunately, I had been reading The 7 Habits and books like Timepower for years. I went home, took the wife and kids out for a family meal, and took stock. I recognised that what was happening was a stress build-up.

Then I took control and decided what I was going to do about the situation. I was back at work within 48 hours asking for what I needed to regain control. And got it. Never happened again.

We all know of people who do the tears thing and aren’t seen for months. They lost control and didn’t or couldn’t get it back, and that was because they didn’t know that there was an alternative to pills.

Values-based time management – might not be penicillin but by all that’s holy it’s a damn good treatment for what ails a lot of people.

Try it out. My book or theirs, you decide. It’s you who controls your decisions if you want to.

 

100-Day Challenge: Day 37. What can YOU do in 20 mins an hour?

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Yup. Reading the PMS daily does make a difference: I exercised after work daily, and spent the week finishing my planner pages with ticks all down the page. Lost some weight, got fitter (a bit, it’s only a week). Couldn’t ask for more.

Or could I?

Some friends have often asked how I manage to run an Institute, give driving advice, run a speakers club, do the social and side-business that those commitments entail, write a couple of books and compile this blog.

I, on the other hand, ask them how they manage to get so much done because my perception is that they are constantly being, doing and having a better social life than me, and their homes are pristine. (Occasionally it occurs to me that their houses are spotlessly clean because they’re never in them.)

When it comes down to it, the difference must be in the way we choose to spend our time and what lies behind how we choose to spend our time.

I’m not judging – the way they choose to spend their time and money may be different to how I do those things, but that doesn’t make either side ‘wrong’. It merely provides tangible proof that the things we value are different. Alternatively (and this is a bit deeper), our values are the same but the way we address those values is different.

For example – and see which side you fall – whenever I have conducted a values exercise I can be absolutely sure that for those who are parents, ‘Family’ always come at or near the top of the tree. And I look at the room and I see people who work 80 hours a week and who rarely even see the family that is so important to them.

Then I reflect on that values definition, and realise that while my value of family is defined to include ‘presence’, their value of family might just as easily (and validly be defined as ‘providing for their needs and wants by working hard to get the money that pays for them’. So we act differently on what we value to be important.

And what we ‘do’ takes up ‘time’. What I do to take up my time is write and serve the organisations I have joined. My friends spend their time differently – for example, running around after their children helping them learn, play, perform and so on. Which is something I used to do but now my kids are adults. What I do now is not necessarily what I did then. And I forgot!

How we spend our time is a reflection not only of our values but also that of our current situation – our obligations, duties, interests, and so on.

I get a lot done because I prioritise and plan my time. As a result, the reason I appear to watch so much television is because I have the time to do that. And said television is so predictable I can read a book or ‘do’ Facebook at the same time. (20 mins of adverts per hour helps. It’s amazing what you can get done in short bursts.)

Learn values-based time management. Apply what you learn to what you truly value. See if you can do more of what you value, less of what you don’t, and still get the things done that need to be done.

It is possible.

Buy My Book HERE. Read the opening pages at ‘Look Inside’. Available in Kindle or Paperback.

 

You’ve got me all wrong. Probably.

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Gretchen Ruben is an American author and lawyer, and I have enjoyed reading a couple of her books, most notably her last one – which has become an accidental precursor to her next book. In said next book, she will expand upon what she has called The Four Tendencies. These tendencies are four ways in which we can identify our predilection and motivation for action, or otherwise. Three of those are Upholder, Questioner and Rebel. Those of you who know me have already decided which of those three I am.

Guess what? You’re wrong.

According to the definitions and the pseudo-test she has provided and which I have circulated through Facebook (as requested by the test – read on and giggle), I am the fourth type – an Obliger.

Stop laughing.

An Obliger is defined as responding ‘readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.’

To me, that means that when a person is called upon to do something for others, they do it. But when they have to do something for themselves, they don’t.

I see me in that definition. A sense of duty exists at the workplace, of course. Most of the time I go about my business routinely. I’ll plan my time to enable completion of the required work. But sometimes, when asked to do something, I might (do) whinge and bitch and suggest there is a better way. Nevertheless, in the end, I always do it. I oblige.

But when I call upon myself to do something and the only person to whom I am accountable and responsible is me – I waiver. A lot, in my experience. Even if I have seemingly volunteered to join some enterprise, I haven’t created an inner obligation – I have self-created an obligation to another.

A good friend recently suggested something to me, and while he isn’t aware of the Tendencies I think he did inadvertently confirm the solution for an Obliger. I had ‘complained’ that once when I get to the gym I can train – but thinking about going to the gym often stopped me actually doing it.

He suggested that when it comes to physical exercise (and my stated reluctance to go to a gym unless I could go there straight from work without having to think of something else in between) I would improve my chances if I exercised with someone else. Think about that – going alone is a problem, but if someone else was involved, my Obliger Tendency would ensure that I honoured my commitment to that other person.

Thinking through this using the paradigm of the Three Resolutions, any reluctance to comply with the First Resolution could and would be offset by compliance with the Third Resolution, confirming my hypothesis that adherence to one Resolution often serves compliance with another. Serving a friend would also and simultaneously serve me. So, where discipline is weak, service can provide support.

Me and Gretchen – we’re thinking along the same lines.

Today’s joke – Matt Damon’s chicken dinner has gone cold. Bourne’s Supreme’s icy.

Please buy me.

100-Day Challenge – Day 30. Hereinafter called the 70-Day Challenge. :-(

Put plainly, I know the principles will work, but to be frank – I ain’t working the darn principles. While productivity and service levels remain high, there is no use pretending that my diet is WAAAY out of control (‘socialising’ not overly helpful) and I could exercise with more gusto. In fact, it would help if I could exercise with any gusto at all.

The personal development field is crazy. Someone writes a book, sells it for £15, then charges anything up to £1,000 a day to teach you what’s in it. However, if it is taught well it does stick better than just having a read, and a good quality training course behoves you to follow through and holds you accountable. On the one hand, therefore, I understand the reluctance of the public to invest in their PD, but on the other hand I think there is a reasonable value in providing that support.

But not (name omitted) £1,000 a day just ‘cos you is the author.

 

100-Day Challenge, Day 27. Talk -or read – yourself into success.

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I have never really been all that enthusiastic about affirmations, those sentences one states (ideally out loud) to oneself that are intended to reinforce the cognitive integrity between what we say to ourselves and how we behave. Not that I don’t believe that what we say to us influences us, but the woowaah suggestion that doing so out loud makes any difference. Until this week.

Until last week, I had got into the habit of reading my PMS daily – it was on my to-do list and the brevity of time it took, allied to the simplicity of the particular to-do, meant it was an easy ‘tick-off’ in my planner. I didn’t shout out loud (partly because I was in an office full of personal development sceptics, aka ‘detectives’), but I did focus on the reading. And for the couple of weeks I did that I lost weight, produced, and lived according to said PMS.

This week, I did not. I allowed myself to believe that I had, by now, ‘got it’ and didn’t need to read it any more. This was the week I didn’t exercise, ate too much (and it doesn’t take ‘too much’ to stop weight loss, I assure you), and didn’t study for my forthcoming test as well as I could have.

In other words, my failure to read my PMS influenced – well, my failures.

So it is back in the planner and will be read daily this week. And I respect affirmations a little bit more than I used to. And to be frank, if they are good enough for Stephen Covey, then they are certainly good enough for me.

Now, dear sceptics – you may think this silly. Now ask Lewis Hamilton, Tiger Woods, many premiership footballers, and copious other successes who you’ve SEEN talking to themselves or meditating with closed eyes just before they perform, what they are doing. And if it is good enough for the successful – why isn’t it good enough for YOU?

A Sunday Morning Values Lesson on the BBC.

Are you willing to admit that your ideology influences you too much?

I was just watching Sunday Morning Live on the BBC, and the subject under discussion was the famous case of the monkey selfie, where PETA (the animal rights charity that does otherwise valuable work) was wasting money suing a photographer over the rights to a photograph that a monkey accidentally took of itself, using the gentleman’s camera. As is often the case the conversation widened, but at the end the four panellists were asked a simple question.

In a situation where an animal and a human were in danger, which would you save first?

This is where ideo-stupidity stepped in. it’s a simple question. Two alternatives. Which one?

The first two panellists avoided the question. Don’t get me wrong – even though I think there is only one sensible answer, I am not saying they gave a ‘wrong’ one. My point is that they avoided giving one at all.

The first (PETA) said they need more information (bolleaux) and the second went into whether we should treat animals with the same respect as we (should) treat each other, which wasn’t what he was asked.

That meant that PETA woman would not say she would put a person first because it might undermine their otherwise unquestioned love for animals, while not choosing the animal first because that might upset humans. And the second panellist avoided committing to a human life – which seemed odd for an equality rights campaigner for ‘people’, who wouldn’t put a ‘people’ before an animal in that simple dichotomy – possibly because he may upset animal lovers.

Here’s the thing – both were unwilling to stand by any personal values at all, either way. They flapped, they flummoxed, they prevaricated and, in the end they lied, either directly or by omission. There was an answer to give, whatever it was – but they wouldn’t give it because it would commit them to something that others might challenge. Which means they were gutless about their beliefs – which in one case was odd because the panellist is usually quite vociferous about what he believes in.

Which brings us to the point of my opening question – do you realise that your chosen ideology influences you so much that you can’t even stand by it when challenged? Does it influence you to the point that you KNOW or suspect that standing by it – isn’t absolutely right?

Question your values and beliefs until you get to the point where you wholly understand and are willing to stand by them, whatever the cost. Otherwise you will never be truly happy or congruent. When questioned, you will squirm. You will then be challenged, and you will squirm even more before getting all defensive and angry. Ultimately you will find yourself unable to put together the cogent argument that you did have about your values-derived choice – and all because your beliefs weren’t as sound and principled as you thought they were.

Do the values exercise, question your own beliefs, get absolutely clear and then stand by your values.

Or look a fool.

100-Day Challenge, Day 23.

Here I am at day 22 and a hiatus. Despite every hope that I would gently resume and commit to running daily throughout July, it is clear that my knee is not going to let me. I suspect a cruciate ligament malady similar to one I encountered before the 2015 Baker-Vegas Relay Challenge, which side-lined me for months only for my Achilles to go when the cruciate settled. Methinks I need a new strategy for the fitness side of my Challenge – probably a gym, with bikes, rowers and light weights – which I detest because – well, just because (there is no excuse, after all!). Gutted because I was seeing genuine progress in terms of speed. Face it, David – you’re not 20 anymore. Train like a 55-year old, instead.

No weight loss this week, probably because (a) I couldn’t exercise as well as I wanted and (b) because I ate all the ice cream. More commitment needed, or at least better use of the gap between stimulus (look, food!) and response (eat food).

 

100-Day Challenge, Day 20. And ‘Look what THEY have done!’

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It hasn’t been a great week for the challenge. Fitness wise I haven’t run since Sunday because of the knee, and the (possibly psychosomatic) pain in the back where, until the doctor suggested I should have pain, I didn’t have. Damnit! And I am too easily succumbing to the evening ice cream. What part of “Don’t buy any more!” don’t you understand!

On a better note, I have launched myself into the services I provide, soberingly realising that the social benefits of being an Institute Director, a driving Observer and a Speakers Club President in addition to my own ‘stuff’ mean – additional workload! Well, I never.

For those who know me, rest assured that I deliberately chose those service roles because they involved no physical effort whatsoever (even if my brain sometimes gets fried).

 

Ooh, look what they get!

It’s all kicked off at the BBC, hasn’t it? For those out of the loop, they have voluntarily (!) revealed large pay gaps between male and female presenter/celebs/newscasters, resulting in much debate on other programmes presented by those not earning as much (sic).

Shortly, it will be a legal requirement that businesses with over 250 staff will be forced to publish their pay structures/details, and one suggestion to counter the BBC-initiated but now extended issue of gender/race-related pay gaps ‘in the whole world’ is that ALL business should publish their pay details.

When I was young, my father said, “What I earn and what I pay in tax is my own business”. (He wasn’t a fan of Cliff Richard so he wasn’t talking about bachelorhood.*)

Outside of some public services, where pay IS publicised – like the police service where rates of pay are published, if not individual income – this would mean that everyone would be legally entitled to know what you were being paid. Everyone.

I wonder how that would benefit people? I know that the motive is positive, but like many good-natured ideas, has it been thought through? Imagine schoolyard bullies being able to pick on kids whose parents earn less than theirs. The phone calls to HMRC or Crimestoppers because Fred’s mum is deriving a Range Rover on a private plate and she only earns £21,000 a year so she ‘couldn’t possibly afford it’. The thrifty being asked for charitable donations by chuggers. And so on.

There is an economical tenet to which I subscribe, conditionally. It is that you get paid what you’re worth in terms of service provision. Which is why people who do jobs that ‘anyone can do’ get paid less than jobs which required years of training and effort. After that, the next leveller of pay is the number of people who want to do the job or who could do it – if only 5 people could do a particular job, then the rate of pay would probably be higher than if everyone wanted it – and the lowest bidder would win. That might explain public sector pay. (Hey, I am no economist and this argument may hold no water!)

All of which brings me around to the BBC issue. Notwithstanding the gender/race gap, which is an issue, is it just possible that the service provided by the best-paid talent is paid for at a rate that was agreed by the two parties involved, and was the result of a negotiation from which either side could have withdrawn, thus lowering the proverbial bar for the next applicant? In other words, “I want YOU,” resulted in the response, “Okay, this is what I want” and off they went.

Nothing. Wrong. With. That.

Perhaps the race/gender gap is a reflection of all of the aforementioned factors – plus an unwillingness of some to ask for more. “Life will give to you what you ask of it,” as Tony Robbins espoused.

And for some of those so offended by this issue, I have a question. Do you watch the drivel that is driving this pay up so high?

    I know my place.

*Look it up