Is everyone good at something they love?

You hear it so often – ‘do something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’.

Read any self development book, listen to a podcast or read an article on finding your purpose and you’ll be guided to figuring out what you love doing. What you’re passionate about. What you’re good at.

The million dollar question is then, is everyone good at something they love? Does that one thing jump out at you? Is there something you would happily do for free?

In my experience it’s not that straight forward. For some people, their natural talent definitely shines through. For others it doesn’t.

I’d be interested to know about you – do you feel there’s something you love? Are you good at something? Is there that one thing you’re always drawn toward?

Do tell…

[image copyright thank you Kyle Peyton Instagram @kylepyt]

Goals anyone?

I have a mentor who often sends me 30, 60 and 90 goal sheets. We are having a conversation and she will often say that I need to set realistic and achievable short term goals.

I have always been a bigger picture kind of person. When I was little I would often sit on my bed, by the window, staring out into the night sky wondering what was beyond the stars. I would think about it so much that it actually became overwhelming; the thought that there was more space and more beyond that. My mind couldn’t comprehend that much space, or where it ended. I now realise it doesn’t end. Who knows what is a bazillion light years beyond that galaxy and the next and so on…

So when you look at things like that, short term seems irrelevant.

I have always gone from where I am to the destination in the fastest time possible. My driving has slowed down to speed limit and I think I am guilty at times of driving slower than it. I have worked hard on my persistent need to hurry up. I have stopped rushing when I write and have spent years working on being patient – thank God for yoga. I am getting there and owe much of it to the power of mindfulness and a regular meditation practice.

You get the picture, back to goal setting. Although I have set myself intentions and achieved them over the years, they have always been quite lofty goals and again fuelled by getting to them as fast as possible. The list is long, but to name a few; become a yoga teacher (seriously injured my adductor muscle with that quest), a life coach, writer, meditation teacher, web designer, internet marketer, author, shop at Waitrose (yes that was a goal and OK not too lofty, but nevertheless at one point it seemed like an impossibility)…consultant, photographer and so the list goes on.

After much retrospection I can see that to achieve all those things I had to take the steps necessary to get there, but it wasn’t really a conscious thing, not the earlier intentions anyway. I haven’t always been the mindful soul that I am now. I just set the intention and somehow managed to get myself there, and of course, in the fastest way possible. Sometimes that worked out fine and others I am sure the fastest way meant sacrificing something along the way – like the aforementioned adductor muscle. My second book read like it was galloping towards the finish line someone said…and really they were right, it was.

I have learnt to slow down and enjoy the ride, so to speak, although still have the ability to go at 100 mph. I just don’t sacrifice the quality over the quantity anymore.

It makes sense then that along with that experiential wisdom came the ability to figure out these 30 day goals. 60 and 90 follow naturally if you can get your head around the 30 days. It actually, not surprisingly, came to me through mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness teaches you that there is only one moment you need to concern yourself with, and that is of course, the moment you are in now….and now…and now. We cannot affect the past and the only way you can ever shape your future is by the thoughts, behaviours and actions you have in each moment. Sounds simple right? When you truly understand this concept you realise that you have the power to create anything you want, right here in this moment. Every moment is an opportunity and every moment matters.

I work on 4 main life objectives. These 4 pillars (as my friend Jules likes to call them) are my overarching life goals. Parts of them I am living and parts of them I am working towards. Whatever decisions I make in life I make with these things in mind. Making short term goals then becomes easier because they usually fit into one of those objectives. If they don’t that’s ok, because I will have gone through that thought process as to why, and if I am changing direction.

So I simply set my 30 day goals based on that. The 30 day goals might be standalone or fit into a bigger 60, 90 or longer term goal. The point is they are realistic and achievable….with action! The latter is important.

It took me a long time to realise that a goal without a plan is simply a dream and to turn the dreams into plans and can’t’s into can’s, you need action. Action is the motion that fuels everything, the energy required to make things happen….and what starts that is thought. Thought is energy….the thought becomes behaviour and behaviour becomes action.

So when you set a 30 day goal (I set 3 each month) you work on each of those daily. Daily becomes hourly, hours become minutes and minutes become seconds. I am not saying that every single second you have to think, behave or act on one of those goals, but we all have 24 hours in a day…what you choose to do with them is of your own making. So when you think, behave and act in alignment with your goals, during moments, over hours and days, you’ll find when you reach 30 days you have achieved them.

Although The Secret paves the way to convincing people that all you need do is write an intention down, make a paper aeroplane out of it, chuck it out of the window and wait for the universe to sprinkle its magic and deliver it back to you with a red bow on top, it requires a little more than that. Conscious creation (the process outlined in The Secret) does indeed require us to set an intention. To think (energy) as if that had already manifested itself in our lives, but it is that energy being fuelled by motion…the action that is required. We must take action. Thought may indeed bring about circumstances (synchronicity) and opportunities in line with what we are wanting to achieve, but we must act to make them happen.

Set some life goals….really give thought to what you would like your life to look like and simply work backwards to where you stand now. Set yourself some realistic 30, 60 and 90 day goals in line with that and then be mindful. Be mindful every moment you can be…notice opportunities presenting themselves to you, make the right decisions, think the thoughts in line with your goals, behave in accordance with them and act upon them…this is of course meant to flow more than the process I am writing it to be….and it will…enjoy the process and be mindful to act…

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” –

Amelia Earheart

[This photo is of fitness star, Claire, during an urban photo shoot I did with her in the area around a board (skate) room.]

When you notice the pause

I was driving home yesterday and my son was with me in the car. He is 15. Recently we have been going through somewhat of a tumultuous journey as he wades through the middle of his teenage years; juggling exams, surging testosterone, bad habits and the need to assert more independence.

At times it feels like he is a grown man and others too immature to handle all that the world is throwing at him. My little surfer looking dude with his smooth tanned skin, long blonde hair, blue eyes and cute little lisp due to his missing front teeth is no more. He has been replaced with a 6ft 1, seriously spotty (because getting him to use face wash is akin to herding wild boar) shaved headed (well the gradient stops three quarters of the way up but still, where have his beautiful locks gone!?) man boy. The little boy whose constant stream of hugs, kisses and I love you so much mummy, has melded into a moody and at times downright disrespectful and rude young man who has recently started smoking and thinks all teenagers are meant to be drinking!

I exaggerate to say the sweetness has all gone, it hasn’t and it isn’t all ‘bad’. That sweet natured soul with a heart the size of Texas is still in there. His incredibly funny and charming, sociable personality shines through. In the midst of the madness he still makes me laugh until I cry and his ever evolving stream of expressions never cease to amazed me. People have always commented on what a beautiful soul he is. That remains but is often overshadowed by his moods. Although masked by the teenage T-Rex, he still hugs me before school, says, I love you mum, kisses me goodnight and phones when he has gone AWOL, which unless he is on lock down, is generally every day.

His dad and I are like chalk and cheese. So far removed from one another that the only middle ground is our son. We separated shortly after he was born but have (which I have to say in the early years required tremendous amounts of energy and effort) a good relationship and always work together in raising our son and make everything, pretty much, about him.

This means for want of a better analogy my son has as much chalk as he does cheese. Who am I to say what is right and what is wrong, that the way I live is good and the way his dad lives is, well, not so good. We both love him the same and really that’s all that matters. I cannot control anything, other than my own thoughts (debatable as they have a will of their own) behaviour and actions.

There are times when I see things in my son that are present in his dad; personality traits that I wish were not there. I have come to accept them and almost smile when I see them appear. Although at times some of the things my son says hurt my heart for how he is perceiving the world, I realise that these are things he has learnt. I know that there are things present in him that I have passed on from my life before. Before I changed my life and before I know what I know now.

My favourite saying, to which both of my children will often roll their eyes, is the famous Buddhist saying, ‘it is what it is.’ We can only be who we are and do what we do from the place we are at. When you work at being the best you can be, you are doing the best you can, but ultimately, even if you are blissfully unaware in terms of self awareness, you are still really just doing the best you can.

Fortunately, thank goodness for that (!) for most of my son’s life I have been living a good life, in the sense of being on my own personal development journey. He has, therefore, constantly been drip fed golden nuggets of information about living an ‘enlightened’ life. Recently, however, some of his behaviour makes me wonder whether it has ever actually even made its way in!

So back to our drive home which, by the way, was to buy a Father’s Day card for his dad. We have been working on him not smoking. One of the things I am grateful for is his honesty. He always tells the truth. This wasn’t always easy for him and it took time and patience to get him to realise that lying gets you nowhere and ultimately the truth comes out in the end anyway so you are better just telling it how it is in the first place. He will sometimes come up with elaborate stories about why something happened or why he did what he did. Maybe it is because my heart is his heart or just plainly that you know when your children are lying to you. I just instinctively know and he knows I know too. After his story telling, he will smile and say, you know anyway so I will tell you the truth.

The previous night to our drive he had been particularly disrespectful towards me. He is on another ‘lock down’ while we help him stop smoking and he was walking to see his dad. My daughter and I were walking the dog but he didn’t want to join us and forged ahead. ‘Go straight to your dad’s house, do not pass go and do not collect £200,’ I joked, knowing that usually him leaving the house meant he would disappear for half the night. He grumbled something under his breath, pulled his hoodie further over his head and stomped off.

We bumped into him again part way around our walk and he was going in a different direction to that of his dad’s house. Not surprised, I asked him where he was going. He stumbled over his words to say he was going to a friends before rolling his eyes and saying, ‘ok then, I am going for a cigarette’. I tried to talk him out of it and he justified that he had gone from 5 to 1 in a day and hadn’t had any of it. I took a deep breath, told him to go to his dad’s house as soon as he could and left with my daughter in the opposite direction to finish our walk, reminding myself that I cannot control the actions of others. I realise he is my son and is still technically a child, but still I am trying to guide him into making better choices for himself.

On our car journey we were talking about this and he was once again grumbling away about what I was trying to say about better choices. Having been through the very same thing (and far worse) myself, I told him, I do understand.

My son does this thing (often and more so in the last year) where he will intentionally do things because he knows I don’t like it. He will talk about something he knows go against my views on something, or are the opposite extreme to something I believe in. He is of course just trying to push my buttons. I know this and am mindful of it. I try to ignore it, smile and let him get it out of his system.  He was, I realised, in one of those moods.

He switched the music over in the car to some absolutely awful rapper (apologies for the judgement but the song lyrics nearly killed me off) who was articulating in great detail what he was doing with a woman while my son laughed his head off at the shocking lyrics. It isn’t that there is anything shameful about them but we don’t need to hear that, not in a song. I once again reminded myself I can only but guide and not control, took a deep breath, dropped my shoulders and let it go. He changed the song.

He chose the Father’s Day card and I stopped in the petrol (gas) station on the way home. I returned to the car.

As we drove off he said quite seriously, ‘I have really started to notice the parts of me that are from you and the parts of me that are from dad.’

I asked him what he meant.

‘Well, there are times when I am about to think something about someone and I know what I am thinking is the way dad thinks. Sometimes he isn’t nice to people. There was a man coming out of the petrol station and I caught myself thinking something not so nice about him, but then it was like the part of me that is you took over.’

He continued on.

‘You have a good heart and soul. You always try to be kind to people. I know that is also within me because I feel that way about people, like the man coming out of the petrol station. So just as I was thinking something not nice, the part of me that is you jumped in and thought, he’s just a man doing the best he can.’

I was totally dumbfounded by what he said. I know he has a good heart and is generous and loving beyond measure, but it touched me by how night and day he saw his thinking. It made me feel sad he thought the bad thoughts were from his dad and the good from me. His dad is a good man. His thinking might be very off at times but he has a good heart.

We talked on the way home about encouraging more kindness and compassion and he said that he was going to be more mindful of his thoughts and his judgements about people.

It occurred to me that with little effort he was already being mindful – he noticed the pause and in that brief millisecond had been mindful of thinking something bad about someone and instead brought forth a kind thought about them.

Change happens when you notice the pause…

Perspective

I was listening to a podcast yesterday with Tim Ferriss interviewing Gabor Mate (very interesting guy if you haven’t heard of him) and towards the end of the podcast Gabor talked about his favourite quote, relating to perspective. I often talk about how having empathy for others and being mindful of the perspective of others, but this really made me see the enormity of perspective and its incredible impact on our daily lives…

Think about a time recently when something upset you and then think about how you responded.

During the interview I listened to, Tim said that there were a bunch of things that needed fixing around his home and while he was away, he had agreed with someone to come and do the work for him.

When he returned home the work wasn’t done.

Gabor asked him how that made him feel. What were the emotions he felt.

He said he felt upset and the emotions were anger and frustration.

Gabor asked him to think about why he felt angry and frustrated.

Tim responded, because I felt like the guy did not care about me or respect me.

Gabor pointed out that there could be a million and one reasons for the guy not doing the work; he could have taken ill, had a relative become ill, called out of town and so on.

He said,

We don’t respond to what happens, we respond to our perception of what happens; our interpretation.

He stated three key points:

  1. We choose the worse scenario/outcome
  2. We don’t choose, we jump to the worst conclusion automatically
  3. We don’t respond to the present moment, we respond to the past

Responding in this way usually goes back to childhood and the patterns of behaviour and ways in which we respond just play out over and over throughout our lives.

The more mindful you become, the more self aware you become. Being mindful is being present and so cultivating mindfulness in your life will enable you to notice your responses and gain insight into your perspective.

Think about situations in your own life where you are faced with a situation where you respond without really knowing any facts about a situation or the person you are responding to.

Our perceptions are our reality, but it doesn’t make them true.

Mindfulness gives you a fresh perspective. A perspective where you can see things as they really are and because you are present, you cannot be on autopilot at the same time, – meaning you are less likely to jump to a conclusion, based on an automatic response that comes from past. You cannot be in the past if you are present.

This doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch. Mindfulness is a practice and as such needs practising daily.

If you wanted to listen to Tim Ferriss’ interview with Gabor Mate, you can find it here on the Tim Ferriss Podcast.

 

 

[The image is one I took in San Francisco, where my sister lives. I visit often and have taken so many photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge, but each time I seem to find a new perspective and the photographs always seem different…]

 

Setting yourself free

I listened to a podcast last week that included a quote that has had a profound effect on me, and that I thought I would share…

If you are experiencing any negative emotion; doubt, fear, anger, frustration, it is almost always a sign to redirect your attention, either to the task at hand or to others. – Adam Robinson.

If you think about how many times you take things personally, or feel any of these emotions when you are at work, with your partner, while shopping, driving, with family, friends and so on, I am sure those times will be too many to mention.

In every single situation, you could always redirect your attention to the task at hand or to others.

Imagine you are at work and dealing with a particularly difficult client or customer. Rather than focusing on how they are making you feel – which by the way is absolutely normal human behaviour, focus on the task you are helping them with. This redirects the attention from you onto that. Or, as the quote suggests, focus on them. Work on helping them.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool here. By bringing your attention of awareness to the present moment you can be more conscious of the person you are dealing with and what they are saying, what their issues are and how you could help them. If you think about it, being mindful is the key. because to redirect your attention, you have to become present.

It is usually when we are on autopilot, with our subconscious mind running the show, that we react to emotions that arise within us. The way in which we respond to situations is usually based on years and years of the same patterns of behaviour playing out. So when a particular situation arises, we will usually respond in the same way. By being mindful, we can become aware of that and actually choose a different reaction. We can choose to notice the emotion arising within us, but instead, to redirect our attention to focus on what we are actually doing – the task at hand – or to the person we are interacting with, to others, rather than ourselves.

This is very liberating. It does set you free from being wrapped up in ourselves and getting caught up in our emotions and allowing them to run away with us. Think about the number of times something becomes about you, when really it has just escalated because you reacted in a certain way. The emotion would have come up within you and then without thinking you would have responded. This is when situations can get out of control.

Being mindful, being present and focusing on what you are doing and who you are doing it with removes the sense of self from the picture. That isn’t to say you aren’t there, of course you are, but you are not coming from a place of it being about you or letting your ego get in the way.

Putting your attention onto something else or others in any given situation where emotions arise will set you free…try it.

If you wanted to listen to the podcast I listened to, it was on Tim Ferriss’ new podcast series, Tribe of Mentors and the guest was Adam Robinson. Click here to jump to that.

[This beautiful image was taken at low tide, sunset on Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire]