You are your dreams

You are important. And so are your dreams.

One of my favourite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly … who at best knows in the end of triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly.

Our dreams make us who we are. But making our dreams come true takes hard work. It often requires being in the arena – having our faces “marred by dust and sweat and tears”. This arena isn’t a literal one – and there may not be much actual dust. But stepping out of our comfort zones is often required to make our dreams come true.

One of our clients, Pat, set herself a dream, a dream to do with diving.  She took the necessary steps to make that dream come true, bravely stepping out into a new skill that she could enjoy on a landmark diving trip.

Living your dream, living a fulfilling life, also often requires a shift in perspective. When I formed WIFN as a support group for women in Financial services, it was with the goal to encourage women to join our industry and create mentorship opportunities so they’ll be well equipped to do financial planning with confidence. This led me to share my journey with them at our last function. My message was: “Five Steps to shape your future, to live your dream”, and I’d like to share them briefly with you here – perhaps think through your own as you go.

  1. Dare to dream

Our dreams are often buried – long-forgotten mirages of a time lost in memory. When we reflect on life, we know there are many things we never got to do. Instead of regretting what we didn’t do, let’s build a vision board for how our lives would look if they did turn out as we wanted them to.  It’s never too late to dream a dream.

  1. You are your greatest asset

Never forget that you are your greatest asset. Spend time getting to know yourself – spend time learning, growing and developing who you are into an even more valuable asset. You have been created uniquely: you have special talents; your sense of humour is yours; no one else has quite your imagination – or your smile that only you can bring to the world.

  1. Your money is your enabler

I would say that 95% of our relationship with money is subconscious. As we go about our daily lives, we don’t realise that our relationship with money underpins much of what we do – and how we do it. Spend time looking at your early money messages and check if they are true. How far back to they go? Where do they come from? Do you know them to be true for sure, or do you just believe them to be true? At this stage in your life, you get to look at something truthfully. Challenge the beliefs you have. If they no longer serve you, set them free.

  1. Believe in yourself

We have a tendency to sabotage ourselves. We spend time telling ourselves that we are not deserving, not good enough or that our dreams are not important. We are our own worst critics most of the time. Ask yourself where you would be and what you would be doing if you were free of some of the sell-limiting beliefs you hold.

  1. See the support

Support is all around us – from emotional and medical to career and financial. We live in an age of access to amenities and to professional people who can help us on our personal journeys. You’re not superhuman, so don’t be too proud to ask for help. Support could come from a spouse, a good friend or a coach who could encourage you to challenge your wrongly held beliefs about yourself and help you live your dreams.

Choose to live your dreams. Because you are worth every one of them. 

Overcome your childhood fears to get more from life

Writer and blogger, Elaine Ambrose, recalls how a memory of a traumatic near drowning experience in her childhood, nearly scuppered her recent snorkeling vacation. I found her approach to processing her fear for healing hugely helpful.

She describes her memory vividly: “I remember flailing and struggling for breath before sinking slowly. I’ll never forget the feeling of sinking, weak and silent, to the bottom of the pool. I can still feel the rough texture of the pool against my skin. The memory makes my heart race. I have been in the water many times since, but the traumatic memory has never faded entirely. I admit that I am afraid of deep water.”

Recognise and handle your fears

Elaine Ambrose suggests that there are several ways to recognise and handle childhood fears, and these may help you deal with yours or empathise with others.

“First, acknowledge the fear is real. I can’t pretend the near-drowning never happened. The memories are embedded in my mind and can emerge any time I’m in deep water.

“You can also empathise with others who have childhood fears. Some adults are afraid of the dark; others have a phobia about dogs or spiders. Remembering your own apprehensions and experiences can help you understand and sympathise with them and stop others from mocking their anxieties.

“Seek help, if necessary. When fears become debilitating, professional counseling may be required to address and overcome the issue. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome encompasses many symptoms, and a trained counselor can make recommendations for treatment.

“Your experience is part of your story. I survived the ordeal at the swimming pool, and I can use that successful reality to face other obstacles. Surviving an ordeal makes it easier to tolerate another one, like record snowfall.

Your fears do not define you

Elaine is convinced that her near-drowning experience is part of, but doesn’t define, her life. “My adult children have seen me face my fears by snorkeling and waterskiing, so they know I’m not too afraid to get back into the water,” she says.

As expected, the snorkeling adventure brought back the memories from 1965. But Elaine remained calm until the fear subsided. “I paddled on top of the deep water and gazed at the abundant, beautiful vision below. The brochures were correct; it was some of the best snorkeling in the world,” she concludes.

Facing your fears requires courage and often practical actions that take you beyond the potential paralysis.  Sometimes it is simply to make a decision whose outcome is unknown; at other times, it is confronting someone whose words or actions have hurt you; and sometimes it is taking up the challenge not to live a mediocre life.  This can help you live a fuller life as you take hold of all the promise that your second half holds. Be brave.

Balance your reality and your expectations

Sixty and Me blogger, Margaret Manning, believes that a mismatch between our reality and our expectations makes it easy to focus our thoughts on the past … thereby missing the opportunity to make our lives better in the present, and for the future.

When we reach our 60s, most of us have experienced our share of disappointments.

Many of us may feel like we haven’t found the financial security that we expected to have by this age. Others feel a sense of sadness, or even guilt, for not building stronger relationships with our friends and family.

Author, Jodi Picoult, gives a mathematical formula for happiness: “Reality divided by Expectations. There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations.”

There is much wisdom in this statement. We can’t change what happened to us. All we can do is change how we interpret our situation and start planning for a better future.

Not having enough money to live the kind of life that you deserve is frustrating, but, it can also motivate you to create something new and amazing. Losing your friends to time and distance is disappointing, but, it also gives you the opportunity to meet new people who share your interests.

Take a few minutes today to write down the two or three biggest disappointments in your life. Then, think of one tangible thing you can do to start compensating for each. Every few days, review your list and decide what additional step you will take to build the life that you deserve. The past is untouchable, but, the future is yours to create.

The last resolution you’ll ever have to make

Life Reimagined writer, Janice Holly Booth, demonstrates how one simple commitment to change her life reaped multiple rewards – both immediate and ongoing.

The declaration was simple: have one new adventure a month. Considering I’d already exhausted my top 10 list of scary-yet-fun adventures (trapeze and dogsledding – not at the same time), I had to get creative, and then the resolution blossomed into something way better than I’d anticipated.

There were no-brainers like cage diving with sharks in South Africa, a tack-on to a horseback safari. There were other excursions that on the surface would not appear to be adventuresome, like taking a documentary filmmaking class, or a sushi-making class. There was creating adventure in my love life (the details shall remain private); and forcing myself to try fried tarantula and warthog (I will not say I liked them, I will only say I gave them a go). But what surprised me the most was that every adventure yielded unexpected benefits, each worthy of being its own resolution. Out of my single resolve to grow the outline of my life, came these significant bonuses:

Get more interesting people into your life. I have a small group of great friends, but when I wanted to go rappelling, there were no takers. Having adventures within driving distance of my home meant I met other like-minded people who gladly shared my desire to push personal boundaries. Extra points: research confirms that the greater your network of friends, the healthier you are and the longer you live.

Expand your knowledge about where you live. Discovering excursions within a two-hour drive meant I had to look beyond well-known destinations. It took a little work, but I was amazed at what I found. Sensory deprivation tanks, a wild tiger preserve, fencing, flyboarding, parks, restaurants, trails previously unknown by me.

Become better at something. I’m fascinated by recycled art and have started creating huge paper mache sculptures out of found materials. My resolve to get better means I’m paying more attention, being more present, and having more fun. Extra points: According to recent research, trying to master something you like doing is a huge part of creating a self-perpetuating cycle of well-being in your life.

Be a newbie at something. There’s a certain thrill to being tossed into an environment where you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. I love being a blank slate, not having any answers, just open to the experience because it’s all new to me. One adventure this year was to take a screenwriting course, a genre of writing foreign to me, and it’s been like learning a new language: challenging, exhilarating. Extra points: carving new neural pathways in your brain staves off cognitive decline.

Build surprise into your daily routine. Is it possible to surprise yourself? Yes, especially if trying to surprise someone else. My partner and I have been together eight years, so he knows most of my tricks. Coming up with new rabbits to pull out of different hats has been fun and refreshing for both of us. Extra points: Research has shown that surprises (the good kind) are like a B12 shot for your mental health.

How much baggage are you carrying?

Whenever I travel by air and I’ll be away from home for just one night, I travel as light as I can – one appropriately sized carry-on bag and that’s it.

It’s such a pleasure arriving at one’s destination and being able to walk past the baggage carousels where your fellow travellers have to stand and wait to collect their checked in luggage. One is usually able to get to the car hire outlet ahead of the crowd and get out of the airport and on one’s way with the minimum of fuss.

As an addicted people watcher, I am fascinated by the baggage other passengers carry on to planes, particularly those travellers who simply have more carry-on baggage than they can handle (despite the well-communicated baggage restrictions of the airline).

Airlines generally provide for passengers to carry one bag of about seven kilograms onto the flight, as well as a handbag, laptop or briefcase. Invariably, there are passengers with all of that, and more – bottles of wine or other gifts, and a bunch of other extras, resulting in the person holding up everybody behind them as they struggle to negotiate steps and aisles, and then, wait for it, fill up the limited overhead space with all their extras, leaving the other passengers booked in their row to have to wander around until they’ve found spare space in the overhead compartments somewhere else. Of course, these passengers then have to wait for everybody else to disembark so they can proceed 10 rows back to collect their carry-on baggage where they were forced to stow it.

Baggage is a necessary part of long distance travel. When you’re travelling to a destination far removed from where you are – and you’re going to stay for a period of time – you’re going to need to take some luggage, otherwise known as baggage, with you. Of course, if you’re carrying too much baggage while in transit, your mobility will be severely restricted and the simplest undertaking in terms of moving from one place to another becomes a major undertaking, not to mention the inconvenience you cause your fellow passengers.

The trick is to carry only the baggage necessary for your trip and no more. That helps you to remain mobile and independent, not requiring the help of airline staff of other travellers, to get to where you want to.

What kind of baggage do you carry on to a flight when you travel? Are you a light traveller or a traveller that carries too much baggage?

More to the point, what kind of emotional baggage are you carrying in your life?

Stop and have a look at the baggage you’re carrying at the moment. Is it necessary? Is it baggage you’ve become so used to carrying that you no longer notice it and can’t remember why you’re still carrying it – but you are.

In my age management programme for senior executives, I deal mainly with leaders from 50 years and up. Many of them are carrying a tremendous amount of baggage, and they’re all united by one common fact: none of them are happy and fulfilled. If carrying baggage were to make you happy, I’d say, “Carry all the baggage you can!” But it won’t. So drop the baggage!

Take a good look at how much baggage you’re carrying and make a conscious effort to drop all of the unnecessary baggage you’re carrying. That will set you free to be the person you were meant to be.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

How do you rate your accountability?

Have you noticed how no-one holds themselves accountable for anything anymore? When questions get asked of people who should be accountable for some things, lips are sealed and fingers get quickly pointed – usually in the opposite direction.

The fact of the matter is that, if you are in a position of power, you can’t expect accountability from anyone else until you’re prepared to hold yourself accountable for your own actions and statements. This applies to work and family life. If you’re not prepared to be accountable at work, you’re not going to be able to hold your staff accountable. If you’re not prepared to be accountable for your actions in your home, you’re not going to be able to hold your children accountable for their actions. You can try, and you can force your will on your children, but that’s a very short-term strategy and won’t last for too long.

Accountability all starts with you. You can’t think it should apply to others but not you – that you’re somehow exempt from being held accountable. Sure you might think you can get away with things for a while but, sooner or later, things will catch up with you. Watch what happens in our own country’s political arena …

When you refuse to hold yourself accountable, you lose credibility, respect and trust. The problem is that no-one tells you this to your face so you continue to believe the lies you’ve been feeding yourself: all is fine and you’re doing an excellent job of fooling everyone.

But no-one is fooled and they all know you’re a jerk and nobody respects or trusts you and you just don’t know it …

What happens when you DO hold yourself accountable? The exact opposite – people trust you, respect you and support you and you enjoy significant influence in their lives. Of course, you still need to demonstrate a high level of competence or you can hold yourself accountable until you’re blue in the face but if you’re just not cutting it, well, no-one’s going to respect you for a whole lot of different reasons.

Start holding yourself accountable and you will be able to hold anyone and everyone reporting to you accountable. It’s an old fashioned thing called example. When you set an example, you can insist on everyone following it!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

Finding passion, purpose and a paycheque after 50

Our Retire Successfully Retirementor, Lynda Smith, founder and CEO of The Refirement Network, was recently interviewed on Radio Today, by show-host, Natashia Bearam.

In the interview, Lynda encourages older people who still want to work not to be afraid of technology and to be willing to learn from younger people (even grandchildren!) in order not to feel intimidated by the extent to which technology, especially social media, has changed the workplace.

She also poses a range of questions regarding the kind of work you may be considering: for example, are you seeking opportunities in a new industry or do you want to continue in the industry in which you have been working to date?  Do you want to be an entrepreneur or a consultant or an employee?

Lynda highlights the value of network – more than ever, relationships are a crucial, though intangible, asset in building a career.

Finally, she advises that you look at who you are, what you offer and what is the world looking for … and then how you put it all together.

Lynda is a coach who can help you answer those questions and guide you in finding your purpose in the new world of work, in your relationships and with yourself.

You can listen to the interview by clicking here.

Lynda’s work focuses around helping Baby Boomers plan for their next season of life and identify where they can still add value in business and society. If you enjoyed this post on Lynda you may be interested in some of her personal blogs. Click here to access them.

Are you going “through something” or “to something”?

It is a fact of life that, regardless of our position in life, whether we’re smart or not, rich or poor, we all face challenges. How we deal with them and what we learn from them determines what we become.

Challenges come in various forms. Some have to deal with health issues in themselves or in family members. Others face emotional issues such as depression or a lack of self-esteem. Still others face relationship challenges such as rejection, a lack of love, betrayal, abandonment, conflict or abuse.

Many believe money solves all problems in life and that, if they just had money, 90% of their problems would be a thing of the past. That is just a myth. While money certainly helps to make life more comfortable and convenient, it does not provide protection against life’s challenges.
So, if money isn’t the answer to all of our problems, what is?

The answer lies in the grammar you use – which preposition you live your life by.

If you live in terms of a “through”, you will always be struggling with some sort of challenge. People who live based on what they’re going through see their problems as an end in themselves rather than as part of a process.

When you only think in terms of going through things, you have no fixed idea of what you’re moving towards; you never have any intention of finding a solution to your challenge so that you can move on to a goal you have set yourself – something you’re moving to.

Don’t for one moment think that I am seeing challenges as a negative. On the contrary. We learn some of our most profound lessons in the midst of the biggest challenges we face.

During my primary and high school careers, as a skinny youngster at a small town boys-only school, I was bullied quite badly by bigger boys looking to compensate for their own sense of disempowerment. Towards the end of my high school career, however, I learnt how to handle those bullies, not meeting them with brute force but out-thinking them.

Believe it or not, today, I am extremely grateful that I was bullied – the skills I learnt from handling those school yard bullies literally saved my life many decades later when, arriving home late one night, I was confronted by three armed men in my garage.

Recognising that armed men are simply bullies in another form, I quickly called on those almost forgotten skills I learned courtesy of my high school bullies and switched into “handle bully” mode. Using these and other techniques I had learned along life’s journey, I got myself and my family through the experience unscathed.

I do not make light of other people’s experience at the hands of bullies, nor of my own experience with the armed robbers – I hope I never have to face a situation like that ever again – but my point is that sometimes, when we go through something, it’s so that we can go to something.

At a simplistic level, because I had endured bullying, I was able to go to the rest of my as-yet-unlived life. The way I see it, I got a second chance at life and am eternally grateful for this. My life could have ended that evening and I would not have gone “to” anything ever again.

If you’re going through a tough time now, don’t allow yourself to get stuck in it. Keep your chin up and do your best to deal with the challenge and, above all, learn as much as you can from what you’re going through because you never know what it will help you go to.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He assists executives to develop new generation leadership skills, manage their age as an asset, and achieve self-mastery so that they can lead with greatness and agility in an increasingly disruptive world.

What’s your price?

With more and more truth about the corruption and state capture that’s been going on behind the scenes in government, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and business starting to come out, it’s becoming clear that a lot of people in high places have a price on their heads – a price at which they can be easily bought.

Want to buy an SOE executive, a politician, even maybe a President? Seems like you can … if you have the money! There are plenty of them for sale to the highest bidder. Of course, politicians haven’t wanted the general (voting) public to know about this because it wouldn’t suit their agendas – they prefer to be known (in their own eyes) as upstanding, honest, committed, ethical civil servants or good custodians of the significant resources they control.

Well, if truth be told, they have a price on their heads in more ways than one. When you have a price on your head, for which you can be bought to do whatever the person paying you wants, expects or demands you to do, it’s only a matter of time before the price on your head becomes a liability, like those who were “wanted dead or alive” in the Wild West who were known to have a price on their heads. The price on your head then means that others will go after you either to take from you what you have acquired or to ensure that justice will prevail. That will signal the end of your political or business career.

Imagine the stress people with a price on their heads are living with. Here’s the thing … all humans are actually honest beings. No, wait, let me finish …

While all humans are honest beings, many choose to engage in dishonest activities for selfish reasons. They therefore suppress their honesty in the interests of achieving their selfish goals. In order to achieve more money, land, possessions, status, power or anything else they deem desirable, they will choose to be dishonest to get what they want.

What they don’t realise is the price they will in turn pay for their dishonesty. That price is the dissonance that occurs in their beings when their dishonest activities conflict with their honesty, which they have suppressed for selfish interests. Have you ever wondered why people, caught red-handed committing a criminal act blatantly deny that they did what it was they were accused of? That’s because they can’t admit to themselves that they are dishonest. How do you expect them to admit to a total stranger or to the world in general that they are dishonest?

But it’s not only the people in high places who have a price on their heads. There are people living amongst you and me who have sold their honesty. You may, like me, have been the victim of some form of dishonesty, when someone tried to cheat, defraud or rob you of something that was legitimately yours. For example, the last three people who defrauded/cheated me in some way are all regularly standing on platforms in their local communities (I kid you not), thinking that they are very good and honest people. But they had a price on their heads for which they sold their honesty. Sadly, while they think they have done nothing wrong, they will experience the inescapable consequences of the universal law of cause and effect.

I mention this example to challenge your thinking, to get you to ask yourself if you have a price on your head, a price for which you will sell, or have sold, your honesty.

Before you answer indignantly that you have no price, think carefully about your answer. Do you know what our biggest challenge is with regard to our price? We can’t see our own price. We can see what our price is not, but the actual price for which we’re prepared to sell our honesty is actually invisible to us. And that’s why those who have sold themselves can’t see what they’ve done. They think they’re still honest people.

While you and I have no control over the honesty of other people, we can ensure that we never sell our honesty at any price. There’s only one way to do this: operate on the basis that honesty is not the best policy. It’s the ONLY policy. When honesty is your best policy, you tend to start using some of those “not so honest” policies.

Live without a price on your head and be proud of doing so. You will serve as a role model for those you lead and work with.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

Reframing tragedy

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, explains how suffering enabled him and his fellow prisoners to understand what they valued most in life, and therefore were able to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for those things that we so often take for granted.

Imprisoned by the Nazis in 1944 for his Jewish origins, this Austrian psychiatrist described his three years in the concentration camps following his release.  Frankl’s philosophy regarding suffering, outlined in his book, challenges the notion that we must do our best to avoid suffering, and, if we can’t, to get away or through it as quickly as possible.  Equally, we cannot be grateful for or when suffering – it is a condition to be escaped or ‘fixed’.

Frankl acknowledges the value of suffering through his belief that cultivating gratitude in the midst of tragedy can lend meaning to that very suffering.  The conditions of extreme cruelty and deprivation laid the foundation for creating understanding for what was really important in life – and therefore to be grateful for those things – often miniscule – we readily take for granted.

Frankl also reframed his suffering in positive terms through kindness to others.  He records how some prisoners, though starving to death, chose to give their last pieces of cherished bread to others.  These selfless prisoners were the ones able to add deeper significance to an apparently hopeless and purposeless circumstance.

Not all prisoners were able to do this.

In an extract from his book, we find the secret: “In the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. … the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”

Finally, Frankl asserts that it is those who held fast to their spiritual integrity were able to achieve spiritual freedom and purpose. “Often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation,” writes Frankl, “which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.”

Later, as a psychotherapist, Frankl taught his patients that quality of life depends, not on everything working out for us, or of escaping into a place of numbness and passivity, but in the determination to find purpose and meaning in and through difficult situations.  Acceptance of, not resistance to, life’s challenges is the way to gratitude and growth.