Life got tough? Feel stuck? Lacking direction? Here is how to wipe life's shit out of your eyes and get the clarity and drive back in your game. Or alternatively, as I'd prefer to put it, find your arsehole.
Self-development can sometimes amount to a load of old flannel. The person writing with the so called knowledge perceives that their target audience probably be less than 'fine', so should therefore approach with a degree of sensitivity, or heaven forbid, they might be responsible for making the poor lambs feel worse.
What if there's a no nonsense reader out there that doesn't need tiptoeing around, but instead thinks 'please will someone just give me an articulate and decisive smack round the face so I can save some time and go back to being powerful ASAP'? If I've got your attention, read on. This won't take long.
1. Get out of your comfort zone.
Safety in life is overrated. You can have far too much. Have you wrapped yourself in cotton wool so that nothing 'bad' can possibly happen to you? Does that block some of the good stuff getting to you as well? Safety is the absence of danger or risk. Security however is the ability to take a risk in the knowledge that your base level of safety is always there to return to.
Imagine you're playing a game of 'Run Outs' with your mates back in the day. If you were defending the base, were you the sort of kid that would just stand in-front of the lamp post or car that everyone was trying to get to or would you be far more adventurous, believing your pace or your ability to outwit would mean that coming away from base was in fact the way to snare your opponent?
Well life's a game of run outs. If you stand next to base the whole time, what are you getting from that? Oh wait, I get it, you used to be a little more daring and something happened to you that made you decide that attacking life was far too much of a risk. To be good at the game, you have to understand the spirit, the way it should be played. Don't park the bus or you'll look back at your life never knowing what was past the half way line.
I've just got back from a charity cycle trek around Kerala in India. Prior to leaving I was coasting through life, but not in a good way. I was frustrated, lacking motivation. I had a general feeling of dissatisfaction because I knew I was plodding along wasting time and 'just being' when I could have being creating and seizing opportunities instead.
I stepped out of the comfort zone for a week in the hope that a complete gear change would enable me to find a version of myself that has the solutions to the answers my life is posing right now. The forty degree heat, the steep, continuous hills and the caravan I felt like I had strapped to my back ensured that I would be on the edge of my psychological limits throughout, and somewhere on the climb between Cochin and Munnar something wonderful happened.
I simply found my mental strength which I'd forgot I had over the last few months. How else could I have cycled for 10 hours up a hill, silencing the voice telling me to stop and numbing the pain in my legs? Such will to reach the top overriding all surface level weaknesses.
Surprise yourself. Give yourself a chance to exceed your expectations. Do something that requires the exact thing you believe you have lost. Leave that base, play the game in the spirit that was intended and remind yourself what you at your best looks and feels like while you can.
2. Go cold turkey and kick the bad habits.
How many of us are transfixed with all of the wonders of the internet via our handheld devices? Recount all of those occasions when you get stuck looking at your phone, taking in all of that content, some of which you benefit from, but most of which serves you no purpose.
You scroll through pictures and words only ever skimming, never really absorbing anything with any real intent. How many times do you go looking for one thing and two minutes later aimlessly find yourself somewhere unplanned and unnecessary, not even knowing what you were looking for in the first place?
This was my addiction that I had to break and I absolutely sight it as one of the reasons my 'get up and go' went flat. I knew sitting on my bike for long periods would stop me from sitting on my phone and I was given a blessing in disguise when on day two we were caught in torrential rain with my phone in my pocket completely exposed to the elements.
Needless to say it didn't take kindly to this, so my dog and bone is no longer with us. I saw it as an opportunity though and before the end of the week in India I was actually really enjoying the freedom.
You might not be hooked on your phone or social media like half the human race. You might need to have a break from a person, a situation, an environment. The point is if you know something is bad for you, you have to understand the need it fulfils and feed it elsewhere. Reading a book gave me the words and stimulation my addiction required. The complete antithesis of 'posting', or more accurately observing everyone else. I read and read and read and loved it. I felt replenished, like I was a real person and less robotic again.
Of course I will use my phone and frequent social media again, I have a new phone already, but from now onwards it'll be on my terms. We know when we are motivated and in control of our direction and we like ourselves far more in its presence. We also know when we are coasting; a wasteful, passive affair that I suspect makes us feel a bit weak and flaky.
3. Take your hat off.
Another perspective enhancing piece of common sense that'll get your spark back. You can't see the glaringly obvious while you're too busy doing the same shit, in the same order at the same time. Living on autopilot if you'd prefer. If we wish to better ourselves then we must grant ourselves the time and space to reflect, away from the pressures and responsibilities of whatever it is that we do most often. In order to reboot one's motivation and enjoyment of life you have to stop moving in the same pattern you predictable fool.
Try something that allows you to be something different. Last week in India I was cyclist, group member, fundraiser and tourist. This week I've gone back to simply being dad. I feel like I've really benefitted from switching that off for a short time. Now I am doing it with fresh eyes, renewed optimism and the ability to make changes that needed to be made before, only I couldn't have known that because I hadn't had the chance to reflect.
The kids see and feel the difference as indeed your family, friends, staff or colleagues would too. They know dad's in control and whilst their inherent teenage emotional state likes to resist and challenge it, I know beneath the layers of ridiculousness lies a happier and more secure internal satisfaction and I feel good for giving them that.
4. Go back to being a child.
In Kerala I hurtled downhill for 20km barely needing to pedal. It was exhilarating, I was on the very edge of control, sparingly using the breaks as little as I dare. We have to find a way to reconnect with ourselves at source, and at that moment in time I was 15 years old again. Not a time machine in sight, just a situation that removed me from reality much like I imagine a parachute jump might.
That's the way I'd like to live. Speeding towards my goals without the daily distractions holding me back, slowing me down and forcing me to stop. How can you hurtle down a mountain in a state of adrenalin fuelled exhilaration?
What is going to reignite your inner child and make you forget responsibility and pressure? For some a bit of time spent with old school friends immersing yourself in memories of the past will do it, for others it might be going on a rollercoaster, abseiling down a building or jumping off a diving board. There are loads of ways you can summon your fear and tell it to GFI just like you used to when you were younger.
What will you do to rediscover and impress your teenage self that lives within? Whatever you do will give you a vital kick up the arse and might just remind you that you've got some life in you yet.
5. Find where you left your God.
We all have different beliefs and I'm more spiritual than religious so I believe that God lives within us all. God for me is less of a figure and more of an act. To be Godly is to share, to give or to facilitate or be a part of someone else's joy. Something simple like listening to someone's problems is an act of Godliness and when we are in touch with our inner sanctum and practice it on a regular basis we're on the path to our higher purpose.
On my Indian adventure, Norwood, the charity that all of this hard work was in aid of, would always bring one of their residents with learning difficulties along for the ride on the back of a tandem ridden by an experienced cyclist. To support Lawrence along our journey, and indeed the guy on the front putting in more effort than any of us, was a golden opportunity to encourage and congratulate.
It feels good to 'be there' for others, I was there for the tandem and I was always available for others to tell me their stories. I love to listen and maybe a few of my questions might have sent a few people home thinking differently about their situations.
Maybe just one of the five bullet points above are not enough to turn the tide from flat to focused but I bet if you work on them one at a time you'll see the progress straight away.
Thank you for reading, but your work is not finished. I'd like you to write down from 1-5 the ways that you're going to interpret each of these recommendations and then I'd like you to share them with me on Twitter so I can chat to you about your ideas.
I'm there for you at @JeffBrazier