Meaning is the foundation

Meaning is the foundation

I was having an awesome conversation with the General Manager of People of an organisation last week, and we were talking about simplifying the idea of wellness or wellbeing. These are two very hackneyed, overused, and diluted words these days, and it is harder and harder to work out what they really mean, and how to achieve glorious wellbeing. I explained to him that I was a footballer beaten around the head, so I need to keep things simple myself. I said, in my mind, the foundation of all wellbeing is meaning.

Okay, what does that mean? I hear you asking. Before I give you my thoughts on this, I want to share about myself and ask you a couple of questions. There have been times in my life when I have felt quite rudderless and lost. Have you ever been there? There have been times in my life when I was getting up every day, going to work, with no real enthusiasm, or passion. Have you ever experienced that? In those times, when I felt I had no real direction or passion for life, I was often stressed and anxious. Do you relate? I would then make decisions I knew were not the best for my mental, emotional, or physical wellbeing, for the purpose of self-medicating and distracting me from a life I didn’t love. Have you ever done that?

Watching television is a great distraction but will stop you in many ways. Drinking alcohol is a wonderful way to temporarily hide from reality, but it will negatively impact all areas of your life. Making food choices that will give some momentary pleasure may cause long-term harm. We often make choices and do things we know are not good for our wellbeing, yet we do them anyway. Why? Because maybe there is no compelling reason not to do them. In my mind, and in my life, the secret to making better choices lies not in knowing what is right or wrong, because I do. It is in finding meaning in your life. The foundations of all the choices we make is meaning.

When we feel lost, alone, rudderless, and confused, we are far more likely to do things that compromise ourselves, our lives, and the people we care about most. When there is some meaning in life, then automatically we will start to make the choices we know we should always be making. Therefore, the question is, how do we find meaning in life? If you are really interested in digging deeper into this essential area of life, I recommend the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. As I have only a few more paragraphs left in this blog to help you start the journey, if you haven’t already, I will keep it simple.

For me, there was a moment. In that moment, I found my meaning. Up until that time, I thought it was about achievement, ambition, accumulation, admiration, and validation. I was wrong. How do I know I was wrong? I played 7-years of professional sport, developed an impressive physique, owned a successful business, and had written and published a book. Even with all that ‘achievement’ I still felt empty, anxious, and searching for something that was missing. The moment came when I received an email from a man from Perth who I had never met, and still have never met. He had read my book and told me how much it had impacted him, and how he had used the information to change his life.

Wow! I thought at that time, I am changing people’s lives. The feeling of joy immersed my body and from that time, from the moment I get out of bed each day until I lay my head to go to sleep, it is my meaning in life to have a positive impact on others. With every word I speak, write, record, and put out to the world, it is my mission for it to land in the life of someone who needs it. This may just be an interaction with a friend, an acquaintance, or even someone I walk past in the street. It has been a joyful meaning for me for many years. I am not perfect, and still slip up at times, however I have direction in my life. Now here is the point. Because my life means something to me, I want to be healthier. I automatically make better food choices, get up to exercise each day, even when I don’t feel like it, and am very conscious of every decision I make every day. I want to be around as long as I can to impact lives. This meaning in my life is the foundation of my wellbeing, and my joyful existence.

What makes you smile, and I mean really smile? What lights you up? Who and what do you love most? What are the values you believe are most important for you? Who do you love spending time with? What positive impact on other people do you enjoy having? As you ponder those questions, can you think of ways to bring them to life every single day? These things give your life meaning and the more you focus on them and look for ways to experience them, the more meaning you will have. It may just be about being a great parent, or doing your job as well as you can, knowing that it is making someone’s life better. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be true for you.

In my podcast this week called Right now, I speak with Dr Heather Browne about finding joy and meaning in the very moment you are in, right now. I know you want to be happy and feel important. I know you want to feel like life has some meaning. Trust me, it does, and when you identify what it is for you, every other decision you make will move you to be happier, healthier, and more able to keep living a life with meaning. Make no mistake, meaning is the foundation to a happy, healthy, and abundant life.

Not an imposter, just a human

Not an imposter, just a human

I think it would be fair to say that everyone of us is experiencing, has experienced, or will experience what is known as ‘imposter syndrome’. What is it? There are a few definitions, the one I will use suggests that it is, the psychological experience of feeling like a fake or a phony despite any genuine success that you have achieved. My goal this week is, if you ever feel this, to help you understand that you are not an imposter, you are just a human.

So, what does that mean? It means you and I are not perfect. In fact, we are far from perfect, and that is okay. It means we make mistakes, we make poor choices, we miss deadlines, we say things we regret, we procrastinate, we feel fear, we mis-interpret what people say, we react, we have regrets, we talk ourselves out of things we know we should do, and we do things we know we shouldn’t do. If you relate to all or any of those, do you know what it means? It means you are human, and you are alive, so celebrate.

The problem is that we rarely celebrate these things. Instead, we regret and then beat ourselves up over them, relentlessly. How do I know? I am the king of self-abuse. I am a Christian and at times think, do, and say things that are at odds with the values that come with that title. I am a speaker and author talking about things that occasionally I don’t even follow myself. I am a man trying to be the best I can, and often slip up. Intermittently, I find myself doing things I know I shouldn’t be doing, yet do them anyway, only to feel immediate regret. I then start the self-abuse cycle. What is wrong with me? Why am I such an imposter?

The problem with self-abuse is that it will keep reinforcing to you that you are an imposter and not good enough. Therefore, you are more likely to fortify the beliefs and repeat the behaviours you continually beat yourself up over. As I was recently going through a period of Andrew-bashing and imposter thinking, I stopped myself. I am better at that these days. The first thing I did was pray to God for forgiveness. The second thing I did was just close my eyes and focus on the great things I have and do every day. The third thing I did was remind myself that it’s okay to be imperfect because I am human. 

My goal is not to fail, but I do at times, and it’s okay. My intention is not to hurt another person, but I know at times I will. For that, I am sorry. There are times when I will not do what I know I should and do what I know I shouldn’t, and that’s just because I am human. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you go out making poor choices, upsetting people, or giving up on things and justify it by saying, I am just human. What I am saying, as you are living your life and aspiring to be the best you can be, give yourself a break when things don’t go as you would have planned. Life can be messy while you are human and alive.

What are you berating yourself over right now? Is it not doing the exercise you should be? Is it not eating enough of the foods you should eat, or eating foods you know you should eat less of? Is it not spending enough time with important people? Is it something you said that you wished you hadn’t? Is it not doing what you feel you should do? You know what it is for you? In which area do you feel like you are an imposter? As a parent? As a leader? As an influencer? As a student? As an author, speaker, or coach? My question is this, how is that working for you so far? Is feeling less than helping you be more? I am guessing not, so now is the time to give yourself a break.

My podcast this week with Ann Swanson, is called Powerful pauses. It is all about taking the opportunity during the day to pause and be mindful of the things in your life to be grateful for, and the beautiful things all around you. The moment you pause, reflect, and think about what is great in your world, you will see that the negatives in your life fade away in comparison to the positives. When you shift your perspective in those moments, you will see that you are a perfectly flawed human doing the best you can. When that happens, some self-compassion will appear, more optimism will rise in you, and you will automatically start making better choices. Be kind to yourself and remember, you are not an imposter, you are a human.

Bring Sexy Back

Bring Sexy Back

It was Justin Timberlake who released the song Sexy Back in 2006. He was talking about bringing sexy back in a very obvious and literal way. Reading the lyrics for this song, did nothing for me, in any way shape or form. Justin, I believe, has missed the point of sexy. So, why don’t we explore what it really means to be bringing sexy back.

When I searched the definition of ‘sexy’, there were two options:

  1. Arousing or tending to arouse sexual desire or interest.
  2. Highly appealing or interesting; attractive.

Let’s go with option two, shall we? I think we all get the idea of ‘appealing’ and ‘interesting’, which the definition seems to suggest leads to an ‘attractive’ proposition. If we look at a definition of ‘attractive’ I found three perspectives, the one I want to focus on is:

  1. Having the power to attract

So, if we boil it all the way down to the basics, ‘sexy’ simply means, the power to attract. Can you see how this opens the door to many different applications of the word ‘sexy’. I definitely think it is time to start bringing sexy back. Don’t you?

This whole thought and idea came from the podcast I released this week with Martin Silva, coincidentally also called Bringing sexy back. Martin, with a very successful health, fitness, and mindset background, suggested that many of the things people need to do to be lean, healthy, and energized, are not sexy. I said to him, why aren’t they sexy? We need to bring sexy back.

What Martin was referring to were things like getting up in the morning to exercise when you don’t feel like it, eating breakfast when you’re not hungry, choosing the nuts over the donut, drinking water instead of sweet drinks, having tough conversations when you don’t want to, looking for the lessons in adversity, and the many other things we know we should be doing each day but often don’t. We may not think these things are sexy, however, based on our revised definition of ‘sexy’, I would like to argue that they are sexier than you may currently believe.

Remember that our definition of ‘sexy’ is, the power to attract. If you get up to exercise, when you don’t feel like it each day, guess what you will be attracting? A fitter, leaner, and healthier body. That sounds sexy to me. If you eat breakfast each day, you will attract energy, metabolism, fat-loss, and better wellbeing. Again, sounds mighty sexy to me. The same sexiness applies to eating nuts instead of donuts, and drinking water instead of sweet drinks. Having tough conversations will attract increased communication, more trust, and stronger connections. That my friend, is sexy. Finding lessons in adversity and being more in control, is an incredibly sexy way to be.

For me, the thing that has surprised me the most, and attracted more amazingness into my life, is something that I never would consider as sexy. Exposing the real me, warts and all. I have hidden my flaws, insecurities, mistakes, and poor choices, fully believing they were not sexy at all. In fact, I believed that it would create the opposite effect of attracting, and actually be repelling. At that stage in my life, wearing a mask and pretending to be something I was not, was creating misery and emptiness in my life, so I decided to drop the mask and share.

I was terrified, but thought, what is the worst that can happen? As soon as I started sharing the real and imperfect me, I built stronger connections, I empowered other people to do the same, I felt a much greater level of freedom, I started to love myself, and I started attracting great things and people into my life. Wow, talk about sexy. So, it seems to be that the things we avoid the most are the things that are most sexy. The things we may not enjoy doing that we know we need to do will attract the most joy and meaning into our lives. I would love to encourage you right now to work out what that is for you, and get started on bringing sexy back.

Looking forward

Looking forward

Do you have something you are looking forward to right now? A trip? An event? A day out with friends? A date? Isn’t it exciting when you do? I was walking by the beach the other day and I was thinking about things I was looking forward to, when I stopped to really think about the phrase, ‘looking forward to’, and I surprised myself. Surprised, because it is one of the statements we regularly use, but I wonder if we really understand the true meaning of it. ‘Looking forward to’, means ‘to look forward’.

Obvious, right? I am sure you are much more perceptive than I am, and already saw that subtle and significant meaning of this well-used and common phrase. For me, these days, I am much more conscious of the words I use, and so as I was saying it to myself, and reflected, I got excited. Why did I get so excited? Because I realized that everything that is in our future is ahead of us, and so we have to look forward to see it. That means, when we look forward, there is a world of possibility. That is definitely something to look forward to, and it doesn’t just have to be a trip, a day out with friends, a date, or any other event. It is everything in your life, and it can be whatever you want it to be. Can you see why I got so excited?

I have a past, you have a past, we all have a past. I could write an encyclopedia of books about the things that have happened in my life, the poor choices I have made, the failures I have had, and the adversity I have faced. As could many people. The biggest mistake I have made, until now, that is, is to look at all the challenges of my past and predict my future outcomes based on them. Trust me, it is crippling. Have you ever said things like, I tried that once before, but it didn’t work, or, I got dumped, so I am not able to keep a relationship, or, I have procrastinated on things before, and not been able to get the result I wanted, and so on, blah, blah, blah? When we say this kind of stuff, we are not looking forward, we are looking fair-and-square in the rear-view mirror. Do that for too long while you are driving and trust me, you will crash.

You can’t walk, ride, drive, or aspire to go in one direction, when you are looking in another. As a beginner on a bike or motorcycle, the first thing you learn, when you want to turn a corner, is to turn your head and look in the direction you want to go, or you will end up where you are looking. It seems obvious but is counter-intuitive for many people. I lost control of a motorbike several times when learning this. If you want to progress in anything and with anyone, you need to look forward. I am recently single again and have been so tempted to look back at all my failed relationships and come to the conclusion that I am destined to be single. Instead, I choose to look forward as the person I am, to the person I am becoming, and the amazing partner I will attract. It is exciting.

Just recently I had the pleasure to meet an amazing man, Baden. I am grateful and excited that I get to go on the journey of helping him write his book. His story of drug addiction, 17 overdoses, homelessness, and time in prison, is a rear-view mirror full of stuff that could stop him living a meaningful life, if he wasn’t looking forward. He is, in fact, looking forward to a life of significance where he changes the paradigm of drug use and of people who use drugs (which is actually all of us in some way). He is helping many people and in the process of changing his own circumstances. On the shirt he was wearing when we met the other day, was printed the phrase, Nice People Take Drugs. I am definitely looking forward to working with Baden.

As I sit here finishing up this blog, I am grateful for who I am and what I have in my life. As I think about the things that have happened in my past, I understand they have helped shape the person I am today. That is a person I am proud to be and one whom I regard very highly. I truly hope you can say the same about yourself. What I am excited about is the possibility of my future. Taking what I have learned from my past, applying it in the present, and looking forward to what it will produce in the future. Keep your eyes up, look forward to the greatness that is there for you, and simply move towards it.

Life is your reward

Life is your reward

My beautiful father is 88 soon to be 89. I love him dearly and am very aware that, as healthy as he is for his age, he is in the twilight of his life. That being the case, I do not want to miss one opportunity to spend time with him. Every moment I do get with him is precious, and I am grateful I get to hang out with him on a regular basis. Just last week we had lunch together and it was wonderful, even more so because he inspired me and left me even more in awe of him. I dropped him off and drove home feeling grateful that my life is my reward.

When we think about a reward, we think about something we need to earn. Right? The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines ‘reward’ as; something given in exchange for good behaviour or good work, etc. In other words, it is something not freely given. It has to be earned, deserved, and worked for. Well, hanging out with my dad last week gave me a new perspective on the idea of reward.

I was asking him how life was, and he told me how good it was, except that he was neck deep in paperwork as he was trying to finalise his taxes to get them ready to send to his accountant. He was definitely not enjoying that part of his life. So, as a typical male, I naturally went into solution mode. I suggested to him, ‘why don’t you think about something to reward yourself with when you have finished, as an incentive to get it done. Like, going to the movies, or going out for a meal etc.?’ He stopped, he paused, and he looked very thoughtful, and then after a period of time, he said, ‘That wouldn’t work for me.’

When I asked him why, he said, ‘well, there is nothing I need more in my life that would be a reward. I enjoy everything I have and everything I do. My life is already my reward.’ Wow. I was a little stunned for a moment as I let that comment sink in. Then after a short time I said, ‘that is so great dad, what a wonderful perspective.’ Then I went on to say, ‘well, I guess that means you just have to suck-it-up and get your taxes done.’ We both laughed, he agreed, and we finished our time together, and yet again I have been significantly impacted by my amazing father. He never ceases to amaze me.

As I drove home, I started thinking about my own life from the new perspective I had just got from my dad. It is true. My life is my reward. My existence is a precious gift. My family and friends are always there for me. I love my home and where I live is exactly where I want to be. My business and how I earn my income is meaningful, purposeful, significant, and fun. My future is bright. The challenges I experience are there to help me learn, become better, and grow as a person. What else would I reward myself with when I have a life that is already my reward? I didn’t have to deserve it, and I didn’t have to earn it. It is my birthright.

What I am saying to you is, stop looking for more in order to be happy. Don’t get me wrong, I am always aspiring to create more in my world and find new ways to impact lives, but not to be joyful, instead to fulfil God’s purpose for my life. I definitely recommend the same for you, however, find joy in the person you already are and the things you already have. Your life is your reward. Your existence is your value. Your being is your meaning. It is amazing how much more grounded and peaceful I feel after having lunch with dad.

He is probably still swearing over his taxes as you read this, however, he has a life he doesn’t need a reward to enhance, and a life he doesn’t need to take a holiday from. I wish the same for you. My podcast this week is called, It happens for you, with Carlo Taormina. After dealing with his ‘hell week’ where many undesirable situations occurred, he worked through them to realise that these things didn’t happen to him, instead they happened for him to find the reward that is his life.

As you move forward with your day, week, and life, I urge you to look at it through a different lens. Try to love the things you are maybe not loving. Attempt to find good in the things that, at the outset, may not seem good. Find meaning and joy in the things you already have. Understand that your existence is a wonderful gift. Be grateful that you are here and believe with all your heart that your life is your reward.

The action audit

The action audit

What is one type of event that for many people sparks a reflection of their life, and an audit of their actions? I am sure you guessed it. I attended a funeral this week, and it was a wonderful celebration of the life of an amazing man. As I always do at funerals, I reflected on my life. Life is such a fragile and temporary thing, so I stopped to assess my own, and ask myself if I am living my best life. It was the catalyst for an immediate action audit.

What do I mean by action audit? I don’t think I need to explain what I mean by ‘action’, however there are different interpretations of the word ‘audit’. The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary has two definitions:

  1. A formal examination of an organization’s or individual’s accounts or financial situation
  2. A methodical examination and review

Let’s go with definition number two, a methodical examination and review. Before I dive into this, seemingly complex subject, I want to discuss my mentor’s philosophy on life. She simplifies it beautifully. The subject of death can either be a morbid and depressing one or, depending on how you look at it, an empowering and life-changing one. You see, it is a certainty. We will all get to the end. When we do, and as we are lying on our deathbed, what will we be thinking about as we reflect on the life we lived. Will it be joy and gratitude, or will it be sadness and regret? Will we be saying I am glad I did, or I wish I had? How you determine the answer, will be reflected in your action audit.

My mentor puts it this way. We are born on a certain date, and we die on a certain date. When you look at a headstone or these dates when referring to someone who has passed, their life is represented as a dash. For example, John Smith lived 24/09/1943 – 12/11/2019. She says, it’s all about the dash. If you are reading this, you are part way through your dash. How is it going? Are you happy with you? Are you doing things that light you up? Are you spending enough time with people you care about? Are you focused on the most important things? These are important questions to ponder because, whether you like it or not, at some point that end date will arrive, and none of us know when that will be. That being the case, I suggest that right now is the time to do an action audit.

Too many of us, me included, think our dash will last forever. It won’t. Too many people, me included, think that tomorrow is the best time to start on a course of action. It’s not. The length and quality of our dash is 100% determined by the actions we take in each and every moment. Yes, that means now. If we look at the definition of audit, it states that it’s a methodical examination and review. At the moment, you are reading this blog, so if you were to examine and review that particular action, you would get a thumbs up. Well done.

Let’s do an examination and review of your actions over the last 24 hours and see how we go. What food and drink choices did you make? What communication actions did you take? What financial choices did you make? What TV, social media, or reading actions did you take? What personal growth actions did you take? What business growth actions did you take? What relationship building actions did you take? What self-care actions did you take?

As you think about each action, the audit part is to review whether it enhanced your dash, or it eroded it. Let me say this again. Each action you take will enhance your dash or erode it. There is no plateau or status quo. Based on your actions or inactions, as the case may be, your dash is either getting longer and joy-filled, or it’s getting shorter and regret-filled. I wish I had spent time auditing my actions earlier in my life. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t have been sacked as a professional athlete, experienced three divorces, or lost money in business. The great news for me, and for you, is that despite our past, we can start auditing, reviewing, and changing our actions right now.

In my podcast this week called Wellness without weirdness, I speak with Jenn Trepeck about how we can audit and modify actions that will affect our wellbeing and longevity. It is an awesome conversation. The deal is, my friend, you have only one life, one dash, and it is a limited one. What you do in each moment will determine the life you live. So, please, for your own sake and that of the people you care about most, take the time to audit your actions and make the necessary changes.