I often refer to myself as the black-sheep of my family. I’m the weird one. The one that doesn’t have a job. The one that has always illogically followed his intuition and made spontaneous decisions to act. The one who has never been attracted to or compelled to follow the norms of society to get the degree, the job, the house and just settle for a life that isn’t incredibly joy-filled and purpose-driven. I have followed my path and it has led me to exactly where I want to be, and this week, I want to encourage you to do the same.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it is not an easy path, nor is it always clear and straight, but it’s the one that has led me to my joy and purpose in life. From a young age, I have never wanted normal, I have always been driven to do what few people are willing to do. The process I needed to follow to play professional sport, be optimally healthy, write books and create a business from home has met with lots of resistance from other people, and, though I hate to say it, my own limiting beliefs.
There is such a strong magnetic pull to stay in our own status quo and stay doing things that are accepted by society, the people whose opinions we care about most and our own self-belief, that it can be very difficult to break free. There are two paths you can choose from; the one less travelled and the one most travelled. Before you choose your path, be very clear on the direction it is leading and the destination it will take you. Then, be strong and courageous enough to decide whether that is where you want to be in life, or not, because once on the path, the destination is predictable, whether you like it or not.
I have never been one to stay on a path that was not going to lead me to joy. I was a teacher for a few short years and got out knowing in my heart that it was not my path. I worked in a gym for less than six months before realising that it was not taking me to my purpose. I lasted fifteen years as a personal training and got to the top of the ladder when I realised it was leaning against the wrong wall. It wasn’t until I made the illogical and courageous decision to write a book, with no time, no experience, no qualification and limited ability, that I accidentally found my path. It actually wasn’t accidental at all, it was in my gut, and I listened. Are you listening to your gut?
The question you need to ask is, do you want pleasing methods or pleasing results? If you want pleasing methods – in other words, be comfortable on a well-worn path – you will have to accept the results you get in life, based on where the path leads. If you are motivated by pleasing results, you may need to carve your own path or take the road less travelled to get there. It will be uncomfortable, inconvenient, full of obstacles, create doubt and bring you into contact with many people who will try to discourage you, but if you keep going, it will lead you to joy, fulfillment and purpose.
Get clear on how you want to live, rather than what you think you should do. Imagine a life full of that joy. What does it look like? Can you describe it clearly? Imagine how it feels when you wake in that life, and spend each day doing the things that bring joy, happiness, fulfillment and purpose. Who is there? What are you doing? How are you feeling? Where are you living? How are you living? This is your destination, not anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone else place their opinions, expectations, judgments, fears and insecurities and influence that will lead you away from your own path. Are you getting what I am saying here?
In my podcast this week, I talk with the wonderful Sara Picken-Brown, who has followed her amazing path to lead her to the joy she is living today. It’s called Find your joy, and is very much worth listening to. You are amazing. You have incredible strength and courage. You have the capacity and ability to be the black-sheep of your family. In other words, you can choose to push against the masses, reject what is expected of you and accepted by others, take the road less travelled and follow your own path. Enjoy the amazing adventure and joy as you do.
Do you want to be healthy, happy, prosperous, passionate and purposeful? Is that the dumbest question you’ve ever heard? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. I had the pleasure of an amazing conversation with Brad McEwan, well-known Australian media personality, on my podcast this week, and, as he has transitioned from sports reporting and news-reading to the mental health space, his message to me was loud and clear. That message… kindness matters.
He told many stories and shared how kindness can help improve your mental health, your happiness and the clarity of your purpose. The immediate physiological impact of this, is a healthier body, mind and heart. He told a powerful story about two conflicting experiences in the same day, one with a selfish driver on the road, which increased his stress and anger levels, and another with the kindness he showed to two strangers walking past his home. I’m not going to tell you the story, you will have to listen to the podcast, Kindness Matters, if you want to hear it from the mouth of Brad. What I will tell you is that the act of kindness will long live in his mind and heart, and the incident on the road will be forgotten immediately.
With this week’s blog in mind, I did a little social experiment on Facebook. I asked people, who were open to it, to commit a random act of kindness and then share, what they did, how it was received and how they felt as a result. There were many responses. If you were one of them and are reading this, I want to thank you again for your willingness to act in kindness and then share about it. There was the lady who bought a tram driver a coffee, a lady who paid for an elderly man’s scripts at the pharmacy and another lady who gave cookies to a widower at the bus stop. There were people who gifted services and pre-paid coffees for people at cafés and many more wonderous acts of kindness. In every situation the person receiving the act was surprised, grateful and happy.
As nice as it was for the receiver, the power is really for the giver of kindness. Each person stated how wonderfully warm and satisfied they felt after acting in kindness, even if, as in the case of the pre-paid coffees or the lady who gave a coffee to the tram driver, they didn’t hang around to see the response. In fact, the lady who gave the coffee to the tram driver said; ‘How did he react? I don’t know. I left before he realised. How did it make me feel: great! It was a good ‘pick me up’ at a time I was feeling a bit blah!’ This is powerful.
So, my week of kindness was an interesting one. I gave a copy of one of my books and some time to help someone financially struggling. Her response helped me feel amazing. I offered to do something for a new friend, that seemed insignificant to me, yet she responded with tears of gratitude. I felt wonderful. I met up for a meal with an old friend I bumped into the week before, but hadn’t seen for many decades, and I paid for her dinner. She was quite resistant at the start, but as I insisted, she was really grateful. I felt warm inside.
Then, as I was walking home during the week, in kindness-mode, I was approached by a teenager. As he walked towards me, I thought, ‘Great, here’s another opportunity for kindness.’ It was outside a convenience store, and he said to me, ‘Excuse me, could I ask a favour?’ I was ready to say yes, when he continued, ‘I am only seventeen, could you go into the store and buy a packet of cigarettes for me?’ Okay, that stopped me in my tracks. My mind was racing. Do I say yes, because it’s being nice, or is it kinder to say no? I have seen my heavily smoking mother die of cancer and I am a passionate non-smoking advocate, so, whilst I’m sure this young man did not appreciate my kindness, I said to him, ‘You seem like a really nice guy. I have seen the negative effects of smoking and I can’t, in good conscience, buy your cigarettes. The best thing I can say to you is, no. You are worthy of a long, healthy life.’ And, with that I walked away.
Now, do I for a moment think he cared about what I thought? Not really. I am sure the next person he asked, actually bought him cigarettes, but do you know what? I felt great that I had been kind to him. Not in a way he recognises now, but one which hopefully he will appreciate one day. I want to encourage you to spend this next week in kindness-mode and, as you do, notice how other people respond, but more than anything, notice how it makes you feel inside. Enjoy the power of kindness this week.
I have been writing these blogs for about fifteen years now. So, every week for that entire time I have posted my blog, and I have not missed a week in all that time. I don’t get paid for my blogs, I don’t know how many people read them and, to be honest, there have been many times when I have questioned why I invest time every week to write and post my blogs. Do you know what the answer to that particular question is for me, and why I keep writing? Because, I want you to feel like, no matter what’s happening in your life, you’re not alone.
That’s it! I mean, why else? I want to help people, that’s my thing. I really want you to know that you are good enough, deserve abundance, are loved and that a life of joyful longevity is available for you. Wow, I do sound like I am Mr Altruistic, don’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I do it as much for me as I do it for you. I get an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction knowing that each week, even one person, is being impacted by my words. There is something very special about feeling like you are not alone, I hope you get that feeling with these words that I am writing.
What gets me through challenging times is the knowledge that I am not alone. Knowing that other people are experiencing what I am experiencing and that there is always someone I can reach out to, keeps me moving forward and feeling optimistic, even in the darkest of times. I have incredible peace and joy in my faith that God is always there for me. I am grateful for my Dad, who would do anything for me and be anywhere I needed him to be, at the drop of a hat. I am loving that there are people in my life I can reach out to and know they are there for me. I am truly not alone, and neither are you.
What I realised a long time ago, is that my own current thinking will never get me where I want to be in life, If I want more from life, that is. How do I know? Well, there was a time in my life, I was working my brains out, for many years, and going further and further into debt. I couldn’t understand why, I thought hard work was the answer. The problem was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Irrespective of the brute force I was bludgeoning away at my life with, nothing changed, because my current thinking had taken me as far as it could take me. I can tell you, at that time in my life, I felt, discouraged, disillusioned, depleted and desperately alone. It wasn’t until I reached out to other people who were living the type of life I wanted, and who were willing to walk with me, that things rapidly started to change.
I see people, far too often, making the same mistake I made, which is, when things are not going as they want, they retreat into solitude, thinking the answer will come to them. Don’t get me wrong, alone time is important, however, to gain the answers you do not have, you need other people. Those people, by the way, are there to help you, if you just reach out and ask, or at least are willing to accept their offer to help. In my recent podcast with Patrick Bonello, one of the things he talks about, which has helped him most in the recent challenges of COVID-19, is the feeling of support that he has in the small community in which he lives. He never feels alone and so, in return, he is there for others. My conversation with him is incredibly inspiring. Click here to listen to this podcast.
My friend, as I finish up blog number ‘twenty-five squillion,’ I have no idea how many people will read it. If you are reading this, I am very grateful. More than anything, I want you to know, you are not alone. Whilst we may not know each other, I hope my words can be of some comfort and inspiration for you as you negotiate life to create your own happiness and success. For my own selfish satisfaction, please send me a message to let me know that you feel loved, supported and important. That would truly make my week. You are most definitely, not alone in this world. Know it, believe and enjoy it.
In my book, The Wellness Puzzle, the first of seven pieces, and the one I believe foundational to optimal wellbeing and a life of joyful longevity, is finding and living your purpose. The challenge for many people is that this is far too ethereal a concept. What does it mean, what does it look like, how should it feel and, most importantly, how do I find it? These are questions often asked when I talk about it. So, this week, I want to simplify purpose and help you get started in finding it, if you haven’t already. If I told you that your purpose had a face, would that help?
You may be wondering what purpose has to do with your health and happiness. The answer to that is… everything. It’s the one thing that underpins; what you focus on, the way you feel, the choices you make, the routines you develop and ultimately, the life you live. We see the evidence of lack of purpose all around the world, in the form of sickness, depression, dissatisfaction, addiction and even suicide. On the other hand, those with meaning in life are happier, more productive, healthier and more abundant.
The mistake many people make is believing purpose has something to do with the achievement of success, accumulation of material gain or admiration from others. This pursuit has left many people unhappy, unfulfilled, depressed, addicted or dead. In fact, in my life, I spent much of my time chasing things that I thought would lead to happiness and purpose, but only led to emptiness, addiction and longing.
In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl talks with confronting rawness and openness about his horrendous experiences in German concentration camps back in the second world war. An Austrian Psychologist, Frankl, observed with great interest to see what the difference was between those who survived and those who gave up the fight, under unimaginable conditions. They were starved, frost-bitten, beaten, abused and humiliated. Every possible pleasure and comfort was stripped from them and they were brutalised; physically, mentally and emotionally. He noticed that it was those who had found some meaning in their life – a purpose to live – were the ones who were able to endure the non-relenting agony of concentration camp life.
Viktor found himself many times questioning his desire to keep living and tolerating the relentless torture. Recently married that the time, it was the thought of his wife, the deep love he had for her and the yearning to see her again that was his meaning of his life at that time. Tragically and unbeknownst to him, his wife had been killed in another concentration camp and so he never saw her again. However, it was that deep seeded love for her that drove him to endure the most horrendous conditions any human could imagine. It was this same reason – a strong love for another and desire to be with them – that the other survivors were able to make it through the nightmare. Their purpose had a face.
As I think about the penny-drop moment for me when I identified my purpose in life, it was a few weeks after the publication of my first book. Until that time, being an author was a cool thing, good for my ego and a great way to increase my credibility, but it wasn’t any more than that, until I received an email that included the following statements; “Your book has had a profound effect on my life,” and, “It has changed my life,” and, “I push your book to everyone who asks how I did it. Thank you.”
As I finished reading this email and wiped the tears of joy, satisfaction and fulfillment from my eyes, I was a goner! I was hooked. I knew my purpose. It was that fast. All of the credibility I got, recognition I received and money I made, was not even close to the joy I felt reading that email, knowing the impact I made on and in that man’s life. A man, by the way, I had never met or will probably never meet. The feeling welled up inside of me, that I had the power to impact lives and make a difference, and every day since that moment in 2004, I have bounced out of bed full of joy, full of anticipation and full of purpose to make the day one that counts and impacts more lives. It was always about other people. My purpose has faces, many faces.
So, as you start on your journey to find the purpose in your life and the reason you will bounce out of bed and love you every day, think about the face or faces that you would do anything for. That’s the place to begin the journey. It doesn’t have to be a global purpose to change the world like, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela or Fred Hollows had, it may just be your family. Find the face or faces that will get you excited, determined, focused and joyful, and always remember, purpose has a face.
My podcast this week features Dr Allan Meyer, who speaks about thois very subject. To listen, click here.
I talk a lot about the power and impact of our emotional state on our physiology, our choices, our behaviours, our habits and the results we achieve in our life. When we are able to get and remain in a state of joy, gratitude, love, empowerment and/or determination, amazing things tend to happen. When our primary emotional position is anxiety, fear, anger, resentment and/or guilt, then we are going to limited in what we get out of life. But rather than label emotions as good or bad, which I have made the mistake of making, we should use them as an indicator for our lives.
I have incorrectly labelled emotions as good or bad, positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy and right or wrong. It’s crazy when you think of it, because I know the many times in my life when I have been anxious, angry or fearful, if someone had told me to get over it and that those emotions are bad, wrong or negative, I would have hit them with a golf club! It’s about the only use my golf clubs would get! When I am angry, I don’t want reason. When, I am fearful, I don’t want logic. When I am anxious, I don’t want opinions. Do you know what I mean? This blog is all about helping you feel okay about not feeling okay.
At the end of 2019, I had the worst experience I have every had as a public speaker. I endured 45 minutes of negativity, interruptions and questioning from one person throughout my entire talk. This person poisoned the atmosphere, the other people and the whole experience. After the session, I felt a multitude of emotions, and none of them are what you would consider positive or healthy in any way. I felt attacked, angry, confused and I was evening doubting my ability as a speaker, even though I had done it successfully for more than 20 years.
After a short period of tantrum-throwing and thumb-sucking, I decided to assess my feelings to see where they were coming from and what they meant in terms of my beliefs about myself and perspectives about that session. I mean, I think in that situation, anger would be a normal response for many people, so I validated it and then worked through the anger to actually realise this person may have had a point on one or two areas. I made a decision, at that moment, to make some positive changes to my presentation. As soon as I did that, the anger was gone, and gratitude took its place.
I thought about the doubts I started to have about my ability as a speaker and I realised that it was a totally unfounded belief, as I have years of track record and positive responses about my speaking. Again, it was an almost an instantaneous change from confusion and doubt to clarity and empowerment to keep making the difference I am making in this world. I realised I wouldn’t have a positive impact on everyone, and that’s okay. This thought immediately brought a feeling of peacefulness in my body.
My point is this, our emotional state is simply an indicator of what is going on in our mind. When you are feeling happy, grateful, loving, excited, empowered, determined, empathetic or joyful, it’s an indicator your thinking is heading you and your life in the right direction. Whenever you feel anger, anxiety, fear, resentment, guilt or doubt, it’s simply an indication that you need to stop, reflect on why you are experiencing those emotions, and try to change your perspective to course correct. In my recent podcast with Dr Lillian Nejad, she discusses how we need ‘so-called’ negative emotions, as they’re an indication that things need to change. These feelings need to be validated before steps can be taken to make the necessary changes, and in the podcast, Dr Nejad discusses some great strategies to do just that.
You and I are human, and we will experience the whole gamut of the emotional spectrum, maybe even all in one day! You are okay. There is nothing wrong with you. Just learn to use your feelings as an indicator to your thoughts and then make the necessary changes you need to make to live a life of joyful longevity.
I have been so inspired this week by a lady, who shall remain nameless, but whose actions defy logic, and, have shifted me to another level. The lady in question has been hit hard financially by the current panic-demic. Yes, I wrote panic-demic, not pandemic. She works for herself and the vast majority of her income has dissolved due to the panic. She is an amazing lady with a strong Christian faith and belief that everything will be okay. In fact, as a result of this faith, she did something so extra-ordinary, it blows my mind.
Keep in mind, this wonderful lady has two daughters and a business that requires her to be working to be earning. She explained she had lost about 90% of her income. I believe it is picking up now, but still she needs money to live, right? Out of nowhere, and she calls it ‘God money,’ an envelope full of cash somehow found its way onto her front doorstep. It was truly a miracle for her. Now, what would you expect she did with that money? Go out and buy some food? Pay the rent? Pay some bills? Buy some shoes? Well, she did none of those things. What she did, amazed and inspired me beyond belief. She gave the money to someone, whom she believed, needed it more than she did.
Wow! All I can say is wow! What an incredible display of generosity and faith. Her faith is so strong that she knows, even giving away money she really needs, she will be okay, and, will be provided for. As she was telling me this story, I could hear the joy in her voice and I could feel the strength, power and benefit her act had given her. There is a powerful gift in giving that you actually receive, even when you don’t think you have anything to give. That gift is self-worth, self-love, self-fulfilment, more joy, significance, better wellbeing and more abundance in life.
So inspired was I, that I started seeing where I could give. It came to me as I was talking to many organisations about doing some online seminars during COVID-19, to help their people get through. As I was speaking to HR people, I was continually confronted with the same issue; the business had lost significant revenue, had laid-off lots of people and had no budget for my services. Then it came to me, I started offering a one-off session to these organisations and waive the fee. The expressions of acceptance, relief and gratitude started to come back to me and, it feels amazing. So, now I have booked several sessions with these groups, and I know I can help them. It feels wonderful to give, not expecting anything in return. I feel happier, healthier and more inspired as a result of this giving. The gift is most definitely for me.
So now, I want to throw this back to you. If you are feeling flat, stressed, fearful or anxious, what can you give? When you feel like you have nothing of value to share, what can you give? If you are feeling great, and you are already giving, what else can you give? You may not have money to give. You may not have time to give. You may not believe you have anything of value to give, but you do. Could you give of yourself? Could you give a smile to someone who looks sad? Could you give a word of encouragement to someone who is feeling discouraged? Could you give some expertise to someone who doesn’t know what you do? Could you give a compliment to someone who is doing great things?
There is never a time when we don’t want to receive love, support, encouragement or praise. Therefore, there is always a time to give. I want to encourage you to give something to someone every day for the next week and then let me know how you feel, and the gift you received as a result. Take my word for it, giving to others will provide wonderful gifts for you.