Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tips On Increasing Your Productivity

English: The typical, but counter productive e...
Typical, counter-productive ideal (Wikipedia)
by Bob Stallard

Productivity doesn't have to be finite. Everyone is capable of improvement. You just need a little help.

Did you ever get an email and put it to one side to deal with it later? Of course you did. Then when you got back to it you read it again.

This duplication is unnecessary. You could have not opened your emails until you had the time to deal with them.

I know the counter arguments here, I've used them myself. "I had to open them immediately, there may have been something important" or "it only takes a minute or two".

Well let's look at those two excuses. Nothing is that important. News that is vital comes by telephone. If it's in an email it can wait until it can have your full attention.

As for it only taking a minute or two, well that's true, but firstly it's another minute or two and secondly it's a minute or two that you already spent. How much duplication do you need in your life?

The problem is further exacerbated when there are several emails that you leave until later. Let's get serious here. The mail is coming in twenty-four hours a day. You are not going to check your inbox every five minutes. Get organised.

Select a time and the frequency, it doesn't matter too much, but you do have to be consistent. Let's say that you decide to allocate a period of 30 minutes twice a day. That is to read and deal with all outstanding items. Once you start you may have to steel yourself to leave your in box, after the second visit, until the next day.

Something that I never tire of telling my students is that when you stop a bad habit you must replace it instantly with a good one. Furthermore, you must be diligent and consistent with your new habit to ensure that the old one doesn't return.

Once you have installed a method or system for dealing with your emails you can increase your productivity by bringing in systems for other parts of your business and personal life.

You will have a variety of tasks to perform every day. Some will dictate when they have to occur and others may dictate how long they will take to achieve.

The most important activity that I have every day is income producing activity. If this is also true for you, then allocate the best time for it. Make it one period of time rather that separate periods of time. You may take short breaks, but make it feel like one period. Brook no interruptions during this time.

I work from home and I close my office door and leave instructions that I must not be disturbed unless there is blood. It works for me as I discovered some time ago that I can complete my work in half the time without interruptions.

Many of you that work from home may feel that you must work on until the tasks that you have set for yourself have been completed, even if this eats into your family life. Whilst I applaud resolve and determination my family is important to me and is the reason that I am doing this in the first place.

What I do is I stop at 4.00pm regardless and don't return to work until the following morning. However, if at 4.00pm I think that there is another hour of work to do, then I start an hour earlier the next day.

The family know that I will be there for them every day and hopefully recognise how important they are to me. Give it a try, you may feel, as I do, that prioritising for a quality life can be great.

Although I have been talking so far about becoming more productive by utilising your time more effectively we must not forget that you will need the right tools in any endeavour in order to succeed.

If you are an on line marketer you will need an auto responder, affiliate programme software an HTML editor etcetera.

An author will need good word processing software, but these are only tools. They don't do the work; you do by using these tools and the knowledge of how to use them effectively.

If you are still buying all those bits of software that claim make you rich then I have some bad news for you. There is no magic bullet. The Lone Ranger had the last one. What can make you rich is you, together with your resolve and a lot of what I call persistent consistency.

Have you ever been into Office Max, or some similar large store and seen the young couple with a trolley loaded with every imaginable piece of stationery?

I bet that they are getting ready to start working from home. I am also ready to bet that they don't need half of that stuff. They are going to spend months producing nothing. Oh they will be busy all right, but they will be busy getting ready to be busy.

Don't be like them. Start straight away and don't worry about lack of anything. You will soon find out what you need and where to find it. A little advertising phrase that I heard some time ago "Don't delay, start today" would seem to fit the bill.

I was searching for quite some time for something that would help me to get the best possible results in the shortest possible time.

You will know that I am keen to avoid distractions whilst I am engaged in income producing activity, but here is something else that I discovered and have been doing for some time that I have found very useful.

I have a kitchen timer, I recommend the non-ticking type, which I set for fifty minutes. Then I see just how much I can achieve in fifty minutes.

After which I take a twenty minute break, read a book or doing some non-work related activity. Then do another fifty minute work period followed by another twenty minute break.

The records that I have maintained show that my hourly work rate has almost doubled since taking short regular breaks. By experimenting with new ideas you too can increase your own productivity.

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10 Steps Out of a Rough Patch

A homeless person sleeping on a street in Clev...
Homeless person (Wikipedia)
by Alex GT Lowe

I've been talking with different folks recently who have been going through hard times.

Redundancy and other harsh unexpected life transitions have left them lost in the woods.

There's very little immediate comfort that can be given through an article but I certainly have some advice for making the most of it when life hits you with a curve ball.

Change can be very difficult to handle at first but it's important to remember that change is when we grow.

It is when we can find our authentic selves, our true dreams and ambitions stripped of any previous 'roles' and personifications. It's a time to take your life in your hands and become who you can be.

1. Do something proactive

What's that one thing that if you do it today it will improve your life? Pick something small, mundane, manageable and get it done.

2. Get some perspective

View your own situation in a variety of different ways to see what you're not currently seeing. View it looking down on Earth from space, view it from 10 years in the future, view it from the perspective of a wise old man, a small child, a millionaire, a homeless person ... how else can you view this situation?

3. View your current hardships as an inevitable part of life's great adventure

Without the downs there can be no ups. Without the dark long night we would not appreciate the glorious dawn.

4. Accept what is

Try living in the moment without judgement for small blocks of the day. Just sit and breathe and observe your thoughts and emotions without changing them or labelling them for as long as you can. Problems are natural, problems about problems are not.

5. You are your body and it is under your control so use it

Control your breathing, slow it down. Relax your muscles. Adopt the posture of calmness and notice how, no matter what happens on the outside, you can control how you respond in this moment.

6. Focus on gratitude

Think of all the things you have to be grateful for and fill your awareness with abundance. Feel grateful for your heart and lungs and body and brain and cloths and everything else all the way out to the universe. If you have shelter and access to food and warmth then you have more than most.

7. Help others

Volunteer for a short while helping people less fortunate then yourself or simply help out a friend or family member. Even just offer someone a sincere compliment and make them feel better. Get the focus off you and onto others.

8. Relax

Relaxation is a skill more than passing state of mind. Sit or lie down and slowly relax all the major muscle groups of your body. Then scan your body for any excess tension and visualize it dissipating like a cloud of smoke. Schedule regular physical relaxation points into your day. This will also get you more in touch with your body. Get more in touch with your 'gut instinct' and your 'heart felt' desires.

9. Pay attention to your worries then let them go

Write down some of the things that fretful internal voice is telling you. Decide what you are going to do about it. Acknowledge the message and act on your decisions as soon as possible. Then allow the worries to fade.

10. Smile and laugh

You may not feel like it and it may feel corny as hell but putting big smile on our face for a few minutes and/or laughing releases dopamine into your brain that gives you a momentary boost. Sometimes that's all it takes.

Hopefully these ten tips will give you a boost or at lease point you in the right direction.

If you need help or guidance getting over a bad situation or plotting the course to a better destination then you can always get in touch at or contact me at:

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The Importance of Perpetual Struggle

English: Unlimited Potential of the Human Mind
Unlimited potential of the mind (Wikipedia)
by Gregory V Diehl

Youth is the time in our lives we are allotted to figure out how the world around us works.

During those important first decades of life, we move from a purely instinctual response-based existence to memorizing the rules of the culture around us and ingraining the physical tasks necessary for survival into our bodies.

Upon reaching adulthood, we spend the rest of our lives acting on this information and making a life for ourselves.

The downside to having a firm position on how things work and the practices we grew up with is that it automatically makes the other views and practices we encounter difficult to integrate.

This is part of why children are so good at learning things.

They have little else to get in the way of adopting new ideas. Instead of comparing the new with the old and letting them compete for mental real estate, they simply take it all in with novelty and excitement.

The sooner this process ceases in us, the sooner we start to see the symptoms of being "old." It's like the mind has an automatic shut-off sequence that activates whenever we convince ourselves that we already know enough to get by.

When we find new ways to challenge ourselves, we circumvent this process of debilitation.

Constantly introducing new technologies (which force us to think in new ways) or living in foreign cultures (which force us to interact with others in new ways) remind the mind of how little it really knows.

Aside from keeping us humble, it retains that childlike state of growth and wonder that are natural in early life. It makes a state of wonder a daily living reality.

It's widely recommended that as people get older they take up new hobbies that challenge the mind. Crossword puzzles, golfing, or even just taking a different route home from work are said to invigorate the mind and keep it fresh.

These tactics may offer little boosts of vitality to a solidifying personality, but they hardly scratch the surface of the malleability of the human mind.

What if you lived your life in such a way that every birthday you celebrated brought an almost entirely new identity for you from the year prior?

Not only would your mind never solidify, but you would really start to see the cumulative capacity of learning as these new identities stacked upon each other over time.

The mark of a leader is in how well he understands this and applies it to himself.

Average people spend their time and resources maintaining their possessions and finding new distractions. Exceptional people invest their lives in growing and pushing every boundary they encounter.

When an obstacle arises along the path to their goal, they resolve to learn the tools necessary to bypass or defeat it. The moment you start to accept that your identity has been set for you is the moment you surrender to entropy.

The remarkable thing about learning is how new skills stick with us, even after being buried many layers in our subconscious.

When you encounter something difficult for the first time, you have the choice to simply accept that you don't know how to deal with it (and avoid it entirely or hire someone else to handle it for you), or can choose to attempt it anyway.

Even a child with almost no frame of reference for how the world works has the amazing ability to utilize endless trial and error to slowly adapt and embrace the mechanics of how new things work.

Adults can do this too; they just generally lack the patience and curiosity that children naturally have. They see novelty as annoying, whereas a child will see it as exciting.

If you could only introduce one new principle into your mental programming, make it this: Whenever you encounter something difficult, keep doing it until it isn't difficult anymore.

Now, obviously, if this were applied on an absolute scale, you would quickly run out of time in the day. But if you are discerning and can apply it with priority to the major obstacles that continually show up in your life, you may be pleasantly surprised by how your life changes in a short time.

Not only will you move more smoothly from one goal to the next (and reach bigger goals than you previously thought possible), but your mind will grow increasingly sharper.

The skills you presently gain in every passing day can stack with incredible capacity atop the skills you learned in earlier days, and with little effort you'll find you can recall and put to use any number of abilities.

Generations ago, it seemed an economic necessity that most people specialize heavily in one particular area of knowledge or ability. This has made many men and women oblivious to the world outside their skill set.

They even have built entire identities around what they get paid to do. While in most circumstances it may still be economically sensible to hire someone with certain specialties to handle problems outside our field of knowledge, it certainly isn't the only option available anymore.

Think of learning in terms of opportunity cost.

If you find a leak under your sink, it might be easiest just to hire a plumber to come fix it for $100. Or, through the power of search engines and the malleability of the human mind, you might acquire all the information you need to fix the leak yourself after 5 measly hours of time investment into research and experimentation.

Essentially, your time value for fixing it yourself was $20/hour. If you are accustomed to making much more than this for the "work" you usually devote your time to, this might not seem like a worthwhile trade.

However, since knowledge is cumulative, you are actually gaining a lot more in the long run. When you call the plumber, you are paying for a one-time fix. When you invest the hours into learning it yourself, you are getting a lifetime of leak-free sinks in return.

If you could learn the basics of every skill set you are likely to require throughout your life (and still make time to thoroughly specialize in at least a few) you will be well equipped to face most challenges in life, and your mind will be functioning at a level far beyond those who strictly specialize.

Even the world's most competent brain surgeon or rocket scientist may be utterly useless in most other areas. He may be the one you want to depend on if your goal is to remove a tumor or get to the moon, but what sort of man can he be if these are the only thoughts which occupy his mind?

Unfortunately, the world by and large still thinks the only merit in learning anything comes from one's ability to get paid for it and turn it into a full-time profession.

The innovation of currency, for all the blessings it has bestowed upon us, has made it far too easy to over-simplify the process of valuation for anything either concrete or abstract.

Assigning an objective numerical value to anything immediately hides all the subtlety and potential it really holds. This is a terrible way to view the world, and a terrible way to treat education.

If you are economically comfortable, start looking at your actions in terms of the overall benefit they provide to your life and mind.

The more you grow, the healthier your mind will remain, and the closer you get to achieving perpetual youth. Just as the body is designed for constant motion, and just as a sedentary life quickly leads to disease and disorder, an unmoving mind soon withers.

Since constant challenge is a necessary part of the human experience, you might as well learn to enjoy it. Embracing a constantly shifting identity can be scary, and the world will certainly distance itself from you for it initially, but the long-term rewards are unmatched by anything else in life.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Confident Life Skills: Reading Body Language

Body Language
Body Language (Photo: Monyokararan.)
by Garth Francis Delikan

What effect are my words/actions having and how can I tell?

Many people go through their daily lives whether at work or home talking to other people and not really knowing the impact or effect their words or actions or having on the other person.

Yet the words and actions we use on a daily basis can greatly influence others around us.

How any times have you heard the phrase ... "what's the matter with him/her or all I said was ...?" Or how about ... "I really don't know what I did but he/her seems to be upset ...".

If you took the time to study a person's face it betrays many emotions and feelings and by looking for the signs you could easily adapt your words and actions using the skills and techniques we've covered in previous articles to make a positive and lasting impression on others around us.

Try it for yourself and look out for the tell tale signs that betray someone's inner most feelings.

Maybe it's an imperceptible tightening around the eyes or mouth when you think you are trying to explain something patiently. A tautness of the skin or perhaps even a colour change from dark to light or vice versa.

Check out their body language, what is it "telling" you? Are their shoulders tight, head to one side uncomfortably, are they shuffling their feet, perhaps crossing their legs, is their body tilted away from you, are they trying to distance themselves?

Do they feel comfortable around you or uncomfortable and how can you tell, what are signs to look for? What's their breathing like, is it deep, shallow, quick or slow? Are their lips tightly drawn? Do they speak and act towards you in the way you would like them to and if not think of the reasons why that could be?

Many people react to the signal or message that you might be unconsciously sending out with your own body language.

For example if you were feeling a little tense or uptight or edgy you will be conveying that feeling across to the other person who will in turn "reflect that back to you" making you assume that they are "hostile" when in fact the emotion or feeling is coming from you.

So the first thing to do is to check out yourself, your language patterns, are you using the correct modality (we covered this in a previous article) to suit this person, what kind of body language are you using, are you too close them, too far away?

Take the time to see how they react with other people in the office or at home and take particular note of their expressions and body language as they are giving you very important clues as to what makes them happy or unhappy.

Observe how they interact with individuals that they like and also individuals that they don't like and see if you can spot the differences in behavior? Are their words congruent with their actions, what are they really saying and feeling?

We very often in life only notice when someone is upset when they start to cry, we rely too much on people telling us verbally how they feel, instead of using our eyes and ears.

We do not want to know if a person is angry with us by having a punch on the nose and we certainly don't want to "hallucinate" all sorts of possibilities from a twitch of the eyebrows.

If you want to be a truly effective communicator this is one lesson you can't afford not to learn!

All these exercise and much more can be experienced first hand by booking Garth Delikan, The Lifestyle Guy for a half day programme on "Confident Life Skills" where all these principles and techniques will be taught to you and your department in a fun role play situation where you will gain a greater understanding of everything covered in this article.

Telephone: 01354 658242

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How to Improve Your Decision-Making Skills

by Patrick Regoniel, PhD

Decision Making Chart
Decision Making Chart (Photo credit: West Virginia Blue)

When you are faced with a decision making situation, how do you go about it? Do you decide right there and then or do you postpone your decision up to some point?

While many experts recommend that a decision made quickly has many advantages, it can also lead to blunders. And many decisions are irreversible, if not leading to unpleasant outcomes. A systematic way should be applied to get the most of your decision.

Certainly, good decisions arise from a good understanding of the decision situation. If you do not fully understand or there is a lot of uncertainty in your mind, numbers can help you improve the outcome of your decision.

How does this technique work? The method is simple. Follow the steps below.

How to Improve Decision Making Skills

Step 1. List the advantages and disadvantages of your decision

Get a sheet of paper, make a two-column layout and write 'Advantages' at the left column and at the right column, the 'Disadvantages.' List down all the advantages and disadvantages you can think of related to your decision.

Step 2. Rate your list of advantages and disadvantages

Rate each advantage or disadvantage you have listed using a 10-point scale ranging from unimportant to very important. If the advantage or disadvantage is unimportant, you may just rate it '1' but if you believe it is a major advantage or disadvantage, you may rate it a maximum of '10' points. If it is neither unimportant nor very important, your rate will be between the extremes.

Step 3. Add all the points

Sum up the points you gave for each advantage or disadvantage of your decision. From the total number of points, you will easily see which column has more points than the other. You may adopt the one with the greater number of points.

If the points are more or less similar, you may retry the steps again without referring to the earlier one. This is called iteration. You may do this three times to confirm your decision.

Evaluating Your Decision

After applying the steps above and arriving at a decision where the advantages are greater than the disadvantages, evaluate your decision by answering the following questions.

1. Is your decision urgently needed?

Do you really need to make that decision? If not, then it is better to give more time to ponder your decision. Uncertainty is reduced with the passing of time. Procrastination can offer more opportunities to clear up issues.

2. Is your decision life changing?

What decisions are life changing? Deciding to marry or changing your job are examples. This involves life-long commitment or giving up an equally important choice so you must seriously think about the consequences of your decision.

3. Who will be affected by your decision?

If the only person who will be affected by the decision is you, then your decision should be quick. If something goes wrong, there is no one to blame but you. If your decision affects others, it will be wise to consult them, too.

Finally, when you have made up your mind, the way to go is to take action. There is no such thing as an ideal decision. Go for it.

For more practical tips on the use of numbers in decision making, browse the statistics category in

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Change Your Past Without a Time Machine

Goodbye Stop
Goodbye Stop (Photo credit: Peter Kaminski)
by Curtis Aiken

The way you view things and events in your past, future and your life right now is different to the way everyone else would view those same things.

Nothing is exactly as you perceive them, how you perceive them is YOUR reality but not THE reality.

Do you think Donald Trump would look at a car worth $100,000 and think it is as expensive as you think it is?

Chances are that he would view it as being quite affordable and well within his means.

The same is true with non-tangible things too, your personality creates different emotions in a situation than the emotions would be for the person standing next to you.

Did you ever wish you could change an event from your past that you feel guilty about? Or perhaps someone wronged you and you felt angry about it back then and you still do now?

Whatever it may be, all you need to do to change your past is change your perception of it. Give the event a whole new meaning in your head. Use your mind as a time machine.

To do this, when you think of the event or the conversation that still brings up emotions, step out of it and view it from the view point of a third person.

So in your mind, don't view it through your own eyes as if you are actually in the scene, play it like a movie in front of you. The purpose of this is to be able to view it subjectively rather than emotionally.

If someone insulted you and it still makes you angry, viewing it from this new angle means they are no longer insulting you, they are insulting someone else on the movie screen in your mind. Now you can ask the right questions and get real answers rather than emotional answers.

In this scenario the offender is Person One and you would be Person Two (but you are viewing it as a third person): Why did Person One treat Person Two in this way? Was Person One likely to have treated Person Two in this way if Person One was a peaceful, happy person? If not, then what else may have been happening in Person One's life to cause them to act like this towards Person Two? Did Person One intentionally hurt the feelings of Person Two?

Ask as many questions as it takes until you get to a point where you understand that there were more circumstances in the other person's life that caused them to suddenly snap from all the pressure and you no longer blame them.

Ask questions until you no longer feel any negative emotions regarding the event.

Or until you feel sorry for the other person for the hard time they were experiencing in their life that caused them to treat others with disrespect.

Only when you are sure that you have associated new feelings for what happened, step inside yourself (Person Two) in your mind and double check that none of the old emotions still exist.

If the negative emotions do still exist, step out of yourself again and continue asking questions. If a person has wronged you but has sincerely apologised to you and forgiven themselves for their wrong doing, they have liberated themselves.

Regardless of whether or not they have apologised, if you are still holding that person to blame for a wrong they have committed toward you, the anxiety you are experiencing is in your head and your head alone.

Even if it is not for them, forgive others and free yourself from unneeded anxiety and suffering.

Guilt is another emotion that we tend to hold on to and guilt, just like anger, weighs us down and holds us back in life. If you have harmed someone then you need to let go of the feelings of guilt, learn the lessons you need to learn from the situation, forgive yourself and move on with your life.

Let's say you were driving and there was an accident, someone got hurt and it was your fault. Just like with the first example, step out of the situation and play the scene on the movie screen in your mind, so it will appear as though someone else is driving.

What can you learn from the events leading up to and during the accident itself that you can apply to your life in the future?

Should you drive the speed limit, pay more attention, not talk on your phone while driving, ensure your passengers wear their seat belts, approach intersections with alertness and caution, check your tyre pressure and grip more often, service your brakes more often, reduce your speed when it has been raining ...? Can you share everything you have learned from the event with others to save them from guilt, injury or possibly something worse?

What if you were able to save someone's life through sharing your story, would that make the past accident worthwhile?

You may never know that you saved someone's life, people don't always know when they might have otherwise died because a situation may play out so differently as a result of what they have learned in their past.

So don't sit around waiting to free yourself of the burden of guilt when you finally receive feedback that you have saved someone, just know that through learning and sharing, the butterfly effect will positively impact someone's life in the future.

If you feel so strongly about something from your past that you cannot do this on your own, seek help and go into it with the intention to find a solution and free yourself from your emotional burdens. Two of many options are hypnotherapy and counselling.

I realise that when I bring up a subject such as a car accident that there will be people who have been in an accident that resulted in something far worse than a sore rib or bruised ego.

That 'something' worse than a sore rib may result in a feeling of guilt that is earth shattering for that person, but when reflected on and managed well it can also be positively life changing for them and dozens, hundreds or thousands of other people.

Changing your perception and your emotions regarding events from your past not only changes your past but will also change your future and the lives of others, too.

Nobody would want multiple sclerosis for example, but the first twenty eight years of my life combined were not as fulfilling as the last year of my life has been.

Through my numerous poor (perceivably) decisions from my past I have been blessed in a way that has immeasurably brightened my life and sharing it with others gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning.

This didn't happen immediately though, I had to change my perception of my past. Initially I was upset, fearful and angry! How could I do this to myself? Why me? What did my future hold?

Funnily enough my future held sadness, fear and anger until I changed my perception of my past, learned from it, applied changes and became empowered by it.

You can do this exercise with any emotions. Feelings of victimisation, loneliness, neglect, fear, guilt, anger, hate, hurt, etc.

Go into this exercise with the desire to change, the desire to be happy and with an open heart and willingness for change. Ask the right questions until you get the right answers and are able to change your mind and feelings.

You don't need a time machine to change your past or your future, you only need to change your perception.

May all beings be happy, Curtis.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why Do Some People Refuse To Change?

“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I...
“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” -Maya Angelou. (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)
by Jon Domer

Change is a common topic in the subject of personal development, because change is a part of life.

Successful people embrace change and plan for it, but unsuccessful people fear and dread it.

Here are some reasons why people are afraid of, or refuse to, change:

Change is uncomfortable

One characteristic of change that seems unpleasant is that it is uncomfortable.

It entails moving out of one's comfort zone, shaking things, moving around, and breaking patterns.

This aspect of change is readily visible, and if a person has the tendency to see the negative side of things, the person would tend to focus on the negative impact of change - and sometimes even exaggerate it. On the other hand, the positive impact of change is often not evident.

Hence, some people respond to change based on the negative consequences than on the positive effects.

People fear that the change will not turn out well

People also refuse to change for fear that the change will not turn out positively. Change takes courage, and one major stumbling block is the fear of failure, ridicule, embarrassment, and of the unknown.

But, really, ask yourself: "What is the worst that can happen?" "Is it any worse than my condition right now." "Where will I be years from now, if I don't change?"

Some people are afraid to change jobs because of the uncertainties with the new job. But what if it turns out fine? What if it turns out to be the best job so far?

As the saying goes, "Stop thinking of what could go wrong, and think of what could go right." It pays to remember that every positive result takes bold decisions.

Change takes effort

This is true when it comes to diet, physical fitness and exercise. It's also true about reading good books. Everything that affects life in some way takes effort.

Watching television all days takes effort; only, the "benefit" of watching television seems more immediate than say, reading a motivational book or listening to audiobooks.

But in the long run, when all the negative effects of neglect have piled up, one thing is going to be true: It would take more effort to endure a life of regret.

People refuse counsel and advice

There are people who refuse to accept criticism and counsel. One sign of this is "seniority complex". You've probably met somebody in your workplace who thinks he or she deserves to be promoted because of seniority.

Or maybe you've encountered an older person who refuses to learn from a younger person who happens to know better. Wisdom comes from the lessons gained from experience, not just age.

Really, what is there to fear or worry about change?

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What is the Mediterranean Diet and Why is it Good For You?

Mediterranean diet (close up)
Mediterranean diet (close up) (Photo credit: grobery)
by Samantha Gardener, Edith Cowan University

A recent study published by Italian researchers shows that adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet can offer protection against type 2 diabetes.

The paper is just the latest in a long line of research pointing out the wonders of this diet - so what are we to take from these latest findings?

Despite its name, the Mediterranean diet is more a way of life based on the dietary traditions of Greece and southern Italy in the 1950s and 1960s.

At the time, rates of chronic disease in these areas were among the lowest in the world, and adult life expectancy among the highest.

Food and life

In simple terms, the Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet (not a low-fat diet) low in omega-6 fatty acids and rich in omega-3 fatty acids (from olive oil).

In the 1950s, people in Greece and southern Italy were poorer and consequently ate red meat only about once a week. Herbs and spices were frequently used instead of salt to flavour foods.

They usually ate about nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day, and fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies at least twice a week. Eggs, dairy and poultry were eaten regularly but in smaller portions than in current western diets.

Desserts, such as ice cream, were eaten only during family outings and at home on feast days. People ate processed and cured meats but only in small servings. Curing was a way to extend the consumption of local food as importing food was uncommon.

There are many lifestyle factors associated with the Mediterranean diet. Meals were (and still are) centred around a social atmosphere, with friends and family gathering to enjoy each others company as much as the food. Alcohol (mainly red wine) was consumed in moderation.

People also did a lot of manual work in a warm climate, such as growing vegetables, fishing or tending to animals. The salt from cured meats replaced what was lost during the working day.

Overall, dietary calorie intake was balanced with daily exercise. Nowadays, people don’t have the same kind of physically active jobs and so can’t eat cured and processed foods with such frequency.

How do we know?

The relationship between the traditional Mediterranean diet and lower rates of sickness, disease and death was first written about in 1995.

Since then, there have been many studies investigating the link between this diet and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s disease.

These studies have been conducted in different countries and in different ethnic groups, suggesting that the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet are transferable to different populations.

There are several ways of collecting dietary data, including weighed food records (weighing all the food and drink you have for three or four days), 24-hour diet recall (telling a researcher everything you have eaten and drunk in the last 24 hours in an interview) and food frequency questionnaires (a list of food and drink consumed with the quantity and frequency of each).

All of these are prone to errors in reporting food intake, estimating serving sizes, and determining nutrient content. Despite these shortcomings, data can still provide sufficient information about adherence to dietary patterns for analysis.

A disappearing lifestyle

Like other countries in the developed world, Greece and Italy have now entered an era of supermarkets and aggressive convenience-food marketing, and much of the highly-praised Mediterranean diet no longer exists.

As people move away from villages to live in cities, they work longer hours in more sedentary jobs, resulting in less time to prepare meals and decreased calorie expenditure.

Meat is also more accessible and consumed more often. So it’s unsurprising that countries such as Greece and Italy have increasing obesity rates.

What’s more, the traditionally home or locally-grown fruit and vegetables consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet are today subject to long delays between field and supermarket.

Add this to the time fresh food spends on shelves in the market or at home, and you’ve got a serious reduction in the level of the beneficial components of fruits and vegetables.

Most people don’t realise the crucial importance of freshness. As soon as fruit and vegetables are harvested, they begin to deteriorate, either via bacteria, mould and fungi, or through their own internal enzymes.

One way to overcome this is to use frozen fruit and vegetables, which are usually frozen very soon after harvest, thereby preserving vitamin and mineral levels.

But the best option is to buy fruit and vegetables at local farmers’ markets, which provide fresh produce and support the local farming community.

We still need to determine which aspects of the Mediterranean diet and associated lifestyle are most beneficial. But it’s clear we should all be trying to emulate it to help reduce our risk of chronic diseases.

Samantha Gardener does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

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Ditch the Cotton Wool and Let Kids Travel Independently

by Lisa Gibbs, University of Melbourne and Bjorn Nansen, University of Melbourne

If you grew up in the 1970s or before, you probably have fond memories of traipsing around the neighbourhood with your friends and siblings, going to the shops or the park, and walking to and from school - without a parent in sight.

Things couldn’t be more different for children today. With our increasing urbanisation, dependence on cars, and parental concerns about traffic or strangers, busy parents run an elaborate schedule of pick-ups and drop-offs to schools, sports and social events.

Children’s lack of independent mobility is not only a concern for their levels of physical activity, it also impacts on their broader personal, spatial and social skills.

The benefits of children’s everyday mobility range from learning to navigate local streets, to interacting with people in public, to gaining a sense of citizenship.

New research we conducted with colleagues at the University of Melbourne and with international collaborators as part of the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program suggests we ought to have more faith in children’s ability to travel independently and, as parents, help them make this transition in late primary school.

Melbourne snapshot

Our study, Stepping Out, was funded by VicHealth to explore children’s perspectives in the local government area of Moreland in Victoria, during 2011 and 2012.

By walking and talking with children across three schools as they negotiated daily travel journeys - as well as speaking with class groups, parents and teachers - we examined the factors that enable children’s mobility.

The 48 children in the study were aged 10 to 12 and had a relatively high degree of freedom to travel to school, parks or shops unaccompanied by parents.

The late stages of primary school are a critical period for developing children’s confidence and independence to travel without their parents.

This period helps prepare children for the transition to secondary school, and the common need to travel further from home using varied modes of transport such as buses and trains.

Children are initially nervous about travelling unaccompanied by a parent but quickly come to enjoy the feeling of freedom and actively seek greater opportunities for mobility.

In the study, children’s mobile skills and confidence were developed through gradual progression. Early on, parents walked with children to local destinations and practised new routes together.

They then allowed them to walk or ride ahead, to travel part of the way by themselves, before eventually letting them walk all the way alone.

Parents also provided children with a mobile phone to carry and encouraged children to favour routes where there were plenty of other people around, and to travel with siblings or neighbourhood friends.

Ultimately, we found that mobile children were supported through a kind of mobile scaffolding in which they were resourced through various kinds of companions: travel companions such as friends, companion devices such as phones, and ambient companions such as people along busier routes.

Scaffolding children with a range of interdependent resources to support their mobility helps to challenge an implied dichotomy faced by parents between child dependence and independence.

Putting it into practice

Parents must always make individual judgements about their child’s capacity for increased independence in travel, as well as navigate options available in their local environment.

Different geographical locations can have a large influence on options for child travel, and the participants in our study enjoyed the benefits - as well as risks - associated with living in an inner urban area.

Nevertheless, by providing children with opportunities to experience and practice mobility wherever possible, children are able to develop their skills and confidence to become an active participant in their local community before venturing out into the wider world.

Schools and local governments are assisting in developing children’s mobility by addressing infrastructure, safety measures, or formal active travel programs.

Yet clearly there remain further opportunities for families and communities to build the interdependent scaffolding that supports children’s mobility through more local and informal organisation.

Lisa Gibbs receives funding from VicHealth and the Jack Brockhoff Foundation.

Bjorn Nansen works on childhood research projects that have received funding from VicHealth and the Australian Research Council.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Create A Better You

Confidence-based learning
Confidence-based learning (Wikipedia)
by Richard Brody

While many claim that circumstances, events, and other outside forces are often to blame for their lack of the hoped for degree of success, generally, the reality is that we are much more often our own worst enemies, refusing to look within at how we can improve.

Our most important task is to do all we can to create a "better me," rather than expending our energies on blaming circumstances and others for why we may not have succeeded to the desired degree.

Until each of us adapt ourselves to the "It's up to me" mindset and philosophy, we will never achieve what we wish or need to do.

There are three basic factors that go into this: 1. maintaining a positive can-do attitude; 2. evaluate, learn, and know our personal strengths and weaknesses; and 3. an understanding that self-confidence is far different from ego.

1. Everything constructive in life begins with having a positive attitude

This is far different than simply using the rhetoric of positivism, and requires an introspective self evaluation, training, learning, and an absolute commitment to prioritize how you can, as opposed to seeking reasons that you will be less than successful.

A positive mindset puts one in a position of accepting the challenges that come before us, and using our energies constructively and in a forward - thinking manner. We must learn that when we proceed in a positive manner, we become energized and accomplish far more.

2. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges, and most difficult tasks, that each of us face, is to know our strengths as well as our weaknesses

Individuals often are either self-defacing, and refuse to admit their strengths, or they behave as egoists, often refusing to either admit or even acknowledge that they have weaknesses.

We will invariably become better and more effective when we take the time and exert the effort to learn more about these factors.

The key and essential aspect is to ascertain each of these, and then to properly utilize these strengths, while addressing our weaknesses, and enhancing/ improving ourselves in those areas.

3. There is often a fine line between the needed and necessary degree of self confidence, as opposed to unfounded egoism

In fact, more often than not, those behaving in an apparently egotistical manner are in actuality quite insecure. The goal should be self-improvement.

Will you commit to creating a better you, so that you can actually perform to your potential? It's always up to each of us personally!

Richard has owned businesses, been a COO, CEO, and Director of Development, as well as a consultant. He has professionally run events, consulted to over a thousand leaders, and conducted personal development seminars, for over 30 years.

Rich has written three books and well over a thousand articles. His company, PLAN2LEAD, LLC has an informative website and Plan2lead can also be followed on Facebook

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I'm Not Perfect - But I'm Getting Better

Less than Perfect
Less than Perfect (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Alyssa Johnson

OK, I admit it! I'm not perfect! Whew - I feel better getting that off my chest!

Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure to seem like I've got it all together. My kids are watching me. My clients are watching me. People in organizations where I hold leadership positions are watching. I know, I know ... I'm just sounding paranoid now.

But it's true! We do look up to people. And, unfortunately we play the comparison game A LOT! It's such an ugly game.

We are constantly checking - "Am I doing better than her?" Somehow we ridiculously think as long as we're doing better than someone we know, we must be doing OK.

But let's look at the logic of that. That means we're looking for others' faults. Does that build anyone up? No! It's tearing others down, so we can feel better! YUCK! No thank you! I used to do this a lot.

I'd hear some kid throwing a temper tantrum in the store and look down at my little cherubs and grin. I'd see some woman with a skirt a size too tight and smooth my pants down, feeling slimmer already. I'd see a couple visibly upset with one another and squeeze my husband's hand a little tighter, knowing we are the perfect couple.

All of those situations made me feel better about my life.

But that's not in alignment with who I am anymore. I realized comparing myself like that offers a short gain and long pain.

I quickly realized I'm not perfect, when I turn in the other direction and see a woman who's 4 dress sizes smaller than me. I hear a friend share about her kid winning some coveted award. Or I'm grumpy with my husband - well, just because I'm grumpy.

If you're going to compare down, you will inevitably compare up! This will bring home the crushing truth that - well sweetheart, you're not perfect!

So how did I break this cycle?

First off I realized it was hurting myself and it needed to stop. That's my challenge for you as you read this.

Second, I started paying attention. I'd inevitably wander in the comparison direction because it was such a habit. The minute I "caught" myself, I remembered I was changing that thought pattern.

Finally, I began to focus on what is important in life. For me, that's bringing people joy. My being critical of others (even if just in my own head), doesn't bring anyone joy.

I receive a much greater reward by letting my criticisms and comparisons go and look for ways to bring a smile on someone's face. I know that pays greater dividends for the other person and for me.

So keep an eye out, next time you see me! If your kid is screaming, I might just walk up and try to do something silly to distract the banshee.

If you look like you're having a bad day, I'll find some creative way to compliment you. And if you're having a hard day with your honey, I might just say something to break the tension and get the two of you to laugh.

Sure - I'm not perfect, but man I know I'm getting better than I used to be!

Please share any lessons you've learned about playing that comparison game or even just how you know you're not perfect.

Do you feel guilty about not being the wife/mom you want to be? Are you tired of saying "yes" to things you don't want to do? Do you know there's got to be more to life, but can't find it? Visit for more great info on how to enjoy your life and your family more.

Be sure to pick up my free report: Stop Trying to be Perfect! 4 Easy Ways to Enjoy Your Life while you're there as well!

By Alyssa Johnson, LCSW.

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Loneliness Is Deadly: Social Isolation Kills More People Than Obesity Does - and it’s Just as Stigmatized

Illustration by Robert Neubecker
Over the winter I moved from New York City to Portland, Ore. The reasons for my move were purely logical. 
New York was expensive and stressful. Portland, I reasoned, would offer me the space and time to do my work.

Upon arriving, I rented a house and happily went out in search of "my people." I went to parks, bookstores, bars, on dates.

I even tried golfing. It wasn't that I didn't meet people. I did. I just felt no connection to any of them.

Once social and upbeat, I became morose and mildly paranoid. I knew I needed to connect to people to feel better, but I felt as though I physically could not handle any more empty interactions.

I woke up in the night panicked. In the afternoon, loneliness came in waves like a fever. I had no idea how to fix it.

Feeling uncertain, I began to research loneliness and came across several alarming recent studies. Loneliness is not just making us sick, it is killing us. Loneliness is a serious health risk.

Studies of elderly people and social isolation concluded that those without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely. The increased mortality risk is comparable to that from smoking. And loneliness is about twice as dangerous as obesity.

Social isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead to arthritis, type II diabetes, and heart disease. Loneliness is breaking our hearts, but as a culture we rarely talk about it.

Loneliness has doubled: 40 percent of adults in two recent surveys said they were lonely, up from 20 percent in the 1980s.

All of our Internet interactions aren’t helping and may be making loneliness worse. A recent study of Facebook users found that the amount of time you spend on the social network is inversely related to how happy you feel throughout the day.

In a society that judges you based on how expansive your social networks appear, loneliness is difficult to fess up to. It feels shameful.

About a decade ago, my mom was going through a divorce from my step-father. Lonely and desperate for connection, she called a cousin she hadn’t talked to in several years. On the phone, her cousin was derisive: “Don’t you have any friends?”

While dealing with my own loneliness in Portland I often found myself thinking, "If I were a better person I wouldn't be lonely."

“Admitting you are lonely is like holding a big L up on your forehead,” says John T. Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, who studies how loneliness and social isolation affect people’s health.

He admitted that on an airplane he once became acutely embarrassed while holding a copy of his own book, which had the word Loneliness emblazoned on the front cover.

He had the impulse to turn the cover inside-out so that people couldn’t see it. “For the first time I actually experienced the feeling of being lonely and everyone knowing it,” he says.

After the public learned of Stephen Fry’s suicide attempt last year, the beloved British actor wrote a blog post about his fight with depression. He cited loneliness as the worst part of his affliction.

“Lonely? I get invitation cards through the post almost every day. I shall be in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and I have serious and generous offers from friends asking me to join them in the South of France, Italy, Sicily, South Africa, British Columbia, and America this summer. I have two months to start a book before I go off to Broadway for a run of Twelfth Night there. I can read back that last sentence and see that, bipolar or not, if I’m under treatment and not actually depressed, what the fuck right do I have to be lonely, unhappy, or forlorn? I don’t have the right. But there again I don’t have the right not to have those feelings. Feelings are not something to which one does or does not have rights. In the end loneliness is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems.”

Most of us know what it is like to be lonely in a room full of people, which is the same reason even a celebrity can be deeply lonely. You could be surrounded by hundreds of adoring fans, but if there is no one you can rely on, no one who knows you, you will feel isolated.

In terms of human interactions, the number of people we know is not the best measure. In order to be socially satisfied, we don’t need all that many people.

According to Cacioppo the key is in the quality, not the quantity of those people. We just need several on whom we can depend and who depend on us in return.

As a culture we obsess over strategies to prevent obesity. We provide resources to help people quit smoking. But I have never had a doctor ask me how much meaningful social interaction I am getting. Even if a doctor did ask, it is not as though there is a prescription for meaningful social interaction.

Both Denmark and Great Britain are devoting more time and energy to finding solutions and staging interventions for lonely people, particularly the elderly.

When we are lonely, we lose impulse control and engage in what scientists call “social evasion.” We become less concerned with interactions and more concerned with self-preservation, as I was when I couldn’t even imagine trying to talk to another human.

Evolutionary psychologists speculate that loneliness triggers our basic, fight vs. flight survival mechanisms, and we stick to the periphery, away from people we do not know if we can trust.

In one study, Cacioppo measured brain activity during the sleep of lonely and nonlonely people.

Those who were lonely were far more prone to micro awakenings, which suggest the brain is on alert for threats throughout the night, perhaps just as earlier humans would have needed to be when separated from their tribe.

One of the reasons we avoid discussing loneliness is that fixing it obviously isn’t a simple endeavor. Even though the Internet has possibly contributed to our isolation, it might hold a key to fixing it.

Cacioppo is excited by online dating statistics showing that couples who found each other online and stayed together shared more of a connection and were less likely to divorce than couples who met offline.

If these statistics hold up, it would stand to reason friendships could also be found in this way, easing those whose instincts tell them to stay on the periphery back into the world with common bonds forged over the Internet.

Me? I moved back to New York.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Moving From Wellness To Well-Being

Italiano: Henoel durante il concerto "Il ...
Meaningful Work (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Susan Muck

Over the last decade, experts from multiple disciplines, including medical, social and psychological sciences have shifted their focus from wellness to well-being. 

What is well-being? And why is it important?

This article is an introduction on the topic of Well-Being and it explores the benefits of individual well-being and outlines the steps to improve the quality of your personal well-being. 

Future articles will discuss how you can improve the quality of your own well-being along with the benefits and action steps associated with organizational well-being.

Everywhere you look these days, you see magazine articles, research studies, television specials, on the importance of well-being. But what is well-being anyway?

Well-being is a measurement that's based on the quality of our current life and how we view what's possible for us in the future. In simple terms, it's about positive emotions, engagement, fulfillment, health, and resilience.

While there's no unanimous definition of the specific components that make up well-being, there is general agreement across disciplines about the core elements: psychological, physical, and social.

  • The psychological dimensions include meaningful work, positive emotions, and self-respect.
  • The physical dimensions include health, finances, and vitality.
  • The social dimensions include engagement in the community, feeling loved and accepted, and helping others.

Well-being is not just about happiness, or just about health, or job satisfaction. It's broader than any one single element. It's a multi-dimensional view of how well we are doing in all aspects of our lives - our work life, personal life, family life and community life.

Benefits of Well-Being

Governments, healthcare groups, psychologists, and organizations have all taken to measuring well-being and providing guidance on how to improve the quality of life for their citizens, patients, clients and employees.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index that uses a scale of 0 - 10, people who rate their current life a 7 or higher and their future life an 8 or higher are "thriving."

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, states that people begin to "flourish" when they bring positive emotions, engagement, and meaning into their daily lives. And people who are thriving and flourishing are better off in all the ways that make life worthwhile:

  • They are healthier, happier, and have more vitality
  • They are more optimistic, engaged, and resilient in the midst of stress and challenge
  • They experience a greater sense of meaning, fulfillment, and personal accomplishment
  • They build positive relationships, feel connected to others and are involved in their communities
  • They feel more secure in their careers and finances

What is the quality of your own well-being? Do you have a sense of personal fulfillment? Do you have the resilience and vitality to face the challenges of your life?

Individual and organizational well-being is one of the elements of the Leader's Way of Being as presented in the Language of Leadership, a six-month training and coaching program for the development of self-aware, authentic, and resilient leaders.

Join us and learn how to shift your Way of Being to create more well-being in your personal life and increase the level of well-being in your teams and organization.

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Screw Goal Setting!

Professor Stephen R. Covey
Professor Stephen R. Covey (Wikipedia)
by Dr. Gerrit Pelzer

This tall guy walks up to me. He is sharp dressed, looks strong, and his eyes exude confidence.

Nothing ever gets in his way, and the word "failure" is simply not part of his vocabulary.

"So, Gerrit, tell me, what are your goals?", he asks in his sonorous voice.

A smart question which obviously does not leave any room for me not having any goals.

I shrink in the presence of this personification of success next to me. I feel prompted to say something like: "Within 18 months from now I will be the most sought-after Executive Coach in South-East Asia. I will have a 300 square meter villa on Phuket with a private pool, and my income will be 1 million dollars per year. Minimum."

I'm so tired of this.

My goal is to help other people be more successful in their jobs and live better lives. And I want a happy and fulfilling life for myself. I want to be in control of my time and spend my time with the people that matter to me. I can't put a number on that.

Setting goals is overrated.

I got fed up with goal setting in my corporate job years ago. Goals mattered more than anything else. It took at least the first two months of each year until management concluded the annual goals. I was part of this management.

Meanwhile the people doing the real work (e.g. on night shift in my factory) simply did their best without having any S.M.A.R.T. goals on EBIT, ROI, or quality metrics.

When we achieved the goals (which were relevant for the flexible part of a manager's income), we celebrated and patted ourselves on the back.

When we missed the goals, we found brilliant excuses like the general economic downturn, the latest financial crisis (there is always one somewhere), or an earthquake.

If having goals works for you, that's great; keep using goals. If you feel it doesn't, don't worry. You don't have to have goals.

In fact I have seen too many people running after their goals like the donkey after the carrot in front of the cart. They the goals remain continuously this tiny little bit out of reach. Over time, this gets frustrating.

Other people may achieve their professional or financial goals only to find with surprise that this doesn't get them one step closer to happiness and fulfilment (the typical reaction in such a case is to set the next goal and start running after this one).

Maybe a certain cash flow, EBIT, or ROI are required to keep your company in the business. Such goals may be a necessity. I won't argue with that.

Maybe reducing your bodyweight to 75 kg is a reasonable goal for you. Or having this Vice President title on your business card within 18 months. Or increasing your salary by 20,000 $ next year.

Will achieving these goals make you happy or fulfilled? Only you will know. I just doubt it. And that's why direction (and the clarity about it) matters so much more than having "SMART" goals for every area of your life.

Direction is the overruling idea what you want to do with your life; it's your compass, your value and believe system. It's about what really matters to you and what defines you as a unique person.

More important than setting specific and measurable goals is clarity about what you really need for a fulfilling life. You want to make sure that you are not just running after some goals, but more importantly that you are running in the right direction (if you feel the need to be running, that is ...).

"It's incredibly easy to get caught up in activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall. It's possible to be busy - very busy - without being very effective (...) if the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster" - Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

The direction maybe your aspiration for a healthy lifestyle, a fulfilling job, and a happy family life. It's solely up to you if you need to define S.M.A.R.T. goals to get there.

Whether putting a number on your weight, counting the hours you spend with your loved ones, or measuring your professional success by the figure on your monthly pay-check helps you, only you will know. It's not up to other people to try to define the word success for you.

Learn again to trust your intuition. Stop over-rationalizing everything, let your instinct guide you, and simply do more of what makes you happy. Don't let other people tell you what you have to do if it does not resonate with you.

By the way I am telling no one anymore that my goal is to have a house on Phuket. If one of these success gurus approaches me and asks me about my goals, I explain with confidence why such goals don't work for me. It comes with the risk of shaking someone else's model of the world though.

Dr. Gerrit Pelzer the founder and Managing Director of Vivo Consulting Co., Ltd. He is a Certified Professional Coach with the International Coach Academy, an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation, and in 2012 he has been elected Vice President of the International Coach Federation Bangok Chapter.

As an Executive Coach he focuses on Leadership Development and Cross-Cultural Leadership issues. Based in Thailand since 2004 he serves clients all around the world.

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