Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Archive for the ‘Coaching’ Category

The Gift of Time

 

This summer I was fortunate enough to cross the Atlantic9c9d2cd02e699e189d853f42585334df on the incomparable ocean liner Queen Mary 2. Every morning on the ship’s TV channel  our Cruise Director Paul O’ Loughlin had a breakfast show and he always ended it with a positive thought for the day, just as I try to do with my morning Facebook posts. One morning he read a piece called Value The Present which struck a chord with me. I’ve heard the content before in other forms but I liked this and sought Paul out. He was more than happy to give me a copy which he said came from a business conference he’d been on although he did not know its origin. I’ve read it several times since but would really like to share it with you, my friends.

 

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with £86,400.

It carries over no balance from day to day.

Every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.

What would you do?

Draw out every penny, of course!

Each of us has such a bank.

Its name is TIME.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds

Every night, it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose.

It carries over no balance.

It allows no overdraft.

Each day it opens a new account for you.

Each night it burns the remains of the day.

If you fail to use that day’s deposits, the loss is yours.

There is no going back.

There is no drawing against ‘tomorrow’

You must live in the present day’s deposits.

Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success.

The clock is running.

Make the most of today.

To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed an exam.

To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask the mother who gave birth to a premature baby.

To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.

To realise the value of ONE SECOND, ask the person who just avoided an accident.

To realise the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.
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Treasure every moment that you have.

Treasure it more when you have shared it with someone special,  special enough to spend your time with.

Remember that time waits for no-one.

Yesterday is history.

Tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift.

That’s why we call it THE PRESENT.

Goal Setting

Or – Tell me what you want, what you really really want.1424555_604448232945474_114601826_n

How are you doing with those New Years resolutions? This weekend marks the time of the month where statistically speaking, most people start to fail on those resolutions made just ten days ago. Resolutions are soft fluffy things that just don’t survive in the real world. We need something stronger and more resilient, something in which we can engage with and have an emotional investment in. We need solid goals.

We live in a rapidly changing world which can generate a feeling of helplessness when we are not in control of our own path through the craziness! As a life coach it is my job to be your guide on that journey and the first thing we must establish are the goals, so that your journey has a destination.

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going, so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

-Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Without Goals we cannot be in control of our own destiny and we will tend to drift from crisis to crisis on waves of uninspired intuition. Once we set some goals we have purpose, drive and we can make good choices. We can start to develop our own path towards happiness and fulfilment. These goals must not be vague or woolly. So often when we ask anyone what they want the first response we get is a list of what they DON’T want! We need to delve deeper and ask searching questions to get to ‘what you really really want!’ It is essential that your goals are challenging, achievable and measurable.

Are you in earnest, seek this very minute. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Just begin and the mind grows heated. Continue and the task will be completed.

-Goethe, Faust.

Our goals must be SMART:

SPECIFIC – This can be the most challenging part of the process, requiring deep questioning to arrive at one clear phrase or sentence which is personal and  positive so that it fires the imagination.

MEASURABLE – It makes sense that any meaningful goal must have some measurable objective, such as weight loss achieved, book written or salary earned. Some goals may not have such a clearly defined end point, but it may help to set the goal in the present tense so that you can say that the goal is achieved “When I am …” One example for a confidence goal might be “When I am speaking to people in a much more confident and relaxed way”

AGREED – Goals should be written down. They must be congruent with your personal values and beliefs and they must be morally and legally acceptable. There should be an understanding of why your goals are important to you. Of course, just setting goals will improve nothing unless there is a commitment to action. Part of the process must be a set of actions that you need to take in order to achieve your goals.

REALISTIC – There is nothing to be gained by setting goals which are not achievable. If you are a heavy smoker, very overweight and not used to physical training, would it be realistic to set a goal to compete this years Olympic Games in Rio?

TIMED – All goals should have a start date date and a finish date in order to focus the mind and fire the imagination. It may also be useful to set specific  ‘step goals’ along the way in order to measure progress towards the end goal and fulfilment.

 I dream my painting and then I paint my dream – Vincent van Gogh

Going through life without goals is like trying to sail a boat without a rudder. You will be at the mercy of outside forces controlling your destiny for you.  How often have you heard the phrase ‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’ ? Take all the time you need to set meaningful goals which have emotional power for you, then take action to achieve your dreams.

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Mindful Monday: The Toxic Cycle of Depression

Having talked about some of the typical ways that depression can manifest itself in men, it’s time now to assess some of the causes of anxiety, depression and suicide.

11923193_1079074222104390_1798667778734272587_nThere are many factors which can lead to depression and a lot of research has been done to prioritise these. In truth, however, it is clear that because men hide the problem for so long they end up with a whole cocktail of issues contributing to the illness. There may indeed be one major factor or one may rise to the top of the whole depressing mess. Of course it may be that after a long slow build-up of issues, one will reach the tipping point, leading to either a cry for help, a breakdown, or even attempted suicide.

Most surveys come to the same conclusion with the same two factors at the top of all their lists: relationships and economic factors consistently get blamed for depression. Of course, either one of these can also feed into the other and they often go hand-in-hand.

A recent study by academics from the universities of Bristol, Oxford and Manchester show a link between the economic dip of 2008 – 2013 and an increase in mental illnesses and suicide rates.

Another study by the Samaritans shows that people in the lowest socio-economic circumstances are ten times more likely to commit suicide than those in the most affluent. Poverty has no gender boundaries, but it seems that it is men who are more likely to kill themselves if they are poor.

Naturally, wealth is often linked with employment. In the 1990’s those most at risk were men in their 20’s. These days it seems that it is men in their 40’s who are most at risk of suicide. There has been work done to examine the long-term consequences of unemployment in the younger age group. Some say that this may lead to economic ‘scarring’ with lingering problems such as higher rates of unemployment, long-term unemployment and reduced earning opportunities later on.

It strikes me that the men who were at risk in their 20’s are now the same cohort who are killing themselves in their 40’s. At the time of writing I could find no research on this point but I cannot help thinking that it may be relevant.

Unemployment is regarded as the second most likely cause of tipping men into serious depression. Research shows that one out of every seven men experiencing unemployment will develop some kind of depression illness within six months of leaving work. Loss of a job may of course be aggravated by a whole list of attendant issues. For a man, his job may be a source of power, giving him the means to be in control of his life. If the period of unemployment lasts for a while, that feeling of control will slip away along with the income, the company car and the camaraderie of the workplace. Of course as depression deepens the job prospects may also diminish and you are now in a toxic cycle of unemployment and depression feeding on each other.

Relationship issues come top of every study into causes of depression. Collapse of a marriage or other significant relationship, even close family relationships, are the single most likely cause of anxiety, depression and even suicide. This is a huge and complex topic which I can only skim the surface of here.

Traditionally, men have considered themselvese6291399b63a7fdbeb05e08b06ff17ee head of their family, not just as the breadwinner but in the way that they control the lives of their family. Maybe it’s not surprising that is often the woman who instigates separation and even divorce. This undermines the perceived status of the man and so depression is more common in men who are separated or divorced. Of course just as with the side effects of unemployment, divorce has its own additional problems to. The need to relocate, loss of contact with children and shortage of money will also create their own toxic cycle.

Of course there are many other challenges which can lead to depression. Retirement carries with it many similar feelings to unemployment. Having a job can also be just as depressing as losing one. This can very quickly become a toxic cycle of not coping leading to depression, which leads to coping even less and so on.

We should not ignore pregnancy or childbirth either. Postnatal depression is well documented in women but it is also a recognisable trigger of depressive illness for one in ten new fathers. Of course becoming a father is generally a good thing and celebrated but it is also one of the biggest lifestyle changes that you will ever experience. Some of the side issues here include lack of sex in the first few months due simply to tiredness, but also the young husband may feel that for the first time he is taking second place in his partner’s affections.

A serious cause of anxiety for many men is living with illness. Having a serious illness, waiting for treatment, living with chronic ailments (cancer, arthritic pain, HIV/Aids, dementia etc.) can all cause stress and depression. Living with the illness of a partner, family member or friend can have the same result.

These days we cannot ignore the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder being suffered by a growing number of young soldiers returning from war, but also by the survivors of civilian terrorist attacks. To this modern phenomenon we should now also consider the many millions of refugees displaced by conflict, losing homes, work and even family in the process.

Sexual problems can of course also contribute to male depression or can become a side effect of it.

This final comment segues into the next part in this series where I intend to look in some detail at the specific problems of depression in gay men.

Mindful Monday: Men and Depression Pt. 2

Signs of Depression.depression-symptoms-men-400x400

Welcome to this second part of my look at the serious issue of anxiety, depression and suicide in men. In the first part we looked at some shocking statistics and some vague reasons why there is a specific male problem. Before delving too deeply into reasons and solutions I thought it might be useful to consider just what depression is and how it particularly manifests itself in men.

Most of us have experienced periods of time when we have felt down, miserable, or depressed. This can often be attributed to a known event, cause or trigger but it does not really dominate our lives, seldom lasts long and is soon forgotten.

For some however, the feelings do not go away. The depression may continue for weeks or months or the feelings may become deeper. This can leave the victim feeling very much stuck in a rut or in a downward spiral and unable to lift themselves out of it. By this time they will feel it’s beginning to affect every area of their life and even before others recognise that there is a problem, they may have feelings of guilt about it which simply fuel the deepening depression.

What is going on in your mind will start to have physical consequences and also lead to behavioural changes. Where the mind and body are concerned the problem may remain purely personal, but once behavioural changes begin it will only be a matter of time before others notice that you have a problem.

Depressed people will recognise some, most, or all of the following feelings. It becomes increasingly difficult to find joy in anything. For much of the time you may feel down, unhappy, miserable, sad or depressed and those feelings just will not go away. For some the feelings are worse at particular times of the day, especially first thing in the morning when you are facing the day ahead. You may find it difficult to concentrate on anything and you may lack motivation. There may also be feelings of guilt, even about things which have nothing to do with you. You may lose interest in social activities and start to lose touch with friends. As you become more pessimistic you may start to feel hopeless, overwhelmed and even suicidal.

These problems of the mind will often manifest themselves in physical conditions. Most depressed people have difficulty sleeping, either in getting to sleep or staying asleep. Often this results in a broken sleep pattern or the habit of waking up very early which of course leads to physical tiredness. Depression can also affect your weight in one of two ways. Some people ‘comfort eat’ and gain weight while others cannot eat and start to lose weight. Many depressed people also experience a loss of interest in sex.

Of course as these physical symptoms become more noticeable they are added to the growing list of anxieties so increasing the bad feelings.

As things either get worse or just go on for longer, the depression will start to affect your behaviour. This is when it is possible that others will notice a problem even if they don’t recognise what it is. Your poor concentration may lead to mistakes at home or at work as you lose focus. If you start to worry about more things you may also become quieter than usual or even withdrawn. You may become more irritable than usual and you may even begin to complain about vague physical ailments such as headaches etc.

Man-with-depressionAfter a time, your personal hygiene, appearance and tidiness may fall victim to the depression. You may begin skipping showers, not shaving, not washing your hair or brushing your teeth. Shirts may go unironed or even unwashed. At home you may lose interest in cooking, cleaning, or changing the bed sheets.

Where anxiety features in the depression there are additional symptoms such as feeling ‘on the edge’ or constantly worried that things will go wrong. You may become fearful of unknown problems occurring and will find it increasingly hard to go out or to face people. Anxiety also causes its own set of physical problems which may include sweating, palpitations, breathlessness, shakiness, dry mouth, stomach churning or even diarrhoea.

So far the symptoms I have described a fairly general and although there is no specific diagnosis of ‘male depression’, it is quite clear that some symptoms are more common in men than in women. These include increased irritability or temper. There is often a feeling of losing control or you may increase risk-taking. There may be aggression and men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide.

In many ways it is not the symptoms of depression which are different for men so much as their attitude towards it and their coping mechanisms. These often in the long term lead to not coping at all. For many men drugs and/or alcohol become a means of self-medication rather than admitting to any problems or talking about them. Personality does not seem to be a great indicator for depression since, although shy men may be more likely to become depressed, it can also affect the strongest of men. Depression has affected many famous and successful men, even some who have famously spent all their time making the rest of us laugh. Sir Winston Churchill could hardly be called a shy man and yet he suffered deep depression which he called his ‘black dog’.

It is often the classic male attitudes which exacerbate the illness. These attitudes prevent us from talking to loved ones or to health professionals and so we do not get the help which is needed. Many men feel that if they tell their partners, family members or colleagues, that these will be unsympathetic.

For too many men it is their very masculinity which gets called into question. Men can be competitive, ambitious or concerned with power, control or success. This of course makes it much harder to admit to feeling in any way fragile or in need of help. Whatever the perceived reason most men will feel that they must sort the problem out for themselves.

For some men work itself can become the coping strategy, but focusing on that can cause conflict in other areas, especially relationships.

The drug or alcohol route of course becomes destructive itself in the long run. This path can lead to addiction which can then result in unpleasant, irresponsible, reckless, dangerous, or even self-destructive behaviour.

Hopefully this delivers some understanding as to what depression is. Next time I will take a look at some of the causes of anxiety, depression and suicide in far too many men.

Mindful Monday: Death by Silence

Why are so many men suffering and dying in silence?

Much has been said recently about mental health being treated as the poor relation when it comes to policy making and provision within the health services. Here in the UK we have become used to high profile, high-impact campaigns to combat such challenges as obesity, smoking and pollution, cancer and even safe driving. Depression and suicide get almost no attention from policymakers but this needs to change.

10430845_790370061034702_7524635976603527807_nIn 2012 there were 5,981 suicides recorded in the UK. Of these an astonishing 75% (4,590) were men. The latest confirmed figures that we have were for the following year 2013 and they were equally if not more shocking. During that year 6,233 people in the UK took their own lives and while the number of women committing suicide has shown a steady decline in recent decades the same cannot be said for men. The numbers of men taking their own lives has risen markedly. In 2013 its share of the total had gone up to 80%.

Suicide is now the biggest single cause of death for UK males below the age of 50 and that 2013 figure was the highest rate for middle-aged men in over 34 years.

Reading recent polls and research papers I get the impression that we are experiencing a perfect storm of factors fuelling a crisis in masculinity. Many men are going through catastrophic life experiences but feel unable or unwilling to seek help to resolve them. Factors may include the economic downturn, bereavement, job loss, divorce, return from war, bullying, prejudice, loss of the bread winning role, access to their own children, loneliness, or even the simple pressure of peer expectations.

Is it biology or society which leads to this difference between men and women? In fact women are more likely to suffer from depression but they are far more likely to seek help with their problems. Men on the other hand are more likely to suffer in silence,shackled by such stereotypical norms as laddishness, stiff upper lip and ‘manning-up’, they are seeking the ultimate escape. Outdated ideas of masculinity are killing our men. It is clearly a cultural problem and not a biological one.

I originally set out to put together a blog post about the rising problem of depression and suicide in young gay men. I soon realised that the problem was much bigger than that. Following this introductory post I will be returning to the subject to look at some of the causes of male anxiety and depression. I also do still intend to look specifically at depression in young gay men. Finally I will look at options for change.

COEVJPUUYAEd-ZQMany of the factors driving depression are external but the problems become internalised. Even where bullying is a factor this is seldom as strong as the self-stigmatising that goes on within. The very act of seeking help becomes a factor in the depression. Admitting the problem is seen as a weakness and a failure to live up to the accepted mythology of manhood. Too many men stay silent in that silence all too often kills them.

Coming soon: What is depression and how do you recognise it?

Mindful Monday: Self-Confidence.

Do you lack confidence? When we are bombarded with negativity it is easy to wallow in it, either temporarily or over  the long term. Our self confidence can influence every area of our lives from work or study, to relationships and personal success. The way that you see yourself has a huge impact on the way others see you. The more confidence you have, the more others will believe in you and the greater your chance of success will be.

It may seem that many of the things affecting your confidence are outside your control. You may feel the need to get advice from someone else to help you out of this low place. A life coach is a good option as an impartial listener who can guide you towards a more self assured and successful future. There is also much that you can do to improve your own confidence levels and Mindfulness is just one of the many options. Some would say that goals oriented coaching is at odds with Mindfulness and it’s focus on the here and now, but I really believe that the two things can work very effectively side by side.

There are many strategies you can try to increase you self confidence. First and foremost, always have clear goals and visualise what it might look, sound and feel like being the new and self confident you. In order to do this of course you need to believe that you can be confident. Identify your limiting beliefs and negative opinions and be prepared to shed them. If you can only see negative outcomes you will simply reinforce you own well developed, poor self image.

Here are my 10 suggestions for action. Any or all of these will help to reinforce a powerful self image which others will perceive as your new found self confidence.

1. BE HAPPY. Personal happiness is essential to good health and well being. Seek out those things that make you happy and make them happen for you. This can be as simple as a stroll in your garden or park, or even a drink of tea from your favourite cup. Optimism too is a powerful tool that leads to persistence and ultimately to success. Think positively and distract yourself from any grumpy moods by visualising happy memories. Mindfulness meditation can be a powerful facilitator in this.

2. LOOK GOOD. Nobody is more aware of your personal appearance than you are yourself. When you don’t look good, your whole posture changes, as does the way you interact with others. Stand up straight, keep your head up and always make eye contact. This will make a positive impression on others and make you feel more alert and assured. Walking faster will also make you look and feel more important. Of course your appearance will also be enhanced by good grooming and good dress sense too.

“Hold your head high. Stick your chest out. You can make it. It gets dark sometimes but morning comes. Keep hope alive.”

– Jesse Jackson

3. NOURISH AND REWARD YOURSELF. Do you usually vegetate in front of the TV at night? Why not turn it off and engage in activities that exercise your brain cells instead. Reading, crosswords, Sudoku etc. can all help. Eat well and healthily. Treat yourself occasionally, even if it is to your favourite calorie-laden chocolates. When you do, buy the very best you can and really enjoy the quality and flavour.

4. PERSONAL TESTIMONIAL. Be your own motivational speaker and develop your own commercial. Ever heard of a business tool called the Elevator Pitch? Write your own pitch highlighting your best attributes and strengths. Recite it to yourself (in front of a mirror?) whenever you need to boost your confidence.

5. BE GRATEFUL. Sometimes when we dwell on what we want, our minds start to create reasons why we can’t have it and then we start to accept our own weaknesses. The best antidote for this is to set aside time to focus on everything we can be grateful for. Recall happy successful times, great relationships and individual skills. We have all made mistakes and will do so again. Do not judge yourself on the mistakes but how you deal with them. Be careful not to dwell in the past but learn from it.

6 COMPLIMENT OTHERS. When we are in a negative mood ourselves it is easy to see others the same way and we can get drawn into gossip, prejudice and insults. This cycle is easily broken by simply learning to give compliments and praise others. You will become well liked and as you seek the best in others, you will also bring out the best in yourself.

“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

– Old Irish Proverb.

Of course our relationship with others can be our greatest source of happiness and contentment. Try showing your friends how much you care about them through small, meaningful acts of kindness.

7. SPEAK UP. Public speaking is regularly cited as the biggest fear for most people, We fear making fools of ourselves but in any group, others will be feeling the same, so go for it and try to say something in every group situation. You will be recognised by others as a leader and you will become a better public speaker.

Likewise, how often at school or in the office do we head for a seat at the back, hoping not to be noticed? Choose the front row, feel more confident and be more visible to the important people in the room, e.g. the speaker.

8. LEARN SOMETHING NEW. Make a commitment to learning a new skill or some new knowledge and devote an hour a day to do it. Find time when you can focus without distractions from family, TV or mobile phone. Knowledge breeds confidence.

9. EXERCISE. In the same way as personal appearance can lift our spirits, physical fitness can have enormous impact on our self confidence. We are all well aware that being out of shape can make you feel unattractive, insecure and can be a drain on our energies. Working out or exercising can help in two ways. We can feel energised, have more stamina and improve our appearance. Secondly, the actual discipline of a regular workout will create a positive momentum of its own which helps in so many ways.

We should exercise daily for 20 minutes, in order to release feel-good chemicals into the blood stream. It is also important to get regular, good-quality sleep and daily doses of sunshine (or at least daylight), especially during the winter months.

10. MAKE A DIFFERENCE. It is easy to get caught up in our own desire and become self-centred. if we turn our attention outward and look at the contribution we are making to the rest of the world, it can distract us from our own worries. This could be helping in your own local community where there are many opportunities to volunteer or it can be in the wider global community. This contribution will reward you with personal recognition and success.

If you need any help with confidence issues or developing self-esteem, then these are areas where Life Coaching can definitely support you. Drop me a line, and let’s see what we can do for you.

The Value of a Writing Coach

The writing life can be a lonely one. I’m probably not imparting any Earth-shattering revelations there – one of the most commonly-expressed sentiments about writing is that it involves long stretches of isolation and solitude. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The greatest asset a writer can have is another writer who operates on a similar wavelength to themselves; a friend, a colleague, a shoulder to cry on when things are going badly. A writer will understand your struggles better than anyone else – after all, they’re going through the same things themselves. They can also be an invaluable source of inspiration, or act as a sounding board when you need to try out new ideas.

Of course, not every friendship between writers will turn out to be so fruitful. Some writers work best alone. Some writers actually make terrible writing partners because they don’t know how to critically evaluate another person’s work the way they evaluate their own. Some are simply not very good at the kinds of social interactions necessary for such a partnership to work. (Writers being anti-social? Shocking, I know.)

This is where a different kind of partner can come in useful, one who has enough distance from the writing process to see problems and find solutions that might not be obvious to you. That person can be an editor, if you’re looking solely for help with the manuscript. Or they can be someone like a life coach, if you need help with those aspects of the writing life apart from the book itself.

But this post isn’t just a sales pitch. I genuinely believe that having a professional coach (or someone like a professional coach) can be of immeasurable help to struggling writers. Everyone can do with having someone who they know will always be in their corner, creative people in particular. The loneliness of the writing life has been the undoing of more potential authors than anyone could count.

At this point it’s important to mention what a writing coach isn’t. Specifically, a writing coach is not any of the following:

  • An editor – they cannot edit your manuscript for you.
  • An agent – they cannot place your books with editors for you.
  • A ghostwriter – they cannot write your book for you.

What a coach can do is help you clarify your goals, your aspirations, and your strengths and weaknesses. They can give you perspective about a part of your life that is extremely difficult to judge with any kind of objectivity. That might not sound like much, but it can be of immeasurable value.

So, here’s the sales-pitchier part of the post: a description of the services I offer as a writing coach. Interested? Get in touch! Or else get in touch with a coach who looks like they might be more your style. Whatever you do, don’t walk that lonely road alone.

The Value of a Smile

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sharing the joy.

Many labels have been applied to this year’s Summer Olympics, but the one which appeals to me the most has been “The Friendly Games”. Aside from all the phenomenal sporting achievements, it has been wonderful to soak up the genuine feel-good atmosphere of the games. The power source for this has been the widespread use of that universal indicator of happiness and friendship: the smile.

“The smile is the shortest distance between people.”

-Victor Borge

Genuine smiles can warm hearts, spread peace and light up cloudy days. Smiles do so much more than express happiness. A smile transmits clear messages about a person’s approachability, sincerity, trustworthiness, attractiveness and sociability.

Of course not all smiles are genuine, but fake smiles usually only involve the mouth, whereas a true smile, what psychologists call a Duchenne smile, involves the eyes also. For a long time this was considered to be the mark of a real smile but it is now known that even Duchenne smile can be feigned.

A truer marker might be the speed at which a smile develops. The fake smile (‘Botox smile’, ‘Pan Am smile’) can be switched on in an instant. A genuine smile, however, will spread across the face more naturally, appearing to draw in its recipients. Slow onset smiles are seen as more authentic, trustworthy and even more seductive.

If we use our smiles in the work or business context, does that mean that they will always be of the false (non-Duchenne) variety? Of course not. If we truly believe in what we are doing, if we are acting with honesty and integrity, if we genuinely love our interactions with other people in all their variety, then those smiles will be as warm and true as any.

Gold-medal-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis.

The so-called “Friendly Games” were truly “The Smiling Games,” with athletes, spectators, officials and the amazing volunteers all sporting winning smiles. They pulled together a careworn nation, maybe even a tired world, in celebration of human endeavours and achievements.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; Slobber and they put you outdoors.”

– Snoopy

Much has been said about the legacy of these games. There can be no greater legacy than the memory of all those immense smiles and their continued use at every available opportunity.

 

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

A couple days ago I was doing the usual early-morning trawl through my social media feeds. On Facebook, I came upon a posting from my good friend Safaa. He is a young and ever optimistic Iraqi living in Baghdad, and he posted this verse:-

“Dance like no one is watching.

Love like you’ll never be hurt.

Sing like nobody is listening.

And live like it’s heaven on earth.

Let a smile be your style today!”

This verse is often quoted in various forms, but it came to me like a chance meeting with an old friend. I also realised that I did not know its origins. A quick online search revealed that that nobody else does either! Whatever the origin, the message is powerful. Live life for today. Smell the flowers. Soak up the sunshine. Kiss the baby. Do it all with a smile!

We get so absorbed in the search for happiness that we miss the chance to be happy. Contemporary life is filled with challenges for all of us and everyday things bring new sadness, more worry and ever more stress. Let’s just take that as read and decide to be happy anyway. Alfred D.Souza once wrote:-

For a long time. It seems to me that life was about to begin, real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles. Were my life.”

If we choose to view life from this perspective then we see that there is no way to happiness, happiness is itself the way. If we accept this and we must also learn to cherish every moment. Try to share every treasured moment with someone special. Surround yourself with people worth sharing your precious time with.

Remember that in the bank account that is your life, time is unique. You are making steady withdrawals as you go through life, but you cannot make any deposits. Time waits for no man, and your time will not wait for you. So stop procrastinating. Banish ‘until’ from your thinking. Stop waiting….

Until you finish school.

Until you go back to school.

Until you win the lottery.

Until you lose weight.

Until you gain weight.

Until you get a job.

Until you get married.

Until you have kids.

Until you get divorced.

Until the kids start school.

Until the kids start college.

Until the kids graduate.

Until the kids leave home.

Until you retire.

Until you get a new car.

Until you get a new house.

Until tomorrow.

Until the weekend.

Until Monday morning.

Until the end of the month.

Until spring.

Until summer.

Until autumn.

Until winter.

Until after Christmas.

Until the New Year.

Until payday.

Until your song comes on.

Until you have a drink.

Until you are sober.

Until you die.

Until you are born again!

Decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy. Happiness is the journey, not the destination:-

Sing like nobody’s listening.

Live like there is no tomorrow.

Work like you don’t need the money.

Love like you’ll never be hurt.

And dance like no one is watching!

Wealth Health #5: Common Financial Personalities

How did you get on with the analysis of your financial personality last time? I promised that we would look at these personality types in more detail, so here goes:

If you scored mostly ‘1’ then you are: The Perfectionist

You have to be sure that you are always doing the right thing in the right way and at the right time. These are admirable qualities, but if you adopt a more flexible attitude you will be able to open up choices you may not have otherwise considered. Solid financial planning designed to meet your specific needs can help you towards a more prosperous and stable future, which should allow you a more free and relaxed view of life. “Watch out for being too insular and not considering enough options,” says Jo Roberts at NeedanAdvisor.com. “You could easily make the wrong decisions if you believe what the wrong person is saying. Get professional advice.”

Mostly 2: The Provider

The world would be a far better place if there were more people like you. There is almost nothing that you wouldn’t do to look after loved ones. Engage in some solid financial planning for your unique view of the world. This could not only help you achieve the things you want, but enable you to do even more for others. Be careful of an easy sale: “People know you would rather say yes than offend by saying no,” warns Roberts.

Mostly 3: The Achiever

Rely on your pragmatic streak a bit more when it comes to planning your financial future. Sound financial planning requires a patient and methodical approach if you want your money to work as hard for you as you have it. With your financial affairs sorted out you can concentrate on your hectic high-flying lifestyle. “Watch out that you don’t go for the latest must have opportunity,” Roberts adds. “Only speculate if you can afford to lose your investment.”

Mostly 4: The Maverick

The everyday world must seem terribly mundane and boring to someone like you. It’s great to have dreams, but focus some of your considerable creative energies on more mundane money matters. Mavericks run the risk of doing nothing because looking after money is boring. “If you don’t want to do it, pay someone else to do it for you,” says Roberts.

 

Mostly 5: The Analyst

It is not enough to know how to ensure that your money grows; you have to make the right decisions to allow it to do so in abundance and support you and your interests fully. “You invest reasonable amounts but not often because you spend all your time researching,” Colin Jackson, a financial adviser for Baronworth, reckons. “You want to make the sole decision on whether your investments will work, so you’ll probably head for anything linked to an index.”

Mostly 6: The Sceptic

Very little in life is certain. A well thought-through yet more adventurous investment may be worth considering. It could provide you with some of the much-needed security that is so central to your existence. “You probably take the free advice of at least half a dozen experts then disregard it and put your money in the building society,” says Jackson. Is it perhaps worth living a little more dangerously?

Mostly 7: The Adventurer

It must get very crowded in your house with so many people wanting to hang around someone as exciting and spontaneous as you. Some careful financial planning will let you enjoy life to the full, both now and in the future. “You won’t be interested in mainstream investment products for the bulk of your money but would look at something more ‘interesting’ with the potential for a greater return and risk,” Jackson says. You’ve probably crossed your fingers a lot.

Mostly 8: The Challenger

You are a natural leader with strength, resourcefulness and inner drive. But you can’t exercise total control over your environment and people around you. Taking a bit of advice from others may give you a wider perspective and enable you to improve your financial well-being. “Rather than having a portfolio of diversified assets, you will tend to have a collection of products that were good in the past,” Alex Pegley, from financial adviser Calculus, says. “You should arrange for a personalised portfolio, setting out clearly defined objectives and reasonable expectations.”

Mostly 9: The Deliberator

Money is very important to you, but your quest to achieve balance and avoid conflict could mean important decisions are delayed while you consider all the aspects. Don’t dither when it comes to your finances; take positive action for what life has in store. Pegley adds: “you tend to miss the boat and take up things too late. By hesitating, you’re unlikely to get enough money invested quickly enough to prepare for retirement, and investments could be overly cautious with restricted investment growth.

As I mentioned last time, no type is the right one or the wrong one. Pat Knightley, who devised this test, points out that we all have flashes of all of these traits, but one will be dominant, especially at times of stress, such as shopping on Christmas Eve in London’s Oxford Street. Knightley also says not to panic if you are not happy with the result. “If we always deal with our money in the same way, you will always get the same outcome. Take a step back, think through your approach and things may change.”

So far in this series we have hopefully increased your own financial awareness, analysed your financial reality, taken a close look at your beliefs and feelings about money and arrived at some indication of your financial personality. Now it is time to start your new financial journey. Next time we will consider setting financial goals.

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