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Mindful Monday: What is Mindfulness?

In the first Mindful May blog I looked at why I am a positive thinker.fd5202fbe18d1012d71d0450af419a99 In this second posting on that theme I want to look at mindfulness as an important element of that. If you follow my ramble through this coming month of positive musings, you will see that I do not subscribe to any one philosophy in isolation. Instead I draw on a lifetime of self development and pull together a variety of disciplines which help me not just to cope with the modern world but to live in it from day to day. I also firmly believe in moving forward using action oriented goals to work for a better future.

I do not subscribe to the way that mindfulness has been marketed in recent years as some kind of self help commodity. It is not the banal, all encompassing therapy that some practitioners would have us believe. It is no surprise that some critics have labelled it ‘McMindfulness’.

So what is mindfulness? My preferred definition was coined in 2009(Zgierska) as “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”. The word itself is actually derived from the ancient Indian word sati meaning  awareness, attention and remembering, and it is an essential element of Buddhist practice.

In this context, awareness is that aspect of being human which makes you conscious of your experiences. Awareness is what makes things actually exist for you. This awareness is then channeled by attention. This is the element of mindfulness that can be trained so that you are able to sustain your attention however and wherever you choose. The term remembering in this context literally means ‘to be mindful of’ (Latin, re = again and memorare = be mindful of). It is about remembering to pay attention to your experiences from moment to moment.

The practice of mindfulness is now being employed by psychologists to help with a variety of mental and physical conditions. These include stress, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’ve seen mindfulness wheeled out as a ‘cure’ for depression and for drug-addiction. It is not. In these particular cases, what mindfulness seems very good at is preventing relapse.

It would be fair to say that there are as many definitions of mindfulness as there are scholars studying it and for that reason the results can be somewhat subjective. Historically, mindfulness is associated with Buddhism and certainly the training has centred around mindfulness meditation. I do believe that this has an important role to play. However, the association with more esoteric beliefs and even religion may put some people off and put the benefits of mindfulness beyond their reach.

In order to make mindfulness more accessible to all, especially within the field of psychotherapy, researchers have sought to interpret the term into a more measurable form. David S. Black (2011) arrived at three possible domains for mindfulness which might make it more acceptable:

  1. A trait. a dispositional characteristic (a long lasting habit) which enables someone to easily enter a mindful state and to sustain it.
  2. A state. this is an outcome such as being in a state of present moment awareness (usually as a result of mindfulness training).
  3. A practice. This being the actual practice of mindfulness meditation.

So we see that the practice of mindfulness can be perceived as paying attention in a very specific way, as follows:

  • Paying attention: Whatever you choose to be mindful of, you must pay attention to it.
  • In the present moment: Grounding yourself in the here and now by being aware of the way things are, as they are, at this particular moment.
  • Non-reactively: We are conditioned by learning and past experiences to react to anything that we experience. This reaction is automatic and we have little or no choice in the matter. Mindfulness trains you to respond to an experience rather than react to it. Response is a much more considered and deliberate action.
  • Non-judgmentally: Past conditioning also leads us to judge our experiences as good or bad. We either like a thing or we don’t. Mindfulness removes these personal filters and allows us to see things as they are, without judgement.
  • Open-heartedly: This is probably the domain of mindfulness which many have difficulty with when we say that mindfulness is not just about the mind but about the heart too. Importantly mindfulness looks at our emotions and so this is as good a label for that as any other. Being open-hearted in this context simply means bringing warmth, compassion, friendliness and kindness to your experience.

I’ve found many overlaps between mindfulness and other philosophies and disciplines. This is especially so with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and other ‘talking therapies’. In the blog posts which follow I will look at a variety of tools and practices which I have found conducive to a positive outlook on life and a ready smile.

Mindful May: Why I am a positive thinker.

My friends and social media followers are all well aware of my belief in the power of positive thinking. The positive greetings that I post on Facebook every morning now have a regular following. Those messages have become important to me and I know from feedback that many people now look forward to reading them every day.

Capture

Some people have asked me how I always manage to be so positive, especially at six o’clock in the morning. How can I always be happy? The honest answer is that I’m not. Yes, my natural state is a positive and happy one, but I would be lying if I said that I was able to maintain that 24/7. There have been mornings when that positive message has been as important to me as it has been to my followers. Sometimes I need a prompt to get my mind in the right place and my day started on the right track.

Recently I’ve become aware of too many people around me being in a negative state even to the point of despair or depression. The reasons for this are many and I do not intend to go into any great analysis here. Suffice it to say that the fast paced world that we now live in lends itself to stress, frustration, sometimes a feeling of disconnect from the real world. The increase in mental disorders and the high rates of suicides are evidence of this.

Positive thinking is not a cure for these ailments but it can be a tonic that soothes the symptoms. More importantly I believe that positivity can delay or control the onset of real trouble such as clinical depression or some forms of dementia. I repeat however that it is not a cure and telling a clinically depressed person that they just need to be positive shows a complete misunderstanding of their condition.

Positive thinking takes time and effort. Being in a positive state is easy enough to achieve. Getting to the point where that state of mind becomes so natural that it is an ingrained trait takes a little more effort.

So what am I trying to do here? Well, I have devoted over forty years of my life to human development of one sort or another. If you Google ‘human development’ looking for a definition you will be faced with ideas about economic well-being and political maturity. There is even a Human Development Index. My personal definition of human development is something far broader than that. Both as a teacher and as a Life Coach I always believed that it was not my place to provide all the answers or to hand over information or solutions on a plate.

For me, human development is about creating an environment which allows people to reach their full potential and to lead productive, creative lives which are congruent with their needs and their interests. By definition then, human development is about expanding the options available and giving us the ability to make choices which allow us to lead the lives that we value.

All my training, qualifications and experience as a school teacher, counselor, trainer, life coach and NLP Practitioner have brought me to an important understanding. We need to have knowledge of the past but we should not dwell in it or be held back by it. We should look to the future and we must do that with optimistic, positive thoughts. We need to hope for a better future whilst accepting that hope is not a plan. The future we seek must have goals and we must understand the actions needed to move us towards those goals and away from the past. With past and future taken care of, what of the present – the here and now?

Ah, we’ve reached the Mindfulness bit. If we are to start making those wise choices we must be grounded firmly and confidently in the present. Mindfulness can give us the means to manage our emotions, thoughts and sensations as they occur in the present moment.

62e82c4ecdaa7adb73e8c1d4669aea19When I first heard about Mindfulness, I was almost put off it by the way that the New Age leanings of some of its practitioners seemed to be hijacking its real use. More recently, Mindfulness has gained world wide acceptance and popularity. It is used by psychologists in the treatment of a variety of disorders. I do believe that as a practice, Mindfulness has a place in everyday life as part of a battery of resources which can help us to truly know ourselves. Over the coming month I shall take a close look at these resources and see how we might employ them to help us to make some of the important life choices that present themselves to us. We need to be grounded in the here and now, in control, self-confident, positive about the future and mindful of who we really are.

Next time I shall be looking at the practice of mindfulness, its origins and its practical use today.

Valentine’s Day: Loving and Self-loving.

lg_single-red-roseValentine’s Day has come and gone once more. Red roses, chocolates and champagne will have been given es expressions of our affection and devotion to our loved ones.
It’s a shame if we need a date in the calendar to prompt us to do that but there is no doubt that setting aside all commercial considerations, the occasion generates strong feelings, high emotions and huge smiles.

Whether or not you receive red roses, you are loved. Do not forget that the person who should love you most is yourself. I am not referring to arrogance or any of the other anti-social varieties of self love but rather a very healthy regard for self, a sense of the real you.

According to Wikipedia:

In 1956 psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm proposed that loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited or egocentric. He proposed that loving oneself means caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about ones strengths and weaknesses). He proposed, further, that in order to be able to truly love another person, a person needs first to love oneself in this way.

We regularly use terms like self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-care but they are all facets of self -love, which should be as unconditional as our most profound love for another. If we are to know ourselves well we must look honestly at our core values and beliefs. These are profound and deep rooted and they are the baseline against which we measure all of our behaviours and the behaviours of others.
If you were going to write a special Valentine card to yourself, what would you write in it? How would you recognise the high esteem and respect you have for yourself? How would you put your love and admiration into words?

“You can search through the entire universe for someone that is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
– Buddha

Regular readers of my blogs will know that I believe in putting ideas into action. First, why not write that card to yourself now and declare your unconditional love for YOU? Next, write down at least five things that you could do to express your love for yourself. Finally, choose one of the things from your list and treat yourself to it this week.
Have fun and let me know how you get on.

When Does Autumn Fall?

 

Every year at this time I hear the big debate start up. No it’s not about calling it Autumn or Fall, it’s about when the season actually starts. Well the answer is that there is no one single answer. In fact there are three valid options so take your pick.

First is the meteorologist’s option. Our weather forecasters like to divide the year into four equal portions of three months each. That means that their Autumn starts on 1st September and runs to 30th November. This is not chosen for any particular scientific reason but rather because meteorology uses a lot of comparative statistics and the fixed seasons allow direct comparisons with the same seasons in any previous years. Most people follow this tradition and so from today the summer clothes will be getting packed away and the recipes for soups and stews will be pulled out again.

The second Autumnal option is the more scientific one. Many of the significant events in our calendar are defined by celestial markers, often related to the sun or moon. For Astronomers the Autumn Equinox marks the start of the season and this year that occurs at 02.29 GMT on Monday 23rd September. As its name suggests. The equinox marks the day on which night and day are roughly of equal length. The astronomical Autumn ends with the Winter Solstice in December which this year occurs at 23.03 on Sunday 21st December. This is the shortest day of the year and marks the start of Winter.

The third option is a much more fluid one and is based on the study of phenology. This looks at periodic plant and animal life-cycle events. It is those changes in the natural world which define the changing season. The colouring of the leaves and the ripening of Autumn fruits and nuts. This is a much more personal definition and as such is not fixed by the calendar. The average tipping point for these features is usually in mid-September but since it is based on observations in nature, it varies from year to year. The long term trend also shows a shift in the seasons due to climate change.

Whichever definition you go for, don’t see the Autumn as a time to retreat indoors and start your winter hibernation. There are still bright sunny days when you can get out and enjoy the lengthening shadows and the glorious colours. These are the features which have inspired so many artists, writers and poets.

Follow T.J. Masters’s board Autumn on Pinterest.

Happy 12.12.12

Celebrate this special date and do something to make it memorable. For geeks like me who love numbers and patterns it’s a great day. This date was last seen 100 years ago and will not be seen again for another 100 years.  It also happens to be one of only 12 sequential dates (01.01.01 to 12.12.12) and so the next sequential date will fall in 89 years time.

Today there will be a significant increase in the number of people getting married and many are booked to take place at 12 noon or even at 12.12 this afternoon. There will also be people celebrating 100th birthdays and to me that is an important point. This is probably the first time in human history where hundreds of people have lived long enough to see 2 sequential birthdays. Advances in science, medicine, social improvements and healthcare have brought this about and I have no doubt that human longevity will stretch even more in the next century. For me, one of the most powerful thoughts today is that there are people who are old enough to read these words now, who will still be around to read them on the next 12.12.12

For my fellow geeks the fun does not stop there.

Mathematicians love the number 12 for its inherent divisibility. 12 is one of the few smaller numbers that can be evenly divided into multiple subsets of halves, thirds, fourths, sixths and twelfths. Because 12 can be so easily divided, it’s commonly used in measurements. There are 12 inches in a foot, 12 ounces in a troy pound (used to measure gold, silver and gems), and 12 in a dozen.

The number 12 has found its way into religion with the 12 apostles. In mythology there are the 12 Olympian gods and astrologers have the 12 signs of the zodiac. Not only are there 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac too, but in Chinese numerology, 1 is a yang number ruled by the sun and represents independence and individualism. 2 is a yin number ruled by the moon and represents symmetry and balance. Combined, the number 12 brings harmony to the yin and the yang.

Of course the number 12 often represents the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. December is the 12th month of the year and every 12 hours day turns to night or night to day.

So many random facts about the number 12 too, such as the 12 pairs of ribs in most humans, or the 12 picture cards in a deck of playing cards. Finally yet another mark of human endeavour is the fact that 12 people have walked on the moon.

What will you do to mark this date then? If you are a parent or a teacher then make it a memorable one because most of the children in your care will still be alive for the next 12.12.12 too. How about asking them to imagine celebrating this day in the year 2112? What do they think their world will be like? What will they personally want to have achieved?

 

Have a wonderful day!

Celebrities and Twitter Trolls: To ‘Out’ or Not To ‘Out’?

If Twitter has a dark side, then it is surely the emergence of a species of shady, aggressive, socially impoverished tweeters known as trolls. Their appearance has, on occasion, transcended the world of celebrity gossip and made headline news. Just this week we’ve witnessed a flurry of racist tweets directed at the victorious President Obama. Perhaps even more sickening were the truly nasty tweets directed against the singer Adele and her new born baby. As with the Obama tweets, Adele’s legion of dedicated fans reacted with swift and righteous fury. In both these examples, what impressed me most was that the victims did not over react. Adele is not known for holding back when her patience is tested, but to her credit she did not engage in any ugly online sparring.

Not all celebrities have shown such grace. In the heat of the moment, many have fought back, and this has only ever fed the trolls in their need for the limelight. During this summer’s Olympics, we saw the inspirational young Team GB diver Tom Daley get pulled into an online spat with a single misguided young troll. Tom’s quick retweet of the original message to his vast group of devoted followers resulted in a huge escalation of the situation and to the eventual arrest of the troll by the police. This leads me to consider how we respond to trolls and to cyber-bullying, and in particular how celebrities (now including a huge number of celebrity athletes) need to be aware of their responsibilities.

For what it’s worth, my advice to anyone receiving an offensive tweet is DO NOT REPLY. Notice that I have not said IGNORE them. Nor did I say DO NOT RESPOND. The whole issue is more complex than it first appears.

Many people have asked about whether or not celebrities should be on Twitter or other forms of Social Media in the first place Of course they should! I have argued elsewhere that nobody should be on Twitter unless they are there to engage with and interact with their followers. Of course if you have tens of thousands of followers then meaningful individual engagement is just impractical. I do believe, however, that it is still possible to interact with them as a group, and some celebrities do this very well. A celebrity tweeter closes the gap between themselves and their followers in a way that they never could before. Fans get to know them both professionally and personally. We all get to peek behind the scenes in the lives of our favourite celebrities.

But Twitter does not offer any immunity from the realities of life. Just consider the whole group of real people that our paths cross in everyday life. There will be those who know, like, or love us. There will also be many who dislike us, envy us, criticise us or just say nasty things behind our backs because that’s what they do. Celebrities must accept that if they invite their fans into their lives they will experience all these things and possibly worse. They have to learn to take the rough with the smooth. Many people correctly see Twitter as a great way to promote themselves or their work.  They must accept that with this opportunity comes great responsibility. The way that celebrities deal with their detractors says a lot about them. They are ambassadors on many levels and they must act as such.

This year many athletes have achieved celebrity status as never before and social media has connected us in ways never dreamed of even at the time of the last Olympics four years ago. Recent news stories regarding athletes, particularly cricketers and footballers and their blundering use of Twitter, has exposed a situation which needs addressing. The unfortunate incident involving Tom Daley during the Olympics is a great example of why we need to step back and apply some common sense and find strategies to support a less antagonistic response to the trolls.

The Tom Daley incident is well documented elsewhere, and in retrospect it is easy to say that Tom should have ignored the original misguided Tweet. However, in all honesty can any of us say how we might have reacted in the heat of that particular moment with all the pressures of the Olympics resting on grieving 18yr old shoulders?  What it did for me was to confirm that celebrities need help, support, advice or training on how to handle the responsibilities and realities of Social Media and Twitter in particular. Of course whatever the outcome, the blame for such an incident rests squarely on the head of the troll. But at the end of the day, trolls seek the limelight and so the best response is to ignore them. DO NOT REPLY. Nor should you bring them to the attention of your followers. This, as we have seen, can turn them into a posse of vigilante cyber-bullies, no better than the troll who committed the original sin. I firmly believe that Twitter itself needs to take a stronger line in these cases and act much more speedily to close or at least temporarily suspend any offending accounts. Of course if the Tweets are racist, homophobic or seriously threatening then they should be reported to the police immediately.

So we need some practical suggestions, supportive guidelines for athletes and celebrities who wish to have an engaging presence on social media. Twitter in particular is all about instant, real-time communication. In moments of anger, frustration, madness or even elation, it is quite possible that things might be said which will be regretted when calm descends.

My first suggestion then is simply not to react. Pause and put the phone down or switch off the computer. Then go and find somebody to hug, have a good night’s sleep. The next day you can decide if the troll is worthy of any of your time, and I doubt that they will be!

I have elsewhere detailed my core principles for all tweets. Those who know me know all about F.I.R.E. where all your tweets should be Fun, Interesting, Relevant and/or Expert. If your intended tweet does not meet one or more of these criteria then don’t send it. If  temptation is still pulling at you, then try these ‘high level’ filters.

  • Would I say it to his/her face?
  • Do I still want to say it after a cup of tea?
  • Do I still need to send it after a real hug from a true friend?
  • Would I say that to my Mum?

Am I joking? Well, maybe. But does it work? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then don’t send the tweet! Sit yourself smugly on the moral high ground and get back to engaging with all those devoted followers who love you for your hard earned success.

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 #6: The Financial Journey

OK, we’ve done enough analysing in recent blog posts that you should now have an adult, realistic view of your current financial state. You will have also recognised your financial personality and should be well resourced to start your future financial journey.

Any planning exercise must begin with the setting of goals. Aspirational, inspirational, real goals.

What do you want money for?

Have you seriously thought of what it would mean to be truly rich?

Maybe it’s time to revisit the Wheel Of Life. Consider what having wealth would mean in each of those areas of your life: relationships, health, career, recreation, family, spirituality etc.

It is often said that if you wish to be a millionaire, then you should start by acting like one. That can be easier said than done, but look at those areas of your life again. Consider how you might start to create those improvements now.

In Tim Hales’ Smarter Investing he borrows from Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs to present a pyramid model for setting financial goals. Start with the bottom foundations made of current needs: earnings, savings and debt repayments.

On the next level up the pyramid we have your retirement plans. On the third level are the solid future goals around things, experiences, college, weddings etc.

At the top level we find the long-term goals, such as legacies which are further in our future. It should be clear that the upper levels stretching into the future need good solid foundations beneath them.

Try to identify the big milestones in your own financial future: childcare, house, big trips, weddings, parental care, retirement. Trying to choose a date or age in your future where these might occur.

In these days of financial constraints, one of the most worrying aspect of many people’s financial planning is how to manage changes to their pension facilities.

“The question isn’t at what age I want to retire, it’s what income.” – George Foreman

Retirement planning may not be an end goal as such, but it surely ranks high in the important stops along your financial journey. We are destined to live longer than our parents did. We must plan for that.

On average, men live for 17 years after retirement, while women live for 20 years.

During the 1960s, spending focused on leisure, houses, travel and transport.

Since the 1970s, spending has focused on health care and domestic help.

This is a huge area to consider when we will look at it in some detail next time.

Let’s be prepared – or, as Warren Buffett puts it, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

 

 

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