>What have I achieved?

>Hi all. So as those of you who either follow me on Twitter or know me personally will know, I (I mean my wife but you know) recently had a baby girl. She’s doing very well and is a wonderful addition to the family. I now have a complete family and this makes me very happy. It also makes me reflect on what’s been happening in my life, what’s currently happening and what is due to happen. Kinda like getting a visit from the 3 ghosts in ‘A Christmas Carol’ but not. Anyway I digress.

Where have I got to? Well in the last 5 years a lot has happened. I got married to Mrs P. We had our twin boys A&K. I have a job, which, for the moment, is secure and not going anywhere. The job also helps keep my family in a secure place for at least the next few years. And now we have our baby girl. And all this by the age of 31 (soon to be 32 I might add).

Whats happening right now? Well a lot of stuff. I have good friends in Jim, Joe and Jerry. This makes me particularly glad because at one point I was at a point where the friendships could have gone dry. This didn’t happen. Mostly because I was given some stern words. And for that I’m grateful.

There’s adjusting with the new family. Any change – no matter how good – means adapting. And this means that people have to accept change and adapt. That’s tough and even though people will be well meaning, it’s change all the same. The silver lining here is that people will have to talk more to understand more. For me, that’s positive.

And then there’s my family. This time at home has been really important for me with my twins. I only really have time with them either when I have time off or at the weekend. But I’ve been able to do a lot with them in this time off and that’s been invaluable. My wife went through a relatively good labour and although the pregnancy wasn’t all pleasant, the joy of the new baby has seen those ghosts laid to rest. I’m thankful to the Lord that I have my family.

And where’s this all headed? Well I have to consider the following things. First, am I being a good husband? That means a lot for the wellbeing of my family. I think I’m doing a good job for the most part. Next, am I being a good parent? This is key in ensuring I remain a positive and happy influence in my children’s lives. Third, am I being a good friend? This is important for my own sense of self and keeping good company. Fourth, am I being a good worker? If I am producing and delivering good work then work will continue to be a place where I can be positive and engaged. Fifth, am I being a good citizen? A community is only as good as the people living there. This will be a continued challenge that I will strive for. And last, am I being a good family member?

What I actually reflect on though is did I lay these plans out in advance 10 years ago? Even 5 years ago? Well, no if I’m honest. I had an idea in mind but no plan. And to be honest (a lot of that in this post) the next 5 years are heading the same way. I have an idea of what I’d like to achieve and for now that’ll do me.

But how does that fit in with achievement? Aren’t you supposed to plan and set SMART goals? Well of course you are. But to recognise what you want to achieve you have to take a look at what you have achieved. That’s what helps you plan for the future. Knowing what has happened so you can have a clear idea for what’s yet to come.

>Can I rule the world now?

>What does the new year beckon for a lot of people? Hopes and dreams. At best achievable hopes and dreams. Realistically for a lot of people, badly conceived hopes and dreams. At worst, false hopes and dreams. Why though? Why is it that people are not better at achieving their ambitions? Simply because not enough thought goes into the How. The What is ever present. The How, though, is ever elusive.

A world of thought I am enthusiastic about is positive psychology. One of the notable professors in this discipline is Martin Seligman. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him talk and he is a wonderful human being. He has learned through no hard pain of his own how to live a positive life. His research into this field shows that if you want to succeed in any respect, being positive and surrounding yourself with positive environments is key. He describes several pillars that you need to establish.

The first is positive emotions. Here you have to learn to accept the past, be happy in the present, hope for the future. These are no small things. In order for each to happen you have to spend energy allowing yourself to dwell and decide. There are key actions you have to take, and with the help of either self-learning or professional advice, you can take decisive action to allow your emotions to remain positive. An important aspect is to not dismiss unhappy/bad events but to accept them and learn from them.

You must then look at positive individual traits. Through careful feedback and focused development you can learn to understand what positive traits you already possess. This is of crucial importance. Too many people dismiss their strengths. From here you can then look to identify what other positive traits you want to either learn or develop. This is truly difficult. You need a mentor or trusted guide to help with this. Or the wisdom of Nelson Mandela.

Last you need to surround yourself with positive institutions. This is the ability to recognise what environments you operate in and the effect they have on your life. This isn’t simply the place of work or study or family life. This includes things like who you keep company with, what free time activities do you engage in, how do you commute, how do you like to travel, where do you shop, where do you eat, what’s your neighbourhood like, and the list goes on. This is probably the one we least consider. The other two are normally self-evident enough. But thinking about the institutions we surround ourselves with? Who cares about that? Not enough of us do.

So what does this tell us about anything? Does it mean simply being more positive? Not at all. It means if you want to succeed you have to make concerted efforts. There’s plenty of advice to say make plans and stick to them and make them achievable and make them clear and make sure you follow the SMART format and make more plans if you fail. Blah blah blah.

The insightful piece about positive psychology (there are many) tells us that you can take very practical steps to improve how you live your life. For example try the following. Think about yesterday. Think about it carefully. What did you do in the morning? Lunch? Teatime? Evening? Before bed? Now think about 3 things you did yesterday that made you feel good. Think of something which actually helped you feel good – no matter how fleeting. Now think about describing those 3 very exact positive experiences to someone you know. Could you do this? Could you actually articulate it? Now think about if you genuinely did this on a daily basis. Not necessarily telling someone daily, but either keeping a log or diary or even a blog! It would start to determine how you live your life as you find a way to complete each day thinking about positive events. By thinking about ending a day positively you will direct your energies at engaging in positive actions/language/behaviours.

I’ve been working at this ever since I’ve learned about it. It’s a struggle I’ll freely admit to. I’ve always been a fairly positive person. Actually for many years my language and actions have been about being positive. Only in the last couple of years though have I considered that maybe that’s not enough. I need to consider all aspects of my life and how they all lead me to being a positive influence on those I meet.

If you want to get all zen about this, then you can only truly rule the world if you first rule yourself. That’s a discussion point for another blog. So if you have set yourself new year resolutions then follow the advice that is currently floating around every publication in the next month. Positive psychology is about incorporating many facets of your life and finding a thread that links them all together. You won’t find out about that in most articles. You need to find where that motivation comes from and then start the journey. Oh yes. It’s another bloody journey. Done half-heartedly this will be another failed attempt at doing something different. Done right though and it’s a journey which will yield insight and discovery. I’m still on that journey. I’m enjoying it too.