How to ensure you stay positive during trying times

How to ensure you stay positive during trying times

The world has become a very different place in a matter of weeks and months. Whilst some continue on with their normal lives, many more seek shelter from the rampant virus spreading over the globe. There are shortages in shops, lockdowns, and more fake information then you can shake a reasonably large stick at. The way people react to the Coronavirus will change the way society works going forward, as will the response and survivability of businesses large and small. With everything going on, you would be forgiven for being a bit nervous. It’s important to remember that this will not last forever, and here I want to outline some points and tips to help ensure you stay positive during these trying times.

How to ensure you stay positive during trying times

Why being positive matters

We all have those times where we have tried to do something a number of times, and will still again without hesitation. Every time we fail, we improve our methods slightly and try again. Things will work out this time, we tell ourselves.

Positivity is not about taking no notice of the bad situations and just letting them happen. It is about staying focused on the good in any situation.

I consider myself to be a very positive and optimistic person. But this does not mean that I do not know my fair share of failures and defeats. Throughout my life, I have held on to this sense of optimism and it always convinces me (after an appropriate amount of time pouting) that the future is brighter than it seems at this current time and things will work out ok.

We all have this to a certain degree because if we didn’t we would just stop functioning altogether! We would sit down and cry and be sad all of the time. The thing about being positive that stops this from happening is that we go out and try to overcome the barriers we are faced with to improve our situation.

The more positive we are the more we will seek to improve things for ourselves and the more times we will try. We can only pursue our goals if we stay optimistic about the possibility of reaching them. Instead of shutting down when things aren’t going our way, we need to regroup and focus on how we can make the best of a bad situation. Disappointment and sadness are normal emotions, but they shouldn’t control your actions. Staying positive means they won’t.

How to ensure you stay positive during trying times

The acceptance of difficulty

To suggest life is always blissful and accommodating to what we want would be an outright lie. Life can be difficult and it can be a struggle. It is important to recognise the hardships that can face us to make us more resilient to them.

Spiritual teachings, particularly those of an Eastern origin, lean heavily on the idea of being at peace with the bad things that happen to us, the suffering. Even in a more westernised environment, these teachings have merit. In particular, Buddhist teachings state (in simple terms) that acceptance of suffering is the only way to know true happiness and mindfulness.

We can learn a lot from the Buddhist approach here. There is a tip for use in meditation that when your mind starts to wander, you do not punish yourself for making this misstep. Instead, you acknowledge the thought, send it on its way, and continue with your meditation. The same is true of when distress strikes us. We must acknowledge the bad feelings, send them on their way, and return to happier thoughts.

I should add, with some haste, that this does not mean we simply ignore the bad things happening to us. Indeed, we should strive to provide a solution to such matters, if possible, as soon as we can. But our feelings about the situation should be reframed from one of despair and suffering to one of hope and consolidation. Reframing negative feelings is a key skill you should learn. We will talk about this more in the tips section.

The benefits of positivity

The benefits of staying positive are truly numerous. It can improve your life in a myriad of ways. Let’s highlight some of those benefits here, just so you know I’m not talking complete trash!

  1. Less Stress – one of the biggest motivating factors that should entice you to be positive is that it will reduce your stress levels. We all have the one friend who is constantly happy and seems not to let anything get them down. Be that friend, and you too will notice a reduction in your stress by simply being positive. Your ability to deal with stress will skyrocket!
  2. Longer Life – There have been many scientific studies that show positive people live longer. Positive people tend to cope better with illnesses and have longer and happier lives than pessimists. This is partly due to the aforementioned reduction in stress, which is a huge detriment to health and lifespan. Being positive can also help you feel better for longer, giving you the best outlook on life.
  3. Improve your Health – Tied to the previous point, your health is proven to improve the longer you maintain a positive attitude! Long term studies show the being an optimist means you will have better health than pessimists as you progress through your life. Good health is certainly a great reason to adopt a positive approach to your life!
  4. Smarter, but not Harder, Work – Staying positive can help you work smarter, but that doesn’t mean it has to be harder. Studies have shown that positive people perform better in work environments than negative people because a positive work environment fosters better performance. This is true not just in the workplace, but anywhere! Schools, exercise classes, and performance troupes!
  5. Greater Resilience – A key benefit to staying positive is a boost to your resilience. Dealing with difficulties becomes easier with the determination and strength you can derive from your positivity. Positive people are able to focus on what they can do to better the situation when faced with hardships. Overcoming these difficulties through positivity is really what this whole post is about!

There are many more benefits to being positive than just these, but I would say these are some of the keys ones. Together, they will improve your overall wellbeing and give you a happier, longer life. Who doesn’t want that?

Tips to become and remain positive

Now we’ve established why you should be positive, let’s take a look at how you get there. Here are a few tips to help you become positive, and to make sure you stay that way!

  1. Smiling – Let’s start with something basic. Smile! You can trick your mind into being more positive through smiling. Even if you have nothing to smile about, the act of smiling can instantly change the way you feel inside. Whatever you might be doing, smile! In the time it will become second nature to smile whilst you undertake your everyday activities, and you’ll feel much better for doing so. Smile at other people too! They’ll more than likely smile back and you’ll both feel better for it.
  2. Surround yourself with Positive People – It’s important to reflect on those around you on your quest to become more positive. We are often strongly affected by the people around us. If they are a gossip, we tend to become gossip. If they are negative, we tend to become negative. Luckily, the opposite is also true. Surround yourself with positive people and you will find yourself being uplifted to a more positive level as well! It isn’t necessary to completely ditch the negative people that may well be friends or family, just be sure to try and steer any negative conversations to more positive topics. Perhaps they will become more positive over time because of your actions!
  3. Do Kind Acts – It’s important to be selfless in your quest for positivity. Forgetting about others whilst being absorbed in your own world of misfortune is easy to do, but there lays not the path to positivity. Take a break from your usual daily routine to lend a hand to another person. Doing so can give you a fresh perspective and fill you with positivity. Doing nice things makes us feel good about ourselves, so we should take full advantage of that. Try doing at least one nice thing a day and you’ll find yourself feeling more positive in no time at all. Don’t forget to check out my post on why being nice matters as well!
  4. Reframing – It’s important to learn how to reframe situations in your head. Currently, if you are on lockdown you can’t leave the house to see your friends and family, you might not be able to go to work or exercise like you have previously. Various factors might make you feel like the world is plotting against you. Instead of looking at the situation negatively though, reframe it to something more positive. You might not be able to go to the gym, but now is a great time to learn about home workouts and expand your fitness knowledge. Can’t go and visit your friends? Sounds like the perfect time to discover new ways of connecting with them, and taking part in things like quizzes over video calls. Reframe the negative to a positive and look forward to conquering these new challenges!
  5. Practice Gratitude – Perhaps the easiest and fastest way to become more positive is to shift your focus away from negativity, judgment, and disappointment that you might regularly feel. Take the time to think about all the things you are grateful for. It might be a good idea to keep a journal of those things you are grateful for. I personally keep an achievement journal. If I am ever feeling down and a bit negative because things aren’t going well, I can look back and see all of the stuff I have already achieved. With renewed vigour and positivity I can then move on and complete whatever the task before me is. Once you have a strong grasp on what you are grateful for, your outlook with certainly become more positive.
  6. Find a Positivity Partner – You probably aren’t the only person who is looking to become more positive. Find a friend who also wants to make the journey to achieve a more positive outlook and team up! Together, you’ll find the process much easier. You can reassure each other that things will get better, and send messages to each other to show your gratitude for them and the things in your life as well. An added bonus to this one is that being in regular contact with someone will reduce any feelings of loneliness you might have during the current climate of social distancing.
The world has become a very different place in a matter of weeks and months. Whilst some continue on with their normal lives, many more seek shelter from the rampant virus spreading over the globe. There are shortages in shops, lockdowns, and more fake information then you can shake a reasonably large stick at. The way people react to the Coronavirus will change the way society works going forward, as will the response and survivability of businesses large and small. With everything going on, you would be forgiven for being a bit nervous. It’s important to remember that this will not last forever, and here I want to outline some points and tips to help ensure you stay positive during these trying times. Why being positive matters We all have those times where we have tried to do something a number of times, and will still again without hesitation. Every time we fail, we improve our methods slightly and try again. Things will work out this time, we tell ourselves. Positivity is not about taking no notice of the bad situations and just letting them happen. It is about staying focused on the good in any situation. I consider myself to be a very positive and optimistic person. But this does not mean that I do not know my fair share of failures and defeats. Throughout my life, I have held on to this sense of optimism and it always convinces me (after an appropriate amount of time pouting) that the future is brighter than it seems at this current time and things will work out ok. We all have this to a certain degree because if we didn’t we would just stop functioning altogether! We would sit down and cry and be sad all of the time. The thing about being positive that stops this from happening is that we go out and try to overcome the barriers we are faced with to improve our situation. The more positive we are the more we will seek to improve things for ourselves and the more times we will try. We can only pursue our goals if we stay optimistic about the possibility of reaching them. Instead of shutting down when things aren’t going our way, we need to regroup and focus on how we can make the best of a bad situation. Disappointment and sadness are normal emotions, but they shouldn’t control your actions. Staying positive means they won’t. The acceptance of difficulty To suggest life is always blissful and accommodating to what we want would be an outright lie. Life can be difficult and it can be a struggle. It is important to recognise the hardships that can face us to make us more resilient to them. Spiritual teachings, particularly those of an Eastern origin, lean heavily on the idea of being at peace with the bad things that happen to us, the suffering. Even in a more westernised environment, these teachings have merit. In particular, Buddhist teachings state (in simple terms) that acceptance of suffering is the only way to know true happiness and mindfulness. We can learn a lot from the Buddhist approach here. There is a tip for use in meditation that when your mind starts to wander, you do not punish yourself for making this misstep. Instead, you acknowledge the thought, send it on its way, and continue with your meditation. The same is true of when distress strikes us. We must acknowledge the bad feelings, send them on their way, and return to happier thoughts. I should add, with some haste, that this does not mean we simply ignore the bad things happening to us. Indeed, we should strive to provide a solution to such matters, if possible, as soon as we can. But our feelings about the situation should be reframed from one of despair and suffering to one of hope and consolidation. Reframing negative feelings is a key skill you should learn. We will talk about this more in the tips section. The benefits of positivity The benefits of staying positive are truly numerous. It can improve your life in a myriad of ways. Let’s highlight some of those benefits here, just so you know I’m not talking complete trash! 1.	Less Stress – one of the biggest motivating factors that should entice you to be positive is that it will reduce your stress levels. We all have the one friend who is constantly happy and seems not to let anything get them down. Be that friend, and you too will notice a reduction in your stress by simply being positive. Your ability to deal with stress will skyrocket! 2.	Longer Life – There have been many scientific studies that show positive people live longer. Positive people tend to cope better with illnesses and have longer and happier lives than pessimists. This is partly due to the aforementioned reduction in stress, which is a huge detriment to health and lifespan. Being positive can also help you feel better for longer, giving you the best outlook on life. 3.	Improve your Health – Tied to the previous point, your health is proven to improve the longer you maintain a positive attitude! Long term studies show the being an optimist means you will have better health than pessimists as you progress through your life. Good health is certainly a great reason to adopt a positive approach to your life! 4.	Smarter, but not Harder, Work – Staying positive can help you work smarter, but that doesn’t mean it has to be harder. Studies have shown that positive people perform better in work environments than negative people because a positive work environment fosters better performance. This is true not just in the workplace, but anywhere! Schools, exercise classes, and performance troupes!  5.	Greater Resilience – A key benefit to staying positive is a boost to your resilience. Dealing with difficulties becomes easier with the determination and strength you can derive from your positivity. Positive people are able to focus on what they can do to better the situation when faced with hardships. Overcoming these difficulties through positivity is really what this whole post is about! There are many more benefits to being positive than just these, but I would say these are some of the keys ones. Together, they will improve your overall wellbeing and give you a happier, longer life. Who doesn’t want that? Tips to become and remain positive Now we’ve established why you should be positive, let’s take a look at how you get there. Here are a few tips to help you become positive, and to make sure you stay that way! 1.	Smiling – Let’s start with something basic. Smile! You can trick your mind into being more positive through smiling. Even if you have nothing to smile about, the act of smiling can instantly change the way you feel inside. Whatever you might be doing, smile! In the time it will become second nature to smile whilst you undertake your everyday activities, and you’ll feel much better for doing so. Smile at other people too! They’ll more than likely smile back and you’ll both feel better for it. 2.	Surround yourself with Positive People – It’s important to reflect on those around you on your quest to become more positive. We are often strongly affected by the people around us. If they are a gossip, we tend to become gossip. If they are negative, we tend to become negative. Luckily, the opposite is also true. Surround yourself with positive people and you will find yourself being uplifted to a more positive level as well! It isn’t necessary to completely ditch the negative people that may well be friends or family, just be sure to try and steer any negative conversations to more positive topics. Perhaps they will become more positive over time because of your actions! 3.	Do Kind Acts – It’s important to be selfless in your quest for positivity. Forgetting about others whilst being absorbed in your own world of misfortune is easy to do, but there lays not the path to positivity. Take a break from your usual daily routine to lend a hand to another person. Doing so can give you a fresh perspective and fill you with positivity. Doing nice things makes us feel good about ourselves, so we should take full advantage of that. Try doing at least one nice thing a day and you’ll find yourself feeling more positive in no time at all. 4.	Reframing – It’s important to learn how to reframe situations in your head. Currently, if you are on lockdown you can’t leave the house to see your friends and family, you might not be able to go to work or exercise like you have previously. Various factors might make you feel like the world is plotting against you. Instead of looking at the situation negatively though, reframe it to something more positive. You might not be able to go to the gym, but now is a great time to learn about home workouts and expand your fitness knowledge. Can’t go and visit your friends? Sounds like the perfect time to discover new ways of connecting with them, and taking part in things like quizzes over video calls. Reframe the negative to a positive and look forward to conquering these new challenges! 5.	Practice Gratitude – Perhaps the easiest and fastest way to become more positive is to shift your focus away from negativity, judgment, and disappointment that you might regularly feel. Take the time to think about all the things you are grateful for. It might be a good idea to keep a journal of those things you are grateful for. I personally keep an achievement journal. If I am ever feeling down and a bit negative because things aren’t going well, I can look back and see all of the stuff I have already achieved. With renewed vigour and positivity I can then move on and complete whatever the task before me is. Once you have a strong grasp on what you are grateful for, your outlook with certainly become more positive. 6.	Find a Positivity Partner – You probably aren’t the only person who is looking to become more positive. Find a friend who also wants to make the journey to achieve a more positive outlook and team up! Together, you’ll find the process much easier. You can reassure each other that things will get better, and send messages to each other to show your gratitude for them and the things in your life as well. An added bonus to this one is that being in regular contact with someone will reduce any feelings of loneliness you might have during the current climate of social distancing. I’ll be following this post up shortly with another about staying resilient when trouble strikes, although I am hoping that is not the case for any of you during these unsettling times. In the meantime, I hope you found these tips about staying positive helpful and will start to use them in order to bring a smile back to your face and keep it there! Let me know how you are getting on with the lockdown wherever you are, and also let me know what kind of thing you would like to read about whilst stuck indoors!

I’ll be following this post up shortly with another about staying resilient when trouble strikes, although I am hoping that is not the case for any of you during these unsettling times. In the meantime, I hope you found these tips about staying positive helpful and will start to use them in order to bring a smile back to your face and keep it there! Let me know how you are getting on with the lockdown wherever you are, and also let me know what kind of thing you would like to read about whilst stuck indoors!

If you are struggling with your mental health during this unprecedented time, please know that resources and help are available to you. Please visit the Mental Health Foundation for assistance.

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing
How to be Successful with your 2020 Goals (& 2019 Goal Roundup)

How to be Successful with your 2020 Goals (& 2019 Goal Roundup)

As is ever the case, the year of 2019 seemed to fly by! I know that in my own life so much happened last year, and I’m sure you have had a lot happen to you too. Hopefully what happened to you fell in line with what you wanted to happen in 2019. Your goals, aspirations, and Resolutions for the year. I know mine did (for the most part!) and, hopefully, you also had a successful year of getting things done! In this post, I will talk about why goals are important and how I stay motivated with my goals. I’ll do a Roundup of how my 2019 goals went (original 2019 goal post here) and what I have planned for 2020. I’ll also discuss how I plan to keep and achieve these goals and some tips you can apply in your own life!

How to be Successful with your 2020 Goals (& 2019 Goal Roundup)

Why Set Goals

I find that anything you want to do in life can be put into one of four categories depending on the size of it: action, task, goal, and resolution. Goals and Resolutions are similar but provide different context, with resolutions typically spanning a single year (and normally not more, unless it is repeated). Goals can, essentially, be over any time period whether a few days or a few years. Perhaps the main point of using the word resolution is that it becomes clear to others that this is a goal, often lofty in its nature, which is current for that year. Aside from those points, however, goals and Resolutions are very similar.

Tasks make up the things you have to do to reach the goal, and actions are the things you have to do as part of the task. There could be different levels of tasks, however, as actions, in my world at least, are typically very small and not worthy of recording in their own right, unlike tasks and goals that tend to be written to paper (or digital white space).

People, just like you, strive for goals every day. It could be as simple as making a meal or as complex as becoming a famous astronaut. We then fulfil tasks and actions in order to attempt to reach those goals. My point here is that even if you consider yourself as a person who does not set yourself goals or resolutions, you actually do without realising it. Not writing it down doesn’t make it not a goal!

To cut to the chase, as it were, we set goals to give our life’s purpose. Want a baby at some point during your life? That’s a goal. Want to find the right partner? It’s a goal. Want to move out of your parent’s house into one you own? Goal!

Fulfilling goals makes us feel good about ourselves. Often our achievements completely pass us by as we move on to the next thing. I’ve witnessed this first hand in one of my past roles as a manager. When talking to my team and asking what they had achieved, they looked at me blankly. They couldn’t recall any of their accomplishments despite them normally being numerous – they had forgotten about them!

To help avoid this, thinking about what your goals are and writing them down gives something tangible for you to aim towards and reflect upon once complete (reflection is a very important part of the process!). Setting your goals like this can help you stay focused on them and make credible steps towards completing them.

Get clear about what you want to achieve in your life, this year, this month, this week, and even this day, and you’ll find yourself with some goals ready to go. Some big, some small. All achievable.

How I stay motivated with my Goals

The act of recording my goals is one of the key ways I stay motivated to complete them. Breaking down those goals into the different tasks I need to complete to reach my goal is incredibly useful. It gives me a visual representation of how things are going and allows me to feel a spark of achievement each time I tick off one of the tasks as done.

As you’ll probably be told by just about anyone, breaking down your goals into small sections makes them easier to achieve. Smaller tasks are easier and faster to achieve and mean that even if you end up failing to reach your goal (if, for example, there is a time limit) you can still see that you made progress and achieved something of worth. You’ll be able to reflect upon the tasks to see what went well, or poorly, and use this information to inform future endeavours. This will make your next goals easier to achieve as you work smarter to achieve them. I talk about my 2020 goals a bit later on in this post I’ll discuss how I am tracking these goals, and the tasks that make them up, to make sure they aren’t just floating ideals instead of grounded goals.

How to be Successful with your 2020 Goals (& 2019 Goal Roundup)

2019 Goal Roundup

2019 was a good year for me in terms of achieving my goals and Resolutions set at the start of the year. I will reflect on some of them now, and talk about what went well and what didn’t, and what I’ve learnt this year about goal setting. Hopefully, you’ll be able to take some of this knowledge forward into your own goal setting, and I’ll provide examples of how I have in the next section where I talk about my 2020 goals.

Let’s start with the goals for one of my hobbies that most people have probably never heard of, Warhammer! For those not in the know, it’s miniature wargaming where you have to build and paint miniatures to then use in glorious battle, involving lots of dice. Last year in 2019 I had big dreams for this hobby and I’m glad to say I’ve come far in it. My collection has expanded greatly, although storage has starting to become a bit of a problem! I had 3 primary goals that I set for 2019.

The first of these was to finish paining my terrain. I’m happy to report this was done by around August. I have more terrain to be painted now, but everything I had at the time is done. Secondly, I wanted to finish painting my Tau army (a faction within the Warhammer universe). This I did not do. In fact, I think I only painted one Tau model the entire year, instead focusing on painting my Black Templars (another faction). Despite making essentially no progress on my Tau, I am happy with the progress I made in painting other armies so do not mind so much. I plan to refocus on painting my Tau in the coming year. Lastly, I was aiming to sort out a gaming mat for me and my friends to play on. This was an easy one as it was a single purchase, and I’m happy to report that it is done and improving the calibre of all my games now!

I had goals surrounding my other hobbies as well. Namely, these were piano and reading books. The piano goal I completely failed. I was looking to play twice a week all year and I’m not sure I did even once! I think I lacked the motivation to get this one done as if I wasn’t really interested in it. Luckily, my book reading went very well as I discovered audiobooks which I could listen to on the way to work and at the gym. The inclusion of audiobooks (I did also read physical books) was a massive boon and I ended up getting through about 14 books. A huge success! I think there is a lesson to be learned here about looking for alternative ways to achieve goals where possible. Any help is always good!

Next up are my lifestyle goals, which are probably where I have done the worst. I wanted to meditate twice weekly. I did not. I wanted to walk to work every day. I did sometimes (at best). I wanted to reduce my weight and get to a 36” waist. My attempt at this was laughable! I think I think I am larger now than I was before. I think the problem with these goals is that they were almost abstract in nature. I did not set up any tangible way for me to track progress or even entice progress. I want to find new ways in 2020 to keep engaged with these kinds of goals, and I’ll talk more about this later.

Lastly, we have my financial goals. These were all successful I’m happy to declare! I managed to save money for my holiday to Lisbon and put money aside for a 2020 holiday. I was able to put £70 into my emergency savings account each month. Also, I managed to save up over my goal of £400 which is for use for my 2020 goals. Finally, I was able to secure a full-time job which I started mid-December, making the deadline only just (after 5 days at my new job we had a break for Christmas and the New Year)!

I would consider these financial goals all very successful. I think the success can be partly put down to being able to “see” the money in my accounts and move it around. It was easy to see exactly what was where and what else I needed. I was very lucky not to have any large unexpected expenditures which I couldn’t find the funds for elsewhere.

How to be Successful with your 2020 Goals (& 2019 Goal Roundup)

2020 Goals

When setting my 2020 goals I wanted to be careful and measured in my approach. I wanted to make sure I could be flexible with my goals (like I talk about here). This way I could easily add to or adapt my goals, especially if some take on new life and split to become two, or more, unique goals.

Another challenge of goal setting that needs to be accounted for is that you can’t decide what all your goals and aspirations for the coming year are in a short timeframe. I can’t have the entire year being dictated by my whims one particular evening when jotting some ideas down. We need to be able to add to our goals for the year, our Resolutions, later on, as I have already done with some. I guess there would be a point in the year when they are just normal goals and not really resolutions, but that would depend on who you are as a person.

I have a couple of “Life Skill” goals this year. Goals that will, basically, add good skills to my repertoire for use in my life! I only have two of these goals (so far), both language orientated. The first one is to practice French at least twice weekly. This can be achieved for me using the Duolingo app, or perhaps by using one of my language books. Last year I excluded this goal because I’ve had such mixed (read: bad) results in the previous years. This year I want to find a way to keep myself motivated through it so I’ll be trying different ways to stay engaged with my French learning. I plan to do a post on this in the future to keep you updated. The second goal in this area is to learn basic Spanish for my trip to Majorca. This is in July so after that point, I probably won’t continue with Spanish but we will see how much I am enjoying it and if it has any potential future use. It would certainly be nice to be able to speak a little of the native language when visiting Majorca, if for no other reason than to ensure I’m not ordering the wrong food!

Travel wise, I want to book a holiday for myself and my partner to go on, and I also want to book a group holiday for myself, my partner, and a couple of our friends. Travelling is always exciting and I’ll be going on holiday three times this year (along with Majorca) if they all go ahead! That’s a record for me! Once the trips are concluded I’ll be sure to write a post about them.

I only have two financial goals this year, partly down to the success of last year. I want to put £50 into each of my savings accounts each month, and I also want to place £75 into my emergency savings fund each month (an increase of five pounds on last year). I don’t mind if I spend the money in my savings accounts as that is what it is there for, as long as it is on important expenditure, such as moving or going on holiday. The emergency savings fund is, of course, for emergency use only! Hopefully, I won’t need it.

My health and exercise goals will be familiar to you. Firstly, I want to meditate twice weekly. I failed at this last year and I’ll have to find a way to remind myself to do this one. I’m hoping a regular reminder will be enough, but I don’t want to have to commit myself to a particular time of the day so we will see. My second goal is to lose weight. You saw this one coming didn’t you? Again another goal that didn’t go well last year but I think that with my new job enabling me to walk to work much easier than previously, and the lack of the ability to eat chocolate at my desk, I will be successful! The third goal, walking to work unless the weather absolutely prevents it, is closely tied to this. I’m wanting to lose the weight by the time I go to Majorca which will probably be the first holiday of the year.

My fourth and final goal in the health and exercise field is to do an event for charity. I’m not sure what shape this will take yet but I believe it is important to give back when you can. Instead of just donating money I want to take part in some activity to help raise the money, like I have done in the past. I am surrounded by inspiration here, with many close friends and my partner often doing charitable activities like races, and I am sure this is a goal I will easily achieve. I’m going to start to look into what I could do by the end of January.

Next up we have my fun goals! Yay for fun! In particular, I have set a goal to read (or listen) to 12 books this year which is double what I set for myself last year. I crushed this last year and I’m quietly confident that I can manage the one book a month goal. The second goal is to get back into my photography in a big way by going on monthly photography trips with one of my friends (also a keen photographer). I love to take pictures but I just didn’t do enough last year. I want to develop my skills and become a great photographer and that journey starts here. We’ve already been on our first adventure, even if it was only to the beach. Hopefully, we will see exciting things over the year whilst being healthy and active! The final fun goal is to post 24 blog posts over the year on this site (starting with this one). I did not post enough last year and I really enjoy writing. Using new tools to keep track of my work, I’m re-engaging this year and really trying to get out some quality content! I already have a dozen ideas for things I could write about which all fit with the theme of my blog (being amazing!). Here’s to a glorious future for Michael is Amazing!

Lastly, we have my Warhammer goals. Both are centred on painting but I may look to add another later on, like going to a tournament during the year or something similar. I already have a few exciting things planned in this area. As for the goals themselves, the first is to finish painting my Black Templar models and the second is to finish painting all the Tau models I currently have. This equates to a lot of models and my turnover rate is not the best. I won’t say that I am worried at this point but this will certainly be a challenge. A lot of my goals will regularly consume my free time and I’m worried that something might give in the end. Hopefully, however, I’ll just end up with two fully Painted armies by the end of the year!

How to be Successful with your 2020 Goals (& 2019 Goal Roundup)

Useable tips to help you achieve your goals and resolutions!

This has been quite a long post! But before I sign off, I wanted to drop some knowledge on you. This knowledge comes in the form of two primary tips which I am finding helpful right now and that I know you will find helpful too!

Firstly, you absolutely must have a way to keep track of all of your goals and the tasks that make up those goals. Bullet journaling is all the craze at the moment and with good reason. Visual representation of your goals helps you keep motivated and organised. Aside from the host of other benefits that journaling provides, being able to quickly flip to the appropriate page with all your goals and how you are going to meet them means you are never too far from thinking about what you want to get done with your year.

Want to make it even easier and digitise the process at the same time? Use Notion. I discovered it a few months ago and now I basically have my second brain on it. Not only that, I can easily link my tasks to my goals and make all kinds of different views on how I see the information. Colourful highlights are optional! I swear by Notion – I used it for planning and road mapping blog posts, for Warhammer painting progress, for planning trips, for keeping all my tasks in one place and easy to view, for keeping a photography journal – and the possibilities with it are practically endless thanks to the way it works. I’m not being sponsored to say this by the way, I just really love it!

The second big tip is to always break down your goals into more manageable tasks. I hinted at this earlier and I’m sure you’ve probably heard this advice before. The trick here is to break it down in such a way that you can get quick wins, which we all love, and keep yourself motivated to reach the final goal.

For example, one of my Resolutions is to have a fully Painted Black Templar (Warhammer) army. I’ve broken this one down by listing each individual model that needs to be painted. I’ve added a further level by producing a road map of the progress (on Notion) of each model. Completing a model is satisfying, but so is moving a model from the Not Started to the Built column, from there to the Painting column. In many ways, the columns represent the actions that need to be done which make up the task. Completing the tasks means we move closer to completing the overall goal!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing
How to Create a Mindfulness Habit

How to Create a Mindfulness Habit

When starting on the path to mindfulness, which you can read about in a more general sense here, it can be difficult to start and maintain any sort of mindful living. It is something I have struggled with, and continue to struggle with, in honesty, since I first came across the idea of mindfulness. Let’s take a look at how to create a mindfulness habit you can stick with!

How to Create a Mindfulness Habit

The first step to creating a mindfulness habit is understanding why we fail

If you have ever tried to meditate you will know that trying to focus on just one thing can be a challenge. Often, during meditation, you will focus on the breath. This is particularly true when first starting out and learning about meditation. But you will find your mind wandering. You will then bring it back to the breath once you notice how your mind has wandered – this is all part of the process and noticing that your mind is drifting on to other thoughts is actually a display of mindfulness in itself.

Note how often your mind would wander when starting out though. Even when typing this I am distracted by a television in the distance and the noise of others in the house. You are able to bring back your thought to the matter at hand as you are actively trying to focus on a certain activity. However, when you are intending to practice mindfulness it can be difficult to, essentially, remember to do it. You forget about it as your mind wanders on to other things. With no activity you are currently doing to focus back on to (remember you haven’t started with your mindful moment yet!) your mind continues to wander.

One of the reasons I found that this happened, especially at the start, is that I didn’t really know how to practice mindfulness. I had a basic understanding of mindfulness meditation and of other small aspects but I struggled to create a habit out of them as they had no structure in their occurrence. I would sometimes meditate at odd times of the day, and practice other forms of mindfulness when I remembered, but without a reoccurring structure I failed to maintain any sort of long term practice.

There are a myriad of things that require our attention throughout the day so having some sort of structure which incorporates mindfulness is important to developing a habit. Equally, however, it is important to realise that your whole day cannot be consumed by mindfulness – at least at the start.

It is easy to burn out when trying to do too much too quickly – especially when trying to introduce new habits into your life. I’ve discussed how this affected me in my yoga journey and in my general fitness journey. Suffering from burn out is incredibly common and I’m guessing that every person will experience it at some point in their lives. Avoiding burn out requires new habits being slowly introduced, instead of simply forcing an entire redesign of your life. That sort of thing never works.

Aside from a general unwillingness to make the change to mindful living – you must be willing in order to receive any sort of benefit from mindfulness – these are the two main reasons why people fail when trying to start a mindfulness habit.

How to Create a Mindfulness Habit

How to create a mindfulness habit

As established then, in order to form a new habit we must repeatedly take the same action in order for it to become second nature to us – a habit. This is because of how our brains work. Performing a new action creates a pathway in your brain. At first it is weak, but by repeating the action it becomes stronger. The stronger and more established a pathway (neural connection) is, the easier and more natural it is to repeat an action (or thought) without actively thinking to do it. It can be done subconsciously.

In order to normalise your new mindfulness habit, you need to repeat actions (that are mindful) in order for them to become second nature.

Here are 4 ways to create a mindfulness habit:

  • Set a timer on your mobile phone – set a timer to go off every hour or so on your phone. Set a tone that isn’t offensive to the ears and it can serve as a reminder to either stop whatever you are doing to perform a mindful task or to continue with whatever you are doing but mindfully. This is an easy way to be mindful throughout the day but beware not to do it for too long as you might become reliant on the sound of the timer finishing to be mindful. If you forget to set the timer then you won’t be mindful. As with all things, coming at this from multiple angles is recommended.
  • Make a mindfulness date with yourself – set aside some time to have a date with yourself with you do an activity mindfully. Maybe on Tuesday, you’ll eat your dinner mindfully, or on Thursday your walk to work will be mindful. This is an easy way to start getting into the habit of regular mindfulness, particularly when mixed with the other tips. Set a reminder on your phone or your physical calendar if you check it often enough. Try to move away from using reminders after a few weeks of regular mindful activity – or don’t, if you normally use a lot of reminders in your life anyway.
  • Leave little notes laying around which remind you to be mindful – this one is simple enough. Write something on a note reminding you to be mindful when you see it. Perhaps leave one on your bathroom mirror so when you clean your teeth you are reminded to do it mindfully, or wash your hands mindfully. Don’t go overboard with the notes though, otherwise, they might just start to annoy you. Plus, no one wants a house covered in sticky notes!
  • Commit to performing a particular action mindfully every time you do it – This one is probably one of the most difficult ones to maintain as it is possible to simply forget to be mindful when performing the action after some time has passed. If this does happen, do not chastise yourself but merely reaffirm that you will act mindfully next time. The action performed can be literally anything from preparing your breakfast to opening a door to grooming your pet.

If you manage to maintain any of these for a month then congratulations – you’ve developed a habit! From there you can slowly expand the mindfulness habit to include many more things. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be able to be mindful at all times?

If you are struggling, remember that you should not over-commit to any new habit in order to avoid burn out and simply forgetting the many new things you are trying to do. At the same time, try to do a little of each of the above ideas in order to create a well-rounded foundation to your new habit. If one way doesn’t work for you, try another or a combination of others.

How to Create a Mindfulness Habit

Good luck on your journey to mindfulness! I hope you create a mindfulness habit to enrich your life!

Already have a mindfulness habit? What is it and how did you make it a habit? Any advice for those looking to create one? Let me know in the comments below!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing
Active Listening

Active Listening – how it will change the way you interact forever

We have all been in those conversations where we don’t quite know what to say – and it shows. If this were The Sims we would be having little negative relationship points signs appear above our heads in those situations. Even if the other person doesn’t outwardly say it, you’ll come across as someone who either doesn’t care or wasn’t listening. But there is an easy solution to this, one that doesn’t require you to actually know what to say in response – active listening.

Active Listening

What is Active Listening?

Communication isn’t just about talking. It is also about listening. That is where active listening comes in to play.

Active listening helps you to be clear about what the other person is saying. It helps you understand the other person’s perspective and it helps you deal with them more effectively. By actively listening, you minimise the chance of a communication breakdown and close any gaps in communication.

It’s called active listening because you are actively, and visibly, involved in listening to the other person. You make an effort to understand and participate in what the other person is saying to you. Most importantly, you understand why they are saying it to you! There are three basic skills you can utilise in active listening: repeating, summarising, and paraphrasing.

Active listening is a very simple technique and one that will help you immensely!

Active Listening

Why is Active Listening important and useful to me?

Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say. Saying the wrong thing, or saying nothing at all, can be damaging to relationships. This is particularly true in conversations which are difficult, heated, or awkward. In this situation active listening really shines!

As I said earlier, communication is about talking and listening. Learning how to listen makes responding in a constructive and effective way so much easier!

It is easy to makes assumptions and misinterpretations when talking with other people. It happens all of the time. People often don’t really listen and just hear what they want to hear! This can be especially true with intricate or antagonistic issues. Making these assumptions and going into and leaving conversation with expectations can distort what you think the other person has said.

Perhaps you think you know what the other person is going to say. Perhaps you don’t really understand what the other person is saying and you’re struggling to keep up. Perhaps the other person is bringing you down with negativity so you just tune out.

Dealing with other people is a very important part of human life and the human experience. We are social beings, after all. As such, you will need to deal with all sorts of people over your life. Active listening can help you deal with them. This is principally true when dealing with difficult people or with people who wouldn’t normally be considered difficult but might be having an off day.

‘Difficult people’ covers quite a broad range of people. There are those people who are directly hostile. Those who are passively hostile, sneaking around behind your back. And those who are passive – either keen to try and please everyone or keen to not really give a damn. These people might just be difficult for you, or they might be for everyone. They might only sometimes display this difficult behaviour, otherwise acting without displaying such difficulty. They might be a family member, a friend, a teacher, a colleague, or a stranger.

Chances are that you’ve come across a difficult person in your life. And probably recently!

Active listening can help you deal with these people and defuse them and the situation. It can also help build stronger relationships with every person you come across in your life! Further, it can be an excellent way to practice mindfulness and compassion.

Active Listening

4 ways to Actively Listen

  • Non-verbal communication, also known as minimal encouragers.

An easy and natural way to show you are listening is to use non-verbal communication. Making eye contact is a big part of this. Also, try to maintain eye contact for a good portion of any conversation you are having with anyone. It builds trust and shows you are paying attention. Shaking or nodding your head along with what the other person is saying is also an effective minimal encourager.

Minimal encouragers let the other person know you are listening and, well, encourage them to continue. Saying small words and sounds like “yes”, “oh”, “a-huh”, and similar, all work to give this effect.

  • Repeating what the other person has said.

When repeating, you are literally saying exactly what the other person has said, adding emphasize to key parts if deemed necessary. This acts as a way to ensure you’ve heard the other person correctly and also helps build rapport in the conversation.

“I think the government have made a mistake.”

“You think the government have made a mistake?”

Just because you are repeating what the other person has said does not need to mean that you agree with what they have said. After they have finished talking you can always voice your opposing view, or voice your agreement if you do agree! Repeating the other person shows you are listening and understood what they were saying. It also allows them to correct you if you weren’t!

  • Summarising what the other person has said.

This one is as simple as it sounds also. You literally summarise what the other person has said. Only the main points mind you – no need to include any erroneous detail. Make sure you are concise, particularly if there is a lot to summarise! The other person knows what they said and doesn’t need a blow-by-blow of every word they uttered.

Summarising like this helps make sure you know what they said and once again shows you are paying attention to the other person. Effectively, it also gives you a little more time to think of an appropriate response if you are struggling.

  • Paraphrasing key points from what the other person has said.

Similar to summarising but works in a way that you say back to them what they said in the way you understood it. This can be particularly helpful in difficult situations or where it is important you fully understand what the other person is trying to say. If they were at all unclear, it allows them to clarify what they meant.

For example, you could respond with “It sounds like you are disappointed in me because of xyz.” The other person would then be able to agree, or disagree, or clarify what they meant.

You could also say “I think what you’re saying is…” Effectively allowing them to refute or approve your statement.

Basically, paraphrasing gives the other person the opportunity to confirm what they have said. This can be very useful to make sure there are no misunderstandings between the two of you.

Active Listening

When should I use Active Listening?

As you may have thought when reading the above techniques, it would be a pretty odd conversation if you both paraphrased and summarised what the other person was saying. It would also be a bit weird if you did it for every conversation you have!

The trick is to always pay enough attention so that if you find you have to make use of these techniques you are able to. That is why active listening is so potent: it makes you focus more on what the other person is saying, prevent you for interrupting, and ensures you are clear about what the other person means when they talk.

Active listening will close gaps in communication, minimises assumptions that you (or the other person) may make, and reduces the chance of misinterpretations.

I know you are already thinking about how useful active listening can be in conversations that you have!

As mentioned, active listening can be particularly useful when dealing with difficult people in order to help you control the conversation on top of the other bonuses that already come with active listening!

Hopefully, this post was interesting and you’ll find it of use. There really is so much you can write about when discussing active listening, and communication in general. This post summarises nicely the benefits of active listening and I hope you can go forward and make use of the techniques in your future conversations! If you already make use of them, or similar techniques, let me know in the comments below!

My experience with interviews and tips to answer 4 basic questions you almost always get

My experiences with interviews and tips to answer 4 basic questions you almost always get

I have some interview tips for you today, although my own interview experience has not always been brilliant. For the most part, my stories involving interviews are tales of woe. I’m am known to be bad at interviews! Even with confidence before going in I still suddenly have issues when answering questions. A change in the tone or pitch of my voice or abrupt memory loss is a common problem I have. Luckily it isn’t normally an issue that goes past the first interview question once I’ve settled in.

Still, first impressions and all that.

My Experience with Interviews

Whilst I have yet to meet someone who declares they are good at interviews those people are out there. Meanwhile, I’m towards the bottom of the list when it comes to how articulate people are during interviews.

Planned answers often go astray for me, as I will accidentally skip ahead, panic, and then mess up the weird loop back I try to make to clear up the holes in my storied examples. That’s if I even remember the planned answer.

My experience with interviews and tips to answer 4 basic questions you almost always get

I’m sure you’ve had it too where you have sudden onset amnesia after being asked a question. Often times making it look like you have nothing to say whilst you sit there, sipping on the glass of water provided in an attempt to buy some time, and the interviewers stare on.

Sometimes the interviewers themselves might be the problem. People you know? You become too comfortable and skip saying the bits they need to hear! People you don’t know? Those people are scary.

On the subject of interviewers, I will interject with a tip/statement on them: they often don’t really know what to expect and they are interviewing you because they have a vacancy to fill. They need someone. They are also human. It’s easy to forget they are flawed beings when they sit opposite you whilst you’re being interviewed. I probably wouldn’t tell them that though!

Recently I attended an interview and in my preparation for it, I looked at a lot of information on answering questions. The best ways to do it, tips and tricks, even example answers.

With all this knowledge still swirling around in my brain, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share it with you! I have a few posts planned but this will be the first which will look at what I found in my experience to be the 4 most commonly asked (in some variation or another) questions.

My experience with interviews and tips to answer 4 basic questions you almost always get

Tips to answer 4 interview questions

1) Tell me about yourself?

This is almost a trick question. They don’t want to know about you as such, just about your life at work. Most importantly they want to know about your work-related skills which can be transferred into the role you’re applying for.

Make sure you study the skills and requirements of the role and talk about your job history whilst highlighting the same skills. Remember to use those cheesy words which interviewers eat up, such as loyal, flexible, adaptable, hard-working, etc.

Remember you must positively reflect on your working life even if that time in your life was not a positive one. Being negative in an interview is a sure way to not get the job. Companies are looking for happy people!

2) Why do you want to work here?

We all know what the real answer to this question is in 9 out of 10 situations: it pays better than my current job and is a step up. However, you already know you shouldn’t say that.

This is actually an ideal time to make them aware of how much preparation you have done for the interview. Link why you want to work for them to things you know about them, such as their excellent customer service. Praising them at this stage can pay dividends. If you know some big changes are coming up then use that as a reason too.

Don’t forget to focus on the skills and requirements of the role, the job description, and anything you have learnt about the company. If you manage to speak to anyone who works at the company that’s even better! Just don’t mention their names.

Also, if they mention in the job description that there are opportunities for training or progression within the role then citing these can be a boon.

3) What are your strengths?

It’s always good to throw out the usual buzzwords at this stage. Start by saying you have many positive qualities and list a few. End on one you can cite an example for. Better yet, give two examples!

With any interview question, you really need to crank out the examples if you want to “score the big marks” and actually get the job. In my experience of interviewing people, those who failed to give good examples did not get the job.

A great example of the strengths question would involve firstly a challenge – ideally set by a manager perhaps during an appraisal – a learning process, and lastly a resolution.

For example: “I feel I stand out particularly due to my strong innovative skills. For example, in an appraisal I had last year my line manager asked me to look at ways that the company could appeal to a larger audience.

I went away from this and gave the topic some deep consideration. I realised an easy way to expand the appeal of the company, as a tourist attraction, would be to make as much as possible available in other languages.

Using my own foreign language skills, as well as those of my teammates, I produced a series of documents, such as price lists and fact sheets about what was on display, which I made available to our international visitors.

Once completed I felt a personal satisfaction from completing such a task but, also, both myself and my line manager noticed improved feedback from international visitors and even some correlating sales in our shop.”

See what I did there? It’s a journey that you need to take your interviewers on!

4) What are your weaknesses?

First and foremost you do have weaknesses so don’t dare go telling anyone you don’t. Especially the interviewers, they won’t be impressed.

The trick here is to provide a weakness that is framed in such a way as to show a learning curve and an attempt to turn the weakness into something positive. Becoming irritated by a certain thing that is out of your control is a good example to give.

This can be framed to suggest you firstly got over it by focusing on your own job/working around the problem. Then you can go on to state that you are actively trying to improve the irritating thing, perhaps by assisting a colleague, taking matters into your own hands to fix something, etc.

Don’t forget to say how that benefits the company too!

Pro-tip: having too much of a positive trait is not a weakness. i.e. your weakness is not that you work too hard or always arrive too early.

My experience with interviews and tips to answer 4 basic questions you almost always get

I’ll probably revisit interview questions in the future. There is always more to learn and better ways to do things and that is reflected in interview techniques as much as it is in any field. For now, I hope you found some good tips here.

As a final tip I must urge you to always do your research and properly prepare for interviews. I know you are because you are reading this, but make sure you are doing all you can do so you can have a strong foundation to rest on for all of your job interviews. I write about this more in this article, so check it out!

I’m interested to know what tips you have that you want to share with us? Any valuable insights you can provide for those getting ready for a big interview? Share it in the comments!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing
5 tips to overcome your fear of failure

5 tips to overcome your fear of failure

When talking about goals, about dreams, and about life, it is easy to feel a bit daunted. It is often viewed as easy to give up on a goal in favour of maintaining the status quo simply because we worry about the cost of failure. Over our life, this worry slowly develops into a fear. Partly due to it being normalised in our society to fear failure, but also because we remember how it feels to fail.

Sometimes we fear failure so much that we no longer try to succeed.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently as I look onwards to some important interviews in the week. I’ve always feared my poor performance in interviews and it has become more and more apparent that this fear is the cause of the problems I have during the interviews. As I have grown, matured, and expanded my knowledge, my actual ability to perform well in interviews has drastically increased. Due also to having now done several in my life. The fear of the unknown might no longer be a thing but the fear of failure is.

The fear of failure extends to more than just interviewing, however. Even when attempting the most basic of tasks you can be crippled by the fear of failure. From taking part in social activities to applying oneself at work, the fear can strike different people at different times. And we have all felt it. The trick is learning how to overcome it.

Here I will share with you 5 tips I have learnt to overcome your fear of failure. I hope they can as useful to you as they are to me in the coming week.

5 tips to overcome your fear of failure

1) Do your research.
It’s important to do your research when you face a task which you are worried about. Learn as much as you can in order to limit the number of unknowns that could occur. In doing so, you will become more confident in your ability to perform in the given task. If you have a job interview, this might mean finding out information about the company you are applying to work for, searching on YouTube for helpful interview tips, and rehearsing common interview questions.

Be wary, however, not to do so much research that you never get around to actually performing the task. Do not let the excuse of not having researched enough prevent you from taking action.

2) Take a look at those worst-case scenarios.
You may initially think that this is counter-productive, but it really isn’t. In fact, thinking about possible scenarios where you do “fail” can be incredibly helpful in not failing! Why? Because answering the “what if” questions with thought out answers means that you can have a plan for just in case things go sideways. You’ll end up being less worried about failing if you have a plan to deal with that failure. Once again, this is the fear of the unknown being minimised.

Not having to worry about the negative outcomes of your action because you have a plan in place can alleviate a lot of the stress people feel when performing important tasks.

5 tips to overcome your fear of failure

3) Consider the price of inaction.
This is a pretty big one that some people don’t think about at all when being consumed by the fear of failure. What will happen if you do nothing? How will you feel? A good example of this might be a job interview. If you don’t go for it, you won’t get that increase to your salary – which you might need for all sorts of things – and you might end up resenting your current job for locking you into it. There are many variables to consider when thinking about what will happen from your inaction and it is worth writing them down so you can see the list of reasons why you should take action and not just leave it.

4) Trim back the pressure.
Sometimes the fear of failure can occur but of what you are actually focusing on. Whilst the end goal might be to get the job, if you can decide that success is actually gaining experience from the interview you’ll find yourself under a lot less pressure as the goal is easier to secure. If you are under less pressure you will perform better and have a better chance of getting the job. Or having a good time at that party, or getting the boy/girl of your dreams.

In the end, you need to focus on the experience as it is worth more than the output in many cases. It will prepare you better for future endeavours if it doesn’t work out then thinking solely about the cost of failure. And it is much harder to fail when aiming for an experience.

5) Build self-confidence and mindfulness.
With self-confidence anything is possible, or so they say. The truth is that people make mistakes. Many, many mistakes. But those mistakes don’t define who they are. It is your reaction to these mistakes that can build self-confidence. Be your own spin doctor and shed your failures in a positive light (whilst remembering to stay level-headed). This way you will be concerned less about the failures. A good way to build self-confidence is to find your strengths and play to them. Acknowledge your achievements. It is easy to forget about these things when you are stressing about and fearing failure. Make a list if it helps.

What is another good way to maintain self-confidence and not succumb to the fear of failure? Why mindfulness of course! Staying in the present will enable you to worry less about the many possible future scenarios and perform better in a myriad of situations. Read more about the benefits of mindfulness, and how to do it, in this article.

5 tips to overcome your fear of failure

Hopefully, these tips will enable you to bring a more considered approach to the task at hand and help quell any fear of failure you might have. It is natural to worry about the future, it is a biological response to stress. But it should not consume us. Practice these 5 tips in order to mitigate your fear of failure.

Have you ever had a fear of failure? How did it affect you and what steps, if any, did you take to minimise it? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
Michael