I’d like to help you, so help me help you
What is your ONE burning issue (or possibly two) that you know, if you can get a handle on, you could definitely be more productive and have a better work-life balance? Please post in the comment box.
For all those who’ve never been on this blog before, a very warm welcome to you. I used to post regularly on fairly random subjects, everything on life, love, and the universe. Of late I’ve been feeling that I want to look in the direction of my fellow professionals and offer my thoughts on what’s been happening and what the future may hold. I’ll also throw in some glimmers of hope in these dark days, like this video of a cat playing the piano
I challenge you not to smile!
There was a speech made by the chair of the Royal College of GPs in July 2017, suggesting that GPs and especially GP trainers should avoid scaring off new trainees from primary care by being negative about the profession. Now, there are a number of ways you could look at this. I think it is fair that we don’t want to put off young colleagues entering GP-land, especially since we’re not exactly flush with doctors at the moment. At the same time, suggesting that GPs should sugar coat the current issues and pressures of primary care, or try and put a positive spin on a very hard job, did not go down well with many GPs.
What makes a good job?
If you look at what factors play the biggest part in job satisfaction, they are consistent across the board of professions, from white-collar high finance to domestic worker. The key features are
Notice that pay does not play a significant part in this formula. In fact, the data shows that the greatest source of job dissatisfaction is not the pay packet, but the feeling of not being appreciated. It used to be the case that we doctors were held in high regard by those we serve i.e. our patients, and that there was a high level of autonomy in primary care, that we were trusted enough to make the best decisions we could in light of the knowledge and resources available to us. For many of us, this has changed quite dramatically.
The Shipman enquiry has probably had the biggest effect on how the profession is perceived. Almost overnight, a feeling of distrust in GPs was cultivated, then actively encouraged. Politicians in particular found that they could make great capital by dumping on GPs, as well as using the popular press to sensationalise the whole affair. The fact that Dr Shipman was a well respected GP who hid a monstrous appetite for murder made for huge and unwelcome publicity. As humans and as doctors we wonder what could drive such urges and can only offer sympathy to those whose relatives suffered at his hands. Some feel that if he had never been discovered, the profession wouldn’t have undergone such a crisis of trust, but I think this is unlikely.
There has always been a strong element of jealousy from the political classes, consistently the least trusted of professions, of the medical profession. The Shipman affair was merely a catalyst that provided the opportunity to ‘rein in’ those pesky uncontrolled GPs with their bloated (and imaginary) pay packets and 4 hour lunch break. What has happened in the name of ‘public safety’ is that the authorities rushed to remove all 6 factors of the job satisfaction ‘formula’ from primary care.
A deliberate elimination of GP Job Satisfaction?
Support from those in Health Boards or LMCs, whose previous role was to ensure that we were effectively resourced to carry out our jobs, suddenly became the police force of primary care. Regulations multiplied overnight. Suddenly guidelines and protocols were ruling our professional lives, providing nothing more than cover for those in management to hide behind when things go wrong. Quick and easy tools of finger-pointing; ‘Dr _________ didn’t follow the guidelines and the patient died/ got cancer/ lost a limb/ (insert adverse outcome)’. But even if guidelines are followed to the letter, they are of no benefit to us the doctor in the event of a complaint:
‘Oh but they’re just guidelines, not a replacement for clinical judgement.’ Unfortunately this is the refrain from those in the ivory tower offices, far from the realities and uncertainties of current primary care. Guidelines are ropes that either are formulated to make us tow the line, or to be hanged with. Distrust and suspicion are now the primary instincts of management and it has smashed morale. We GPs are no longer trusted to make decisions that we feel are in the best interest of our patients, or that if we did, we are not supported in those decisions. Why would anyone, much less a highly trained professional, want to continue in such a manner?
The most successful GPs understand and nurture the team connections about them and they know that without the team pulling in the same direction, and supporting one another, the job becomes immeasurably harder. The literature is clear on this, the organisation needs to be clear on its goals and focusing on making sure every team member gets to contribute and thrive. Dysfunction at a practice can easily be sensed. I’ve worked at practices that function very well as a unit, and at practices where it seems everyone is at loggerheads. It is obvious which ones get the work done and with least stress.
As stress grows, the instinct to close ranks and take a self-protective stance is understandable. We all know how when the going gets tough, communication becomes strained, finger-pointing is more common, people look to dig their heels in and focus on their own priorities. This is human instinct, but it is self-defeating behaviour. And there is very little resource for GP practice to work on team building skills. Some forward thinking practices have taken this on board and followed the example of corporate structures that undergo regular team-building work. Examples of this include workshops, to weekend retreats to re-establish the central ‘mission statement’ of the practice.
Such activities have often been fodder for comedy in the past (paintballing, anyone? Who can shoot the practice manager in the nether regions most often?!) and yet it has been shown that the building and maintenance of strong inter-personnel relationships has been vital in the success in private enterprises, public bodies, and the military. In case anyone feels this is not relevant to primary care, just ask some of your colleagues who will freely admit that every day they’re in a battle. The problem is, many of them are losing because there’s no battle plan to follow, and no back-up when they’re wounded. The military term for a soldier left unsupported and unarmed in the face of an overwhelming force is ‘cannon fodder’. Don’t think for one second that we don’t have colleagues who feel they face this every day.
Are we still valued as a profession?
For the most part our patients do value what we provide. I find most of my patient contacts will end in a ‘thankyou’ and it’s very gratifying. Not just in an ego stoking way, but because it’s a natural human instinct to want to feel appreciated for the efforts we put in. Studies show this is one of the biggest contributors to job satisfaction. Of course there will be exceptions, and unfortunately we tend to remember the ‘bad’ contacts long after the good, even though the latter numbers far outweigh the former. This is not new for the profession. What seems to have changed is the overt contempt that has developed from those that ought to know better. We see increasing resentment from secondary care that we as GPs have become less likely to act as community house officers for hospital teams.
Complaints are on the increase, but what pushes the boundaries of the resilience of our GP colleagues is the fact that other health professionals seem much more willing to act as though we are there to do there every bidding, and feel aggrieved when we point out that this is not why we are here. When I return a request for some various test or follow up that should be done by the hospital team, phone calls or letter follow with increasing levels of anger and disdain. Cries of
‘How can you do this to the patient?’
‘They will suffer if you don’t carry out x, y, or z action’
And the famous
‘All the other GPs do it!’
Having been in healthcare for 20 years I don’t think I have seen as many deliberate assaults on our professionalism from within the NHS as there have been in recent years, and this has been a significant strain on the ethical and moral compasses within the profession. Should I or should I not just do this ‘for the sake of the patient’? Of course this actually translates as ‘should I or should I not do this for the sake of a quiet life?’
These requests need to be seen as nothing more than that – requests. They are not within our requirement or contract to carry out, and I have always advised a politely worded refusal letter should be in everyone’s toolbox. It needs to clear that we are not trained monkeys and that our professionalism needs to be respected once again. Since we have little or no representation within the hospital setting, we have no voice when it comes to the decision making processes in secondary care. Work that should be completed in the hospital is increasingly fobbed off to the primary care setting. What needs to be recognised is that the culture of ‘I sent a letter to the GP to do it therefore I have washed my hands of responsibility’ will only end when every GP is comfortable with the following phrase.
“I’m NOT here to do YOUR job.”
This has been traditionally a hard attitude to take. We instinctively want to help, and we want to further our patients’ cause by getting things done for them. We are also aware that secondary care has its own personnel and funding problems and are overstretched. But we cannot fix a poorly designed system by making the individual parts take on more strain. We have to value ourselves, our time and sanity and make those values clear, before those outside of primary care begin to value us as fellow professionals rather than servants. This might not have been an issue in the ‘olden days’ of general practice (and I have been around long enough to remember those days!) when we had the leisure of being able to go that extra mile to get things done because it was possible to do so. The sheer volume of work in modern medical practice has made that impossible.
We could complain that patients are too demanding or not resilient enough, or now live in a consumerist culture where everything should be available immediately for free, but the main issues come from within the profession. An undervalued and underappreciated workforce will not work to full productivity for any length of time. It has been shown again and again in organisations of all sizes and functions.
Which brings us back to how we see ourselves and the future of the profession. It is difficult not to feel pessimistic when changes do not occur at a systemic level that will make primary care a sustainable long term career for a junior doctor. Thus the trainee’s exposure to general practice becomes a far less positive experience because we GPs are not actors. If we are a tired, stressed and weary workforce, this will be evident to anyone who sees us. Trainees are not stupid. We don’t need to tell them that it’s very hard to be a GP, they can see it for themselves. No amount of positive spin or gloss can change that. They don’t want to be like you, because you can’t articulate what it is that would make them want to do what you do, be who you are. Which means, it’s quite likely that you don’t want to be you either. I can understand this, because when I suffered from burnout, the last person I wanted to be was me.
So what can be done?
The picture looks distinctively pessimistic as falling numbers of doctors and many who are left suffering issues of mental illness and substance abuse. Burnout rates are climbing. It will take a long time to replenish the pool and the appetite for ‘importing’ doctors to fill the gap appears to have lessened over the years.
I believe that we do have the option of creating a great future not only for the profession but for ourselves as the sustainers of the service. This doesn’t happen by big policy changes or dramatic steps, although a large shift in funding to follow the workload would be very beneficial and is essential to recognise that the NHS of the past is unsustainable. However what is needed most is a mindset shift to move away from the old patterns of workload. Primary care is at the coalface of healthcare provision in the UK and the vast majority of that provision occurs in our offices. That will never change. It is true that we need more resources to meet the challenges ahead, but we can follow the examples of those who are creating successful futures for themselves, their teams and their patients to channel our current resources more effectively.
For those who want to know more about what it takes to lead a long and successful career, check out my ebook ‘Superdoc – the 4 core competencies of successful GPs’ on Amazon.co.uk today, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.
Wishing you love, health and success on your journey,
Dr Mithu Rahman
As I write this, it’s March 2016, approximately 4 weeks since 1400 of us descended upon San Diego Bayside Hilton to officially hit the Brendan Burchard High Performance Academy.
(Hilton Bayside, San Diego)
It’s been just over two years since I was first fortunate enough to experience the expert Academy in London, for what I believe was Brendan’s first and only appearance at a seminar outside of the US. I had three main reasons for wanting to attend this event. Firstly I was very excited to see how Brendan performed in his native country and whether there were any particular differences in front of an American audience. Secondly I’ve been back following Brendan’s material over the last six months and I had a real feeling that to get to the next level wanted to explore how high performance could help me. And thirdly, San Diego is an excellent place to be in February.
For my readers in the UK, should you ever feel like attending this event in the future, I highly recommend taking the direct flight from Heathrow if you possibly can. The British Airways flight lands in San Diego’s little airport at around 4 PM which gives you plenty of time to go find some dinner and tackle the jetlag a little. Also the airport is literally five minutes away from the city, you could actually walk it. (In fact several days I went for a run from my hotel and was cross from the airport within about 10 minutes.)
Also the San Diego airport is very compact and easy to navigate, and as they do not have very many international flights getting through customs took very little time. It’s been about 11 years since I visited San Diego last and that was for the famous comic convention. Where I was staying was right on the waterfront and I have to say that something delightful about waking up with the sea front about 10 yards from your hotel window.
(early morning run down the marina)
So what is HPA about?
Strangely in all the years I’ve been a doctor, the basic concept of keeping mind and body as fit as possible to be able to carry out my duties activities and leisure on a day-to-day basis had never really occurred to me until now. In fact I do recall on the first morning as everyone slowly filled the ballroom at the Hilton that the energy level was fairly low at that point and I suspect a lot of people were also in a somewhat tired state.
Naturally that all disappeared when Brendan took to the stage. He has clearly lost none of his energy and soon going to everyone up and clapping out of their seats. He explained that the concept of high-performance was all about the maintenance of a consistent good energy state can be maintained throughout the day and continued with daily practice, rather than with the kind of peaks and troughs that normally occur during the day.
He took a moment to honour those in the room were travelled from outside of the US, and I was very gratified to note that I was one of about 50 delegates would come in from abroad. As fortunate to meet quite a few of these people during the weekend and there were fairly large contingents from Canada and a few from Mexico. I even met a lady from Yorkshire.
So the basic framework the Brendan covered in the morning session was regarding the key aspects of high-performance and the factors that we needed to address and get under control. These were regarding physiology psychology nutrition rest levels and purpose driven activities. It became clear that there will be lots of practical demonstrations of this throughout the weekend which was very good to know because his point quite difficult to remain concentrated and focused when suited for a long period of time, a factor should be evident to me quite some time ago as somebody who was basically office-based for a long time and that my energy levels are suffering as a result.
Was recording to the framework and has established many of our personal goals and desires for the coming months we took the usual opportunities of breaking into groups of four and five and chatting about these goals, specifically why we have chosen them and what were our passions that drove these goals. Needless to say I knew was quickly introduced to a great number of very intelligent very driven and very talkative people who came from all sorts of backgrounds. Most of them were on their first-ever seminar and you could tell that there was a lot of energy in the room.
On our first break for lunch I joined some of the locals for lunch and was impressed how most of the group were already very keen on good nutrition. In fact salads were very much the order of the day for most people although friend and eyes soon discovered the local clam chowder and demolished some of that. But we were to learn a lot about nutrition over the coming days and as a result I have made some quite significant changes in my own intake and generally do feel much better for it.
On the subject of whether the material and presentation changes slightly for an American audience I would say that is definitely the case. As we know Brendan has been working with Oprah for the last few months and I don’t think it a coincidence that some of the presentation takes on an almost evangelical tone at times. (Lots of ‘Amens’!) This works extremely well with a lot of the audience who wear their religious hearts on their sleeves. It could well be that this is how he has always presented his material in America.
I think an area where he’s become even stronger is in his storytelling abilities. I know some of you reading this also conduct seminars and give speeches professionally and I would absolutely recommend that you would benefit attending HPA just to get an idea of how to run a seminar of four days and keep audience attention throughout that period. I myself am aware of how much effort and energy goes into presentations of even 60 or 90 minutes in length, and this was a masterclass in how to use the energy of a room, how to maintain peaks and troughs of interest in a story that allows audience to remain engaged. Certainly in a room of this size I was quite amazed at how few times I heard a telephone ring. I’ve tried practising doing a seminar at his kind of energy level for just 30 minutes my hotel room and I found it to be absolutely exhausting. So when he talks about how to maintain high energy levels I was certainly paying attention.
On day one Brendan laid out his main frameworks. The first one was based upon the book “The Charge” and those of you who’ve read it will recognise the three types of life i.e. the caged, comfortable, and charged life. The key points to take away from this part was that great deal of effort and discipline is required to develop the charged life and the theme of discipline was touched upon repeatedly throughout the weekend and was certainly one of my main takeaways.
He then went into discussing his ‘6P’ framework i.e. productivity persuasion psychology and physiology, presence and purpose. These formed the cornerstone of the group discussions that we would have throughout the next few days so that we could grade our starting scores and how those scores would improve throughout the seminar as we gained more clarity. The idea of course was to get down to being very specific about our “why”, which of course is critical before moving on to the “how”. The most important point here was whether we give a damn about the result, to paraphrase, because only when we have a real desire do have any chance of achieving a result.
(Frequent quoted the weekend was from the incomparable Les Brown, “you gotta be hungry!”) Brendan also pointed out that ordinary people get diminished desire from failures whereas effective people, as we aspire to be, only get augmented desire following failure.
To get us into the mindset of maintaining activity during the day Brendan showed his routines are getting up and moving around every hour to prevent the circulation getting sluggish, as well as his considerable consumption of water. This was one of the big eye openers for me during the weekend and something I have implemented immediately into my practice.
On the second day Brendan brought out his first guest speaker to rapturous applause, none other than the author of “Change your brain, change your life” Dr Daniel amen, who has his own show on a US cable channel and is clearly a very accomplished speaker himself. He presented a one-hour talk about how the brain is the master of the body and how we should be doing everything in our power to maintain and enhance its abilities, which on the face of it seems really obvious but was quite superbly presented and a real highlight of the weekend for me.
The next speaker was the owner and inventor of the bullet-proof coffee concept, Mike Asprey. (Bullet-proof coffee is basically black coffee plus butter, you can look it up here https://www.bulletproofexec.com/.
I felt that a lot of his ideas were somewhat “out there”, but then the guy’s a millionaire and I’m not so I’m not really one to judge. He did however mention an interesting concept, when he was talking about “decision fatigue”.
This is something I became aware of earlier in the year which relates to the fact that the brain can only make a certain number of good decisions throughout the 24-hour period, following which all of the decisions are likely to be poor. Unfortunately the brain is generally unable to distinguish between small and big decisions, and uses a similar amount of energy in both cases.
Therefore, and this has been shown with brain scans, using brain energy to make lots of small decisions will tire you out very quickly. Mike then went on to point out, using obesity as an example, that overweight people and people binge eat obviously have cravings for food, which means that they are constantly making a decision whether or not to eat, therefore depleting their “decision quota” for the day very quickly and this is one the reasons that they get tired very quickly and make poor decisions. I think the takeaway of this is not that overweight people make poor decisions, but anybody who has some form of craving will exhaust their decision-making far earlier in the day than others and this makes perfect sense to me. I’m working on a solution to this.
Throughout the Saturday Brendan talked about the difference between positive thinking and positive planning and re-emphasised trusting the process rather than the destination. We also deep- dived to motivation and how while it is important how high ambition, we also need expectancy in our lives i.e. the belief that we can achieve our ambition.
It was also during the Saturday that we did a high-intensity physical exercise that shook the ballroom so much, the floor below actually thought that there was an earthquake and evacuated everyone!
We also had our third guest speaker on, gentleman by the name of Tim Adams who was responsible for training the very best NFL players. He showed us some stretching techniques which within five minutes changed our body’s physical mobility in a way that is impossible to describe but which blew the mind of pretty much everyone in the room. I had a chance to meet the gentleman later on during his Q&A, which was great!
Tim Adams at HPA
It was also during Saturday the Brendan had an epiphany live on stage, when he was discussing the software tools which speed-up productivity 10 times, and then realised that nobody in the room knew what he was talking about, so he added an extra 30 minute section the next day to discuss these particular apps (I’ve mentioned a few below, suffice to say that I can get through my emails way faster since coming back!)
We finished off our weekend on the Sunday talking about how to evaluate an opportunity, and most importantly how to say no to opportunities which do not fit our agenda. And finally, the Brendan motivation meditation which I remember before from EA 2014, but which seemed much more effective this time and had a big effect on everyone around me.
In summary, Brendan is getting even better at seminars than ever before, and I highly recommend for those of you haven’t seen him live for a long time to get onto one of his seminars either in April or towards the end of the year. I was motivated enough to sign up for his high-performance coaching, a programme which consists of coaching over the phone has several sessions followed by group coaching sessions. As I write I have completed two sessions so far, and as someone who has lacked accountability in his projects over the last year or so I found this to be very effective, and I will update you all as I go along. San Diego is a brilliant place to have a motivational weekend and the people I met have been absolutely wonderful and inspirational.
So my main takeaways from San Diego were
The app resources that I am now using
And without a doubt I am way more motivated by 2016 than I was in January!
I’ll sign off with something that someone told me on Sunday,
“Go out there and live your truth everyday come what may.” Nuff said.
(approx 7 minute read)
So here’s a question for you. Should you feel bad about wanting more?
Have you ever felt bad about having more than others? Have you ever felt bad about wanting more than you have? Where is that point at which you had your ‘fair share’?
Did you know that someone, probably with much more time on their hands than myself, did a survey of a bunch of films and TV shows. Specifically they were looking for wealthy characters that represented big business owners, or heads of major corporations. In this survey, it turned out that over 90% of these characters were portrayed as greedy, sinister, or in some way involved in criminal activities.
Isn’t that fascinating? The way that being in business, or having money, frequently has negative connotations. Was this something that you ever came across? Did you have a negative attitude towards money? Is it possible that you still do? Do you feel bad even talking about money?
(By the way, check out the Sunday papers supplements this week. The ‘Entertainment Section’ – 52 pages. The ‘Money Section’ – 8 pages. You’re not alone feeling uncomfortable discussing money.)
I grew up in a middle class household, both of my parents were full time professionals and we didn’t go hungry. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t money concerns. Indeed, nearly every household argument was in some way tied to money. Any relationship advisor knows that money is in the top 5 subjects of conflict between partners. But it’s not always about whether there’s enough of it, but the differing attitudes to it. In our house, the prevailing attitudes were,
1) Money is the root of all evil
2) Don’t chase after money, let money chase you
3) Money is a taboo subject
I’m betting that some of these will also ring a bell for you.
It was an unwritten rule that ‘the harder you work, the richer you’ll be.’ Logically, it would seem to make sense. The only problem is, it’s not true. You probably know many people who work many hours, sometimes more than one job, yet they still struggle with money. They may not be a million miles from you right now!
‘The scarcity mindset’
Most people are not wealthy. Not financially, not socially, not spiritually. What do I mean by that? I mean that most people live on a basis of scarcity, which is the concept that there is not enough to go around. Therefore, if I have more of something, then there is less of that resource available for everyone else. On the face of it, it makes sense. After all, we only have this planet to live on, with its physical limits. There’s no denying there is enormous inequality between the people on earth. The prevailing thought process is that the rich are taking from the poor and are absorbing all the wealth for themselves while the rest of the world starves to death – the ‘1% vs 99%’ argument that galvanised protests all over the world not long ago.
Stuck in this mindset, most people take some sort of nobility in poverty. They don’t want to be seen as ‘that rich guy/girl’ lording it over everyone else. They become really uncomfortable at the idea of becoming wealthier, even though if you give someone 3 wishes, what’s the very first thing they wish for? To be rich!
But here’s the thing. Hardly any of us are set up to be rich. We’re not taught how to accumulate wealth, how to live within our means, how to invest in the future, how to develop skills around money. Nobody taught me this stuff at school or at home. Some people will be lucky enough that they knew these things early in their lives. I was not one of them.
I’ve struggled with developing a wealth mindset most of my life. I’ve worked hard, become well educated, put in long hours, sacrificed family life and holidays, and been professionally employed for many years. In all that time, not only did I not become wealthy, although I certainly owned some of the trappings of wealth, I was actually the opposite of wealthy i.e. I was headed deeper into debt. Happily my circumstances are different now, but it took a big shift in attitude towards the concept that thinking and talking about money is not a bad thing.
The other thing I realised, is that there is no need to think in terms of what economists call the ‘zero-sum game’ – which basically means that for someone to win, another must lose. This also is not true. In a fair trade, both parties benefit. With multiple trades, many people win. Therefore, it’s possible for everyone to be better off even with finite resources. See what I mean?
‘But what if money changes me?’
Do you find it difficult to attain a wealth mindset because you feel guilty about having wealth that you didn’t previously? Goodness knows, there is almost a psychological instinct to self-sabotage when we have been close to success, because of the innate discomfort of reaching a goal not previously attained. There’s a huge mental block to any kind of change, especially if it has to come from within (I cover this in a separate blog)
However, a big obstacle, especially here in the UK, seems to be the number of people we find around us that also do not want you to be wealthy. How odd is that? These may be friends, or even family, people you’ve known for years possibly. Why on earth would they not want you to succeed? Is it because they too have bought into the scarcity mindset i.e. the concept of ‘more for you = less for me’?
I don’t see this in, for example, America. This may be a generalisation, and my American friends can feel free to disagree, but I notice how there is very much a culture there of ‘you can be anything you put your mind to’, and people go for it, knowing that others have got their back. There’s a level of team spirit in achievement. There’s also an understanding that being wealthy involves helping others to do the same. There’s something deeply satisfying about helping others.
This doesn’t seem to happen this side of the pond. Success is frowned upon, even resented in many quarters. If you are seen to succeed, people cannot wait to pull you down. If you don’t succeed, you are laughed at, ridiculed for having tried something different, for looking at ways to improve.
They say old habits die hard, as do old attitudes. Changing any of these is harder still if they are reinforced by those around you. Maybe they think they are protecting you. But the truth of it is, most of your closest contacts don’t want you to change. It’s too uncomfortable for them. Here in the UK there is a saying,
‘Don’t get above ideas above your station.’
Whatever. This is the reason the class system is alive and well in Britain today. It also completely ignores the fact that every stage of human progress is related to having ideas not just above your station, but in the stratosphere. Sure, if you leave your station you may leave some friends behind. That’s a painful reality, but what kind of friends don’t really want you to achieve more than you already have? Just remember, you can make plenty of new friends at the next station.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that all wealth is accumulated honestly or with moral intentions. There are some warlords, sex traffickers and narcotic producers in this world with a lot of money.
Neither would I try and convince you that some people are not adversely changed by an improvement in financial circumstances. By the same token, there is no reason not to believe that people may become better. There are a lot of people in this world who are immeasurably better because they are no longer poor. Nearly everyone with a moral compass believes that to be true. Why else would millions stand together and demand to make poverty history?
How to avoid the scarcity mindset
First of all, stop feeling bad about money. Stop feeling bad about talking about it. Instead, here are a few tips to get you on the right path :-
1) Surround yourself with winners. They are out there, and they will welcome you when they see your commitment to making life better for yourself and others, because for most of them they started the same way, with nothing but determination to succeed. Most millionaires didn’t start out with wealth. Winners attract winners.
2) Give from the heart. It has been shown that, pound for pound, money spent in charity makes the giver happier than almost any other kind of spending. Plus, it can significantly reduce your tax bill. Win-win!
3) Finally, be smart with your money. Learn the difference between accumulating assets and liabilities. Being able to spend well is as important as being able to earn well, but very few of us are taught the former.
As always, comment is welcome, so leave your thoughts below, and don’t hold back. Until next time, be safe, be bold, and live it like you mean it. It’s more fun that way.
BTW, for a little more insight into the wealth mindset, check out
The lines are the same length, but the illusion is that the one above is longer.
It’s an old illusion and as I’m sure you’ve seen it before, you can measure them with a ruler and prove they’re the same.
So why do you keep looking at them with the nagging feeling that they’re not?
[photo monkey thinking]
It’s all to do with your instinctive brain and your reasoning brain. Prof Steve Peters goes into this in great detail in his excellent book ‘The Chimp Paradox’, and it describes how our brain has two separate parts when it comes to making decisions. Your reasoning brain is your human side, the part that reasons things through, uses logic to make its decisions, and generally takes its time. For most major decisions, ‘human side’ does the job of taking all the evidence, weighing it up then directing a decision.
Sometimes, however, the human side feels a bit lazy. For some people, this happens a lot. When that happens, the instinctive brain, otherwise known as your ‘Chimp side’ takes over.
[photo people running from bear]
What does that mean? Simply, that Chimp acts on impulse, it doesn’t want to do the boring job of ‘working through stuff’ and simply wants to make the decision and then move on. Our inner Chimp was useful back when we were cavemen and there was a lot of danger about, so sitting around reasoning whether to run away from the bear wouldn’t have been useful. In general there are not so many dangers nowadays, but Chimp still forms a major part of the thinking process.
The problem is, Chimp’s level of education is the same as it always has been, ie, takes things at face value. One of those values is, ‘different is bad’ and the tendency to see the world as such is emphasized by family, peer groups, media and so on. There’s a saying, ‘People like people like them’ and people indeed will seek out company that looks, behaves and holds similar views to them. It’s obvious when you think about it. Who wants to spend all their time around other people who don’t agree with them? It would be exhausting.
Therefore, if you’re interviewing two candidates for a job, and they both have exactly the same CV and experience, but one of them is black and the other is white, and your entire world experience has taught you to trust one and not the other, what do you think will happen?
The worst thing is that while we know that we should not be judging by the differences we see , that is , literally, face value, that instinctive part of the brain is screaming at us, ‘but they are different – just look at them! Pick the one you like!!!’ That’s what’s happening when you look at those lines in the diagram. You know they are the same. We all know they are the same.
[photo black and white hands holding]
It takes an enormous amount of willpower to subdue that impulse and be entirely objective. As I’ve discussed in other posts, we only have a limited amount of willpower in an entire day and once it’s used up, it’s just quicker to take the easy option, the one that involves less thinking, the one that is most comfortable and consistent with our world view.
This is true for every kind of discrimination that exists, be it racial, sexual, disability, you name it. They are all just another word for different. So don’t feel bad if you’ve been discriminated against, it’s not that they’re necessarily a bad person. We’ve just got a few more thousand years of brain evolution to go.
You also shouldn’t feel bad if you see that someone is trying to treat you the same, but you think deep down they don’t instinctively want to. You can’t change that instinct – but you can help them, by acknowledging that they are trying, and respect that effort.
In the meantime, help the process along with peace, love, and understanding. That’s a language every culture understands.
[photo woman looks at clock in panic]
Just a quick one today, but how often do you feel that you’re not getting your day under control? No matter how well you try and plan your day out, and you know what things you need to do so you can look back on your day and feel satisfied, there always seem to be things that get in the way? Or how about, other people seem to get in the way of you? Sound familiar?
Isn’t it always the way you need something done by a certain time, or that you might be planning to meet someone at a certain time, but they run late and it throws off your whole schedule? Which means you run late for the next part of your schedule, or worse, you can’t do the next thing you had planned? Doesn’t it seem that other people never really value your time as much as you do?
Of course in reality, by blaming others for an outcome or lack thereof, we give up our personal responsibility and control of the situation. I cover this in another blog in more detail, but suffice to say, good results will never come when we persistently blame outside influences for bad results. Therefore the first thing we should always be thinking when things run late, is how have I contributed to this lateness and what could I do to prevent it happening? That’s not a mindset that most people have, but it’s what leaders think.
[photo man running in a hurry]
You see, I used to have a bad habit of turning up to things just a little bit late, maybe just by a minute or a few minutes, but it was never on time. And over time, I developed something of a reputation of this. Obviously this was bad. I wasn’t late because of any big emergency, I simply didn’t organise myself well enough. So of course people knew they couldn’t trust me to be on time, and this is obviously not a good thing. I wasn’t respecting other people’s schedules, so I had no reason to expect them to take my time seriously either.
So after reading around time management I found a very useful tip that changed everything. You see, if you tell somebody you would meet them at 10 o’clock, you may well fully intend to meet them at 10 o’clock, and they may have good intentions too. But for whatever reason, for the majority of people, 10 o’clock means “somewhere around 10 o’clock”, or more accurately, “sometime a bit after 10 o’clock”. Imagine if you have three meetings in a day and each one started a few minutes late, by the middle of the day you will see that time has been lost bit by bit.
This is what I started doing. I asked people to meet me at 9.55am.
You might wonder, what difference is that going to make? But you would be amazed at the effect. 9.55am is a far more precise time than 10 o’ clock in people’s minds, it just gives off the impression, “he’s precise about his timing, I’d better be precise too”. Four times out of five, people are absolutely on time or early for their appointment with me, because they now understand I value my time, even those 5 minutes before 10 am.
Of course this only works if I’m on time too! The good thing is, the same mental triggers of precision kick in for me also. While I used to be frequently late for a 10am meet, I’m seldom late for 9.55am. If you don’t believe me, just try it for a few days and see the difference it makes. You end up wasting so much less time, and your value from other people goes sky-high. I just wish I’d heard of this before.
[photo spiral clock]
The second staggeringly simple trick to taking enormous amounts of stress off my mind when trying to make my day run smoothly is simply, “add 5 minutes” and everything just flows. I have a somewhat stressed friend who starts work at 9am, and is always feeling harassed at her work place, especially in the mornings. I asked her how long it takes to drive in. She says immediately – 25 minutes. I next asked her, what time do you usually leave the house. Guess the answer? 8.35am.
It should be brutally obvious what the problem is but I spell it out to her anyway.
‘If you are arriving in your car park at 9am, which mathematically is exactly what will happen, how can you possibly be ready to start your work day at 9am? By the time you’ve found a parking space, got through the front door, waited for the lift, got to your desk, turned on your PC, opened your briefcase, plugged in your phone charger, grabbed your coffee etc etc., what time are you actually physically ready to start doing some work?’
Embarrassed answer -“About 9.10am.”
No wonder she’s stressed out for the whole day, she’s starting 10 minutes behind, she’s rushing to catch up and gets into meetings unprepared (and late), and it’s all totally unnecessary.
Most of what we do day-to-day, we’ve done before, we can do on auto pilot, and we know how long it will take. If I know it will take 75mins to get from bed to front door, I get up 80mins beforehand. When there’s traffic in the road, and there always will be, both metaphorically and literally, it doesn’t matter, I have time in hand because I took ownership of it. Like I said, everything just flows. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. It takes practice, but just see how much the stress dissipates as a result. It’s amazing.
And finally, for those of you who couldn’t possibly envision getting up 5 minutes earlier in the morning, here’s the tip that will solve everything.
[photo woman sleeps peacefully]
That’s right. Go to bed 5 minutes earlier.
Have a happy, stress-free and glorious weekend everyone
[photo wtf weigh scales]
So here’s 2015 – and I’m betting you couldn’t avoid over-indulging over the party season, right? Lots of puddings and other treats, alcohol, massive portions of everything and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for physical activity.
Paying for it now? How do you get back on track, ASAP? Don’t worry, here are the 5 top tips to get you back shipshape.
1) Get your filtered water in!
[photo pouring water]
You need at least 1 litre on an average day to flush the system through, more if you’re on a restriction diet. For your detox, make this 2 litres. 8 glasses a day. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of the benefits of water, it’s been done to death, and you can follow it up in this excellent article http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink-water. But there is an important issue that you may not have considered, and it is that if you are drinking hard water, you are are filling up on loads of residue and contaminants that are being absorbed directly into your system. It’s doing you no good and will ruin your detox if you are simply ‘re-toxing’ with other stuff. You don’t need any specialist equipment to test your tap water either – just pour a few teaspoons into a clear glass, leave it out overnight and have a look at what’s left at the bottom of the glass once the water has evaporated. If there’s a whole load of chalky residue that you need to scrape off, then that’s hard water. Unfortunately, what you see is the remnants of a few teaspoons, now imagine you drank a whole glass of that. Now 8 glasses, the recommended amount for effective detox. Best advice – get a filter jug and drink your fill from there.
2) Goji berries are the go-to anti-oxidant superfruit of the year.
[photo goji berries]
They are full of beta-carotene vitamin C which help promote healthy skin and improve iron absorption, so if you anaemic you’re in luck here too! Plus they are high in fibre and low in calories so it’s all good. Can be eaten raw or mixed in with other foods. I recommend make into a berry smoothie. Yum.
3) Cardio is king.
[photo woman doing situps]
You can’t ignore it. If you want to boost your immune system and force out those lurking poisons, you’ve got to get the blood flowing. All the gyms are doing new year discount packages so the weather should be no excuse. 30 minutes should be the minimum, but most importantly, you need to eat carbs no less than 2 hours before (otherwise you have no fuel for your muscles), and protein as soon after your session as possible to repair those muscles. Ignore this basic rule, and you cannot get anywhere the levels of calorie burning needed to get that waistline back down. Your body is a temple. Do you want others to worship it? Then start doing so yourself! By the way, if the thought of gyms horrify you (I get it, they aren’t everyone’s bag) then here’s a quick tip to get started. Go on youtube and look for the song ‘Happy’ by Pharrell, and just do what they’re doing in that video – it’s just 4 minutes, you can definitely do that!
[photo blue bacteria]
Research is growing in this field of examining not which bacteria are good or bad, but how best to balance the body’s bacteria of all types to keep things at an optimum level in the body. Most probiotic supplements include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium so these are the foods to look out for, or one yogurt drink a day has the kind of levels you are looking for. For more notes on this have a look at http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/best-probiotics.
5) Finally, 2015 will see a big comeback for caffeine.
[photo woman drinking coffee]
Ongoing research is showing the benefits of caffeine for reducing the risks of neurodegenerative (brain tissue disruption) diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine is also known to boost calorie burn during exercise, increase metabolism to improve chances of weight loss, and there are studies showing benefits for the liver, if taken as a colonic irrigation (admittedly in regard to the last claim, these studies are only in animal models and I cannot locate any human trials that I would classify as good evidence). The other problem is knowing how much is enough or too much, as it is very difficult to know precisely how much coffee is in your cup, even if you use the same source regularly. The current wisdom is 2 cups of tea or coffee per day should do the trick. That doesn’t mean I advise chugging down on lattes though, there’s generally a lot more sugar and cream in those things than I’d recommend.
So what are you waiting for? Now your all clued up, it’s your opportunity to clean your act up for 2015 and get vibrant again. After all, no-one will do it for you!
Wishing you health, energy, and a very happy 2015.
Did you know 10,000 people Google this question every month?
[photo woman looking in mirror]
Meaghan Ramsey on Ted Talks discussed this very subject recently. This set me thinking about, firstly, who was asking this question, and what kind of mind-set would you be in at the time? As someone in the very business of selling beauty, or at least a version of it, I know that this theme of beauty and ugly is prominent in the minds of my potential clients.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those asking are female. And, the vast majority of those are teenagers. Some are as young as 6 years old. A lot of our younger generation are deeply worried about their appearance. This is only exacerbated by the rise of the selfie culture, the fact that how things look are vastly more important than the real person, and the constant pressure to ‘look good’ is permeating into the mind-set of younger and younger people.
Whether you are still a teen or not, how we perceive ourselves has a huge influence on how we look upon life and, most importantly, how others perceive us. It all comes from within. But the pressures of a peer group, themselves influenced by a media culture obsessed with how things look, are driving forces in the increasing mentality of ugly/beauty. It’s being forced down your throat like junk food that you know is bad for you and barely counts as food, but if it’s the only option, that’s all you’re going to eat.
But it doesn’t have to be the only option.
[photo woman looking at phone in mirror while upset]
Emily (aged 13)
Emily has just turned 13 and like many of her friends, is into clothes, music, spending hours on the phone, all the usual teenage stuff. She’s friendly and has a good home life. Her parents are reasonably well off and she’s not lacking in any of the basic necessities. But Emily doesn’t like herself, she thinks she’s ugly. She’s also feeling really inadequate. What is this perception based upon?
For one, she just Googled London fashion week, as many of her friends have been talking about it. It’s the same this year as it has been every year, rake-like models in ridiculous clothes surrounded by armies of hair and makeup artists before tottering about on a stage, while the captions and commentary talk endlessly about how wonderful it all is. (Do you remember the sporadic campaigns to get ‘real women’ into fashion shoots? How’s that working out?)
This year though, Emily’s new phone allows her to see all the details up close. She’s also now a fully-fledged user of Twitter and Instagram now she’s reached qualifying age (a number of her friends have been using Twitter for much longer, but that’s a story for another day). So all her friends and a lot of people she doesn’t know at all are all talking about how amazing these models look.
Think about that last sentence. It doesn’t matter that most of the comments are from complete strangers and may well have been set up by PR companies. The point is, the social pressure is already there.
It’s being talked about, so it must, by definition, be important.
Emily starts looking for ways she can emulate the ‘beautiful’. She obviously can’t afford the clothes, but makeup is quite easily within reach, either at home or with her pocket money. Plus, she’s noticed how some of her classmates are now wearing a lot more makeup in school. This attracts attention. Not necessarily good attention, but there’s nothing worse, at any age, than being ignored. So Emily starts putting more make up on as well. She spends hours in front of the mirror trying different things out, all the while with one thought in the back of her mind –
‘I don’t look pretty enough’
[photo sad looking Bridget Jones type pic looks out of window]
Jessica (aged 23)
Jessica works in a bank and earns a decent living. She likes good clothes and meeting up with her friends for drinks. She likes clothes shopping and a good proportion of her monthly earning goes on clothes. Her flatmate Mila also has similar interests.
Jessica commonly scans the magazines at the supermarket checkout to keep up with celebrity ‘gossip’ because, let’s face it, there’s lots of fun in seeing who’s got into and out of relationships, who’s on holiday in the Bahamas, who’s just gained weight or lost weight (always women, strangely).
The thing about the latter, is that there is always something inherently bad about the women who are in this latter category, something to be mocked or judged. Just harmless gossip, right?
It must be acceptable; there are about 10 magazines on the shelf all about the same kind of thing. Jessica sees other people reading as well as they queue up to pay. She knows, she’s certain, that those same people are looking at her and noting that she too has put on a little weight recently.
Jessica is feeling down now. Mila tries to cheer her up over dinner and wine. Jessica feels a bit better, but then Mila’s boyfriend comes around and they disappear off to her room together. Jessica can hear them talking and laughing and now she feels more down. She hasn’t had a boyfriend for a while and when she looks on Facebook, all her friends seem to be talking what they’re doing with their boyfriends too. She sits in her room and thinks
‘Why can’t I find a man? There must be something wrong with me’
Here we have two people who have, by social programming, developed feelings of deep inadequacy yet have nothing to feel inherently inadequate about. They are taking their self-esteem cues from external influences and since they have no control over what those influences might be, this perpetuates a feeling of dependency, poor self-image and lack of control. Does this sound familiar?
[photo hands in cuffs]
The first step in breaking free of this prison of social programming is recognising it exists.
All around, 24 hours a day, messages are fed to us about how we are lacking something, and we need to get it in order to feel complete. It usually means we have to buy it, whatever it is. Have you ever felt that? This is how the worlds of advertising and marketing work, the basic tenet of inadequacy.
‘You need Product X, and you are a poorer person without it’.
And marketing is now aimed squarely at women, because it is easiest to take aim at their self-esteem.
This wasn’t always the case – advertising was rarely aimed at women in the past because they didn’t have the spending power. Times have changed and women earn and spend independently of their husbands or spouses. So now the focus is not on who has the money to spend, but who can we make feel inadequate? It’s not that men are immune to this, oh no. But look at the statistics – 70% of all spending power is now in the hands of women. No wonder advertisers have changed their focus. And no-one ever sold a product to someone by making them feel good about themselves.
Take the first step. Recognise you are being screwed with. Take the time to notice all those subtle and not-so-subtle messages that ram home the idea, over and over, that you’re not good enough. Once it’s entirely clear that you can take the power back, you will open up a whole new way of thinking.
Instead of asking ‘am I ugly?’
Start asking ‘what is it about me that’s so powerful and attractive that makes others so desperate to control me?’
There are 3 times as many search results in Google to ‘Why am I ugly’ than ‘Why am I powerful’.
Start asking better quality questions of yourself if you really want better answers.
By the way, we’re not done with Jessica or Emily yet.
To be continued…
Updated this a little, it reminds me of all the great people I know
I’ve been married to the same magnificent lady since 2005, and there are so many things I wish I’d known back then that would have made the path smoother and easier. But I’m glad that we have the chance to love each other each day, and I hope that everyone either in or starting a relationship has the opportunity to build something great, something wonderful and empowering. Your partner is the one who is the source of your strength, not a promoter of weakness. This is something you want to last for years and years, so here are a few ideas that experience has taught me, and if you focus on them, expect amazing things in your relationship
1) Plan, plan, plan!
Consider this a 20-year process. Do you honestly think you can start a 20 year process with no form of plan in mind? Yet that is exactly the mindset of most people getting into a long-term relationship (LTR). Think of every great achievement or success in your life – did they happen by accident? Even small achievements? Can you bake a cake by throwing some flour and sugar in the oven and hope for a cake at the end? Your LTR needs both of you to sit together, with a glass of wine if you want, and put together, on paper, the principles that guide your relationship. These are the big goals, the things you both want today, and will want in 2, 5 10 and 20 years time. They are timeless and don’t change from day to day. This takes some thinking about, together, at the beginning, when everything seems possible. Don’t just drift along like a rudderless boat. You’re a cruiseliner which refuses to deviate from its course, with both of you at the helm.
2) The individual plan.
There are reasons you selected your partner, why they are the one who stood out from all the others. Are those reasons based on solid character, or flimsy behaviours that can disappear like mist? Make a list of all the things that make your partner ‘the one’, and keep it somewhere safe and accessible, so when the going gets tough, and it will, you can pull it out and know that you’ve made the right decision to stick with him/her. You love them for what they stand for now, not for what they might be in the future. Do you want a partner, or a ‘project’? (Hint: Don’t choose the latter.)
3) Love is a verb, not a noun.
Doing love is not the same as being in love. How many couples, especially new couples, regale you with stories about how ‘madly in love’ they are, yet if asked what they do to create that love, they’ll often look blank, with the best available response being, ‘do? Uh… it’s just there.’ Love is about doing the things needed to create love. It is not a feeling. How you feel can change within minutes, seconds even, never mind years. Do you think you can sustain a ‘feeling’ of love for 20 years? Feelings change, but the ‘actions of love’ endure. Your partner will change, and so will you. Ever hear a woman say, ‘He’s not the same man I married’? Of course he isn’t! And they’re not the same woman either. Do you think you’re the same person you were 5 years ago? Last year? You must prepare to fall in love over and over again, to a different person wrapped in the same, subtly developing shell.
4) Be together.
You may find this astonishing, but couples who stay together, do stuff together. There’s nothing more important than nurturing your life together. Do as many little things together you can, even if it’s ‘boring stuff’, you can make anything interesting with a special person beside you. It’s more important than the big things. Reinforce sections 1) and 2) with each other often, the promises that you made at the height of your love, because you want them to stand for something, for always.
5) Know the boundaries.
You may think this is obvious, but not necessarily. Whether either of you have been in a relationship(s) before, I guarantee you do not know where the line is unless you have discussed it. Don’t wait, and don’t gamble. The currency of any relationship is trust, and once lost is the hardest thing to get back.
6) Never, ever assume.
Communication is more important than any other factor in your successful LTR. To have one, you must change your mindset from ‘I want this…’ to ‘We want this…’ and you cannot know what you both want unless you have sought to understand your partner. Listen, listen, and listen some more. You cannot choose your own opinion as more valid than your partner’s, and you must not assume that you have understood. Don’t believe me? Plan a conversation lasting less than 5 minutes, where both parties have 5 key points they each want to get across to the other, that the other party doesn’t know about. Then 30 minutes after the conversation, write down what you think the 5 points were that your partner really wanted you to know. Then compare. And prepare to be really disappointed. The key here, is always say what you mean, and always mean what you say.
7) Problems, problems.
It is said that life is a series of problems punctuated by crises. Don’t hope to avoid problems. Expect them. Now you don’t have to face them alone. Be supportive of your partner, because their problems are your problems, but together your joint solutions will be better. You’re a team. You’re in charge of the ship together. Little problems will not blow you off course, and crises are the storms which you’ll weather together.
8) Never, ever, badmouth your relationship outside of the relationship,
no matter in what shape or form. You might think it’s a small ‘joke between friends’ when you put your partner down, even in the smallest way, but it’s a cancer that will grow and grow. Don’t let this happen. Remind everyone instead of the things you enjoy each other, the little things that make your relationship special. Not as a form of one-upmanship, but as one of the acts of love described above. Warm words warm your heart when it needs it the most. Even if they’re not with you, act as though they are. It’s the ultimate respect for your relationship.
Relationships are tough, they are a marathon, not a sprint. Work on your fitness every day if you want to win the race.
Have a great day, everyone, and love the relationships in your life.