Do you want to be you? (A positive spin on the GP career)

shutterstock_relax doc compress

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J—aiyznGQ

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.

http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/your-practice/practice-topics/employment/dont-denigrate-profession-in-front-of-trainees-rcgp-chair-tells-gps/20034748.article

 

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

  • Ability to influence outcomes
  • Ability to make decisions
  • Atmosphere of good teamwork
  • Support of ‘bosses’
  • Feeling of contribution
  • Feeling valued

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.

  • Setting a very clear vision and intention for the future. Instead of grinding out each day and hoping to make it to Friday, we need to establish clearly what we want to achieve as successful GPs. What should be the objectives to aim towards? Everyone within the team must have a stake in this, otherwise it just becomes someone else’s dream. There is nothing less fulfilling than making someone else’s dreams come true while ignoring your own.
  • Valuing our skills. We have a very powerful set of skills as GPs and we can only refine them by concentrating on them. Spreading ourselves too thinly will mean losing the very essence that makes us invaluable. Being able to articulate clearly, ‘This is what I do. This is what I’m good This is why I do it.’ Only when we stand up and recognise our core values will other people outside (and within) the team start doing the same.
  • Valuing our time. We have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else. How to make sure those hours are used effectively? By focusing on the activities that provide the most value. This means cutting out the unimportant ‘tasks’ and the agendas foisted upon us by others. Learning to say ‘no’ effectively is one of the top 3 skills of the most productive people. As individuals and as a team, our priorities have to take precedence otherwise nothing will get done, or will only get done badly.
  • Self-betterment. If we want any chance of a long and bright career which we can look back on with pride, we need to upgrade our skills constantly. This doesn’t mean go to every CPD meeting that appears in the inbox. Instead we must keep time aside to grow spiritually and develop our interpersonal relationships in the workplace (team building) but most importantly at home. Quality of home life directly and inextricably affects quality of work. Ignore the first and both will suffer. Instead of reading about the latest wonder inhaler for COPD, read about how to strengthen your relationships and put that into practice. This job cannot be done alone.
  • Relish the complaints. People will complain about you no matter what you do or don’t do. Accept this will happen and relish it. Don’t hope that is won’t. The amount of time wasted in dealing with complaints pales in comparison to the amount of time and energy wasted worrying about them, especially the ones that haven’t happened yet. Be thorough, but accept that you can’t cover every angle every time.
  • Find ways of making the job a little bit more fun. Get your team to cheer you up when you’ve had a tough clinic. Put entertaining videos on in the staff room (see cat video above). The only way to thrive in an environment is if you enjoy it. It’s also the only way that upcoming doctors will want to be you.

 

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.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Superdoc-Core-Competencies-Successful-GPs-ebook/dp/B0773J7WPZ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510654267&sr=8-1&keywords=superdoc+book&dpID=41njZmWMH2L&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

 

Wishing you love, health and success on your journey,

Dr Mithu Rahman

High Performance Academy February 2016 – The Field Report

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-waterfront

(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.

 

wrr-san-diego

 

(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

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

  • I need to cut out the distractions
  • I need to focus on putting healthy food and water into my body daily
  • I should embrace every failure as a ‘teaching session’
  • I have faith in my ability to get things done

 

The app resources that I am now using

Sanebox

PhraseExpress

Evernote

Any.do

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.

group-photo-sandiego

Is it bad to want to be rich?

rich-man

(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!

 

stressed-about-money

 

 

‘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

http://uk.businessinsider.com/rich-people-teach-their-kids-to-be-rich-2015-9