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Can dietary changes boost your health?

In late January 2016, I found myself in a health dilemma. I had been on an antibiotic for nine weeks, with no results. The specialist wanted me to continue for another six weeks on the off-chance the antibiotic would work.

But being on the antibiotic had messed up my digestive system, and I was uncomfortable and in constant stomach pain despite severely curtailing what I ate and taking constant doses of probiotics.

I had to stop the antibiotics and find another solution. And I had to find a way to heal my gut.

Fortunately, I came across this book, The Automimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers (http://www.amymyersmd.com/autoimmunesolutionbook/), read it from cover to cover, and gained much deeper insight into how my body was (or was not!) digesting food, and what I could do to heal myself. It also helped explain a long history of digestive issues I had faced. The penny dropped for me!

I made major dietary changes, starting early February 2016. I also made changes to other environmental factors – soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste – plus water related changes (our skin is the biggest organ, so imagine what we absorb each day through our skin). And I changed pots and pans away from non-stick and food storage from plastic to glass.

In just six weeks, I’ve seen HUGE digestive improvements. MANY other symptoms improved an average of 50% – including the one that the nine week antibiotic course failed to cure, which improved by some 80%.

I feel amazingly healthy, with even more energy than my normally high energy levels. Plus I lost 10 pounds almost effortlessly.

Some people see great relief in 30 days, some in 60 days, and others in 90 days. What I plan to do is to get tested for three potential underlying causes that had messed up my digestion, and then working with a physician who is well versed in this kind of medicine, called functional medicine, I plan to make food and supplement adjustments, including re-introducing some foods I have stopped eating, slowly.

So you be the judge. Are we what we eat? Certainly, in my case, making primarily dietary changes recommended in the program has helped me hugely, and made me more conscious of the need to pay even greater attention to what I eat from here on.

I share this experience so that if you are getting sick and tired of living with symptoms you would rather not have, then re-examining what you eat maybe something you might wish to consider.

There are many ways to identify and resolve autoimmune conditions and you will have to do a bit of research for what is the best approach for you. I’ve listed the philosophy behind Dr. Myers’ book below.

Bon Appétit!

 

About The Autoimmune Solution

Until now, conventional medicine has said there is no cure for autoimmune related diseases. Minor irritations like rashes and a runny nose are ignored, while chronic conditions and debilitating diseases like Crohn’s and Rheumatoid arthritis are handled with a cocktail of toxic treatments that may temporarily relieve specific symptoms yet fail to address their root cause. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In The Autoimmune Solution, Dr. Amy Myers lays out a revolutionary approach that restores the body to its natural healthy state in 30 days by eliminating toxic foods, introducing restorative ingredients, and identifying environmental toxins.

Myth 6: I can’t function without my To-Do list

Yes, you can! Scary as it seems, the world won’t fall apart. I should know.

Since I was 6 years old, I’ve been a prodigious list maker. I was an early adopter of every to-do software, and as my lists got longer, with more projects involving others too, I started creating sophisticated Excel spreadsheets.

One day, my business partner posed two questions. How long did I spend managing my lists, and did I ever get to the end of my lists? It turns out that I spent 3 to 4 hours each week at least, and no, I NEVER saw the end of lists – there were always more things to add.

So almost 10 years ago, I quit making lists, cold-turkey. At first, it felt like I was on a trapeze with no safety net! But gradually, I learned to achieve even more, and be less stressed doing so.

Here’s how you too can double your productivity without lists

1. At the start of each week, review what you want to accomplish that month, and plan out your week so that you spend as much time as possible on those items that keep you on purpose and are tied to your life and work goals.

2. Set-up a color-coded weekly schedule so you can ensure a balanced week. Google Calendar, MS Outlook or other such calendars are amazing tools.

3. Each week, identify the time you have available AFTER personal goals, and divide up your week with activities aimed at the outcomes you have outlined in the monthly plan you developed.

4. Focus on the most difficult or unpleasant outcome first. Things rarely take as long as one thinks, or turn out as badly as one imagines. But the energy from accomplishing something difficult early in the day will charge you up for the rest of the day.

5. Focus on achieving only two or three key outcomes per day. Schedule these chunks of time into your calendar so you are spending time on the really important things in your life – on a work day or otherwise. Think about it for a moment. 2 outcomes a day, x 5 days a week, x 40 weeks per 400 work outcomes a year. Not busy work – OUTCOMES! Big and small!

This way of organizing your week might sound radical. With your daily pressures, this approach may seem difficult at first. But if you persevere, you will eventually find that you lead a calm, on-purpose, BALANCED life; that you achieve much, much more; that you enjoy each week; and that your energy actually increases exponentially.

Finally, do I really function with no lists of any kind? Not quite. I have two situations when I do keep lists.

The first is just before traveling, when there are many things to get through in a short timeframe.

The second is I use Google’s tool (http://keep.google.com) to keep notes of books people suggest I read; longer term items or projects that I don’t want to forget to attend to; and commitments I have made for my volunteer role that involve others. BUT I spend no more than 5 to 10 minutes a week on reviewing/editing these very short lists. Beats 3 to 4 hours a week, doesn’t it?

And while it’s taken a decade, I have managed to double what I can achieve in a typical month by simply planning and focusing on outcomes instead of To Do lists. Better yet, I achieve these outcomes in half the time.

So if you want your personal productivity to soar, consider shifting your perspective to: I CAN manage just fine without my To-Do list.

2016

Myth 5: I don’t have time for breaks, let alone vacations!

The reality is that you do.

Our best ideas rarely come to us at our desks or in meetings. Instead, they come to us when on a walk, in the shower, before, during or after meditation – and on vacations. Simply put, all the times when disconnected from work!
(more…)

 

new-edited

Myth 4: It’s really hard to say NO

Most people have a hard time saying NO to the many requests for help that come their way. They don’t want to appear rude. Dr. Vanessa Bohns, assistant professor of management sciences at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, says. “One of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong. Saying NO feels threatening to our relationships.”

I can relate. I used to have a very difficult time saying NO to requests to take on more work, bigger challenges, larger issues. Many years later, after deep reflection and a lot of self-work, I realized that it came from a feeling of invincibility (big challenges excite me, even today!); from a desire not to feel bored; and a sense that I was “not good enough” – and solving one more “impossible” situation would make me good enough, so how could I say NO? In fact, I compounded the problem by actively seeking out the toughest challenges!

Gradually, I learned that to preserve my health, relationships, sanity and balance, and to be true to my life purpose, I had to change my perspective dramatically.

Thus began the process of defining what I would say YES to. Today, I choose to first say YES to me: time for my health, my relationships, my spirituality, my own growth.

I say YES to these every week by planning time for these in my calendar. Then I think about my life purpose, my 20 year and 3 year goals, and ensure that the rest of my calendar has time blocked off for what I deem to be important. Because I know that this purpose or these goals won’t be achieved without conscious effort.

This review is automatic – and it is also the filter I use when new requests come in, as they invariably do. This filter means it now takes me nano-seconds to say YES or NO to new requests.

Keep in mind that most of us are socialized to say YES – to please others. So learning to say NO requires practice and discipline. But when you can say NO effectively, it leaves your time free to say YES to the things that really matter to you and where you can deliver the most value to the world. And in my case, to those activities that help me fulfill my life purpose. It is better to take on fewer requests and complete them well, than to take on too many with mediocre effort and results. In other words, be all in – or be out.

Most people probably won’t take our NO as badly as we think they will. That’s because of something called a “harshness bias”—our tendency to believe others will judge us more severely than they actually do. “Chances are the consequences of saying NO are much worse in our heads than they would ever be in reality,” Dr. Bohns says.

So consider shifting your perspective to: the more I say NO, the more I can say YES to that which is truly important

balance-3

Myth 3: I need to plan my work first, then the rest of my life

Once upon a time, planning life before work would have been heresy to me, as it might be to many of you who are work and career focused.
But I would STRONGLY advocate taking a fresh calendar, and planning and blocking out the really important things that matter first: time for self-care including health, wellness and fitness; close relationships; spirituality, however you define that; and contribution beyond work.
THEN plan out your work goals in the remaining time.
You may think you don’t have enough time to meet all your work commitments, but this approach will force you to be more strategic about work, get rid of non-productive work, and become much more focused – not just busy!
I realized that I had fallen into the trap of confusing activity with outcome. Activity meant I looked busy and had a full calendar and long lists of things to do; outcome meant I had positive, tangible results to show for my efforts.
So I made a radical change to list and track my outcomes: every day, week and month. Then I asked myself whether I could have achieved the same outcomes with less effort. Slowly, over a decade, I kept increasing my productivity.
Today, I believe that even though I’ve always been a reasonably high achiever all my life, I have 400% greater productivity and far deeper outcomes than I had 10 years ago.
A key secret has been that improved and increased self-care has led to better health, energy, relationships, spirituality, and deeper happiness. We all know that happy, healthy people have tons of positive attitudes and energy and can accomplish oodles more than unhappy, unhealthy people!
When coupled with working more strategically (outcome focused), these two factors have led to  huge gains in productivity, with much better life balance.
So consider shifting your perspective to: I need to take care of myself and then work will take care of itself.

 

half_powerA half hour a day looking ahead can pay off huge dividends

We often get caught up in “putting out fires” at work. In fact, when consulting to and observing senior and middle level executives and managers, I often remark that we all missed our calling: we make superb fire-fighters!

But how often do we step back and examine why we have so many fires, deadlines that creep up, emergencies, and mistakes we are fixing? Not often!

So here is a suggestion that has worked well for me. It is something I now do instintively, but as it is  likely not instinctive for many people, I suggest try making it a conscious habit.

Consider spending the first 30 minutes of your day foused on the future. Future deadlines, future projects, future events, future meetings. And on reflecting on the root cause of some of your fires and how you can prevent these mistakes and issues being repeated.

Yes, ignore the immediate fires and priorities for 30 minutes at the start of your day!

For each of these future items (because the “future” soon becomes the “present”, faster than we think), think of one thing you can set in motion right now. It could be a phone call, starting a presentation, a note to someone, some Google research, a plan of action, etc. Whatever you can fit into the 30 minute slot. The only criteria is that it can’t be one of your immediate “fires” or priorities – it has to be future based.

That’s it! Soon, when these future items roll around, you will be far better prepped, less overwhelmed, and much calmer about your work. The number of emergencies and fires will decline significantly.

Try it and let me know how it works out for you after doing it for a month. I am convinced your productivity will soar, your stress will plummet, and you will be more in control.

juggling image

Myth 2: I can do everything myself, because I am smart, gifted, and talented

The reality is that you can’t. At least not well! We can only juggle so many balls before one one them comes crashing down.
Ensure that it isn’t the glass balls that once shattered, rarely bounce back well: health; relationships; and friendships are all glass balls in my opinion.
Many years ago, I was so busy with work and volunteer commitments that I paid little attention to relationships, including my relationship with my one and only younger sister. She also moved away with her family, so that made it easier for me to spend even less time nurturing our relationship.
Gradually, there was less and less to talk about, and decreasing involvement in each other’s lives. A previously-close brother and sister became strangers. I had let go of a “glass ball” and it had shattered!
It took me many years (especially as she moved over 4 hours away in the U.S.) to redevelop that relationship. And in doing so, I re-discovered that she was one of the sweetest, nicest people I had ever known. Regrettably, I had missed out on spending time with her and my two nieces who are also absolutely delightful! I am saddened that I can never regain that lost time.
Today, even though she spends her time in Brazil and the U.S., we are the closest we’ve ever been—and I am blessed and my life is immeasurably enriched.Know your priorities. Which areas are more important than others? What fuels what? What gives you energy to accomplish other goals better?
So consider shifting your perspective to: I can only do so many things really well, taking pleasure in each.
So over the next little while, think about all the areas of your life as balls that you are juggling. Which can you afford to let go a bit (like work, which I believe is a rubber ball that will bounce back) and which is a glass ball (like health, relationships, friendships) that once shattered, is very difficult to put back?
Take the time to adopt a new perspective: I can only do so many things really well, taking pleasure in each.
Start taking pleasure in everything you do. But also ask yourself WHY you are doing what you do. How does it tie into your short term and longer term goals?
How will it help you fulfill the powerful obituary you have written or are going to write?

 

clarity

I’ve been posting to my blog since September 2013, but this year, mid-way through the summer, I felt I was running out of creative steam. So I decided to take a temporary break, and recoup my creative energy.

It’s incredible what happens when we decide to step away from something. Even if it’s what we love to do. New ideas come up, there is time for them to gel, and time to try new things. For me, out of this break came a new 10 part series, entitled Time: foe or friend?

In each post, I will debunk one myth about time. And some of them may be things you hold (and that I once too held) sacred. So I’d love your feedback after each post.

Introduction

Most people, like you and me, seem or are pressed for time. This time pressure is a leading cause of stress. Do you feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, all the time or occasionally?

The reality is that we all have a 24/7/365 schedule for X number of years, before life ends.

So instead of fighting this reality, what if we could embrace it, and make time our best friend? What could change with this new perspective?

You get to decide that for yourself as you implement the powerful takeaways in this multi-part series where I will examine a total of 10 myths.

I hope the time between each short article will allow you an opportunity to implement the takeaways, so that gradually, your stress goes down while your productivity goes up.

What I suggest will likely seem counter-intuitive. But the suggestions are born out of my own struggle to stop being a workaholic who almost lost it all (health, wealth, key relationships and spirituality), until I reframed my relationship with time. Since doing so, I’ve halved the time I spend working, while doubling what I achieve (so a 400% productivity gain), accomplishing more every year. All while reducing my stress levels dramatically.

Many others who’ve adopted this thinking have also seen huge stress reduction, increased productivity and deeper happiness and peace.

Join me on this journey to make time your best friend, not your foe.

Myth 1: I don’t have enough time

We all have the same time each day, week, month and year. Time is a diminishing resource as well.

How we view time and what we use it for, is key.

Ask yourself: Do I have a clear sense of purpose for my life, and clear short and medium term goals for myself? Not JUST for work, but for LIFE too? This framework is essential to how you use your time, and how stressed or otherwise you feel.

So start by shifting your perspective to: I have all the time in the world to do all the things that are REALLY important to me.

Then the work you need to do is to develop a clear (or clearer) life purpose, three to four 20 year huge goals that concretize your overall life purpose, and 5 to 8 three year goals to cover every key area of your life. We all need to plan our lives to achieve what we really want in life.

Writing your obituary is a great way to get started, as it will help you clarify what you want to be remembered for, and what meaning you want your life to have had. You can then work backwards to develop 20 year and 3 year goals.

Over the next little while, take the time to adopt a new perspective: I have all the time in the world to do all the things that are REALLY important to me.

Write your obituary and then 20 year and 3 year goals that are as specific as possible that lead you to the dreams you’d like to see listed in your obituary.

Start taking pleasure in everything you do. But also ask yourself WHY you are doing what you do. How does it tie into your 3 year goals or overall life plan? How will it help you fulfill the powerful obituary you have written? What do you need to STOP doing?

Next, I will debunk the myth that we can do everything.

fear2

In a recent post, I outlined how fear seeps into us over time, from when we are born to different stages of our lives.

I also examined how people have fear of failure and success, and that this can often paralyze us from moving ahead in our lives.

So how do we come to grips with our fears, and learn to embrace our fears, because only in doing so can we get to our most challenging goals?

Below I have listed some common fears. You may have one or more of these, or you may have some other fears.

Take a blank piece of paper. List YOUR top ten fears (in order). Be candid with yourself. That’s it for now!

1. Animals (including insects, mice, snakes & spiders)
2. Change
3. Commitment
4. Confrontation
5. Darkness
6. Death
7. Dependence
8. Enclosed Spaces
9. Failure
10. Heights Rejection
11. Ill-health
12. Loneliness
13. Losing control
14. Losing independence
15. Losing love
16. Natural disasters
17. Not measuring up
18. Old age
19. Other people’s opinions
20. Poverty
21. Responsibility
22. Success
23. War

Keep this list handy: as you learn how to embrace your deepest fears, you will become unstoppable.

How do I know? Because I see it happen every day as I hear from people who work through their fears! After 12 years of seeing this, I am supremely confident that this new thinking will work for you too.

You might be thinking: can one really get over deep seated fear? Well, two years after I completed the (terrifying) CN Tower Edgewalk (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3atY1aTBH8), I was hiking in BC, near Radium Hot Springs with my spouse. We decided to hike to an area where there were hoodoos (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoodoo_(geology). To get a better image, I went right to edge of one – see photo below – much to the deep consternation of my wife, who implored me to get off this sandy outcrop and get back to “safety”!

Me? I was having a great time taking pictures, peering a long way down, and never once thought of my fear of heights, something I had lived with all my life.

So YES, it is possible to get through one’s fears! The rewards that often lay on the other side of fear are immeasurable.

Fear_web

To make progress in all aspects of our lives, if there is one HUGE impediment that we all need to address, it is FEAR (aka False Expectations Appearing Real). Let’s take a look at how life progresses for most people.

When we are born, we have no fear. Observe young children. They will want to climb over any obstacle in their path, touch everything, and, in short, do anything, because they have no fear. However our parents, in trying to protect us, gradually instill fear in us. From an early age, we are told “don’t touch the fire!,” “don’t go right to the edge!,” “be careful,” etc.

As a parent, I understand why we act the way we do: we are simply trying to protect our children from the many dangers we see or experience. But children and young adults who are exclusively taught not to take risks, even calculated risks, grow up to be risk-averse adults susceptible to fear-related internal messages that resonate loudly within, as they face life’s challenges.

Through our school and college and university years and beyond, we face many fears: of not being liked, not making friends, failing exams, choosing the “wrong” college, career, job, spouse, etc. Such fears can often become front and center in people’s minds. And the media engenders even more fear: of war, of natural disasters, for personal safety, etc. It’s no wonder then that many of us are paralyzed by fear, as I learned I was, because we have more than two decades of fear-related thinking drummed into us by the time we are in our twenties!

What happens in our late twenties, thirties, and forties? We realize we have to take risks to make progress in life, so we try and make them “calculated risks,” i.e., taken after careful thought. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail in our endeavours. But every time we fail, we become more risk averse, and we slow down our growth, at just the age when we have begun to gain the wisdom to more fully realize our potential.

And then there is the imposter syndrome – something I lived with for a long time when at a very young age, I had a massive amount of responsibility thrust on me. Every day that I went to work for many years, I thought: today is when they find out I really don’t know much of what I am talking about – and fire me! “They” did not fire me – instead, I got promotion after promotion because I was resolving complex problems, overcoming “insurmountable” obstacles, and completing huge unique architectural projects on time, on budget and with high quality (without being an architect or engineer). I shudder when I think about the fear that was just below the surface all those years . . .

Simultaneously, many people have not only a fear of failure, but often a fear of success as well. This causes us to “play small.” You may be wondering why anyone would be afraid of success. Think of the inner voices that whisper: “What will ‘they’ say (to our success)?”; “Be modest and don’t show off ”; “I don’t deserve this success because I am not worth it”; “I am an imposter and someone will find out that I am really not that clever/smart/skillful, etc.”; “Will my friends continue to be my friends if I am much more successful than they are?”; “Will I want them as my friends?”; “Will this mean that I am “better” than my parents or siblings, who may not have enjoyed such success?”

Some people also back off from success because they feel that once they succeed, there is nowhere to go but downhill from there, or because they feel they will need to continue to expend huge efforts to maintain their success. Such self-limiting thoughts are common, and they compound the fears described earlier.

But wait – what about when we are in our fifties, sixties, and seventies? Other fears click in: of getting old, disease/illness, being a burden on our families, having insufficient funds to enjoy retirement, and death, to name a few fears.

The end result is a fear of failure and a fear of success. This paralyzes us from being able to move forward in our lives.

So what’s the solution, you say? Stay tuned for the next few posts as I reveal all . . .

Blind spot 1000

What do I mean by a blind spot? Quite simply, something that’s right there, in front of or around us, that we can’t see. But others can, usually quite easily.

Some examples from the business world. Ford and the Pinto; Enron and falsifying financial results; subprime mortgage lenders who were selling the equivalent of Florida swamp land. All were mired in ethical disasters because of  blind spots.

Three individual examples. An executive who takes on a crushing workload even when he does not have to, to the detriment of family and health – because he does not feel he can let the “team” down. Another executive who stays over a decade longer than he should have in a partnership, because of his discomfort with confrontation. And a third executive who would not delegate and was personally very disorganized, yet would not get an assistant for years.

My own blind spot. For years, I not only took on difficult work assignments, problems that others said could “never” be solved but I added to this pressure by taking on increasingly senior volunteer roles. And when new seemingly intractable issues came up, guess whose hand went up first? Yes, mine.

This led to major physical health toll (20 years of terrible back pain, lots of weight gain, three hospitalizations for stomach issues that were stress related, and major impact on my family and spirituality).

It turns out I had multiple blind spots. Fear of failure; not being good enough (hence “impossible” challenges solved quicker than anyone else was my way of coping); and the complete inability to see that a more balanced life would actually make me happier and  allow me to contribute more meaningfully to the world.

If I had asked for external help, it would have been easy for someone or a team to suggest that:

  1. I could see failure as feedback, and failing quick and fast actually can be very helpful;
  2. I was more than good enough, and was paying a heavy toll because of my self-imposed crushing workload;
  3. That running life as a series of sprints, not a marathon, was the better way to deal with life’s many opportunities

Recognizing these three blind spots took me over a decade. It has led to greatly improved health, relationships and spiritual practice, allowing me to make better decisions, get better results and be a better leader, with more impact!

What are your blind spots costing you, and who is helping you see your blind spots?

I suggest forming a small peer group of people you trust, and having frank discussions on the group’s challenges on a set schedule, monthly or quarterly. I’ve been doing so quarterly with a group  over the last few years, and more recently through one on one coaching – and the results have been astonishingly helpful.

And for EVERY challenge you face, start thinking about your blind spot. You won’t see it yourself (or it would not be a blind spot!), but if you are brave enough to reach out, someone else can easily help you see your blind spots. All it takes is a bit of courage to step up – for a huge payoff in your life quality and achievement.

Step up, today. Seek feedback to help you eliminate your blind spots!

In my last post, I offered to share the story of how one person went from intention to results – and how you can too, in a few empowering steps. Here is the story.

In April 2014, my spouse, Narmin, decided to start a scholarship foundation to help bright young women in the developing world break the cycle of poverty and become tomorrow’s leaders, by providing them access to their dream of a university education.

I pointed out to her that she had no funds, no students, no governance structure, no charitable status, no university affiliations, and no on-ground partners in the developing world – especially in areas of conflict or high need. I was a killjoy (or realistic, depends on your view!)

She shrugged, said she understood that but her goals were modest: “By September 2015, I am hopeful the foundation will be supporting six to ten bright young women at the undergraduate level, and we will have a governance structure, charitable status, and one or two university and on-ground partner affiliations,” she said.

On June 6, 2015, at an awareness evening in Toronto in front of over 300 guests, she declared: “The Spark of Hope Foundation now supports 33 young women, at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, professional and Doctorate levels. By December 2015, that number will most likely increase to 50 young women. These students attend seven universities globally; we have five on-ground partners; there is a solid governance structure which we are expanding; and $1.5 million has been raised through donors and matched funds, leaving us a target of $500,000 by the end of 2015.”

When the applause died down, she went on to add: “From September 2016, we can develop 1,400 young women leaders over 10 years. The cost in today’s dollars of supporting these women leaders is C$136 million. Of this amount, we already have commitments of C$87 million or 64%! This leaves us needing C$50 million to help these young women achieve their dreams and make a transformational impact in the world.”

But you must be wondering: how did she do it?

50X

Narmin’s story in her words:

“I am blessed to have had the support of so many people. But there are also several factors that I believe were crucial.

  1. I had absolute clarity regarding the outcome I wanted to achieve when I started. However, I have had to revise this outcome upwards because of the needs we ran into and the opportunities that came our way.
  2. I had a clear and compelling WHY I was doing this work. It is now my life’s purpose. I told myself I could not allow myself to fail, no matter the obstacles or challenges.
  3. I am always thinking about my goals and revise them every month, if not more often. The goals support the vision I set.
  4. I confronted many fears and demons along the way – and continue to do so. However, I try and put them to bed, one by one.
  5. I share my goal with people who hold me accountable, especially my spouse. Many days, I want to strangle him for his incessant urging to aim higher – but thankfully, I resisted!
  6. I sought help with my goal, knowing that many hands make light work. A new Advisory Board I formed has been hugely helpful. As someone recently reminded me: If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together.
  7. I got started on my goal, knowing that even a small start gets me closer to my final goal.
  8. I took all my big goals and chunked them into smaller, manageable parts, and then focused on these sub-goals. Every day, of every week.
  9. I review progress regularly and consistently.
  10. When I hit the inevitable setback or snag or obstacle, I used to take it personally. Now, I quickly brainstorm a new way forward – without losing sight of the end goal – and get on with dealing with the challenge.
Finally, I keep the faith, no matter what, never ever losing hope. How could I not do so when every young woman the Foundation supports will go on to make transformational change for herself, her family and her community? It is this exponential impact in the world that challenges me and the wonderful teams I lead to continually aim higher.

If you’d like to learn more about the Foundation and to read the amazing stories of these young women, please click here. And thank you for allowing me to share my evolving story!

What an inspirational story. What would happen to your life if you applied Narmin’s thinking to make your dreams come true?

10

All of us have goals we intend to achieve. These could be career goals, business goals, health goals, relationship goals, or even de-clutter goals.

Some people seem to achieve these with relative ease, others struggle mightily. Some people can sustain these changes, others fall off the wagon relatively quickly.

I have always been fascinated by what differentiates success from lack of success.

My learnings

From the thousands of people who’ve interacted with me or my work since I wrote Keep Any Promise: a blueprint for designing your future in 2008, this is what I’ve learned about those who succeed and sustain change.

  1. They have absolute clarity regarding the outcome they wish to achieve.
  1. They write down their goals in detail, or create vision boards.
  2. They have a clear and compelling WHY to ensure successful change. Absent any imperative to change, humans are content with the status quo.
  3. They confront any fears or demons (e.g. I am not good enough) they might have regarding achieving their goals.
  1. They share their goal with one or more people who will hold them accountable.
  2. They seek help for their goal, knowing that many hands make light work. Sometimes, it can be just getting expert advice.
  3. They get started on their goal, knowing that even a small start gets them closer to their final goal.
  4. They chunk up big goals into smaller, manageable parts, and then focus on these sub-goals.
  5. They review progress regularly and consistently.
  6. When they hit the inevitable setback or snag or obstacle, they re-assess the way forward – without losing sight of the end goal. Their WHY propels them forward. They keep the faith, no matter what, never ever losing hope.

So take a look at a goal that is really important to you, which you may have been struggling with. Look at these 10 factors. How are you handling your goal? Tweak your approach, follow these 10 keys – and 9 out of 10 times, you will be assured of success!

In a future blog, I’ll share an example of someone who did just that, with extraordinary results (sorry for the nail-biting suspenseful end!).

I’d also love to hear what you’ve found important to achieving and sustaining change – and I will share the best responses as well!

choices

Life brings us many joys, and some inevitable disappointments.

When things are going well, we are keen to take responsibility for successful outcomes.

But when things are not going well, what do we do? Do we also take responsibility – or blame other factors?

Think about every key area of your life. Your career/work/business; your finances; your health and wellness; your relationships; your contribution to the world; where you live; your spirituality; your peace and happiness. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate on each of these factors? (BTW – if you’d like an accurate rating, please create your Life Wheel).

There are likely areas of your life where you did not score 10/10. Look at these areas carefully. How much responsibility should you take for your score not being 10/10? The correct answer is: 100%. In. Every. Case.

This is when many people start protesting. I have heard them blame everything including their boss; their colleagues; the competition; the economy; interest rates; their spouse/partner; other family members; their childhood; their circumstances; the weather. Anyone and anything but themselves.

This, dear reader, is called playing victim.

We all do it, from time to time, as it absolves us of responsibility. It means we don’t have to confront; be uncomfortable; get out of our comfort zones. It means we can choose to follow the path that is less difficult.

But playing victim results in a sub-optimal life, as I found out some 12 years ago, when I had a near-failing business, huge health issues, poor family relationships, and little or no spiritual connection. After many earlier successes, my outcomes were disastrous, to the point I just wanted to end my life.

The problem? I had become a champion at playing victim.

But I realized I had strengths; wisdom; and choice. Above all, I could choose new perspectives, grounded in abundance rather than scarcity. I could take action, and I could also ask for help when I needed help.

So I ‘woke up’ and took complete responsibility for all aspects of my life, defined the new results I wanted and step by step, started focusing on overcoming every hurdle along the way towards these results, often with help from others. I experienced dramatic turnaround in every area of my life. The “impossible” became possible. Frankly, I stopped playing “poor me,” the victim, and I re-took charge of my life.

So from someone who has played victim (and once in a while can lapse into doing that, because it’s such a comfortable place!), I ask you: do you have the outcomes you desire in every aspect of your life? Is your Life Wheel one that satisfies you?

If not, as is the case for many people, then ask yourself where you are playing victim, decide to take responsibility, and commit to doing what’s needed to get you the results you desire, so you can live the life of your dreams. It IS in your control.

inward

I’ve often seen people struggle with finding work, progressing in their careers or launching their business. Let’s assign these folks to Group 1.

And at the same time, I’ve seen people succeed at all three. Let’s assign them to Group 2.

What’s the differentiating factor?

Group 1 is focused outwardly. They have clear goals, they are taking action, they are working hard. But results are less than ideal.

Group 2 starts with an inward focus first, and then looks outside.

  • They know their key strengths and Unique Abilities, what purpose they want to serve in the world, and they live in gratitude.
  • They have given up stories and baggage from the past, seeking instead to focus on creating the best future they can for themselves and others.
  • They work continually on eliminating self-limiting beliefs such as “I am not good enough”, “I don’t deserve this”, etc.
  • They name and confront their fears, big and small.

Then, and only then, do they set clear goals, and take action. And the results they achieve are usually spectacular!

Are you in Group 1 or Group 2?

Being in Group 2 is not easy for most people. It requires introspection, personal work and often, retraining their minds. Shedding past baggage can take a lot of work and can be emotional. Planning for the future in the face of uncertainty and trade-offs can be a challenge. And deep personal work can be daunting.

But once you’ve done this work, through readings, workshops, coaching, seminars, therapy or a program I created, BlueprintPal Pro, your life will soar. I have experienced this personally in my own life journey, and I also see it in the lives of many, many people I encounter and who’ve participated in a BlueprintPal program . If you are happy on the inside, the outside will be happier.

Sadly, I also encounter Group 1 types who focus outwardly without first sorting out what is on the inside that may be holding them back. Some of them are willing to start playing in the Group 2 sandbox. I am thrilled when that happens!

However, others stubbornly insist on playing in the Group 1 sandbox. I am saddened momentarily, but simply bless them silently and wish them well, because I know deeply that because of their choice to stay in Group 1, their journey on earth will likely be a lot less optimal than it could.

In which group do you fit in?

difficulty

Many people try to resolve challenges they might be facing on their own. But is that really the best way, especially if the challenges are significant?

For years I did the same. I would hunker down, dig deep within myself, and attempt to solve any challenge personally. Sometimes it worked, but at great cost or it took very long. At other times, my approach failed. But still, I would not ask for or accept help. It came from pride, stubbornness, stupidity or fear. I am not sure which!

All that came to a grinding halt when I developed excruciating back pain in 2002, after a 20 year history of increasing pain, and could not walk to the end of my driveway!

I had no choice: I sought out help anyplace and anywhere I could get it, and through the painful rehab and subsequent training to be able to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I learned that the smartest thing I could do was seek help – from family, friends and experts. There is an African saying: “it takes a village to raise a child.” I believe it took a large chunk of Toronto to help me get to the top of this mountain!

[In the photo above, without the help and encouragement of our lead porter Paolo and his assistant, both in the background, my co-climber Hartwig  – on the left – and I would never have made it to the top – and back down].

I am now a firm believer in asking for help (and of course reciprocating and providing any help I can, wherever I can), and I am reaching out to you for your help – so that I can in turn, help others.

Recently, I was honoured to be selected as the Chair of a new 16 person CEO Advisory Group with TEC Canada, the leading leadership development organization in Canada. Less than 3% of people who apply to TEC or Vistage, their U.S. counterpart, get accepted.

My training, and that of other fellow Chairs, has been extensive and amazing, and I am very excited at the impact I can help make in the lives of CEOs and business owners by helping them get better results, make better decisions and become better leaders.

My challenge. My request for help.

I know very few Toronto CEOs who fit the description of smart, progressive, dynamic, growth oriented, and running companies with $5-100MM annual revenue. Maybe you do? If so…would you be willing to nominate them by sending me their name and company name?

This will allow me to start assessing their fit with the group, and then to contact them and explore their potential interest. And, if they are eventually invited to join the program after a rigorous selection process, they will thank you forever, as CEOs get tremendous business, professional and personal value from the program over many years.

Thank you in advance for your help. It’s not easy for me to ask. I hope that my leading by example might not only yield some good CEO nominations, but also inspire you to ask for help with something that you might be struggling with all alone.

capture

When we start something new, we often encounter resistance, and it is easy to give up before getting to our goal or destination.

Think of it this way. Imagine you have a car whose battery is weak and has stopped just before a hill.

You put it in neutral, and try and push it to the top of the hill. It can be difficult to do, especially if you have a big car. So you enlist the help of family, friends or bystanders. They all exert maximum pressure and bit by bit, the car inches upwards to the top of the hill. Just before you all get to the top is when maximum effort is needed. If you give up before you reach the top, you have wasted all that effort.

At the top, you are now on flat ground, and with a slight push, the car starts rolling down the hill. As it goes downhill, the helpers back off, you don’t need to push either, and you jump into the driver’s seat, gather some more momentum as you steer clear of the ditches on the sides of the road and soon, you’re able to crank the engine, apply gas and ensure the car is running, and off you go, into the sunset. (Or you remember to wait for your family or friends to come down the hill and join you in the car)!

So the next time you have a difficult task, a difficult project, or a tough goal that seems “impossible”, think of this analogy and ask yourself these seven questions.

  1. Am I fully committed to the task, the project, or the goal?
  2. Why is this task, project or goal important?
  3. What action do I need to take?
  4. Who or what resources do I need to help me?
  5. What is my best course of action when I encounter resistance?
  6. What kind of steering and course correction do I need to apply?
  7. Once my task, project or goal gathers momentum, what do I need to do next?

I hope this is a useful metaphor to keep in mind so that you can coast through your next task, project or goal.

Let me know how this perspective works for you!

right_time

Have you ever waited for “the right time” to start something? It could be a new project, getting fit, losing weight, a new job, a new relationship, or anything else.

Why do people wait?

The reasons they usually give are that they are too busy; or that there is a holiday/celebration/event coming up; or that they can’t afford it; or even that the stars are not aligned!

The truth is . . .

That they fear failure. Or fear success. Or fear what others will say and think. Or fear something else.

So the right time to start anything new, in my opinion, is NOW, in at least 99% of cases. Even if it’s one small step.

Here’s an example

A coaching client listed as one of her 20 year audacious goals, her desire to start a children’s orphanage in the developing world. She wrote eloquently and passionately, stating that her goal would be to start this project AFTER 20 years. I thought this was an amazing goal – but wondered why she was waiting 20 years.

Her response was similar to what most people tell me above – too busy, kids of her own, she will be more able to travel then, etc.

As we dug deeper, it became clear to her that what was REALLY at play was fear of failure, and that the project just seemed too big and daunting.

So I asked her if there was one tiny step she could take in the next week. She replied that she could sponsor a child’s education and living costs. Which she did.

I pressed further for another small step in the next month. She said she could research online where there was the greatest need.

And I asked: what else could she do within the year? She said she could likely go and visit the country/area where she wanted to have the orphanage.

We talked about what was possible in three years, and five years, and 10 years. All of a sudden, she could see that long before the 20 years were up, she could actually reach her goal, let alone start it then.

But only if she took that first step, made TODAY the right time, and got started!

So the next time you have a project or goal, consider not waiting, but start with one small step today. And another small step tomorrow. And the day after. And bit by bit, you’ll get to your goal – likely far ahead of schedule.

The right time, you see, is always NOW.

habit

Should we focus on achieving goals – or developing habits?

With my constant focus on the importance of goal setting, this question may sound sacrilegious. It isn’t.

The simple answer is that BOTH are important, because habits help you achieve goals.

Why and how?

A habit is something you do consistently, such that you don’t even think about it – for example brushing when we wake up, or flossing regularly, or getting dressed for work, or wishing loved ones, etc.

So if you take every goal that you have and can convert the action related to it into a habit or ritual, then you have fewer goals on which to focus, and you let the power of habits help you continue achieving your goals.

Let me illustrate with an example. Let’s say you have goals related to work/career; relationships; health; spiritual practice; and making a contribution.

For some goals like health and spiritual practice, break your goal down into its component parts. For example, for your health goal, some key elements may be adequate sleep, healthy nutrition and regular exercise.

Take one goal at a time, schedule each of these components into your calendar, and start becoming consistent at this one component. Do this over 30 days, journal about it, and have an accountability buddy to help you stay on track. Celebrate your achievement. Spend the next month mastering this habit. Celebrate!

Then move onto the next habit and repeat for another 30 days. Soon, this goal becomes something you will be achieving without even thinking about it, like your other habits.

While this may sound like a slow process (compared to the normal 21-days-to-form-a-habit advice you’ll usually get), I find it takes much longer to break old habits, and to form new ones. So patience reigns supreme.

It’s been very difficult for me to muster this patience, and I do slip up and fall once in a while, but by persisting, I’ve certainly been able to put many goals on auto-pilot achievement through developing habits for my business and personal life. And when I study successful, balanced, happy people, I find that most of them are creatures of habit.

What about other areas of your life like career and work, relationships, etc.? It might not be possible to convert all aspects of your goals into habits, but even if you can covert some aspects, that would make it so much easier to achieve your goals.

At the start of each month, review progress on your formation of new habits and take corrective action where needed.

That’s it.

To recap:

  1. Have clear measurable goals.
  2. Break your goals into a few key components.
  3. Schedule this goal component into your calendar.
  4. Implement consistently over 30 days. Celebrate. Master your new habit over the next 30 days. Celebrate.
  5. Review monthly, take corrective action.
  6. Start the process over with your next goal.

surgeon

I’ve written before about how every professional athlete visualizes success over and over.

A recent article showed how surgeon trainees who mentally practised prior to complex simulated surgery, and those who didn’t, showed a striking difference: see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/surgeons-study-benefits-of-visualizing-procedures/article22681531/.

And Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, talks about how visualizing can help heal: see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/learning-to-tame-a-noisy-brain-or-how-you-can-use-the-power-of-neuroplasticity/article22608412/.

Jan Sandin, of Redwood City, California, shares her story on overcoming chronic pain

“Working as a registered nurse after raising three children fulfilled me. But in just a few seconds, everything changed. Manoeuvring a heavy patient to bed, I herniated my lumbar discs. Surgery was not an option. Sitting, standing, walking, lying down was a nightmare of constant, chronic pain. I tried every remedy including injections, physical therapy and continuous morphine. I became a recluse. I saw no hope and no longer wanted to live.

My pain-management physician told me about a new approach involving visualization to rewire the brain. For the next month I visualized for 10-12 hours a day. Gradually, I improved and at the end of the month the pain was gone. I was ecstatic! Over the next two years, I went off all medication. My brain fog disappeared. I caught up on 10 years of missed reading. The spinal damage is still there, but not the pain. The miracle of neuroplasticity has given me back a life worth living and I enjoy every moment.”

I can relate to this because while it took me 20 years to get to Jan’s level of pain, I too experienced similar continuous excruciating pain, for months on end, and just wanted to end my life. But, this was some 12 years ago, long before it became common knowledge that visualization can be so powerful.

How can you use the power of visualization?

I would encourage you to visualize, at the end of each day, what a great tomorrow would look like. Then let that day roll out – and in most cases, you will see it unfold like your visualization. Imagine if this happened day after day. Wouldn’t that be powerful?

Now, hold any skepticism that might be creeping up. Go back to the two links above. Who would have thought . . . ?

Three powerful reasons why visualizing a great day results in a great day
 
First, when we sleep, our subconscious mind, which is even more powerful than the conscious mind, kicks into gear. So each morning, solutions to challenges, big and small, usually present themselves, because the mind has been working on these when we sleep.
 
Second, in thinking ahead, we invariably do the preparation necessary to achieve a great outcome. After all, we know that, in most cases, going into a situation well prepared is likely to yield far better outcomes. If you think about the next day being terrific, your mind will automatically focus on those things that you can do to improve the outcome.
 
Third, in envisioning a fantastic tomorrow, we learn to stop worrying about things, because we know they will happen as intended. If they don’t, then there is some learning to be gained, and likely, an even bigger opportunity comes along (it invariably does).
 
So, start visualizing today, and then tomorrow . . . and the next day . . . and the next day. Do it for three weeks – then I invite you to share how your life has changed.