I think a lot.
I meditate on life and spend many hours in silence both clearing my mind and questioning things. I may be wrong, but I believe I think very differently about life to a lot of the people I know.
Why do I think that?
Because the things I find interesting and the things that fascinate me just seem to kind of freak people out when I start to talk about them.
So most of the time I don’t. I just join in with ‘normal’ conversation and go back to my ‘weird’ thinking when I am alone.
One of the thoughts I often have is I wonder if anyone else has noticed that we are surrounded by magic that we simply do not and will never understand.
Let me try and explain what I mean.
Just for a moment, imagine that “God” in the Christian senses of the word, realized how badly he had fucked up by allowing Donald Trump to take over the world that he decided to come down and re-establish himself.
So one day, we are all going about our daily business when all of a sudden, a huge white light appears in the sky and a big deep voice of a man calling himself God booms down from the heavens. A flurry of angels appear and lo and behold, the Big ‘G’ himself floats down to earth with harps playing, angels singing and probably a full orchestra. (Well, he hasn’t been around much the last 2,000 years…he’s gotta make a good impression).
“Wow!” the human race would think! “Isn’t that amazing!”
We would all be in a complete state of shock, our minds would be blown away! We would probably all bow down and rejoice and everyone would completely change their way of thinking…for a while anyway.
It would be all over the news and the entire world would change the way they thought. People would rush around and try and get selfies with an angel or even better, with the big ‘G’ himself. Instagram and Facebook would be full of people taking photos of themselves praying to show all their friends and family how ‘holy’ they were. God would be the new ‘cool’ thing… and we’ve all got to look ‘cool’ on social media.
But you know what, after a few weeks, I reckon people would just get bored with the spectacle and go back to their old routines again.
You see, at first, it would be something new and exciting. Seeing God and his angels hanging around would just become the norm. Our minds would have got used to it and it wouldn’t be such a big deal anymore.
Now you’re probably wondering why the hell I have started off a blog post like this today and wondering what goes on in my brain when I am meditating.
Well, it’s this;
We all live in the most incredible, amazing universe where we have no idea what we are, who we are or why we are here and we are surrounded by the most miraculous of miracles each and every day.
In Eastern religions, the whole concept of life is called “God”, but we are so used to seeing it and being it that we completely overlook how miraculous the whole thing is. In other words, we cannot see the wood because of the trees.
Everywhere around us, there is something we call ‘life’. Things just appear from nothing. They hang around for a bit and then they disappear into ‘nothing’. Every single thing that you see and have ever seen always goes through this cycle. We don’t know what caused this thing that we refer to as ‘life’ and we have no idea what the ‘nothing’ is from where it came or what it disappears into.
We don’t even know what we are. We don’t know what or if a part of us existed before we were given this body. We don’t know why this body was chosen for us. We could have been born into the body of an ant, an amoeba or an aardvark, but our consciousness (whatever the fuck that is), ended up in this body.
And exactly what is this body?
We don’t even know what that is. We call it a name, ‘John’, ‘Peter’, ‘Julie’ or whatever, but that is just a sound and gives us a false impression that we own it and it is one thing. One solid object surrounded by skin and separate from the other things around us that we see.
It isn’t one thing. It is 30 trillion little things that we name as ‘cells’, which all contain their own life and somehow, know how to work together to make this big thing, that we call ‘I’, work.
In fact, we don’t control any of this thing we call ‘me’ or ‘I’ at all. We don’t have to concentrate on breathing, the body just breathes. We don’t force our heart to beat, it just beats. We don’t actively make our body digest the food we put in our mouths, it just does it all by itself.
Most of the time we don’t even control our thoughts. Our minds are usually on autopilot, so we don’t have to think either. Everything is done for us.
Everything around us is a fascinating miracle, but we are so ‘in our heads’ and so ‘stuck in the internet world’ that we have forgotten to stop and realise how amazing life is!
Science cannot explain it! All science does is put words to things, which completely strips away the miraculousness of things by pretending that the mystery is solved.
“That’s a tree”, says the scientist.
“Oh well”, says human, “that’s that explained then”.
It’s not explained at all. How did it come to be there? What makes it a tree and not a flower? What gave the tree ‘life’ in the first place? How did a seed, mud, water and rays from a gigantic ball of fire millions of miles away create that huge bloody thing standing 100 foot tall? That’s a miracle.
But rather than thinking of these sort of things, we spend most of our lives thinking about the most mundane rubbish.
When is the next I phone out?
Where shall I take my next holiday?
How many people liked my photo on Instagram?
What new box set can I next watch on Netflix?
When I stop to reflect on the miracle of life around me, I notice a lot of things that I think are important suddenly disappear into a puff of insignificance. I have come to many conclusions thinking in this way:
1) Nothing in this world is important, NOTHING. So don’t sweat the small stuff.
2) Everything in time will come and go, so don’t try and hold on to anything. Accept that all you have today and all you hold dear to you will one day pass away.
3) Appreciate the times you spend with your loved ones and make those moments special. Reflect that those moments will one day be nothing more than a memory.
4) Nothing in this world can ever be explained, so don’t spend too much time trying to figure it out.
5) Don’t work hard. There is not much you really need to do. When the work is done, put down your tools, sit back and relax.
6) You are a miracle and so is everyone on this planet. Therefore, you have nothing to prove to anyone, so don’t bother trying.
7) You are a part of everything. Nothing is separate. Therefore treat everything around you with love and respect…or it will come back and bite you on the arse!
8) Rather than seeking a meaning to life, figure out what makes you happy and just keep doing it. As long as it doesn’t hurt others, can you think of a better way to spend your time on this planet?
9) Stop and reflect on the miracle of everything at least for a few minutes every day. Only then will you really appreciate who you are and how lucky you are to have this body at this moment.
10) There is no 10, but 10 always seems to be a good number to finish on.
Life is very unpredictable, but there seem to be certain things in life that are forever constant.
One is the law of Karma which I wrote about not so long ago.
But recent events have shown me once again how powerful it is.
Two years ago, a friend of mine called Bonnie invited me to her house in Devon for a long weekend. She knew I was passionate about sailing and had recently moved in with her boyfriend who owned a yacht. She said I had to come down and go sailing with them for a couple of days and so, after very little persuasion, we arranged a weekend and off I went.
I was naturally excited and looking forward to my long weekend away. The summer had been amazing so far, 4 weeks of solid sunshine so I had high expectations. However, as I got closer to South Devon, I noticed clouds beginning to appear.
“That’s OK”, I thought to myself, “Probably just some light drizzle. It’ll pass”.
I left the motorway, then the dual carriageway, the A road and eventually found myself driving down small lanes just enough for one car to pass at a time.
I noticed the rain wasn’t easing off and in fact, the skies had become greyer and the rain heavier.
At last, I saw the sign, Bantham, and knew I was nearly there.
As I arrived into her driveway, I beeped the horn and Bonnie came to the door.
She gave me a big hug.
“Great to see you. You didn’t bring the tropical weather with you I see”, she laughed. “Unfortunately, the weather is not going to be great this weekend, but hopefully, it will clear at some point and we can go out for a sail”.
I hoped she was right.
“Oh, and just another thing. Most of my belongings are arriving from Bristol tomorrow and unfortunately so is the man to do the carpets. I’m afraid you might have to get up early to let him in your room”.
“That’s OK, no problem”, I said politely, wondering how she defined the word ‘early’.
She introduced me to her boyfriend, a lovely guy called Will, sat me down with a glass of wine and for dinner served me the best fish I think I have ever tasted, caught fresh that very morning. By 11 pm the journey had caught up with me and I retired to bed.
At 6 am the following morning, Bonnie was up and rushing around the house. I popped my head out of the door to see what she was doing.
“Oh good, you’re up. Can you give me a hand moving the sofa downstairs?” she asked.
And so the day began….
I was out of bed and moving everything in her house from one room to the other. Not quite the weekend away I was expecting, but the weather was terrible and to be honest, it was just nice to see and spend time with her.
There was a lot more to do than either of us expected and I seem to remember working solidly from 6 am to about 7 pm, barely for a break, helping her move all of her stuff into her boyfriend’s house and even helping the carpet fitter! I didn’t complain, I just got on with it. After all, she was a friend and what are friends for?
Unfortunately, the weather remained terrible for my entire stay and I think the only time we managed to get out was for a few hours in the car where we drove down and stared at the yacht through the mist from the shore. However, luckily Bonnie and Will were not only great company but also great cooks! So my stay there was still enjoyable.
As I left on Sunday evening, I remember a rainbow appearing just as I left their driveway and the sun coming out. It remained hot for the next 4 weeks!! In the two months I was back in the UK that summer, those were the only 3 days that it rained!!
Bonnie always told me the beach was stunning, but I never got to see it….. ……Until now!
And it is stunning!
Because after 2 years, I am back and have been living with Bonnie and Will for the last 4 weeks.
I think my hard day of work those two years ago has somehow been rewarded with a job for the summer down here in Bantham, Devon. And once again, I always feel that whenever we help people out, it just always seems to come back to us in ways we are not expecting.
Last year, Bonnie set up a holiday home rental business called Compass Quay and knowing that my work in the Spa world had dried up, kindly invited me to help her out for the summer. And it has been a lot of fun.
What goes around always seems to come around.
The other lesson that I have learned through all of this is that having spent the last 22 years travelling the world looking for beautiful places to stay, that the most beautiful place of all was in my own back yard……..sweet little England.
This reminds me of an ancient Buddhist teaching about a man who travelled the world seeking out the greatest Buddhist teachers in his search to find peace of mind and spiritual enlightenment. But after many years of failing to find it, he gave up and decided to return home.
As he returned to his village, he saw his ageing mother who he had not seen for more than 10 years. A deep sense of inner happiness moved him so deeply and he finally realized that what he had been looking for was there within him all along.
Bantham and the coastline here in south Devon is stunning. If you love the sea or hiking I really cannot recommend it enough. As they say, a picture says a thousand words and I hope these photos give you some idea as to what I mean.
For me, hiking is my number one passion and what I love about the UK is that the weather is perfect for those long evening strolls and all day Sunday walks. The last hike I did was in Krabi, Thailand which although beautiful started at 4.30 in the morning and was somewhat rushed to avoid the midday sun. The heat becomes unbearable to walk in for most of the day in the tropics.
But the temperature in the UK is just right in the summer. Even hot days tend to have a slight breeze to cool the humidity.
The temperature and the coastline make this part of the country truly unique and quite honestly, each walk I do has something special to see that takes my breath away. There is something truly calming about a long walk in nature. Whenever you feel stressed, down or depressed, go out in nature. It reminds you that at the end of the day, you are just a tiny part of this thing called ‘life’ and that the worries, stresses and strains are just a tiny, unimportant part of it.
The houses that Compass Quays rents out are stunning properties. Bantham House and Whitehorses are minutes to the beach and both overlook the Bantham estuary. As well as being an ideal location for surfing, there is also a great deal of sailing and fishing to be done here too. Our neighbours often return from a day out on their boat and drop us off some freshly caught fish for dinner.
In addition to houses in Bantham, Compass Quays also has smaller 2-3 bedroom properties dotted around the local areas, from small country cottages to apartments and houses suitable for both large and small families.
And of course, there is a bonus of a very good holistic therapist, meditation and Qi Gong instructor who will e there for the summer 😉.
So if you are looking for a holiday with a difference, please take a look at her website:
I always enjoy the debates I watch on TV between scientists and Christian religious leaders.
They can get quite feisty.
Which do you believe?
Is there a God? Was the Bible true? Were Adam and Eve created by God or was the planet slowly developed over millions of years and humans are a product of evolution?
They can’t both be right, can they?
Well, it is interesting to know that the Eastern perception of God and Science both draw the same conclusions.
How could that be?
Well, let me try and explain.
I was brought up as a catholic and had to go to church every Sunday.
Here, I was taught that there was some kind of male being in the sky who was watching everything that I did. The reason why was so that when I died, he knew whether to send me to heaven or hell.
Now this may not be how everyone who follows the Bible perceives God, but the important point I am trying to make is that “God” is perceived as a being that is separate from us.
God is something “out there”, an intelligent being that created the universe and put us on this planet. In addition, he laid down a set of rules or commandments that would ensure a safe pathway of happiness in the afterlife if we followed them.
When I first started to meditate and go to Buddhist centres, theology about the origins of the universe were never really discussed.
Instead, you were just taught to meditate, contemplate certain aspects of life and draw our own conclusions as to the nature of your mind and how to make it peaceful.
The main difference is that you do not blindly follow a set of rules that will get you a passageway into heaven when you die, but that you understand through deep contemplation, how to be happy in this life. Eastern texts on religion are guidebooks to living, not guidebooks on how to get to heaven when you die.
Although most people seem to think that Buddhists don’t believe in God, after many years of meditation practice and observing my mind I discovered this isn’t actually true.
They just have a different perspective on what God is.
They believe there is no God, there is only God.
In other words, everything in the universe is connected by one universal life force that binds everything together. Nothing is separate from it. It is all interconnected. “God” is not something separate from us, but is us and is this magical, mysterious thing that gives us “life”.
Now what is interesting is that in 2012, Scientists discovered that there was a life force that connected everything in the known universe and it was called the Higgs Boson and also referred to as “The God Particle”.
It was discovered after years of research at the Large Hadron Collider which was the biggest and most expensive experiment ever conducted. Its sole aim was to discover if this God Particle really did exist, if there was a life force that connected the whole of the universe. And they discovered that there was!
To get a clearer understanding of the perception of “God” from an Easter perspective, I will use the example of electricity.
Electricity shows itself in many forms. It can produce heat in a hair dryer, cold in a refrigerator, movement in an electric trains, waves in a microwave oven or light in a light bulb.
Although everything it powers is different, Electricity remains the same substance that powers them all. Electricity cannot be perceived without an object to flow through, but when it does connect with an object it can produce heat, cold, movement, waves or light. Without electricity however, none of these objects can work.
This is the same as “God” in Eastern religions. You are a piece of flesh and bones, but without “God” or “Life Force” moving through you, your body cannot have life.
Every living being on the planet has this “God” or “Life Force” inside of it, but it just appears in different outer forms, a human, a dog, a tree or a flower, the earth, the sun. But it is all the same life force.
There is no good or bad “God”. Everything is God. It comes in different forms, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Llama, Adolf Hitler, a ferocious tiger or meek little lamb.
In Buddhism it is called “Buddha Nature”, in Taoism, “the Tao”, In Hinduism, “Brahma”.
But when you understand what it is and how it works, you can work with it. There are laws that govern it and by understanding these laws, you can flow with them, like flowing with the current of a river downstream.
But if you don’t understand these laws, your life will feel as though you are swimming up river, constantly battling against the flow. This results in a life full of stress and strain.
And these are the principles that I have studied, contemplated and do the best I can to present them to you in a simple and understandable form.
It doesn’t matter what you believe or what religion you follow, these principles will still allow you to understand and enjoy your life more.
But don’t just believe what I say. To discover if something really is real and really does work, you must contemplate it, try and test it yourself and draw your own conclusions.
And this is what is meant in the East by “Wisdom”, understanding your mind so that you can live in harmony with yourself, the people, and the environment around you.
My best friend thinks I’m a bit thick.
He is a very smart guy. He’s a criminal law barrister and a very good one at that. He covers all sorts of cases and therefore has a very wide range of knowledge and always keeps up with what is going on in the world.
He is shocked by my lack of general knowledge and always insists that I am not on his team whenever we play trivial pursuits or enter a pub quiz.
And for good reason.
Firstly, general knowledge has never been of much interest to me. However, ask me about the things I am interested in; the body, the mind, Chinese medicine and Asian philosophy and I could bore you for weeks!
Secondly, I don’t believe anything that we are spoon fed by the media, so I don’t read newspapers and rarely watch T.V.
And thirdly, I haven’t lived in the UK for 20 years so am not interested in who won “Britain’s Got Talent”, which politicians have been caught with their trousers down and where Posh and Beck’s went for dinner on Saturday night.
But despite being one of the smartest people I know, my friend has very little “intellect”.
How do I know?
Because he has very little control over his emotions and get stressed and upset very easily. He hates change, has very little patience and one minor problem in the morning can put him in a bad mood for the whole day.
But, he’s my best mate, I love him to bits and wouldn’t change a thing about him.
The point is though that despite being very intelligent, his intellect is weak.
What is the difference?
“Intelligence” is knowledge and it is what we are taught at school and can learn from books, the T.V. and courses that we study etc.
In fact, the main purpose of education is to increase our “intelligence” so that we can get a job and be a valuable member to society.
However, no matter how much knowledge you have or how many letters you have after your name, it does not mean that you have acquired an “Intellect”.
An intellect is developed through absorbing and then contemplating knowledge, really thinking about it and drawing your own conclusions. Some people also refer to it as “Wisdom”.
The purpose of developing and intellect is that you can use the knowledge to live a happy and peaceful life, control your thoughts and emotions and interact on a far happier and deeper level with other people around you.
Most people believe that they know how to think, but this is not necessarily true.
You see, thinking is an art, a skill that needs to be learnt. It requires time and effort, just like learning to play a musical instrument or play a sport. Strengthening the intellect means studying the laws that govern the human personality, contemplating them and incorporating that wisdom into your daily living.
Sometimes I meet religious people who can quote half the Koran or the Bible to me, yet I can tell by their actions and the way that they behave that they don’t understand the teachings. They have merely increased their intelligence, not their intellect. They have acquired merely a superficial knowledge, but have not taken time to really think about or incorporate those teachings into their daily living.
Another great thing about developing your intellect is that you don’t have to go around following or believing what other people say or do, whether they are religious leaders, teachers, politicians, relatives, friends or work colleagues. When you have wisdom, you know exactly what your path is in life and what actions you need to take.
This is the way to true freedom and as Bob Marley famously once sang, the way to “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”.
In Eastern philosophy, it is desire that is behind all the suffering, stress and strain in life.
It is said that spiritual enlightenment will only be reached when we extinguish our desires and although I am sure that is not the goal of most of you reading this article, understanding the destructive nature of your desires will help you to keep your mind calm and your unnecessary ‘wants’ in check.
Most of the time, our minds are seeking out pleasure in one form or another. It could be that drink after work, a chocolate cake, a perfect body, a better looking partner, the weekend, the next holiday, a job promotion, recognition, fame or materialistic gains such as a bigger house, a new car or a bigger bank balance.
Now, although there is nothing wrong with wanting a better life, it is important to recognize that the more desires we have, the unhappier our lives become.
Because when we allow our minds to constantly be in a state of desire, it makes us feel as though we are lacking in the present moment. We don’t have the things we want now and therefore we feel we are missing out. We are not full, we are not perfect and we won’t be fulfilled or perfect until we have this, that or the other.
So often, people spend their entire lives stressed out, desperately trying to attain whatever it is they desire until one day, they notice that their lives have passed by and they still haven’t found the happiness and peace of mind they were looking for. They have not been able to accept that all of the time they were chasing happiness, it was already there. They were already complete. They were already fine. Yes, you can have more or get more in the future, but as you gain, so you lose. It is the law of nature. You main gain wealth, a larger house, better holidays, but you will also lose things in life that you have loved; friends, family members, loved ones, your youth, your looks and your health.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, the only way is down!
Enjoy the journey of life, don’t expect to reach happiness at the destination.
Having goals and a destination in life is important for the sole purpose of giving the mind something to focus on. But once you have decided on the goal, do not continue to dwell on it. Focus on perfecting what you are doing now instead.
Because you will never find happiness in the future. The future will always elude you. You can only live in the present and the future is made up of all the little “presents” that you are experiencing now.
Also, do not be fooled into thinking that happiness can be found in “things” that you desire and then ruining your life stressing and straining trying to attain them.
Happiness can only come from “doing”, not from “having”.
Nothing in the material world will ever bring you long term happiness and yet so many people chase after these things convinced that they do.
Because the pleasure we experience from “things” are only ever temporary. In fact, the pleasure we experience is not from obtaining the object of our desire, but extinguishing that feeling of lack that was experienced when you didn’t have the object.
Just like a smoker who believes he enjoys a cigarette. What he really enjoys is stopping the craving that the cigarette caused in the first place. If you don’t smoke, you don’t need to relieve the craving!
And just like a cigarette, as soon as one desire is extinguished, then desire for another one appears. It never ends.
Learn to find enjoyment in everything that you do, by simply giving it all of your attention and focus, whether it is your work, spending time with your loved ones, doing the gardening or even washing the dishes. Perfecting and learning to enjoy the small things in life will allow you to perfect and enjoy the bigger things in life too.
Contemplate what I have said today, give it some serious thought. Is what I am saying really true? If you feel it is, then ask yourself how you can use this knowledge to improve your life and then take action to do so. If not, then fine, simply reject it.
BUT learn to question the status quo and draw your own opinions rather than blindly following the beliefs you have been brought up with and carried around with you all your life.
Only the will you experience true wisdom.
I arrived in Thailand at the end of September to start a six-month contract with a Hotel Resort and Spa.
The contract had been signed months ago and the week before I arrived, the company had sent me out all the appropriate documents to apply for a work permit in the UK.
And so I flew out to Phuket a week before to see some friends and find a place to live and just as I was about to put a deposit on an apartment, I received an unexpected call from the HR Manager.
“I am sorry Toby, but the Wellness department had a meeting this morning and I am afraid that as we are implementing a more medical approach to wellness, we have decided to cancel your contract”.
I was silent for a moment, speechless in fact. Six months of work pulled from underneath my feet.
I was pretty surprised at first, but after about an hour, rather than worrying about it, I started to become quite excited instead. I had money in the bank, the company were giving me a pay off and I started to think of all the things I could do, such as a month-long meditation retreat, followed by a couple of months in China brushing up on my Tai Chi.
Obviously, I needed some work to come back to and recalled that the month or so before the contract was supposed to begin, I had actually turned down several job offers. So I searched my email account and sent about 7 emails out.
A week later, my work calendar was booked for the next 12 months! Not only did I now have 12 months of work rather than 6, but opportunities had also now opened up from 5 companies I had never worked with before. This was very exciting as it was opening up doors to a whole world of new and exciting possibilities.
So how did I manage to get so much work, so quickly and with virtually no effort whatsoever?
Simple – by helping people.
I love helping people out. It makes me feel good. Not only does my chosen career involve helping people, but just being kind and respectful to people, everyone, all of the time, just seems to make life easy for me. It’s not rocket science, be nice to people, they will be nice to you, everyone is happy! It is a win/win situation. Even if people don’t seem to like me, I am still kind to them. Probably even kinder than ever, because then it becomes like a playful challenge to me, to win them over, to soften them, to make them a nicer, kinder person.
Even when I am not working, I always try and help people and over the last few years, that has included helping a lot of my friends to find work.
If any of my friends, many of which are not native English speakers, are looking to find a job or better themselves in some way, I will always help them. This could mean giving them advice on how to find work, helping them write their resumes or cover letters and even putting them in contact with any spa managers that I know who are looking for therapists or Visiting Practitioners. In addition, I always help the spa managers that I have worked with to find good therapists too.
I never charge anyone for helping them. My reward comes when they tell me they have a new job and I know I have made a positive difference to someone’s life. It just makes me feel good. And I like to feel good!! 🙂
A friend recently informed me that because I help so many people out I should turn this into a business and make money from connecting spa managers and therapists. Maybe it would be a good business, who knows? But it is not something that I want to dedicate all my time too. I have other projects to get on with that I find far more interesting and are more in tune with my inner nature. I don’t have the time or enthusiasm to turn this into a business, so I do it for free, just to help people.
So, you are probably wondering, what has this got to do with me finding work?
Because when I looked into the origin of all those new job offers that had filled my diary for 12 months, I noticed that they had all received my contact details from people who I had helped out in the past. EVERY SINGLE ONE! When I had been helping those people, little did I realize that they were also helping me in return! All that help I had given to those people was being reciprocated behind my back….and I had never even noticed it until the day came that I needed help.
I had never asked anyone to help me, but what goes around comes around and for the first time ever, this experience really showed me how helping people out of the kindness of your heart without any expectations, will always come back to you when you most need it.
I remember working with a very famous actor once who despite his fame and popularity, turned out to be one of the kindest and most humble human beings I have ever met.
He said to me once: “Always be nice to people on the way up, because you never know who you might meet on the way down”.
Be humble, be kind, help others. If you are going to invest in anything in life, invest in kindness.
Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the word ‘work’ is now synonymous with the word ‘stress’ these days?
Let me explain a little bit my theory as to why.
My mum handed me some of my old school reports a few months ago that she has stashed away in the loft somewhere.
I had to laugh when I read them. I didn’t enjoy studying so chose to entertain myself and my classmates instead.
“Toby didn’t seem to care much about his poor exam result and is obviously bored to tears by this subject” (Maths)
“He is disruptive in class and will only do the bare minimum to scrape by” (Geography)
“If he spent as much time studying as he does acting the classroom clown he might do well in this subject” (History).
“Imaginative and creative, but only when he chooses to be” English Literature.
“He has a great sense of humour, but unfortunately at inappropriate times” (Headmaster’s summary).
I hated the day that report came through the post. My mum would go mad, telling me how lazy and stupid I was, what a failure I will be in life and would then finish it off with the old “Do you know how hard I have to work to pay for your school fees??”
It was bad enough being chastised and put down by the teachers every day, let alone her as well!
I had to put with this from the age of 6 to 18 and for one simple reason; I wanted to enjoy life and have fun. And listening to adults talking about boring subjects in a classroom was not my idea of fun!!
Is that really such a bad thing?
I wasn’t stupid. I was an ‘independent thinker’.
But “independent thinkers’ do not fit in with social conditioning and how to ‘enjoying life’ is not taught in schools.
Do as you are told and we will praise you, put an A+ on your school report so your parents can be proud of you. If you don’t do as we say, we will do everything we can to put you down and crush your spirit.
But despite this opposition that I faced all my life, I am glad I rebelled. I am glad I lived my life by my own rules and didn’t conform. But it wasn’t easy when the people you love, admire and respect put you down for doing so.
Although we don’t realise it, social condition determines 99% of the way we think and live. You may think you are a free person and you can make your own mind up about things, but you can’t and you don’t.
Everything from the work you do, your political beliefs, the way you treat others, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the food you eat, the place you live, the relationships you have, your family life, your religious beliefs and most predominantly the person you believe yourself to be are all conditioned by the society in which you were brought up in.
Social conditioning is a way in which we learn to live harmoniously with one another by creating certain acceptable or non-acceptable boundaries so that we can all ‘live on the same page’ so to speak. This can be a very good thing, as we all have guidelines on how we should act in social situations, such as standing and waiting in queues, opening doors for people or saying please and thank you when it is appropriate. But there is also a negative side.
And that is, we end up living our lives like a herd of lost sheep. We lose our ability to think independently and end up doing whatever everyone else does just because we think it is the norm. We fail to notice things in society that are changing for the worse, but because everyone around us is going along with it, we do the same and just follow. Nazi Germany is a prime example of how social conditioning can override our rational thoughts and make us act in the cruellest, heartless and most inhumane manner.
The reason why I bring this to your attention today is related to the modern work ethic which I see as completely out of control and utter madness.
Most people I know who regard themselves as “successful” are now working about 10-12 hours a day and often without a proper lunch break.
Not only that, but many of them then take their work home with them in the evenings and also spend time working at the weekends. These days it is not unusual for people to be in contact with the office during their annual vacations which I can just about understand if you run your own business, but if you are an employee…. really?
Many of my friends, especially those in the corporate world also tell me how they feel pressured by their work colleagues to put in extra unpaid hours every week and are made to feel guilty if they don’t.
Not only that but being overworked and having a stressful job is regarded as being normal these days and that if you aren’t stressed, then obviously you aren’t working hard enough. It is almost as though people are proud to say they are stressed like they are some sort of brave hero who should be commended for the sacrifices that they are making.
“Hey, I’m working really hard everyone! Look at me! I’m sacrificing my happiness, health and family life so that some idiot above me who is even more unhappy and unhealthy than I am might pat me on the back and say “well done”.
That’s what it boils down to! There is no difference here to a needy child at school desperate to get attention, praise and gold star from the teacher. We are socially conditioned from our school days to accept this and then carry it on into our adult working life.
As a result, many people are sacrificing their health, their happiness, their friends and their families for companies that would replace them in a week if they dropped down dead tomorrow.
Doctors estimate that more than 70% of GP visits are now stress related. It affects both your physical and psychological health, leads to alcohol addiction, prescription and recreational drug addiction, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, insomnia, depression, cancer, arthritis, headaches, migraines, digestive disorders….and a thousand and one other serious illnesses that I don’t have the space to write about in this short article.
Listen. Work to live, to eat, to have a roof over your head and to live a simple and happy life. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, because if you ever visit their house and open up their bathroom cabinet you will find it filled with anti-depressants.
Your career is NOT important. Let me repeat that because you have been socially conditioned to believe it is. YOUR CAREER IS NOT IMPORTANT AND NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT HOW HIGH YOU CLIMB UP THE CAREER LADDER EXCEPT YOU!!
So do not waste your life working all the hours God sends just for a pat on the back form your boss and to ‘fit in’ with the people you work with.
This is not my message, but one from every single victim of “burn out” that I have worked with who has struggled to return to a normal state of health and psychological well-being after years of pushing themselves to the limit.
Think, question, analyse. Think independently. If something in your life is causing you stress and strain, then don’t just sweep it under the carpet and accept it as being ‘the norm’. Ask yourself why and take action to change it. Your life, your physical and psychological health is your responsibility.
As a Life and Mind Coach, I often talk to people about the importance of setting goals in life.
Why? Because if your mind does not have a focus, you will find yourself in a constant state of worry and anxiety. Because the mind needs a home. It needs to focus on something that will give it meaning, safety and security. When we are working every day with a target in mind, we feel motivated and find it easier to make choices and decisions that will take us where we want to go. When you don’t, your mind will become anxious, worrying about what negative things the future will bring instead.
But you know what? I think having goals is more important than achieving them.
And this is why…
I was chatting with one of my best friends recently about this as in our own different ways, we are both already successful and have already achieved our goals in life.
My friend had a very successful online business which he sold about a year ago which has provided him with enough money to pretty much retire (well – for the foreseeable future anyway).
He is in his early 40’s, has a wife and two young children, lives in a nice condo in Penang, Malaysia and has enough money to live a very comfortable life.
Although I am not in the same financial position as my friends, I have pretty much achieved my goals in life too. I spend 11 months of the year living in some of the best 5-star hotels in the world whilst working about 3-4 hours a day doing a job that I absolutely love.
Although slightly different ambitions – one financial security and one achieving their dream job in life, both of us have noticed that there is still a part of us that needs constant work.
My friend was excited about selling his business because he had to put in many hours and a lot of hard work selling products that he wasn’t particularly passionate about. He was driven more by financial security which after 11 years of hard work, he achieved. Once he sold his business, there was a huge amount of relief and excitement that he no longer had to work.
However, after a few months, he began to feel frustrated. He had achieved his financial goals, but his mind then had no focus. His day was filled up with ferrying around his kids and when they were at school, sitting in coffee shops, walking around shopping malls and buying T-shirts on a daily basis that he would probably never wear. He actually found being semi-retired quite boring and discovered it actually brought about new stresses in his life that he hadn’t contemplated before. In fact, he even started writing a blog about it which I definitely recommend you take a read of lifehackerguy.com
In a similar way, despite living my dream life, there are areas that I still need to focus on, particularly finances and making my new corporate wellness business venture successful.
But sometimes, as my life is very easy, I get lazy and stop working on it. And when I do that, I notice bad habits returning.
This is why I think we need to be constantly looking at our lives no matter how successful we are and see which areas are changing and which parts need attention.
I always remember watching an act on Bruce Forsythe’s ‘Generation Game’ many years ago when a man was trying to spin as many plates on top of sticks as he could. He kept having to run from one stick to the other because if they stopped spinning, the plates would fall off and break. I couldn’t help thinking how true this is of life, you need to constantly check all the areas of your life and make sure they are running successfully. And if they are not, you have to pay them some attention, otherwise, they start to go wrong. Because everything is constantly changing and we need to change with it. You can never get to a place where everything is fine and remains that way.
My body is not as strong as it used to be, and some of the physical treatments I do are beginning to take a toll, so I need to put in some effort to make some adjustments to my career. In addition, if I don’t start saving more money towards my retirement, I could end up struggling later on in life.
Another negative aspect of having no goals is that our minds start to chase after temporary pleasures in life which we can often regret; coffee, chocolate, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, youtube videos, facebook, etc. The more we allow these short-term pleasures to distract us, the more difficult it is to feel motivated and we then feel frustrated that we are not getting anywhere.
As an expat living in Thailand for many years, I have come across many people who have retired and bought a nice house with a swimming pool believing, at last, they will be in paradise and be happy every day. But often this is not the case.
Many people become bored and frustrated at not being “of any use” and either start drinking their lives away, start up a charity or start a new business to keep themselves occupied.
I think the lesson I have learned from these chats with my friend is that no matter where we are in life, how successful we have become, we always need to have goals.
Not only that, but also understand that no matter what we achieve in our lives, the feeling of fulfilment can only ever be temporary. Therefore, the journey towards reaching our goals is in fact far more important than reaching them. It is this that we must focus on enjoying rather than believing we will reach a day when everything thereafter will be perfect bliss and happiness.
My dad’s side of the family has always had this slightly oriental look about them, and when my sister and I asked him about this when we were children, he told us it was because his mother, who I had never met or seen any photos of, was Chinese.
About 25 years later, I was chatting to my mum about her and was curious as to how my grandfather had met a Chinese lady, in Slough, in the 1930s.
My mother looked very confused, and it was only after she stopped laughing that I realised that on that day, all those years ago, a small, off the cuff comment to tease my sister and I stuck with me my entire life and I honestly believed it was true!
I never questioned it. How could I have been so gullible?
Simple, because I was six years old and six-year-olds believe anything you tell them!
But you know what, most of what we learn in our first 7 years of life sticks with us until the day we die and a huge amount of it is completely untrue. Why? Because our parents try and paint an ideal picture of the world for us to make us feel secure, happy and safe in life.
Remember the fairy tales they read to us before we went to bed? How justice was always done? How the bad guy always suffered in the end? And what about the Prince and Princess who lived happily ever after?
Do they mention the financial difficulties the Prince and Princess ran into after the Prince suffered from alcoholism? The Princess’s post-natal depression? Or the affair the prince had with the housekeeper?
Just reflect on some of the things we are led to believe at that age; we should behave well at school, obey the teacher, get to the top of the class, not answer back, do as you’re told, be number one at everything, pass all your exams, go to university, get a good job, make lots of money, buy a big house, work hard, get rich, retire at 65 and of course the classic; get married, have children and live happily ever after.
We are never taught the most important thing EVER, and that is to ask the question WHY? As a result, most of us grow up trying struggling fit into this “ideal” life and feel a failure if we don’t achieve it. OR we do achieve it and discover that it doesn’t bring us the happiness and peace of mind that we were led to believe would come with it.
Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with having all or some of the above! What I am saying is question your motives for doing these things, because everyone is different and not everyone wants the same things in life.
“Be number one”. Why? It’s hard work, is a waste of time and of no importance in life whatsoever! “Go to university” Why? If you’re not interested in any subject, why get into debt just for a piece of paper that won’t secure a job anyway.
“Get married”. Why? Wouldn’t it be better to spend £20,000 on buying a house rather than blow it in one day on a wedding?
“Have another child”. We are not in a financial position to do so and we are struggling with one!
Stand firm, be strong and questions everything that you do. Live life on your terms, because only you know what is best for you.
As the saying goes, “Where there is effort, there is success”, and depending on how much effort you put in towards achieving your goals, the quicker and more successful you will be at achieving them.
The fun thing is though, if you really are passionate about the path you have chosen to follow in life, you will enjoy the journey.
So here goes.
First of all, you need some “Me” time. “Me” time is not being selfish and is not something to feel guilty about. Neither is “Me” time something that you just don’t have because you are too busy with other things. “Me” time is quality time on your own to make not only your life better, but for all of those around you once they see the new passionate you, full of life and “joie de vivre”. Me time is best first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh, but can also be in the evening, preparing for the following day.
During this time…
- Write down everything that you hope to achieve during the day or the following day. Think about your dream life and write down what you are going to do today to start making that dream happen. It may be some telephone inquiries, writing some emails, finding out some information, starting a course, etc. But whatever it is, write it down
- Next, write down what you intend to do for the next week to achieve your goals. Again, it will consist of lots of smaller goals at first. Write them down making sure that these goals are realistically achievable in the next seven days.
- Thirdly, write down what you hope and intend to achieve in the next month.
- Next, write down what you hope and intend to achieve in the next year.
- And finally, write down what you hope to achieve over the next 5 years.
Write these down every day. Even if you are repeating yourself for most of it, continue to write them down on a daily basis as quite often, the more you concentrate on your goals, they will become more defined and easier to follow.
By doing this, you are continuously focused on exactly what it is that you must do every day to achieve and live your dreams by opening up your subconscious mind to attract the things you want to you. The days are then no longer wasted and you will start to notice that even if you are in a job now that you currently dislike – it is a means to an end. It is a way of financing your dream and therefore right now in your life – it has a purpose. In addition, once you start completing your smaller goals, you will start to feel more confident that your dream is no longer just a dream, but bit by bit, is becoming a reality.
Finally, whatever happens, don’t give up! If you come across an obstacle, find a way round it.
In the words of Bruce Lee;
Be like water making its way through the cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object and you should find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
And remember these final few words of very strong advice… Winners never quit and quitters never win!
Live your dreams!