Do you have a code that you live your life by? Have you incorporated a list of principles from someone important to you or even from your favourite quotes on the Internet?
A few years ago I was introduced to the Holstee Manifesto by a lecturer in my HR Masters studies and we used it within the Coaching unit. He had a large framed poster version of the Holstee Manifesto and it was full of the phrases and truisms that can help us lead an effective and authentic life.
In a lot of my work with people, I aim to help them achieve authenticity. In their speech, in their internal communication with themselves and in their outward body language. It also starts with what we believe. What we read and tell ourselves inside our heads. For this reason, I would like to share not the Holstee Manifesto, but the 'Life Manifesto' (www.onelifeposters.com). I wanted a poster for myself of the Holstee and it wasn't until it arrived via post, that I realised I had ordered a different manifesto. The point is the same. The words are there to remind us of what is important.
According to Oxford, a Manifesto is 'a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.' Most of us won't take on politics in our lives, but developing a Manifesto or a Philosophy is still important. A statement of beliefs if you will. What you stand for?
This article cannot give the Life Manifesto a full review and discussion, but I would encourage you to read it. I often use it with my clients, and ask them how it makes them feel. What phrases stand out immediately as important. What sections resonate with them?
I would like to highlight which phrases resonate with me.
Some opportunities only come once, seize them.
This is really true. As much as I like the idea that more doors will open in your life, there are some things you can only do once. Parents understand this. Once your kids are old, their childhood is gone. I remind myself, that I am where I am because I want this opportunity to be a great father. Not an absent father, not one who missed his kids life and growing up. My son will only be 5 once. I will be 39, once.
Accept the thing in life you can't change.
This reminds me of the words of Aletta Rochat I mentioned a few posts ago. We must accept certain things in life. Not settling, but allowing space between decision and outcome for what has to be. Pushing any other way only leads to frustration. Learn to deal with things and move forward.
Decide what you want in life and go for it.
Making decisions is something we should all be better at. For some, this is their work, so they get better at it. Even if decisions don't work out, don't dismay as more can be made. Some decisions are made in the moment, others are made after some gut or rational consideration. Others we forget. What time did you decide to get up this morning? Did you get up at that time or snooze? Decide.
Try not to care what other people think of you.
This is a difficult one. We all want to be accepted, loved, admired and valued. If we place more value on what others think, this leads to disappointment. Try therefore to make your own decisions, be firm in your values and worry less about what others think of you. It doesn't always help.
Smile at others and laugh as often as you can.
Smiling is free and adds value to both the smiler and the person receiving it. We need to smile more. Embrace the small things and smile and laugh. See the playful side of life. It changes our chemistry as well.
Time passes and we don't get it back. So make small changes. Smile, make decisions, see your life as meaningful and give it some purpose. Have a manifesto, or read someone else's.
A few years ago I gave a motivational speech and a close friend was present. I presented a lot of thoughts from the authors I was reading at the time which helped my ideas. The speech was well received. My friend said though, you know, you don't always need to tell us the ideas of others, but instead package them and find ways to tell these ideas through your story.
You are the one we want to hear from.
Since then I have developed my own Manifesto, my own way of living. It is influenced by new books, authors and ideas but ultimately, I am the mixing pot that puts the ingredients together in my way. To bake my own cake. The recipe will work as it has for others, but my cake will be all the more better, as I have added a few of my own ingredients. Go and do the same! In time I will reveal my Manifesto!
'Behind every great man is great woman'. This phrase first appeared in the 1940's being used by an athlete, according to Phrases.org.uk, when accepting his trophy and it was used in the feminist movement of the 1960's as well. I would like to change the phrase and discuss it's meaning in personal development. The phrase in 2018 should be,
'Behind every great person, is another great person. One who supports, confides and gives strength to the other. It is the team and the partnership that counts.'
Are you in a partnership with someone at the moment? Are you married, engaged or have been someone significant other for a long time? Regardless of the arrangement, do you know what your partners goals are? What they want for their careers or do you sail like two separate ships in the night? Do you work together or are you separate as a family or partnership? Does your partner know what your goals are and what you want to achieve in your life? Do you have a common understanding about how you want to parent, work together and even exist?
If not, why not? Do you communicate effectively and set these goals, desires and ambitions together? How can you support your partner, if you don't? How can you really give them what they need if you don't know what they want?
I have been fortunate in my life to have a wonderful wife and we support each other no matter what. We have our own goals and also goals as a couple and as a family. We even wrote some down a few years ago and it was powerful to see, these ambitions come true. We found a life in Vienna, that we both wanted and have developed ourselves along the way. It hasn't been easy by the same token and we have both needed to develop ourselves individually. We also both know, that this life would be impossible without the other and this for me, gives me a strength and confidence.
We are meant to be connected and we are meant to support each other. I dismay when I hear examples of people who are not supported by their partner in a particular endeavour or idea. This was absolutely true when I first started singing. When I first began to sing, my first teacher said, you must have a supportive partner otherwise it won't work. I have seen these words lived by many in the Opera Industry. The hours of dedication, the odd working hours and the discipline needed to be a singer, needs support. Athletes, musicians, CEO's and other famous personalities also need this. Perhaps we all need this. Most careers these days are unpredictable, so it is important to make the most of things while they are here. Over the years, I have seen many examples of unsupportive partners, people who see their partners work as not real, or a hobby, or when you have finished playing. But this is real work. This has to be supported.
A supportive spouse or life partner:
This works both ways, and in an ideal work both people in the partnership feel they support their spouse as well as do their jobs and develop their careers. No one's job is really more important than another because if you have a family, one cannot exist without the other.
We all need support and as the idiom says, 'give to receive'. Consciously sit down with your partner and establish your joint desires, listen to the other and allow them to dream big, without limiting their choices. I am not saying that all dreams should become a reality, but allowing someone the space to feel heard, supported and loved for their choices is powerful. Choices and dreams do change and often the reality of those choices is unexpected and messy, but when people don't get to live their choices and to have some freedom, things sour. People are not living up to a potential and this leads to many damaging consequences.
So support your partner. Understand their needs and set goals together. Make it known. In doing so, you also become accountable to the other. I watched La La Land and it has a powerful message. Don't give up on your dreams. For Mia, her dream was that one step away, which if she hadn't have taken she would have remained miserable. She took it and was supported by Sebastian. He didn't know if he would end up with Mia, but he knew he had to push her and help her in that moment. Of course it is sad there was no happy ending for them as a couple, but the partnership they shared in the movie was supportive. Both questioned the dreams, the selling out and where there for each other. Be this for someone else and see your life become more valuable. To connect and help another is rewarding. We want this for our kids, we should of course want it for our spouse and indeed, for ourselves.
We all need to take action in our lives. Personal Development Leaders are constantly telling us to take 'Massive Action' for instance and to work 'our f#@king faces off' which I absolutely agree with. Time is of the essence and we need to use it wisely. Wasting time on tasks that don't serve us or help us to live up to our purpose can feel defeating and we should try to avoid these activities if possible. But what about actually taking time out to reflect? Is this bad? Admittedly, it is not something I make time to do that often.
I am currently reading and working through the 15 Laws of Invaluable Growth by John C. Maxwell and am currently studying Laws 3 and 4. They are specifically, the Law of the Mirror and the Law of Reflection. In particular it is the Law of Reflection that I am struck by and it has got me thinking about how I could execute this law in my life. John C. Maxwell explains that every period of action should be accompanied by a period of reflection. Some time, taken out, to affirm how a situation went and what can be learnt and gained from the experience. Action in, reflection out.
In today's fast paced, every changing world, have you made time to reflect? I certainly haven't but I would like to make it a more regular habit. I like to be busy and between my family, my various engagements as a Trainer and Personal Developer, being a Toastmaster and singing at church, I often find my time is spread thin. I really enjoy all the activities I do, but this chapter of the book has allowed me to realise that perhaps I am not taking the time to learn the lessons that are on offer from all my activities. While constantly striving for action and filling my days with activity, perhaps some time each day and week is necessary and essential to my future growth?
John Maxwell in his chapter on reflection gives a series of questions that can be used to begin a moment of reflection. Questions such as, 'What am I doing daily to grow?', 'Do I need to forgive someone in my life who needs to be given grace?' And 'What were the potential learning moments I experienced today, and did I seize them?'
These are really good questions and often we don't go deep enough to answer them. These questions address not only our actions, but our interactions with those around us. Our outer world and our inner world.
I especially like the questions around what were the moments I missed, where I could take on some learning and help myself grow. It is only when we look over our days and weeks, months, years and even chapters of our lives, that we are able to see patterns, explore ideas and then from this reflection, find new ways to take action. This is really a personal exercise.
I am not proposing that this reflection should become a moment for wallowing in self-pity but it is a time to be honest. Watch out for your negative self-talk though, and like Chapter 3 of John Maxwell's book advises, take responsibility for your actions and your part in certain situations.
Starting this week, I am going to find at least some part of my week to take myself out for a coffee, to go to a park and sit with myself or even go for a leisurely solo bike ride. Without distractions, in a quiet way, where I can reflect, take stock of my time, relationships and actions and see where I can improve, forgive, take a different path or make a different decision. Like all the 15 Laws of Invaluable Growth, we only get out what we put in. John Maxwell says to write out of the questions and write our the answers which might also be new to you.
I hope you might be able to do so as well and that it helps you in your life! We can only try! Perhaps it opens up a whole new world of action for you!
Is there something in your life this week that you wanted to achieve but in the end had to realise it would not be possible? Something you really really thought you could obtain but due to external and internal circumstances, you couldn't? This surely happens to all of us.
In her book, Speak Connect Succeed, Aletta Rochet talks about this idea in her chapter titled, 'The Conversation with Yourself.' She suggests that if we don't stop to talk to ourselves in a positive way then we are not helping ourselves. She says, our self-talk should have a purpose. Part of that purpose is to nurture ourselves to realise that life is full of twists and turns and unexpected events.
Jim Carrey said is succinctly in his commencement speech address when he said, put in your order with the Universe and wait to see how it plays out. We cannot always control or predict how things will turn out. This can be for our long term goals and our short term expectations. The promotion we wanted will not be given to us with a firing of confetti canons and people standing and cheering us in the office. The expectations for what our children will do might surprise us. The birthday party we might have planned for six months, might not end the way we thought it would. The work assignment we hoped to finish this week will not be completed as we are waiting for information from colleagues.
We need to regularly make peace with all sorts of situations. We need to take time to reflect and let go of the situations and relationships that don't serve us. Should we remain angry at a colleague for something they said this week, or can we make peace with it? Our boss seemed angry with us this month, can we let go of that and stop thinking about it too much? If your boss doesn't tell you why they might be angry with you, perhaps they are not. It is these small things that we need to stay positive about and forgive others for. Otherwise all these small stones start to feel heavy for us.
This week I had the pleasure of going to Frankfurt to deliver a workshop and in airports we often just have to wait. For a connection or when boarding for instance. This gives us time to think and reflect. For me, I used this time to reflect on where I am going in my life, to make peace with where I am currently at and what I am doing with myself. Aletta warns against indulging in negative self-talk and it is amazing how easily we can move into that. Suddenly we are comparing ourselves to others, to our previous goals and feeling glum, yet the mere fact that we can easily travel around the world is such a modern marvel that other generations only dreamt about. We need to make peace with our situation in a positive way. We need to stay focused on the present and shorter term future.
So how can we do this? In my opinion:
When we make peace with things, we accept ourselves and in accepting we can move on, good or bad towards our future. Make peace with where you are, come back to the NOW and you might find it is a nice place to be.
When did you realise you had become an adult? Was there a right of passage or did your parents and teachers remark at how grown-up you are? Perhaps you just decided to stop playing? No more toys, games, pranks, fun and allowing your mind and body to relax and enjoy. You had to be serious now, determined, goal focused and striving towards success.
If this is a familiar story don't dismay, as I think it is like this for most of us. We then go through our lives determined to structure everything, set goals, get serious and forget to smile.
We forget to have some fun. I don't mean adult fun like getting drunk with friends on Friday nights but I mean the sort of fun where you play. Play board games, play video games, play some basketball at the local sports hall. Not playing for competition, medals or anything else.
I think there is a connection with this kind of play and our ability to use our imagination. To create stories and adventures in our mind, or to use our bodies and minds in fun ways.
As an English Trainer, I often ask people to use their imaginations, to create a story or write down a list of words. Many hit a blank. Even if I ask the question in their native language they are still at a blank. Perhaps this has to do with play?
Similarly, when I give Voice Training to people for speaking and singing purposes, they are draw a blank when I ask then to act something out. I have heard 'but I don't want to change who I am.' I am not asking for them to change themselves but simply to explore different versions of themselves.
Think about the roles you have in your life. I myself, am a Husband, Father, Trainer, Singer, Foreigner in Vienna, Friend and so on. Each of these roles I play has different ways of being and while all a version of me, are different. I am not the Voice Trainer with my kids. And this is ok. This is how it should be. We all 'play' different roles in our lives.
Play for me, is more and more of a concept I am exploring with people. Someone asked me the other day, so how do you get into your 'flow' moments when you are singing or training? Moments where I feel happy and excited to be doing what I am doing. Moments where I lose track of time for the enjoyment of everything. I said, 'I play with them'. Seeing how far I can push a concept of idea with someone is play. Showing them how I play with my voice. So, how can you learn to play again?
Here are some ideas that work for me:
Dr. Stuart Brown gave a TED talk 'Play is more than just fun' and in it he discusses the fact that play is an integral part of our development and our lives. Whether it is 'body play', 'social play' or 'imaginative play' and even 'story play' all these types of play do wonders for the brain. Play works certain parts of the brain and helps memory development as well. Animals naturally use play in their interactions even between species. He shows a picture of a hungry polar bear engaging in play with some wolves as the play signals by each were given. When animals are played deprived they don't develop normally according to research.
He gives us a word, Neoteny, which means a retention of childhood qualities in adulthood and suggests we all have a personal play history that we need to understand and continue to develop.
What does a life without play look like? Brown suggests we can be more likely to suffer depression without play. We are meant to play throughout our lifetimes. Not just as children.
Trust is established through play. Unfortunately, we begin to lose these signals in adulthood and play less. The animal kingdom uses vocal, facial, bodily and gestural signs to help establish trust in groups.
He suggests we should want to infuse our lives with play for all purposes, business, personal and social. All kinds of play to have a better and more empowered life.
Play is not about rehearsing for life. Play is life. So go play and find ways to act like a kid again!
David Corcoran is a Personal Development Trainer who specialises in Voice and a professional Opera Singer. This Blog contains his regular musings, thoughts and ideas. He is based in Vienna, Austria.