John Maxwell talks about the idea of a personal growth plan in his book 'The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth'. He says goals are not important, growth is. And you need a plan. A roadmap, a guide, an idea of where you want to go. So where do you want to go?
I think most of us are lost when we asking this question of ourselves. He challenges readers of the book to think harder on this topic than any other. It informs the rest of our goals, behaviours and activities. He describe the plan as what do you want to develop in your character? What kind of person do you want to be? It is indeed powerful.
I always focused in my 20'S and 30's on goals. I wanted to sing certain roles and eventually was in a nice position where I got to sing these roles. I remained focused and then to Vienna where a shift occurred. I started to look at my life outside of singing and what did I want to do? Where could I serve the community? I believe meeting my Mentor when I did has helped me to find, through John's book an answer to this question. I aim to grow as a person now, not a goal orientated achiever. To develop my character and then to inspire others to do the same. This shift has meant that when I sing I still enjoy it, but I am not out to conquer the world or achieve certain things. My whole life has been redefined.
I am still hazy on my growth plan, but have seen how I have grown in character in the past few years. Or at least been more conscious of it. Living in another country and starting somewhat at the bottom again has been a humbling experience. My circle of friends and influence has had to grow again and I have taken some time to explore my person and who I want and need to be. For myself. Not for the expectations of extended family but for me. I can grow and develop how I need to and this is the momentum I need to generate.
John Maxwell says this plan needs constant change and development and to reflect where we are in life. He has been working on his plan for over 40 years he says. So the plan is something that changes and develops as we go along. This is encouraging for me, as perhaps I will never complete my plan, but find continual ways to grow.
Believe it or not, other people rub off on us. Both in good ways and in bad. When we were growing up our parents would say, be careful about hanging around with that kid, or I don't like that girl you are with and to most of us this advice fell on deaf ears until we ultimately broke up with that girl or that friend was no longer our friend. Certainly as adults, we are surrounded by many people, and we need to be careful about our influences.
So, who are the 5 main people around you? These people should support you as well as challenge you on the way to you being a better version of yourself. This year I have really changed who my 5 are and it has been a good exercise. Mentors have come and gone and I am grateful that I have met someone who truly interesting and interested in me. We have come together at the right time and I feel open to his learning. He has introduced me to John Maxwell and his teachings and I am open and grateful for this opportunity.
Whoever your five people are, and perhaps if you are on another persons five list, we need to take this responsibility seriously. To practice what we preach, remain open and teachable and to find ways to connect regularly with our people. Many of us are becoming increasingly isolated, with home based offices, flexible working hours, juggling more activities and to do's and so we perhaps don't make time for our 5 as we should. Knowing our five is important and developing these relationships, giving more value than we receive and seeing how this benefits our life. My five really give me something different and from each I am grateful for their teaching.
Do you like to travel? If so, where do you travel to? Do you stay within your country or region or do you like to go abroad and expand your horizons? Do you travel for work or for pleasure? These factors all affect how we feel about travel and what happens to our minds to expand our sense of self. I think travel is a fantastic way to expand our sense of self and also to see how other people live. Often we get caught up with our lives and wanting and doing certain things, so seeing how others live can show us alternatives, perhaps to see our lives are better than we thought they are and to perhaps relax and take it easy. To not put so pressure on ourselves. To appreciate what we do. To appreciate in life the things we have.
So where do you travel? Sometimes we can travel abroad, but also within ourselves. Many of us don't know our destination so we just travel along. Is this the best way to be? I don't think so. We need to constantly expand our horizons, try new things and move forward in a way that allows us to become more complete and whole (if we can ever be so). Travel both inside and out can help us here. Exploring our inner world, travelling to the dark recesses of our conscious and perhaps exploring our fundamental tapes with the help of a trained professional might be an interesting exercise. Not forever, but for a while. Long enough to realise that we are all on a journey, a little floored and just doing our best.
Travel both in a out has helped me to expand my world view, see others with empathy and not be so targeted and goal driven. I am slowly learning to let be what will be and not be so driven towards material success and things, as I know they are only that. It is about making more of a difference in others ways now that is important. Travel keeps it real and helps me in this understanding.
This week I have become more interested in cultural Intelligence and how it effects all that we do. We are all usually born into a culture that for many is mixed. In Australia it was common to have friends whose parents or grandparents were not from Australia originally but had come to Australia seeking a different life. Families integrated while still allowing customs, language and private celebrations to exist within their family unit.
Unfortunately my ancestors for the longest time have resided in Australia so it wasn't until I moved to Europe that I could learn more about how being from another culture felt. By that, there is a term in expat literature called culture shock and I believe it can be real for most who move and travel abroad a lot. Moving to Austria things seemed the same, but below the surface there are differences. The expectations of a different society have to be learnt. I am especially proud of my kids who have adjusted into new cultures at such a young age. I am interested to see how this culture defines their lives and the choices they make.
So how does Culture effect your personal development and the goals and desires you set for yourself? I think there is a lot at play here. Our culture from a young age defines us strongly and perhaps not every culture encourages independent thought, a free spirit and creating a life that fulfills you. For instance, when I speak to many here in Austria they find it difficult to comprehend that I studied Psychology and worked for awhile, then became a professional Opera Singer and am now a Personal Development Trainer. Three complete changes of career. Here the expectation that still pervades many parts of culture is that you do your studies and then find a job in that area. You work in the same position for many years, then retire between 60 & 65. Of course this view existed in Australia but some 15-20 years ago this started to change. Australians like to go against tradition and so things have evolved from there (thank heavens). Here in Austria though this mentality holds people back from trying new things. It holds back the desire to grow, evolve and look into new things. Most of us like permanency but in 2018 this cannot be guaranteed. We need to be flexible and consider our own development and in light of our culture.
Indeed when I decided to do Opera, my family may have considered me mad and in a way I went against cultural norms as well but the hunger and desire to give it a serious go was there and I am grateful for the way it worked out.
Change in general is hard but it can be even harder when your culture doesn't allow you to explore and develop yourself. This is where travel is an eye opening experience. Whether for a holiday or as something permanent we can use travel to open our eyes to possibilities and explore how other people live. To make observations and try without judgement to just look. Be in another's culture and understand more.
The biggest problem we often face is finding it hard to assimilate. I have found Austrian culture difficult and bureaucratic at times but I have to adapt myself. I cannot imply my culture on others. I am the odd man out. I aim by reading this book on Cultural Intelligence to open my eyes and to find better ways of living and working in this most liveable city of Vienna.
We are all at the mercy of the weather both in terms of how we get about our cities and towns but also in our mood. Many people I have taught and trained tell me they experience mood shifts and even forms of depression associated with the weather.
Being back in Austria and experiencing the heat that has been with us most of Summer from the colder but still sunny weather of Australia, I see the difference. When the air is thick with heat and you cannot escape it, it really drags you down. Sleepless nights because it is so hot, mean harder days filled with more coffee and complaining. Are you someone who is effected by the heat? What about the cold?
It was amazing to see in just two days Vienna become colder. We had rain for 24 hours and since then temperature has been 10 degrees cooler. It is welcome relief but possibly sparks the end of the Summer period.
Having lived in Australia for 35 years before coming to Europe I think spoiled me. The weather changes exist but on the whole it often feels now like there are two seasons and not four. It is warmer for more time of the year, where here in Vienna heat feels brief. I wonder if this effects people's moods. Although Vienna is now rated on all City Scales as the most liveable city in the world I wonder based on the weather if this could be. It is certainly cooler more months of the year than it is warmer.
I try not to let the weather effect me but I am certain it does. I don't see huge mood swings in myself but I know I am more comfortable in this more often colder climate. As I mentioned others who I have worked with feel really effected and this information their work, social life and general living. So what can we do?
Perhaps the best idea is to embrace it. We are not always meant to be upbeat and happy and it is worth knowing the sad times to know the good times. Each season and weather condition brings with it its own challenges. Perhaps the message here is to find the messages within ourselves and take the take to explore. If we hastily brush them off then the issue is not worked on.
When we want to develop and grow in our lives, it can be important to let go of things that don't support us. For instance, when you want to lose a few kilograms, you need to give up sugary food and alcohol perhaps. When we want to get fit, we cannot sleep in but instead need to get up earlier to fit in exercise. We trade one thing for another.
John Maxwell talks about the term, give up to go up and it speaks truth. If we want to be more successful as people there are many times in life when we need to give up certain things. TV, sweets, parties and other unhealthy habits all need to be curbed in order to achieve something new for ourselves. Often this new thing leads to growth for us in some way. So I want to encourage you to think where do you want to grow and what do you need to give up to go there?
We all need to pay a price for success in one way or another and we always make this choice. There is always a sacrifice. We cannot have lots of money perhaps without an unhappy family life, we cannot enjoy too much of one thing without it costing us in another. The point is we need to make a choice, be happy with it and get on with it. Growth is intentional and we need to make it so, by considering where do we grow. What facets of our life need some attention?
In the last three years I have stepped away from the Opera scene but I know now I have done some growing. I am more of a rounded person, know I have skills and ideas in other areas and have been accepted into whole new communities. I am about to being lecturing at a Fach Hochschule here in Vienna which is a University level institution. It has been in the back of my mind for a long time to achieve this. I couldn't do it if I was still singing around the place. So I have had to give up to grow in this direction and I am hopeful I can continue to grow in the future with more contracts and opportunities to teach and train people in topics I am passionate about. Many of the things we want to achieve in our life require some form of giving up. It can be temporary but they are there. I still sing but just not as my source of income. This has also freed me to become a happy healthier singer.
So think about where you want to grow. Be intentional and begin to see what you need to stop, evolve or continue to do to assist in your growth.
After four Summers here in Europe I now realise that the beginning of September is akin to the beginning of the year for many. It is the opening of the new school year for students at school and University and many people return from extended holidays in August. In Australia this was always tied into the calendar year over Christmas and January. It is no wonder then that it feels like a new beginning and a new adventure into the next 6 months.
Vienna really does become a ghost town with many fleeing the heat of the city for nearby locations where there is water or to the coasts of other countries, to beaches and islands where living in the water 20 hours a day is possible. For those of us left in Vienna, it is a nice time to easily gain a parking space and enjoy of the delights of Vienna without too much hassle.
So with this extra time for reflection, it is possible to dream and envisage the next six months of work, life and living in a foreign country. A country not without its challenges and situations for the self-initiated expatriate.
I am looking forward in particular to a couple of things that I aim to bring to life in the next six months. The first is several Mastermind groups with the help of my mentor. We are inspired by the words and work of John Maxwell, who is a leadership author with some 80+ books. His teachings and motivation surround a central message that we are capable of growth when we are intentional about it and when we put together a daily routine and balance that supports this growth. We aim to, with the help of particular books by John, to help our Mastermind group participants grow and develop themselves over a 10 week period. Growth is individual and it must come from choice. The choices we make today and tomorrow and next week really will determine our futures. It is with this in mind that I will be launching this new project. Living the example I aim to teach.
I am also really excited to be working on a couple of online based projects. One in an app with a couple of other like minded Personal Growth individuals here in Vienna. We aim to launch this app by the end of the year with version one. It is based around personal development and your growth through challenges and tasks designed to help you explore yourself.
My other online project is to create an online course. Instead of an e-book or free give away, I will be pouring my ideas and self into the area of Stage Anxiety. Whether your anxiety is in the boardroom or on the stage, I believe firmly in the tools and exercises I have developed over my career as a singer and now as a Personal Development Trainer. These tools could be the way you reduce your anxiety and allow your butterflies to fly in formation.
So while it is not yet Christmas and the traditional new year and beginning I have experienced in Australia, it feels like the time it ripe for new energies and ideas to manifest. For new adventures to begin where I can help others to become more authentic and a better versions of themselves.
Please get in touch with me if one of these projects appeals to you and you would like to be involved in the some way. There is always room for help in many ways and for you to become a better version of yourself.
We often want to achieve certain ideals in our lives, but something stops us. Perhaps our routine is interrupted, or we lose the desire for the goal we wanted to achieve or something just gets in the way. Why is that?
Perhaps it has something to do with how easily our minds go from one task to another. If you are like me, it actually takes quite a lot of energy to sustain concentration. It is said it is a skill we are losing. Our ability to concentrate is diminishing due to the Internet and being distracted by our phones and other online devices. We crave the chemical hits of dopamine and other substances to get through our day.
I find in my own life, my routine is absolutely important. When I was in Australia on holiday, I lost my routine and now a month has passed. I did not maintain things like daily TED talks, Duolingo and Meditation, as I was in a completely different space. It was interesting to observe. Even now, a week into being back in Vienna, I am still not back in my routine. I know I will get it back, and can help myself by setting it up as soon as possible. Making the decision to commit.
So what is stopping you in your life? Is it your routine or something else? For many, it is the courage to make a decision. In reading 'Think like an Artist' by Will Gompertz over my holiday, he mentioned in one of the chapters that all artists have courage and make decisions and this is what sets them apart from others. So perhaps your decision making skills need some improvement.
I have been aware of this for the last few months and feel this is accurate for me. When we make small decisions in our lives effectively, the bigger ones take care of themselves. Choose when you get up, and do it. Choose whether to have breakfast or not. Stick to it. Choose how you will get to work and go for it.
Our ability to be crippled by choice is a common modern problem. When we go shopping there is no longer one brand of butter, but 15. This becomes confusing. Some are on special, others not, different sizes and styles. It might be nice to shop for a bargain if this is your choice, but I find the choice confusing and I end up wasting time on the computer researching things often, when ultimately I will go in and make a choice in the moment anyway, usually based on an emotional preference than a rational one. Most of the time I am happy with my choice and I am not saying you shouldn't research options and prices, but once decided on something, just go for it.
Coming back to our personal lives, it is these choices that we have the most control over. What to put in our mouths, what to wear, which way to go to work, even which work we do and concentrate on. So don't stop yourself. Go for it and make more effective decisions for yourself. When you want to go for a bike ride, do it! Make the decision to get up at 6am or 5.30am and stick to it. You snooze your lose, is the phrase in English and it rings true. Wait and hesitate and it is already too late. Then nothing is stopping you!
Being in Australia for the first time in a couple of years, it has been a lovely time to reflect on where we have come and what we have achieved in 3.5 years. As our years in Europe grow, so does some our nostalgia for Australia and the parts of it we enjoyed in the past. Like any city of course there is also a tremendous amount of change from what we knew previously. This can also make a city feel less like what you knew. We are nearing the end of our holiday in Australia and the whole trip has been a nice moment to reflect. Also as I write this, my 30th blog post for 2018, it is a good time to reflect on where I have been in this last six months and where I see myself and my family going in the next six months, 2 years and even 5 years.
We went to storage today to see what things we wanted to bring back and what we wanted to keep. Somethings have already been brought over thanks to the blessings of family and so we had a short time to discover what trinkets, mementos, family heirlooms and other oddities were waiting for us. Many of the items will stay in Australia until we feel like we are permanently in Europe for the longer haul. One container load of these things would be all it would need to reunite us with our things. Otherwise they remain safe here in Australia.
What can you leave and what do you really need to bring with you on your journey?
This reflection and other moments in my trip have allowed me to see I have grown in the last 3.5 years. Moving to a new city or country in not an easy task especially with a partner and small children. We miss certain things we took for granted in Australia and so are indulging a little in such things. Meat pies, Confectionary like Peppermint Crisps, Mint Patties and Whittakers Peanut slab to name a few, as well as craft beer (which has exploded in Australia), good coffee and familiar locations like Manly and Barangaroo. We have missed many things without really knowing we had.
We have also really missed friends. A friends network cannot be taken for granted. It is one thing to connect on Social media, but really lovely to see people in person. Making the effort takes effort. When you live in the same city it is easy to assume people will be there. In another city or country, we have to make the effort and really have on returning to Australia.
A moment of reflection when you come back to your old city or country can show you these things. Also some of the things you left for. Sydney and Melbourne now feel like busy, noisy and hectic cities. Lots to do, places to be, status to gain. Coffees and networking to have. Of course this exists in Vienna, but is somehow the same but different. It takes a moment of reflection to see this. Vienna might feel overwhelming for its own reasons, but that is where our hearts are for now.
I am glad we have come back and reflect that this trip has been good for all of us to see the people we love, the places we like and the things we want to experience. We now look forward to returning with renewed hearts and spirits ready to make the next few years even more successful for us all.
When you go on holiday, do you relax or do you cram in as much activity as you can in the hope of going 'extreme' for four weeks before returning to a less than extreme job or occupation? Or, can you relax and find time to rejuvenate?
If you are like me, you are lead a busy life full of uncertainly, worry and hussle. Constantly changing and adapting, it is important to take some time out to rest and recuperate. I know I don't do it enough. This month I am on holiday back in Australia, seeing family and finding some time to rest. In fact, this post comes at a time when I have not been doing much but looking after the kids, swimming and sitting around eating too much! It showed me that I can find some time to rest. I don't need to fill my days with too much.
We are staying near Byron Bay in an area we are familiar with, so there is no need to rush. I see now why my parents liked to go to the same caravan park for holidays. There is no need to see anything. Just to find space to relax. No tourist stuff. I am grateful for this insight as now perhaps I can plan future holidays with this in mind. Even find space eventually to take myself to a lodge for a weekend and do nothing but recharge. To stop and take a 'holiday'. Time to contemplate, reflect and see where I am, in this moment of my life. Too often we move from one stage to the next without such reflection. This is why I liked gap years now. I never had one graduating in 1996. They were unheard of, instead you went out to work or went on a schoolies event getting drunk every night for a week. I chose work and went to my families plant farm. No rest for the wicked. My younger cousins are now all routinely taken a gap year to travel, plan and see where their hearts lie.
As I get older, I see the value in this rest. Recently, my father visited me in Austria and asked me 'When do you stop?' At that moment, I was getting the kids to bed so I mumbled an answer and kept going, but this question has stuck in my mind and since I have started to find time. Every so often now, I take night where I don't have to do something, to achieve something and try to move forward. Like a creek or river, there are pockets that are outside the flow, where water finds rest. It can be momentary but they exist. In life too, we need to find time to rest. To appreciate music, art, culture. As I write this post, I am listening to a lovely Spotify Chill Classical playlist and really enjoying the soulful serenity in the music. Music begging me to 'chill'. To stop, rest and be in this moment.
Find some music, a park or a place where you can stop. Holiday there for a short time like a bend in a flowing river and retreat from the world. Take a break and some time reflect, recharge and regenerate. If I can try, so can you.
David Corcoran is a Executive Voice Coach. He helps people take responsibility for their communication. This Blog contains his regular musings, thoughts and ideas. He is based in Vienna, Austria.