The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Category: ‘Goals & productivity’

Dec 21

Chicken soup, the cure all for everythingI’ve been ill since July, and the novelty’s now worn off.

So this isn’t a post about being more confident, it’s a post about how crappy I’m feeling.

Having gone to the Docs several times he shrugged his shoulders and told me I had post viral fatigue and that it’ll sort itself out eventually.

A 40 year medical career and I get a shrug of the shoulders.  Brilliant.

Not willing to leave it at that I went to a nutritionist, who told me I’ve also got adrenal fatigue.  I eat healthily anyway (other than my love of cheese, without which I fear I’d perish), so all she suggested was taking 8 different supplement pills each day and spitting into four vials before sending them away to a boffin in a lab coat.

What this means is that since July I’ve had zero energy and catch every cold and flu bug under the sun.  Today, again, I woke up and felt the tell tale sign of aches, pains and dizziness, my head has that familiar full-of-porridge feeling and I can’t stop napping.

Brilliant.  I never even got over the last cold.

I know this is something I have to put up with until it goes and that there are folks out there with real problems, but I just hate how it’s been getting in the way of me enjoying my life — particularly Christmas, which is my absolute favourite time of year.  I’m not used to not being able to be on top form, and it feels like an age ago when I was last firing on all cylinders.

What troubles me more is that over the last week I’ve noticed there’s a bit more negativity creeping into my outlook, which really sucks.  I’ve been down on stuff, snappish and moody.  This isn’t the Steve I’m used to at Christmas.

I can’t control what my body does, but having spotted this creeping-negativity happening I have a big say in what my head does.

I know I can do things to turn that negativity around and I can focus on the simple things.

So I’m gonna take it easy this Christmas.  Not so much booze, not so much partying and plenty of early nights.  I should have cleaned the house and done a bunch of writing today, but I took this afternoon to lounge in my chair, watch ‘Superman Returns‘ and have a nap.

It was lovely.

With a bit of luck and a lot of patience (never one of my strong points), I’ll be back into the Christmas spirit and will have this thing beat before I can say “Shove your pills right up your a**e“.

Comments Off on Sick of Being Sick
Oct 17

Ask 3 simple questions to get whatever you want in lifeJust relax and let me take your stresses and strains away”, “Come and stay in my luxury villa – it’s right on the beach” and “Would you like cheque for an this extraordinarily large amount of money?” are 3 questions I’d strongly advise answering with an impassioned “Yes”, but that’s a bit of a no brainer.

There are 3 other questions that determine whether you’ll get what you want in life. 3 questions that you might be asking yourself every day, without even being aware of it. 3 questions that, if you answer “No” to any one of them, will make you less confident and stop you from getting what you want.

Want to know what they are?

Okay, I’ll tell you.

  1. Is it possible for me?
    The first question makes you look at what you want to have, do or be and ask yourself this – do I honestly believe it’s possible for me to have it?

    If you want a job that works for you, do you believe it’s possible for you to have it?

    If you want a relationship that gives you what you need, do you believe it’s possible for you to have it?

    If you want to feel great about yourself and have all the confidence in the world, do you believe it’s possible for you to have it?

    Dig deep and be honest with yourself.

    There’s a balance between what’s possible and what’s realistic – don’t get the 2 confused. If you decide that you want to pull in $250k next year that’s all well and good, but if all you’re taking home this year is $30k then it’s probably not realistic. If you’ve decided that you want to get hitched to your dream man in the next 6 months and you’ve only been on 1 date in the last year, then you might want to think again. These things aren’t impossible, but they’re not entirely realistic either.

    Much better to start with a figure of £50k or to make decisions about how you can get more of the right kinds of dates first, and then build from there.

    The key is to honestly think about whether it’s realistically possible for you to have what you want. If you answer no, challenge yourself. Is it actually not possible, or do you just believe that it isn’t possible? There’s a world of difference.

  2. Do I have the ability?
    This second question makes you look at what you want to have, do or be and ask yourself – do I have the ability to get what I want?

    This question forces you to look at whether you have the ability or capability to make something happen, but don’t confuse that with thinking you need to have all the answers right now. You don’t.

    If you don’t currently have the ability – and that could because you lack a key skill, because you need to work on something or because there’s a piece of experience you don’t have – ask yourself whether you have the ability to learn it.

    This question is all about how much confidence you have in how capable you are. If you don’t feel like you’re good enough or if you don’t trust your ability to see something happen you’ll find it tough to answer ‘Yes’ to this one.

  3. Do I deserve it?
    This last question is a tricky one, and often reveals how you really feel about yourself. This is about your self-esteem and self-worth, so ask yourself if you believe that you deserve to have, do or be what you want, and be brutally honest with yourself.

    The answer to this question has nothing to do with having ‘paid your dues’ or ‘put in the hours’. While sometimes you have to work hard to get what you want those factors are irrelevant in terms of whether you feel personally worthy of getting what you want.

    This is simply about whether you feel that you deserve an outstanding life, whether your self-worth is equal to or greater than the value you’ve placed on what you’re looking for.

    Answer ‘No’ to this one and you’ll need to do some serious work to get your self-worth and self-esteem up to the point where you truly feel like you deserve to have what you want.

Possible? Able? Worthy?. Just 3 simple questions.

Whether it’s a fantastic new job, a big boost in your self- confidence, a special someone to share your life with or a new pair of shoes, if you can answer ‘Yes’ to each one of these questions you’ll have the foundations in place for achieving whatever you want.

Jul 29

Just beautiful
I’ve just got back from a few days in Sweden (congratulations again on your wedding Ralphie and Helen!), where I strolled around and explored the city of Stockholm. For a vibrant capital city it’s amazingly laid back. I expected a noisy hub like London – constant din, hustle and people jostling you out of their way. It wasn’t like that at all, and I was amazed at how serene the city was.

Walking around, if I closed my eyes I could be in my sleepy home town of Tunbridge Wells such is the volume level, even in the busiest of areas. Cars stop politely at crossings; people in stores, restaurants and café’s wear smiles and will gladly go the extra mile; it’s one of the safest cities in the world and the population seems to be perfectly content in their beautiful city.

Which brings me to the point. What struck me about the Swedish is how happy they are to be right where they are, something that’s most certainly represented in the laid back nature of the city and the people.

In London, New York and other major cities, people are rushing from one place to the next, never waiting long before wanting to move onto the next thing. The next intersection, the next meeting, the next task, the next social function, the next job. I’m as guilty as the next guy for falling into the ‘gotta get going’ habit.

Using the 80/20 rule, the Swedish are happy right where they are 80% of the time and looking to move forwards 20% of the time, the rest of us are happy for 20% of the time and restless for the remaining 80%.

This difference struck me very clearly, and it’s also indicative of why goals – which in places like London and New York have been pushed down our necks by the self-help industry for at least the last 20 years – don’t work.

The very nature of goals make you look forwards at what’s next, never at what you’ve got right now. Goals have the tendency to make you feel less-than, because there’s something you don’t have now that you aspire to have in the future. Goals introduce a gap between where you are and where you’d like to be, which instantly makes part of where you are right now a place you don’t want to be.

Once you reach a goal, what’s next? Gotta have another goal. Then another, then another. When do you get to stop and just enjoy life right where you are?

Show me a goal-hungry person and I’ll show you someone who’s always wanting something better to come along, someone who’s convinced – albeit perhaps not consciously – that reaching their goals will lead to their happiness. Even if that person reaches a goal I’ll bet that it lacks meaning and personal relevance, and so the hunt for meaning, relevance and happiness goes on.

This is how the very nature of having goals can hurt your self-confidence and self-esteem, and is exactly why I stopped coaching people on goals a couple of years ago and came up with a method of coaching people that works much better.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in coaching and in my personal life (and my trip to Stockholm was a timely reminder) is to recognise where you are right now and to enjoy it.

Goals don’t matter a jot unless you have that first.

Jun 07

The art of doing nothing...You know what, I love doing nothing. I’m actually pretty good at it, and when I’ve been busy it’s just great to sit back, do nothing and relax for a while. I’m a great schlepper, and I’ve come to see that schlepping is a key piece of what makes me productive.

When I started freelancing alongside my coaching I thought I’d make use of my commuting time to write, and that if I took my laptop to work with me I could sit in a coffee shop at lunch time and take care of emails. I tried to squeeze more time out of my day, all of which added to my stress levels and didn’t get me any further ahead.

I was stressed out, waking up in the middle of the night worrying that things aren’t getting done and that the world will fall apart if I don’t’ do them.

I felt bad that things were getting on top of me and that I wasn’t able to do everything. I started seeing myself as failing to get things done, that somehow I was less than because even though I was on the go for 16 hours a day I wasn’t delivering what I wanted to deliver.

Recognise this?

Many of my clients sure do – this is one of the many confidence-impacting problems that I deal with every week. The bottom line is that if you keep on going full steam ahead, trying to do everything with the notion that you ought to be able to do it all, you’ll burn out. You’ll lose yourself in the middle of everything you’re doing, and you’ll find your focus and sense of what you’re about slipping.

Let that ride and your self-confidence will suffer as you focus more and more on what you’re not doing and where you’re not seeing things happen as you’d like them to.

The belief that you need to deliver consistently without ever stopping is a deeply flawed one. It WILL get in the way of what you’re working on, and it WILL impact how you see yourself and your level of confidence.

So stop it.

I want to spell out to you that it’s okay to not do things. It’s okay to slow down, take a break and nourish yourself. More than that, it’s dangerous not to.

One quick distinction to make – don’t think for a second that slowing down is the same as procrastinating. Far from it. This funny little film shows you precisely what procrastinating is.

Procrastinating is busying yourself with all kinds of other things so that you don’t have to ‘get your stuff done’. Slowing down is making a deliberate and positive choice to take a break and nourish yourself.

As I’ve come to see. slowing down can be an amazing strategy for being more productive.

Tell me – Do you have problems slowing down or feel bad that you’re not getting everything done? How do you refuel, recharge and nourish yourself?

Comments Off on Doing Nothing is the New Productivity Strategy
May 24

Hi Steve!
I am struggling to define my life in general. In my head I have all these visions of myself, how I’d like to be, to look, to dress, yet I am constantly just surviving, and feel I am not achieving anything.

How do I pick myself up and get going? I seem to want to get all the distractions out of the way all the time before I start the ‘real’ work – so it never stops, because there is always something else that creeps in, and I end up doing nothing in particular, except wasting a lot of time. I always feel that if I make a choice that it wasn’t the right one, and that a better choice, solution etc. will be just around the corner, and if I had waited/gone around the corner, I would have found a better way….so I end up mulling things over and not doing anything at all.

Sometimes, I have bursts of energy where I am able to just do and go for it, even feel better for it, but it doesn’t seem to last. The feeling of going through the 26.2 mile mark and finishing a marathon is the best feeling I have ever had and I felt that if I put my mind to anything, I could do it! Unfortunately – again – this euphoria didn’t last, and even if I remember it, I don’t seem to be able to reconnect with that feeling and sense of achievement to give me the energy. What can I do?

I’m stuck and don’t know how to move forward. Is it just one thing that I’m struggling with? Is it me? Are there others that feel the same? How do they cope? I feel as if I don’t cope….

– Katharina in London

There’s so much in your email that it’s pretty much impossible to give you answers. You’re certainly in a big ol’ rut, and I think there are 2 main themes here.

  1. You’ve become disconnected from your life and what matters to you. They say that no man’s an island, and you can’t exist in a vacuum without connecting with your life and the world around you. The more separate you become from what you’re feeling and what’s important the more disconnected and out of place you feel.

    It’s through your connections with yourself and the world around you that you can move beyond merely existing and stand a chance of leading a rich and rewarding life, so figure out what you’re disconnected from then flip it around to look at what the connection is. If you feel disconnected from your sense of fun, then the connection is about having fun. If you feel distant from what you’re doing at work, then the connection is about doing work that you can connect with. If you feel disconnected from your relationships then the connection is about connecting with people at a deeper level.

    Feel free to start with small things, but start connecting with things that make you feel like Katharina.

  2. I talk a lot about playing a game that matters, and I rarely coach people in goals these days. Look at it this way – if you want to play a game of tennis you can’t focus just on the result of the game. You have to make a choice to get onto the tennis court and play a great game of tennis. You have to work on your serve and backhand, you have to get the right tennis shoes and racket, you have to work on how you approach the game and how you think about it.

    In other words, if you want to play a game of tennis you have to fully engage with it on an ongoing basis. Not because all you want to do is win, but because you love the game and it matters to you. Approach a game with that attitude and you’ll stand a far, far higher chance of winning than blindly pursuing the win itself.

    The same goes with your life. You need to figure out what’s important to you, you need to figure out what game you want to play, and then you need to get in the game. This is why your bursts of energy don’t seem to last, because you’re not making a choice from that deep place that wants to play a game that matters – it’s just coming from what you think you should be doing.

Playing a game that matters is where the best stuff in life happens, which is why I’ve made this the focus of how I coach now. You’ve proved that you’re capable. You’ve proved that you’ve had fun and that you’ve pursued what’s important to you. You’ve just got a bit lost recently.

As to your last question, yes, many people feel just like you.

May 10

Another night in front of the telly!Really, it does. To illustrate, it’s a gorgeous, warm, sunny Saturday evening and I’m at home writing articles. It’s not a sudden thing, this has kinda crept up on me.

My friends are coupled up, settling down, having families and I’m simply not seeing much of them any more. My social life with old friends is shrinking fast, and it’s left a bit of a hole. Normally people meet friends through work, but even though I’m a sociable animal at heart and having fun is incredibly important to me, it seems that I’ve made this a little more complicated for myself.

Coaching by it’s nature is a solitary profession. I have a session with a client and after 45 minutes the session ends and we both get moving again. I’m lucky enough to have friends who are ex-clients and, but these individuals are rare. By necessity, the focus of coaching is uni-directional, so the opportunity of building a friendship doesn’t come along very often. I also have some friends who are coaches, but with some very notable exceptions I often find other coaches to be a little too ‘Stepford Wives’ for my liking.

That’s exactly why I do my freelance project management work – because it puts me in a room with other people who I have to work closely with to deliver something. Other than earning some good money, my main aim from the freelancing is to socialise. I meet all kinds of good people, I go for drinks after work and when I move on I keep in touch with those who I’ve connected with.

The problem is that I’ve had to become so disciplined that I haven’t realised how disciplined I’ve become. My freelancing takes up a lot of time and energy during the week, on top of which I write at least 4 articles a week and hold client sessions during evenings and weekends.

That means I have to be ultra-organised, and ultra-focused on what I’m doing and what’s next. I make a hundred decisions a day as a project manager and am pretty much tuckered out by the end of the week, but I can’t be on bad form for my clients. I need to do what I need to so that I’m firing on all cylinders to be able to conduct a good session and give my all to it.

Consequently I pile a lot of pressure on myself, and make decisions that mean I don’t go out because I know I have to be on top of my game.

That kinda sucks, because as Jack Nicholson famously said, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

As I said, this has kinda crept up on me, but what to do about it? I could jack in the freelancing which would give me much more time. While I wouldn’t miss the Big Messy Project, I’d miss the people I work with and I know that I get bored working from home by myself for long periods. I could cut back on the writing and coaching. But I know how important that it to me and that I need to do it.

So what I’m going to do is this. I’m gonna take some risks. I’m gonna say ”What the Hell’ more often. I’m gonna let relationships develop rather than managing or controlling them so that I can be ‘on top form’. I’m gonna live a little more instead of managing my life.

Jan 25

One of my favourite stories is about the artist Pablo Picasso, who was travelling by train on a journey across Spain when he was recognised by one of his fellow passengers, a businessman who was used to getting his own way. After exchanging pleasantries, the businessman told Picasso that while he admired his success, he felt his paintings could be improved.

How so?”, replied the bemused Picasso.

Well,” the businessman began, “Your paintings are too abstract – you should paint things more as they really are.

Could you explain more specifically what you mean?” Picasso asked politely.

Certainly!” the businessman replied, pulling a small photo from out of his briefcase. “Look at this photograph of my wife. This is how she actually looks – not some silly stylised representation.

Picasso studied the photograph carefully for a few moments, then asked “This is how your wife actually looks?

The businessman nodded proudly.

She’s very small,” observed Picasso.

Always makes me giggle. But the reason for telling you that story is a round-about way of illustrating my point.

We all have things that we want to work on, things we would love to be different in our lives and things we’d love to improve. A big part of what I do is helping people to find the confidence to do what matters to them, but sometimes the way that’s achieved can be a real surprise.

A question I get asked a lot is “How do I do that?”, when people are looking to make some kind of shift in their lives. They want ways to get things done; strategies and courses of action that will take them where they want to go. That’s fine for a lot of things, but sometimes the best thing to do is just allow things to happen the way they will naturally.

People often feel better having something to do and feel more confident when they think they’re taking action. Sometimes, just sometimes, the best way to create something amazing in life is to allow it to take shape – just like one of Picasso’s paintings. Picasso didn’t force his paintings to come out one particular way, he didn’t insist they had to look a specific way.

He just did what came naturally and allowed the paintings to take shape.

If something doesn’t seem to be progressing or if something just won’t work out the way you want it to, it might be that it’s just not ready to work out in the way that you want it to. It could be that the environment, the people, the intent, the will or the timing isn’t in the right place to get the result you want. So you have a choice – either continue spending energy working, worrying and becoming frustrated as you try to force things down a road that isn’t ready to be travelled, or simply take a step back, relax, breathe, and allow it to happen naturally.

I’m a bit of a control freak and like to have my soldiers neatly lined up in a row, and sometimes I have to tell myself to take a step back and relax. I wouldn’t dare call you a control freak, but, chances are that the thought of letting things happen without your control, input or influence is one that’s making you a little nervy.

Allowing things to happen takes real confidence and is one of the most powerful and liberating things you can do. It’s not about ‘not doing anything‘ or ‘giving up‘ – it’s actually an active process and a specific attitude.

Find the confidence to allow your life to happen and there’ll be a welcome party for you in the Winners Enclosure.

Comments Off on Get confident enough to stop controlling everything
Jan 04

I just Googled ‘New Years Resolutions’ – guess how many results turned up?

Over 5.5 million.

I’m not particularly surprised. As a coach I’ve spouted my fair share of platitudes about New Years Resolutions and how important they are. I know that coaches and lifestyle guru’s right around the world are espousing the need to make ‘realistic’ resolutions and offering all kinds of ways to stay on track with them.

Not me. Not any more. To be honest, I’ve never liked New Years Resolutions. Let’s face it, it’s pretty pointless waiting all year to decide on one or two things that you kinda sorta want to stop doing, but that you know full well you’re not really committed to following through with anyway. How silly is that?

Resolutions don’t work for 3 reasons.

  1. There’s no difference between a resolution and a goal. Goals do have a role to play, but I only use them in very specific situations these days. That’s normally with small, bite-sized chunks of things that can be easily measured, like losing 5lbs or having a writing project finished by the end of the month (check out Joe’s Goals for a neat little online app) – not the bigger, more nebulous stuff.

    Goals come with problems, and I’ve seen it time and time again. The problem is that as soon as you set yourself a goal you’re saying to yourself that you want more in your life than you have right now. Because you’re now aware of where you want to go and the fact that you’re not there yet, there’s a temptation to conclude that you’re less than, not as much as, not as good as. The temptation is to deduce that because where you are now is not where you want to be you’ve somehow failed already.

    There are other problems with goals too – a significant one being that along the road of working towards a goal you learn all kinds of new things, and those things are frequently worth more than the goal itself.

    Most people tend to think they need to set themselves goals and objectives to see things happen, but that’s missing the point. Goals and objectives are okay, but as we all know real growth and real pleasure is in the experience, NOT in the end result.

    This is why I’ve moved away from an approach centered around goals and encourage people to play games instead. The whole point about games is that the joy of the game is in the playing. You get to decide what game you want to play and what winning looks like, and when you start playing you get involved and engaged in a way that doesn’t happen with goals. Games are fun in a way that goals just aren’t.

  2. The commitment and longer term motivation just isn’t there. That’s why over a third of resolutions don’t make it past January and over three quarters are abandoned soon after. Sure, you might get an initial burst of motivatoin but that never lasts. Motivation is like the big rocket boosters on the space shuttle – it gives you initial spurt of energy to get up and get moving, but it’s just not sustainable.

    What you need is something more fundamental, more central and more important to you. Don’t take something outside of you and try to make it relevant and important – what you want has to come from the inside, and that then becomes like the space shuttles maneovring thrusters once you’re up there in orbit – giving you the ability to make those small adjustments that make a big difference.
  3. The timing’s all wrong. Not only are you coming off the back of the holidays and hitting the January slump, but you see the whole of the year stretching ahead of you and summer’s 6 months away.

    More importantly, what kind of person waits all year to make a choice about something? Real confidence isn’t about making some woolly, half-hearted decisions that don’t really mean anything. That’s not what truly confident people do. Truly confident living is knowing that you can make choices at any time of the year and keeping a positive intention behind those choices.

I’m not a fan of resolutions, what I want to see is people making real and relevant decisions that they can really engage with all year long.