Ready, aim, fire.
On your marks, get-set, go.
Mirror, signal, manoeuvre.
There’s something about a three-step process that makes the final step feel like a foregone conclusion. I suspect it’s because steps 1 and 2 bring order and logic, preparing the participants for what is coming in step 3.
I’m pretty good at going with the flow in life. I’m frequently described as ‘laid-back’ and consider change as one of the main constants in my existence but I like a bit of order and appreciate a formula for success as much as anyone. I’ve a tendency to make life-changing decisions without having always educated myself as to the possible consequences of my actions and as such a 3 step mantra would undoubtedly be useful in keeping me on track.
History also shows that I’m prone to doing things in a different order to most other people, or at least at atypical points in life. My first child was born when I was still 23 (when I was far from emotionally or financially prepared) but I made a go of it. I didn’t discover my love of music festivals until the age of 30 when most of my contemporaries were putting their tents back in the loft for the last time. It took me until the age of 36 to meet the love of my life who is now my second (and final) wife. I shunned sports and fitness for much of my adulthood until my late thirties when I decided to get a trainer and challenge myself physically and I’ve since balanced this interest alongside healing the frequent injuries and seeking the necessary medical help to nurse my ageing and increasingly fragile frame through the demands I place upon it.
In keeping with this approach to life, I’ve only recently opened my mind to the field of Personal Development.
How ironic then that having finally discovered the life-changing opportunities for self-improvement open to me, that the main theme of this weekend’s summit, was:
Education — Decision — Action.
I won’t provide the exact details of the course since that’s not the purpose of this blog, nor do I have any direct affiliation to the organisation that hosted it (other than as a satisfied customer). The pertinent facts are these; my wife and I committed to spend one precious weekend of child-free time to explore opportunities, seek motivation and to meet like-minded individuals who shared an interest in identifying opportunities for freedom from constraints of time and finance.
That it took until just after my 41st birthday to open my mind to this is probably down to a variety of things, most significant of which would be closed-mindedness coupled with a healthy serving of cynicism and arrogance on my part. I have lead something of a charmed life and in spite of various setbacks have always seemed to bounce back, to come up smelling of roses. In the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and whilst the successes I’ve enjoyed both personally and professionally have been gratifying, I’d started to feel like I was missing the point somehow.
Call it what you like, whether the early signs of a mid-life crisis or perhaps just a heightened curiosity as to how I might feel more fulfilled but since the end of summer 2016 I’ve been immersing myself in personal development books, audio and web-based seminars, all with the intention of increasing my free-time, income and peace of mind.
I’ve even started meditating.
The next logical step seemed then to devote some time to attending a group conference with a view to seeing what this could add into the mix. And so it was that my long-suffering wife and I undertook the 3 hour drive late last Friday evening to attend this event.
2 days to change your life
With two exhausting days behind me I cannot yet proclaim myself an ‘old-hand’ but I’m a good deal abler to make a few reasoned observations, all of which reflect my own views and perspective.
It’s fair to say that my world has been thoroughly turned upside down (for the better I should add).
The purpose of the event (which is probably much the same for many of these types of session) was to bring together a group of like-minded individuals in a conference venue to meet, exchange ideas, to have their eyes-opened to new possibilities and to introduce them to alternative ways of viewing the world and of achieving what they want to achieve. In this instance the emphasis was upon both personal development and entrepreneurialism.
All speakers offered philosophies, tactics, business specialisms and systems for achieving what you want to get out of life; in most cases to free up time and to make money from sources other than a typical 9 to 5 exchange of time for a salary. All of this was anchored to the three simple steps:
What I liked most.
The weekend genuinely opened my mind to real, practical, implementable ideas and strategies that when in place will enrich my life and that of my family.
It wasn’t about ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes or easy paths to fulfilment and inner peace, but rather about a holistic way of approaching life that addresses the pain-points that many share, and simultaneously of helping to achieve the goals and aims that so many of us have, if only in presumably never-to-be-fulfilled dreams.
I’ve seen evidence of new ways to do things from people who seemingly came from similar circumstances as me and who shared the same goals and challenges as I have. I firmly believe through their examples and methods that if I commit to my decisions and most importantly take actions to implement these (something it was suggested that most others don’t do) then I will free up time and lead a more prosperous and enriched life and be a better father, husband, friend and professional; professional-what is still up for debate.
The speakers were also without exception, entertaining, engaging and interesting (as you’d expect given that they were no doubt all well-rehearsed and trained), and each had a personal story to tell rather than just a product or service to sell.
This ensured the weekend wasn’t just a series of dry presentations of theory and principle or ‘death by PowerPoint’ but instead interactive discussions interlaced with philosophy and practicality. The energy of the room was kept high and audience and speaker interaction was an expectation.
What I liked less.
So, it wasn’t all about the product to sell. However, the crescendo of many sessions was the opportunity to pay for and enrol on further training hosted by the speaker and offered at a never to be repeated discount, available only for the next 20 minutes by paying at the back of the room. This isn’t surprising given the theme of the weekend and I firmly subscribe to the viewpoint that education is essential to enable one to make changes, to do new things and to do them differently. I wish at this point I could afford to invest in all the training (and more importantly to take the action required to complete it); one day, I will.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The quote above was offered in at least one session; education (and then taking the decision to act on that learning) is key to making change.
During the two days (and they were long days too, starting around 8am and finishing after 6pm) attendees were introduced to products and services (mainly training courses and self-study packs) that would allow them to conquer business and/or personal pain-points, devised by the presenters based on their experience. I went there expecting this and would have been disappointed if it hadn’t materialised since I genuinely went seeking opportunities for relevant learning.
What I found difficult to rationalise was that the speakers, almost without exception left the audience feeling that if they weren’t rushing to sign-up in the moment, they somehow didn’t ‘get it’ and weren’t destined to achieve the goals they were there to learn to achieve. I don’t believe this was entirely how it was meant to come over for if so it would be neither fair nor representative; like us I believe many in the audience were unable to run to the 4-figure costs associated with most of these products, as much as they may have wanted to.
We had chosen which areas interested us most and both enrolled in these at the appropriate points during the weekend. To surmise that we weren’t interested in achieving greatness because we weren’t rushing to sign up to other sessions was unfair and we each have a genuine desire to throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the courses we’ve chosen, to act on the decisions and to embrace the education. Could this effort risk being diluted by signing up for everything and giving no single thing our full-attention?
To counter this misperception, on more than one occasion I felt compelled to approach the presenter after the session to thank them for their talk (which was heartfelt) but also to offer a stuttering apology for not having signed up, emphasising that I would do in future. I hope that the gratitude was perceived as true, and the desire to learn from them also, for in both cases my words were genuine.
Part of my renewed focus on Personal Development after the summer was embodied by a significant action step of routinely awakening to start my day at 5am. I have done this since then (allowing myself a little slack at weekends) in a bid to feel like I can take action and to get more value out of the day by tackling some value-generating tasks before I head to work; this small step has been rewarding in itself.
More recently I’ve started incorporating daily guided meditation in my life during this extra time, reading and listening to audio books whenever I can, and generally utilising my time as best I can. My current challenge is in how to do all the things that I want to do and achieve my goals within the limited number of productive hours I can extract from the day.
This is one of the most self-evident challenges I foresee in personal development journey, and at present I find the burden of choice over where next to direct my efforts in order to achieve the goals that I have set for myself to be significant if not insurmountable.
The extraordinary array of genuine opportunities that I’ve been given over the weekend to learn and implement new things is truly exciting and exhilarating. To receive this opportunity on top of all the other things I already wanted to do in my life has contributed to the slight feelings of overwhelm that I’m currently experiencing too.
Nonetheless I’ll do what I vowed to myself to do, and ensure that off the back of the weekend’s education follows the decision to make changes and the consistent actions to make this happen.
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