How much does your self-development matter to you?

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This Christmas Santa has been very generous ūüôā to me and I‚Äôve received some wonderful pressies, including some books I‚Äôve really wanted to have for a while:

  • Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferris (available here)
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (available here )
  • Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success by Angela Duckworth (available here)
  • The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris (available here)
  • The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey (available here)

I‚Äôve decided that this blog will be a good place to post books reviews once in a while. What do you think? Have you read any books about personal development, time management or motivation?

These books used to be called ‚Äėself-help‚Äô books and I think because of this their reputation has been somewhat damaged. Some people don‚Äôt buy them because they say they that don‚Äôt need any help with finding out how to prioritise their life or they don‚Äôt have a problem with time management and so on…

I‚Äôm glad that the industry has been changing and now these titles are called ‚Äėself-development‚Äô rather than ‚Äėself-help‚Äô books! I‚Äôm glad that people are starting to realise how important personal growth is and that it should not be a luxury but a necessity.

Personal growth doesn‚Äôt just help to keep you sane and away from mental health disorders but it‚Äôs a lot more than that. When you do what you love, when you commit to lifelong learning and improve your skills and knowledge, you feel more positive, happy and satisfied with your life. Naturally, the more optimistic you are, the more positive your approach and thoughts, and this will have an impact on others around you too, on your relationships and on various other aspects of your life.

The happier you are, the more successful you can become.

Happiness drives performance, not the other way around.

Contrary to what many people say, investing in your own personal development is not egoistical and selfish. It‚Äôs something that makes us better human beings in many aspects, also in social terms.

I’m wondering if you are interested in such self-development titles. What book(s) have you been recently reading?

Why 92% people don‚Äôt achieve their personal goals?

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I didn’t achieve some goals in the past and I realised a few things. I believe many of these reasons would be the same or similar for most of you as well (please comment below if you agree!)

  1. I achieve goals IF I’m asked to do them by someone important at work or at a university. So if a lecturer tells me to write a 5,000-word essay in 3 weeks, I’ll write a 5,000-word essay within 3 weeks. I asked for an extension a few times while studying my two degrees and working at the same time but an extension meant 3-7 additional days. No more. If I tell myself to write 2,000 words in 2 weeks sometimes it may take me 2 or 4 months!

I keep¬†postponing my deadlines because they are MY deadlines.¬†It‚Äôs kind of understandable. If I¬†don‚Äôt perform well at work, I may lose my job and¬†have no¬†income for a while. If I don‚Äôt execute my own goals ‚Äėnothing‚Äô really happens¬†‚Ķ¬†except that my well-being will probably decrease and I‚Äôll feel¬†like¬†a failure.¬†I‚Äôll also¬†complain about not being able to achieve my aims, and get all sorts¬†of negative thoughts about not progressing much and staying¬†at¬†the same point of my personal growth for too long.

It’s quite disappointing that actually many of us don’t take our own personal objectives seriously enough. We don’t think of ourselves and our aims as priorities and complete them only when everything else is done. I must admit it’s difficult, especially for a working parent, to manage to do a lot when each day has only 24 hours but I’m confident that this can be improved. I don’t believe in making excuses because most people on the Earth DON’T have perfect conditions, resources and circumstances. Yet, some are more disciplined, consistent and perhaps stubborn, and are able to achieve what they want to and dream about!

  1. I’m too strict and I tend to expect too much from myself. I plan and want to do too many tasks in too short a time without thinking much about all the unpredictable things that can happen in life.

I‚Äôve been impressed with¬†writer¬†Gretchen Rubin‚Äôs¬†goal¬†to blog 6 days a week. It‚Äôs actually a very challenging task, especially if you are a working parent. You may simply not feel well enough some days. Sometimes I don‚Äôt have any¬†Me Time¬†at all! HOWEVER, as¬†with¬†everything, I‚Äôve learnt that there is actually a solution for such a problem! My friend¬†(talented¬†author Carol Browne ‚Ästplease see her blog here ) taught me that anyone can schedule their blog¬†posts.¬†How great is that!

I believe I can still expect QUITE a lot from myself but then I also need to:

be more self-disciplined,

try to work smarter and harder

and have a bit more flexible approach which means:

  • to¬†review goals and action plans,¬†e.g. on a weekly basis, think of ways¬†of¬†how to change them to make them work better
  • and try out more¬†consistently various productivity tips.

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¬† ¬†¬†3. Fear¬†is another big¬†factor. Consciously or sub-consciously I don‚Äôt always believe that I‚Äôm good enough, that I have enough knowledge or skills or qualifications to do something I enjoy doing. So yes, there is fear of not being able to do my goals to¬†the¬†standard that I want (perfectionism!). I wouldn‚Äôt say it aloud much but surely there is some fear of criticism¬†and some days I¬† lack of confidence while working on my goals! It‚Äôs difficult to be highly motivated all the time especially when you don‚Äôt see progress quickly. Then you lose focus and try to find the reasons as to why your goals haven‚Äôt been achieved yet ‚Ķ But – everything worth doing takes time ‚Äď they say.

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     4. Most of the time I didn’t have an action plan at all, let alone a good one. The idea of writing down goals and steps/actions in the form of an action plan always sounded a bit ridiculous to me … BUT there has been a lot of research which proves that people who write their goals down and who have action plans are A LOT more likely to achieve their objectives.

     5. Often I used to think I work hard on my goals but when I think about it now I can      see that I didn’t put enough effort in, or I stopped doing some of the tasks and taking action for days, weeks or even months (!) due to other commitments (work, family, taking care of the house). How can you achieve anything if you work in such an ineffective way?

Phew … It was really difficult to get to the bottom of the issue and to find out why I don’t achieve some of my personal goals. The answers aren’t always as straightforward as we think they may be. This didn’t feel like a very comfortable task but it’s definitely something that finally HAD TO be done in order for me to better myself and consider how I can achieve my goals in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

How to learn 230% faster?

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If you want to be productive and achieve great results, naturally you need to do your tasks with passion. GRIT is important but it’s normal, of course, that we don’t love every single task that we have to do, e.g. at work, right? It is a challenge but it’s POSSIBLE to change your mindset and persuade yourself that actually you like a task which doesn’t seem so exciting for you (yet?). It is possible if you try to link the task to something that may be beneficial for you. Learning something about a topic which you are unfamiliar with (and thus it’s difficult or boring for you) may actually be very useful one day.

Why is it so important to be interested in what you are doing and working on? According to Steven Kotler, an average person is in a state of flow for less than 5% of their time during each day!

What‚Äôs more, flow appears to be KEY in speed learning:¬†‚ÄúDARPA found that military snipers trained in a state of flow learned¬†230 per cent¬†faster than normal‚Ä̬†(click here for more information)

I found this information really fascinating. If flow increases your effectiveness so much it means that you don’t need to bother, for example, with trying out different time management tips and techniques. Simply expressing genuine interest can increase your productivity a great deal. If you manage to achieve a state of flow that’s even better!

Do you do some tasks daily which you don’t particularly enjoy but you think you might if you made some changes and got more interested and learned more about them? The more you delve into a particular topic, the more you will learn and the more productive you will be. So try to make your tasks as interesting as possible.

How do you persuade yourself that something you don’t enjoy may actually be interesting?

A friend of mine has an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Masters in Finances. She has many different interests in fact, but mining wasn’t one of them when she got a job in the admin department in one of the largest gas and oil companies in Europe. It quickly occurred to her that her job had a lot to do not just with admin but also with a lot of technical terms used by engineers while discussing different methods or machines in meetings, and at different events and workshops that she needed to attend and eventually understand. She decided to read news on these topics every single morning. She chose websites she liked the most. Some YouTube videos were very helpful too and she became more of an expert in what she was doing. She then started to find this new knowledge quite interesting. To improve her understanding of the subject matter further she decided to do a Diploma in a related discipline.

As you can see from this example, you can do a lot in order to make a difficult and unfamiliar discipline or topic more interesting for you. Be open, don’t complain and worry that you can’t do something before you even TRY!

Your attitude, your perspective and your mindset are vital in achieving success in any area of your life.

Christmas in Europe and¬†at¬†the end of the world ‚Ķ

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Studies in positive psychology show that close relationships, socialising with people who we can trust and rely on, is one of the most important contributors to your happiness! Additionally, giving presents (even more than receiving them) also makes us more satisfied.

Today I’d like to tell you about my diverse family and about Christmas time in a few different parts of the world.

POLAND

In Poland, which is mostly Catholic, on Christmas Eve in the afternoon children look through foggy windows into the sky and wait for the first star to appear. The first one is usually visible around 5pm and this is a sign that people can start their Christmas dinner.

The tradition says that we should keep one empty plate on our table for an extra meal in case someone who is homeless or poor, or perhaps a hungry traveller, knocks on our door. We then should invite him or her inside for a warm meal. Before we start to eat we share a special wafer exchanging Christmas wishes.

We have 12 dishes which include mainly varieties of fish but no red meat (the church made some changes with regard to that a few years ago and now we are allowed to have red meat on Christmas Eve too but my family likes to adhere to the tradition that we’ve had for years). The dishes include:

  • a soup (usually mushroom or borsch)
  • ravioli with cabbage and mushrooms
  • many different fish dishes (carp is the main food associated with Christmas in Poland)
  • some salads (e.g. cold cooked potato salad which is made of potatoes, carrots, eggs, pickled cucumbers, peas, onion, mustard and mayo; some variations¬†are¬†allowed in different families,¬†e.g. some people would add some apple too)
  • cooked eggs cut in half and¬†covered with mayo, and/or sprinkled with chives¬†and red pepper powder
  • fried pancake¬†rolls with cabbage and mushrooms

If you are not used to a Polish kitchen these ideas may sound weird but believe me, they are DELICIOUS!

Some families¬†sing¬†carols. Everyone ‚Äėarranges‚Äô¬†Santa‚Äôs visit in a¬†slightly¬†different way. In my family my parents used to tell me and my sister that after the Christmas dinner we need to go¬†and¬†wash our hands. While we were doing this Santa usually popped in quickly to leave some pressies for us. For the rest of the evening we¬†would¬†enjoy the pressies, sweets and desserts, talk and watch some TV.¬†Some families go to church for a mass at¬†midnight.¬†Over the next¬†two¬†days people visit¬†family and friends, have guests or just get a bit lazy and relax ūüėČ

BRAZIL 

Brazil has the largest number of Catholics in the world. My husband is Brazilian so we spent Christmas there once. One of the biggest differences is that Christmas dinner starts at midnight.

On 24th December no-one seemed to be bothered that we had no presents for everyone yet. We went to the beach to enjoy the sunshine. It was probably around 28+ degrees C. When we have winter in Europe there is the best of the summer in Brazil, and vice versa.

In the evening we went to the shops for a while to find some small presents for all the family members (and they like to have bigger family gatherings there). Then we were cooking and preparing meals until midnight. I remember that we had a turkey, salads (i.e. similar to Polish cold potato salad but with olives and raisins), rice (fried with garlic), farofa (fried cassava with some mixed pieces of bacon) and fruits, After the dinner there was time to open presents, chat with the other guests and then go to bed.

ENGLAND

I’ve been living in¬†England¬†for over a decade and although no-one in my family is British I‚Äôve learnt that the English don‚Äôt have any Christmas dinner on 24th¬†December at all, but they meet¬†up¬†and enjoy¬†time spent with family¬†and friends during a special Christmas lunch on 25th¬†December. Then they eat turkey, roast¬†potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, cranberry sauce, Brussel sprouts,¬†and¬†gravy. And of course for dessert, among other options, Christmas pudding! The English wait to open their presents on 25th¬†December while Polish and Brazilians already have this part behind them.

What’s interesting, according to a recent BBC article, is that the UK is the country most obsessed with Christmas! The most Christmas-related searches in Google are done in November by UK Internet users! And the country has been the highest ranking for the last four years. Surveys say that over 50% of people living in the UK do most of their Christmas shopping in November. To tell the truth, when I go to a shop a few days before Christmas many shelves are already empty and it’s difficult to find things such as nice decorations, etc.

UK customers are the most active online shoppers among all European countries and spend 142% more on gifts and 207% more on food and drink online than the average European person! The first interest from the British in Christmas is shown as early as 1st July! That’s why many shops prepare their seasonal decorations earlier and earlier each year.

This year my Christmas will be extra special. My parents live abroad and I don’t manage to spend every Christmas with my sister even though we live quite near each other. I think the last time I was with my sister and parents sharing a special wafer and eating Christmas dinner together was around …18 years ago?! This time we’ll have my sister’s family with us and my husband and daughter too (+ my little one who will be born in March!). I’m really excited and can’t wait! Still so much cleaning, organising to do but soon I’m putting my feet up and enjoying these magical days … J

How are your preparations coming along?

 

How to plan your 2018 GOALS smartly?

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Quite a few statistics I’ve come across indicate that approximately 92% of people who plan New Year resolutions give up on them within around a month! This is a shocking number. If you asked me about the stats before I found this information, I’d have thought it was more like a 50/50 or 40/60 ratio.

Isn’t that one of the most discouraging and demotivating statistics you’ve ever heard of?

What do you do to ensure that you are among the remaining 8% of people who get what they want in life?

Firstly we need to understand that our dreams are not goals, and vice versa.

Dreams become goals only if you are willing to work on them, if you specify them, write them down, prepare an action plan, and in any other way show commitment and effort; and naturally when you take action towards achieving them.

  • Specify:Think what your biggest dreams are and which ones you can and want to pursue. Think what you could do to fulfil them.

 

  • Be Realistic:¬†When someone says,¬†‚ÄúMake sure your goals are realistic and achievable‚ÄĚ,¬†I think,¬†‚ÄúWell, if Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, (two American inventors, engineers and aviators)¬†had thought what was¬†realistic, what had¬†been done before, what people¬†of their time¬†were able to do, they would NEVER¬†have built and flown¬†the world‚Äôs first airplane in 1903! If¬†Einstein, Edison or Darwin had listened to others and had tried to set SMART goals (*goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific), then they surely¬†wouldn‚Äôt have got¬†as far as they did because many things that they invented or discovered weren‚Äôt thought to be realistic or achievable in their lifetimes!

On the other hand, it is commonly stressed in psychology-related books and articles that people OFTEN overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in 5 or 10 years. And certainly there is some truth in it as well. Surely we can do a lot in just one year BUT some goals such as writing books or becoming an expert in a chosen discipline may take more than a year.

It also depends on your circumstances, although they are not as vital as you think because even if you haven’t the resources you believe you need, you may find other ways around it to achieve your goals. To tell the truth people rarely have an ideal situation (enough money, contacts, time and so on).

  • Action plans:According to many different studies,¬†people who write their goals down are more likely to achieve them. I didn‚Äôt¬†know how important an action plan was¬†before someone advised me to do it. I used to think I work hard on my goals but with the right action plan I‚Äôve realised I didn‚Äôt put enough effort into my goals before.

A good action plan, and most of all FOLLOWING IT, is a real eye-opener!

I‚Äôve realised that many people get frustrated and/or fail because they don‚Äôt plan any tasks with regard to their goals at all (and think, e.g. ‚ÄúI‚Äôll learn Spanish when I find some time for it.‚Ä̬†) or¬†make¬†their action plans too strict.¬†I used to be one of those people. For instance, I planned that I‚Äôd do something¬†EVERY SINGLE DAY¬†for the next X months or years! There is a quote I really like which says:

You can do anything but not everything.

Yes, so dream big, make sure you prepare and plan your goals well but DON’T forget that you need to have a flexible approach to it. For example, I have a four-year-old daughter and I’m going to give birth again in March 2018, and I’m sure that there will be days when I am not able to write anything.

Additionally to all these things that we can predict there are¬†ALWAYS¬†some things that we CAN‚ÄôT predict. You may have to change your job and you won‚Äôt be able to exercise, write articles, design clothes or work on your business¬†idea in the¬†early mornings as you planned; or you may need to move and many of us know how time-consuming it is. Rather than getting irritated that we can‚Äôt have it all and do everything we want to, we should¬†design¬†our action plans quite flexibly ‚Äď a good idea may be to write down¬†what you will focus mostly on in each month¬†of the next year and plan the month ahead only a few days before it starts.¬†

  • Reviews: Planning November or even April next year when life gets so unpredictable sometimes seems like a huge challenge. During the next year you may find out ways and techniques¬†of working better¬†on your goals (for example, you may do an online marketing course and find out how you can find more clients for your business) because we are constantly learning. You may get some good advice from others who achieve their goals or you may decide that your real passion and true goals are a bit different¬†from¬†what you thought they¬†were. Therefore, it would be best if you review your goals and action plan regularly, for example¬†at the end of every¬†month(some people would prefer to do it every quarter).

 

  • Modifications: And the most important¬†point¬†‚Äď changing or adjusting¬†your goals does not mean that you give up on them or that you failed. As long as you have grit and put passion and real effort into whatever you‚Äôd like to do it still counts! There definitely¬†will be¬†days¬†when¬†you will have¬†doubts and¬†lose your confidence but remember these are¬†JUST YOUR THOUGHTSgenerated by your own mind. If you need a break, take a few¬†days‚Äô¬†break, don‚Äôt think about your goals at all and then with a fresh eye and energy consider what you can improve to become more¬†productive and¬†effective, and to accelerate your progress.

 

I’m very interested in what you think about this and what your plans for 2018 are!

 

SELF-GROWTH. What is it: a bit of a luxury or an essential need?

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I’ve recently been thinking about personal growth. Is it more of a luxury or an essential need; perhaps even something necessary for our survival?

I found a blog where an author argues that personal growth is a necessity. Do you agree? I‚Äôm always curious¬†about¬†what other people think. At first, I was¬†convinced that¬†personal development is DEFINITELY a luxury. Why? Because¬†first¬†we need to meet our basic needs ‚ÄĒ indicated in Maslow‚Äôs hierarchy, for example‚ÄĒand¬†then we can really focus on our self-growth, right?

We need some:

  • TIME
  • RELATIVELY STABLE CIRCUMSTANCES
  • SPACE

to reflect on ourselves, our goals, ideas, ambitions, wishes, and desires and to think how we want to, and can, achieve them. However, if we are not feeling safe (e.g. due to domestic violence) or we are very poor (I mean, you have no food for your lunch: that poor!), really, who then is able to think about some dreams? We would rather think about how to get out of our difficult situation. We worry about everyday basic stuff that people who can afford their bills and life don’t even think about. Once we have a roof over our head and enough food, and some other basic needs are met, surely we can then start to consider:

  • What¬†are¬†our real passions and aims?
  • What do we enjoy?
  • What are we good at?
  • What brings us happiness?

I recently¬†was impressed by this straightforward but,¬†at the same time,¬†deep and intriguing quote: ‚ÄúThe meaning of life is to give life a meaning.‚ÄĚ Human beings naturally seek a¬†purpose¬†in life and think of its meaning but I‚Äôm convinced that to purposefully¬†better oneself¬†we need to think about it, devote some time¬†to it,¬†be ready for some sacrifices and, ideally,¬†plan for all these factors.

Growth occurs when we live under some difficult circumstances‚ÄĒthat‚Äôs true‚ÄĒbut what grows¬†are our strengths,¬†such as patience and our understanding¬†of the world. We become smarter and¬†begin to see¬†solutions that we haven‚Äôt seen before.

Personal growth is pursuing our goals, living our dreams, spending time on our passions. It feels a bit like a luxury because we need time for it… and time is precious, limited and extremely valuable nowadays. Surely you agree with that? Time in some situations is definitely more important than money. Now, who has time to think more about personal development and plan it effectively? It is a bit of a luxury then, isn’t it?

On the other hand, no¬†Me Time¬†and no Personal Growth often lead to frustration or depression, even if we have ‚Äúmore important‚ÄĚ things to deal with and to worry about on¬†an¬†everyday basis. This suggests that personal development is ‚Ķ a necessary aspect as well, a need that should be fulfilled in our lives.

Is personal growth a luxury or necessity then?

What do you think?

 

A few words about positive psychology

I‚Äôve been interested in personal growth for as long as¬†I can remember.¬†Before I learnt the¬†word ‚Äėself-growth‚Äô¬†I thought that my interest was¬†mainly in the¬†learning process:

  • How can¬†some people learn so quickly?
  • Why¬†do¬†some of us seem to have sharper brains?
  • Why¬†are some people¬†more productive and achieve more things effectively than others?
  • Why¬†did¬†my encounter with foreign languages used to be such a disaster but a few years abroad prove¬†that I can learn a foreign language, or languages, if I really want to? (And it‚Äôs important to add here that some people who live abroad actually choose not to learn almost any of the foreign language at all).

Then I realised that it always been personal development in general that has been so interesting for me. There are so many different aspects and I enjoy reading and learning about all of them: motivation, time usage (time management, as some people say, but I don’t like the phrase), productivity, achieving one’s goals, the impact of different habits (sleep, nutrition, technology usage) on one’s happiness, stress levels and work-life balance.

Although the topic of self-growth had already been considered by ancient philosophers, the first study about achieving goals was done in the 1930s. Then there was a long period with not much significant research in the field, mainly due to world wars, when psychologists and other scholars focused more on dealing with and helping people who had suffered post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. There wasn’t much government interest or money for studies which would focus on positive psychology and peoples’ strengths and personal growth. It was more about survival than personal development. During this time five times more articles about negative symptoms and states such as depression were published compared with the ones which spoke about self-growth and strengths. So psychology became a science of mental diseases and disorders. Then positive psychology and coaching emerged and became as popular as ever in the last couple of decades.

Now it‚Äôs difficult to focus on one topic linked to personal development. There¬†are¬†so many of them! Let‚Äôs take the term ‚Äėemotional intelligence‚Äô‚ÄĒthat‚Äôs¬†a huge area with lots of different studies and scientists involved!

I feel sometimes that different aspects related to self-growth are so intriguing that it’s hard to be selective enough and focus on particular narrow topics. What about you? What are you most interested in?

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