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Live life to the fullest: Practical inspiration for self-development and growth

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Are you interested in self-development and growing as a person? Lantau-based executive and business coach Linda Sim provides some practical inspiration.

Our lives today can be challenging and stressful. The omnipresent attempt at balancing work and life can leave us feeling out of kilter, or unhappy. A heavy workload and long hours can lead to burnout and impact negatively on our families. What can we do to shift our compass needle and start heading in the right direction? Here are three ways to help you chart your course:

Work on self-awareness

Learning to understand yourself, your strengths and your potential is a solid foundation for shaping your life in a way that is unique to you. As the ancient philosopher Lao Tzu said: “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.”

It is important not only to know yourself – why you do certain things and how you react to situations – but also to be at peace with yourself, accept yourself wholly, and be kind to yourself.  This creates positivity and optimism, which in turn supports your endeavour to achieve what you want to change. These are some of the ways you can become more self-aware:

  • Take a personality-type assessment – there are myriad you can do quickly and easily online, and they can help you gain a deeper insight into yourself. Try the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), or Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0
  • Practice mindfulness – be fully present, aware of where you are and what you are doing. This will save you from being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around you
  • Be bold – ask friends, family or colleagues to answer questions about you as a person, outlining your strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. There are online programmes to help facilitate this anonymously, which helps to garner honest feedback
  • Start listening – TED talks are an excellent way to learn from and be inspired by other people’s life stories and experiences. Use the numerous webinars and podcasts available to help promote transformation and self-discovery
  • Get out of your comfort zone – this is key for creating change. Putting yourself into new and challenging situations, and meeting new people, is not only important, it is imperative. Growth will not happen without it. Learn to get uncomfortable and know that the experience will be invaluable in some way

Start setting goals

A goal is a dream with a deadline. Setting goals is easy, achieving them is not, so it’s essential to be resilient. Remember that you have not failed until you give up. As Thomas Edison said: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

As a way in, before deciding on a goal, you need to assess just how important it is to you. Ask yourself some questions… How do I feel in my head/ heart/ gut when I think about this goal? Does this goal make me feel motivated? On a scale of one to 10 how important is this goal to me? What’s the possible outcome if I don’t achieve this goal?

Once you have earmarked something that you truly want to achieve, get going by following the SMART methodology. SMART goals are:

  • Specific – they are clear and well defined
  • Measurable – you know exactly what you want to do
  • Achievable – they are attainable without being too easy
  • Relevant – they match the direction you want for your life or career
  • Time specific – you have set yourself a clear deadline to make a start

When you do this exercise write down your goals by hand, rather than typing them. This engages the right side of your brain which controls your creative and intuitive functioning.

Be aware that change is necessary; if your actions stay the same, so will your results. But be honest when identifying what is a priority for you. If you feel you don’t have time to achieve a particular goal, it actually means you don’t want to.

Change your perspective

What we do, what we think, how we feel and what we achieve is strongly linked to our perspective. As Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Often what you tell yourself is what will be, and what you expect is what you will get. So how do we learn to shift the meaning we put on events and circumstances to make them positive?

First of all, stop and breathe – slowly, deeply, several times. Accept that your thoughts don’t define you, your behaviour does.

When you find yourself in an annoying or difficult situation, find a way to stay calm and positive. If someone rushes to push in front of you in the supermarket, rather than becoming angry consider the possibilities. Is this person being rude, or are they in panic mode, hurrying to get home to their children? Perhaps their thoughts are simply elsewhere and their cavalier treatment of you is not intentional.

Importantly too, when seeking to grow as a person, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. By thinking mistakes are simply a sign of failure, you’re educating yourself out of your creative capacities. Don’t give in to your inner critic, which sees you as you were, and snuffs out the light of who you might become.

One of your aims is to make your life more purposeful and more joyful, and being there for others – attempting to make a difference – can help with that. Compliment someone, pick something up that they have dropped, or give a sincere thank you with a smile. These are small gestures, but give it a try, you’ll see the face of the person, whose day you’ve just made, light up.

Lastly, know your strengths; focus on what you can do, and your inner potential. This helps to shift your perspective in a positive way and alters the meaning you put into situations and events.

This simple story beautifully showcases the power of perspective: Three men are working by the side of a road, breaking stones. A passer-by notes that one of them is very unhappy, another is contented and the third is very happy. Curious, he questions each one about their state of mind.

The first one, the unhappy one, says: “I am breaking stones. It’s hard work. It’s hot.” The second one, the contented one, says: “I am making a good living. I have a family to feed.” The third one, the happy one, says: “I am building a temple.”

All too often we believe what other people tell us we are, or ought to be. True happiness lies in discovering for ourselves who we really are – and then being it.

Executive and business coach Linda Sim is the director of Discovery Bay-based Strive Consulting. For a consultation, you can contact her at 9272 1134, [email protected], or visit www.striveconsultinghk.com.

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