Make The Most Of Every Day!

Recently I had to attend the funeral of my aunt, very sad occasion as you would expect. From a large East London family, she was one of nine siblings, my dad being one of them so you can imagine the number of cousins that were there mourning my aunts passing. As is usual at these occasions the talk goes something like this “It’s a shame we only see each other at funerals!” or “We must get together more often!” or “It makes you realise that you should make the most of every day!” or “We should Make The Most Of Every Day!”

We also hear this a lot don’t we? “Live every day as if it were your last” – or at least know someone who has the inspirational wall decal and a ‘Carpe Diem’ tattoo. The words scream at us from posters and advertising, songs and movies; but the truth of the matter is, that if we really did live every day as if it were our last, it’s likely the world would be plunged into chaos. The majority of the ‘normal’ things that tend to make up our daily routine still have to be done; the kids have to be fed and cared for and sent to school, we still have to work, and society still has to be maintained.

We can’t simply throw all caution to the wind, abandon all reason and live a lifelong party. Which is why I prefer the mantra, ‘Making The Most Of Everyday’(#MTMOED) now THAT is doable. On average we get to enjoy 25,915 days on this planet, and the key is to make every one of those count; but it is all too easy to believe we are immortal, and that we’ll make the most of ‘tomorrow.’ However, why don’t we make every day count now, while we have thousands of days rather than hundreds – or tens!

So what exactly does it mean; Making the most of every day? And how do we do it? To make the most of every day is to live productively and intentionally, and to make conscious decisions that will make our lives happy and fulfilled. It is about not wasting time just waiting for things to happen – it is about getting out there and making the most of every opportunity that we have. Sounds simple enough, but we all know that it is easy for our daily lives to swallow us up, and before we know it that positive ‘making the most’ mindset has become mired in routine and drudgery.

Here are some tips of changes you can make that will allow you to create and prosper from the ‘Making The Most Of Everyday’ mindset, and make it work for you.

Early To Rise – You can’t make the most of your day if half of it is over before you get up, and while it is true that a lot of people feel they are more productive in the evening, and everyone loves a lie in – life happens during the day, and to make the most of it we need to experience it. It is in the daytime that the majority of business deals are struck, networking opportunities present themselves, customers are buying, trades are trading, and you are able to participate in human interaction with those you love and care about. Making the most of those opportunities that present themselves during the day is sure to instil a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. So set an alarm and start a new habit of being an early bird! Being a night owl should be the exception – not the rule.

Set Goals – Setting daily goals will help keep you on track when it comes to making the most of your day. Operating without a plan, or trying to operate with too big a plan, can make even the simplest of daily tasks seem overwhelming. The key to having a productive day is to set small and manageable goals and then manage your time effectively in order to complete them. ‘Organise the spare room’ sounds a little overwhelming, and maybe not achievable in one day, but ‘organise that drawer today’ is a much more manageable task, and is a lot more likely to be completed in the time frame. Completing a small task will leave you feeling satisfied and give you a sense of achievement; whereas failing to complete a large task will just make you feel stressed, and much more likely to write the whole day off. Organising that drawer will motivate you to keep going the next day, and the next, until the whole room is done. Another tip is to write those goals down. You are much more likely to focus and complete them if they are visible, rather than just thoughts that can evaporate into the air as you get distracted by other things.

Live In The Moment – You simply can’t make the most out of today if your mind is occupied with next Wednesday, or next month, or next year. Of course, we know we need to be aware of future appointments or events; but write them down in a planner or diary, don’t fret and worry about what might happen, and then participate in today; be present. Don’t let the potential events of the future take up your time today. We don’t live in the future, or the past for that matter, we live NOW – as do our passions and loved ones. If you find your mind wandering to other time zones you can break them down by switching your brain and focusing on something that is in the now in order to bring you back to the present; the pen in your hand, the rain on the window, the other person in the room. Focus on NOW and you will find that you will become a lot more productive. Do It Now!

Learn To Prioritise – It is a fact that in life you make time for what you want; the phrase ‘I don’t have time’, is uttered by many, but meant by no one. To make the most of our days we need to prioritise our lives, instead of clinging onto ‘I don’t have the time’. If you believe that time constraints are stopping you from doing something you want to do (attend that party, go to the gym), then change your mindset! Instead of blaming it on a lack of time, own the decision by saying ‘it’s not a priority.’ By training your brain to use that phrase instead you can live more intentionally by reminding yourself that you choose what you do and what you ‘don’t have time’ for, not the clock.

Follow Your Dreams – We are all unique individuals who must follow our own paths, and often one of the things expressed by those who are very old or ill is that they regret living the life expected of them, rather than the life they wanted. Don’t let that be one of your regrets. Friends and family may well express their worries about you setting up a new business, or moving abroad, for example, but we are not the expectations of others. It is up to you to assess the risks of doing the things you want; of following your dreams and indulging your passions. Go for that promotion, start that business, confess your undying love; and do it now. Sure, you might not hit every target, but that is better to shoot your shot than to live with regret and not know what might have been.

Maintain Human Connections – In this day and age of mobile phones, Skype, and social media, it is easier than ever to stay in touch with those we love, and yet simultaneously easy to miss out on the human interaction with those we care about. It is important to stay in touch with those we love. I’m not talking about maintaining those relationships that might be toxic or damaging to us simply because we have loved them in the past, or even continue to do so, I’m talking about those who enrich our lives, and it is easy to let family, friends – even spouses – drift away over time as we stop making them a priority and allow work or other things to take over and become our sole focus. But making the most of every day has to include communicating with and loving those important people in our lives – on every one of those 25,915 days.

It is always worth remembering that tomorrow is not promised, so don’t put off living in the moment. Make the most of every day, starting  the day and to help reinforce the habit and before you do anything else, the moment you put your feet on the floor say to your self “Make The Most Of Every Day!” #MTMOED

Do It Now!

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Uncommon Courtesy!

Common courtesy: we all know what it is, and we all know how it makes us feel when we receive it. And how we feel when we don’t – that person walking in front of you and not holding the door open, someone who doesn’t say, ‘thank you’, when you hold if for them, and the frustrating task of trying to have a conversation with someone who is texting. That last comment about mobile phones might cause some to roll their eyes – modern technology is of course invaluable when it comes to running a business, but, in today’s society where everybody is so busy looking down, and a huge percentage of businesses are conducted online, has common courtesy become, uncommon?

A friend of my wife was complaining about this very subject just the other evening. She had purchased an expensive custom-made dress online for her daughter’s prom and was becoming increasingly frustrated with the customer service she had been receiving. Initially when the date she was expecting the dress to arrive came and went, she gave the lady the benefit of the doubt. The prom was a few weeks away anyway and a one-off hand-made piece would surely be worth the wait. Besides, the seller was bound to drop her a message with an apology and a renewed delivery date in due course. A week later, nothing. No dress, no apology, no contact from the seller at all.

So she sent the lady a polite email, explaining that she hadn’t yet received the dress she had paid for, and did she have any idea when it would arrive. She was shocked to receive quite a brusque reply a day or two later, stating that ‘custom made designs are time consuming and can run into unexpected delays, so please be patient.’ No, ‘sorry’, and no explanation of what these ‘unexpected delays’ entailed or if anything was being done to resolve the situation.

With the prom night fast approaching and another fortnight gone by with no dress or explanation in sight, my wife’s friend ended up contacting the seller to cancel her order and buying her daughter a dress from a store. It took several emails and the threat of a negative review on the seller’s business page to get even a partial refund. ‘Never again,’ she vowed, would she buy something from someone selling online.

Conversely, another friend had to return a tie she had ordered online for her grandfather when it arrived, in the promised time frame, after he had sadly died. Not only did she receive her refund in a timely fashion, she also received a card of condolence in the post. This small, courteous gesture resulted in her ordering gifts for friends and family from said company over the following year, singing their praises to all, and the company earning a loyal, repeat customer.

The prevalence of mobile phones and social media in today’s society often have a lot to answer for. On the one hand they can be incredibly useful tools, allowing you to run your business and keep on top of things on the go, wherever you are, while reminding you have the dentist at 4 and that you need to pick up the cat’s medication at the same time. But, on the other hand, there are few things more frustrating than trying to conduct a meeting about business (or even a social meeting for that matter) with someone who can’t stop looking at the bloody thing every 5 seconds.

Turn it off. Put it on silent. Leave it in your pocket. The second it’s on the table vibrating and buzzing away, my companion’s eyes flickering towards the busy screen like a moth drawn to a flame, it tells me one thing: that whatever or whoever you are waiting for on that phone has more of your attention than me and what I have to say. And that is not courteous.

When it comes to your own business it’s never a bad thing to review your customer service, and you’ll often find that those who go above and beyond in that area are rewarded with more contacts, more referrals, more repeat customers. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

● Paying Attention To Names – It sounds obvious, but when it comes to networking and building a customer base, remembering someone’s name can be vital. It proves you have engaged fully with that person and have listened to what they have to say. If you don’t hear them the first time, or if you are unsure how to pronounce it, be honest and ask. It shows you have taken an interest in them and care about getting it right. If remembering names isn’t your forte try to repeat it several times throughout the conversation to help commit it to memory – just not so often that you sound a bit creepy!

● Greetings – This sounds like an obvious one, but whether it be in person, over the phone, or via email, everyone likes to receive a friendly, ‘hello, how are you?/I hope you are well’. It establishes rapport as well as being polite, and it will make people remember you as a friendly individual.

● Handshakes and Eye Contact – If you are meeting with someone in person, a handshake is the universal business greeting, and coupled with eye contact and a smile gives a positive first impression of someone who is engaging and honest.

● Handwritten Notes – This particularly applies if you run a business where you might be sending products out to customers who have ordered online. A ‘thank you’ email is nice, however, isn’t seen as personal a gesture as something customised and handwritten. This is especially important if it is to a repeat customer or a large account. It may take a little more of your time than firing off a quick email, and you’ll have to pay postage, but you only have to read my story about the friend who had to return the tie to see how it could benefit your business in the long run.

● Check for Grammar Mistakes and Typos – Again, this sounds obvious, but if you are running a business then chances are you spend a lot of time communicating through emails. Take a few seconds to properly proofread each one before you press send. It could be the difference between looking professional and courteous or sloppy and uninterested.

● Being on Time – This one is so, so, important. In today’s society where everybody’s rushing around and time is such a precious commodity, punctuality is critical. Whether it be arriving on time for a meeting, ensuring that package gets to the customer when you said it would, or meeting that deadline; future orders, referrals, and recommendations will depend on it. Say What You Do, Do What You Say!

● Put Away Your Phone – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the mobile phone has all but killed common courtesy in most social situations – don’t let it affect your business too! Of course your phone is essential when it comes to running your business, but it is impossible to give someone your full attention when you are distracted by your phone. So put it away. Honestly, that text/email/Twitter notification can wait. There is no substitute for human interaction.

● Complaining – In a word, don’t. There are always going to be bad days in business or things that go wrong, but if you start complaining to customers about it all going wrong and how unfair it all is it will put you into a negative mind set, and that won’t help. Customers won’t want to hear what’s gone wrong or why, even if it is the reason why they aren’t receiving their order on time, or can’t order that product today. Instead it is much more productive to think of solutions to the problem and let them know how you are about to resolve the issue – preferably with a ‘Sorry for the delay, we really appreciate your custom and patience’.

You might be thinking that you already follow all those rules, and that uncommon courtesy doesn’t apply to you or your business. But let’s face it, in today’s fast-paced world, where the next big business is nipping at your heels, it doesn’t hurt to make sure that YOURS stands out as the politest in the industry. Your customers will thank you for it by coming back again and again.

Do It Now!

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Growth or Fixed Mindset?

When I was growing up I had a friend called Ben. He was one of them kids who seemed to have been born under a lucky star. You know the type; always picked as captain when we played football, always got good grades, and had loads of mates. As we grew up he was the first one of us to drive, buy a house, and get a job, which as time went on turned into his own amazingly well-paid business, followed by another bigger business. Within a couple of years he had bought an even bigger house with his beautiful wife, and a flash car. You know how it goes – in fact, you probably know a ‘Ben’ yourself; someone who oozes confidence, tries their hand at anything, and never seems to fail, he was the Golden Boy! He had a growth Mindset!

If truth be told it cheesed a lot of his mates off, especially Josh. Josh was the anti-Ben; lacking in any self belief, convinced he would fail at everything before he even tried, and constantly moaning about Ben’s achievements compared to his own – “It’s alright for him”, “Some people have all the luck”, “Why doesn’t that sort of stuff happen to me?”

The assumption that some people are just lucky and others aren’t is a dangerous one. It leads to complacency and resignation. The reason Ben achieved highly in all areas of his life and Josh didn’t was down to mindset. Ben always believed he could do it if he tried, he wasn’t afraid to learn new things, he wasn’t scared of new experiences, he strived, and worked hard. In short, he believed he could do anything he set his mind to. Josh didn’t. Josh believed his own limitations – limitations he himself had set. This is what is known as a Fixed Mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe that whatever qualities they have are fixed traits that cannot be changed. If you are a ‘Josh’, you will believe that it is Ben’s natural talents alone that have got him where he is today, and that effort was not required. Do you have a fixed mindset? Here are some of the signs:

  • You believe that your basic abilities and talents are fixed traits
  • You have a fear of looking dumb – this holds you back from trying new things, you are worried about others’ perceptions of you
  • You want to appear intelligent, but you believe that your intelligence is fixed and cannot be modified

Can you see how closed that mindset is? It’s boxing you in and stopping you from achieving what is easily within your reach. Your own mind is what is stopping you; so change it. Now.

Ben had a Growth Mindset; an underlying belief that effort on his part would lead to success, that he could grow smarter with time and experience. He put in the extra time – football practice, extra driving lessons, school work, and in time applied those rules to his personal and work life. Do you have a growth mindset?

  • You believe that your abilities and intelligence can be developed with learning, effort, and persistence
  • You believe everyone can become smarter and more accomplished if they try
  • You believe that basic abilities are a starting point for potential

If you have identified yourself as having a fixed mindset it means your fixed beliefs about yourself are holding you back from positive change. It means you probably avoid situations where those traits that you think are fixed (intelligence, your weight, a bad habit) could cause you to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

So, how can you create a growth mindset? Here are some tips to help you.

  • Acknowledge and Embrace Your Weaknesses – we all have them, but knowing what they are means you can change them. Create specific habits to tackle your limitations head on. Make modest goals and give yourself a set time to accomplish them. Be honest about your limitations and it will help you to form the belief that you are 100% capable of changing them and accomplishing any major goal.
  • View Challenges as Opportunities – The more we challenge ourselves the more opportunities we have to learn about ourselves. Don’t use excuses to stay in your comfort zone – accept that new job offer, call that new contact you’ve been meaning to all week, and see the opportunities open up before your very eyes.
  • Use The Right Learning Strategies For YOU – There are various styles of learning, and they aren’t all right for everyone. Maybe you are a visual learner and need to spend hours watching YouTube tutorials, or maybe reading articles works for you. Perhaps you are someone who needs to learn as part of a group, or maybe learning alone is the best way for your brain to soak up the information. When you know what works best for you, you can get better at studying, and your knowledge will begin to expand. 
  • Remember Your Brain Changes Throughout Your Life – Be aware that your brain is constantly changing and it will help you to adopt a growth mindset. Your brain is constantly forming new connections allowing it to make adjustments when you are faced with new situations. 
  • Prioritise Learning Over Seeking Approval – Don’t worry about what others think of you, focus on bettering yourself for your own benefit.
  • Work With Purpose – Always work with purpose so that you have the motivation to keep working. Ask yourself on a regular basis what is the purpose of the work you are doing. Do you just enjoy it, or is it part of a bigger goal? 
  • Learn to Receive Constructive Criticism – Think of criticism as a way to learn. It makes you aware of your faults so that you can focus on improving them. Don’t take constructive criticism personally; often people are trying to help rather than trying to cut you down. 
  • Need For Improvement Does Not Equal Failure – Needing to improve doesn’t mean you have failed. It just means you are not quite there yet.
  • Learning is “Brain Training” – The more you learn, the more you are training your brain to act a certain way and make various connections. It is vital to be open to the idea of manipulating your brain to keep up with current trends as the world evolves and changes.
  • Develop a Gritty Attitude – If you have passion for what you are doing it will give you the perseverance to see it though. If you want to be successful in your field having a deep interest in your work is one of the most important things to keep you motivated each day. If you want to accomplish your long-term goals, you have to have the ‘grit’ to keep you on track and make it happen.
  • Never Stop Learning – Growth-minded people continue to create new goals so that they stay motivated and interested. Never stop learning! Set a new goal for every goal you accomplish – that is the secret of a growth mindset.
  • Remember That it Will Take Time – Nothing worth doing comes quickly and easily, so be realistic about how long it will take to learn the information you are interested in and to achieve your goals. You might have to try several different learning methods, or keep trying new techniques until something sticks – but stay focused on the process. 

Anyone can develop a growth mindset, you just have to be willing and committed to changing your beliefs about what you are able to do. Do not stay in your little box where you were born with all the talents and abilities you will ever have – break out and grow! Take action to learn and stay motivated and focus on how it will benefit you in the long run to achieve more success throughout your life.

If you’ve found yourself stuck in life, it could be that a fixed mindset is what’s holding you back. The mind is a hugely powerful thing, and allowing it to grow could see you soon achieving more success throughout all avenues of your life.

Do It Now!