Keep the Goal in Front of You

Keep the Goal in Front of You

At the time of writing this, it is February, we already just over a month into the new year. And if you are reading this, you are probably the type of person to have made goals and set targets for this year.

How are you doing on those by the way? Are you still excited and eagerly chasing after them or have you fallen off yet?

Most probably the cracks have started to show. Most people approach goals with the intention of making these vast sweeping changes at once, like they suddenly developed a new personality once the calendar flipped over a new year. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of will power, this is typically an exercise in failure.

To stay consistent and actually stand a chance of reaching your goals, you need to focus on tactics that make the changes a bit more subtle, consistent and lasting. Things like focusing on building the right habits, starting small, building new routines and feeding your motivation.

But there is one simple reason we tend to fall off our pursuit.

As stupid as it sounds, many times we lose track of a goal because we literally forget about it.

Every day is a struggle, with multitude of stimuli, questions, requests, demands, and distractions. It is very easy to start off the year with good intentions and then have things just trail off. I know, it happened to me many times.

We get busy, we get distracted, sometimes we even distract ourselves with ‘good’ things. It is often easier for me to just bury myself in work than face something I don’t want to yet. But we must fight to be aware of this tendency, and to take steps to mitigate it.

We do this by keeping the goal in front of us. Having a totem, a reminder, something physical, tangible or otherwise always in front of us that reminds us of what is important, of what we are moving towards.

In this way, when the demands come at us, when the distractions come, we are able to glance over quickly, and have our goals firmly at the front of our minds and thus we can respond appropriately.

My personal experience

2018 was the year I started blogging consistently, and by the end I was able to point to a full year of almost weekly updates. It was the year I really pushed my personal brand forward and made many strides in my life and work. I even released two books in that time. It was a year of incredible focus and consistency.

Up on to this point, I had struggled with pursuing some of my goals. I would start the year eager to get certain things done, and look up months later to see that although I was very busy doing many things, I had completely lost track of what was most important to me.

So what changed in the pivotal year of 2018? Many things, but one of the most powerful things I stumbled upon was changing my diary for the year into a totem. In the front and back inside covers, I had printed out and stuck sheets that highlighted my new personal brand, life philosophy and the multiple projects I wanted to get done.

Every time I opened that book, to take notes in a meeting, to plan, to keep track of tasks, I was reminded of the person I wanted to be, and the goals I was pursuing. It was inescapable. Having that constant reminder changed my life.

Here are 3 ways keeping your goals visible can change yours.

They serve as a constant reminder

Like I mentioned earlier, we often lose track of our goals because we just forget about them. Keeping your goals visible and close by serves as a near constant reminder of where we are going and what we are trying to get done. If we then choose not to pursue them, it is a more conscious decision as opposed to it just getting buried under the pile of other things vying for our attention.

They stimulate our minds

When our goals are perpetually in front of us, reminding us, our brains are constantly thinking about them, churning up ideas in the background, working on ways to achieve them, or build our lives around their pursuit. And if we enhance this by designing your environment in such a way that orients us towards our goals, it all combines us to move us steadily and automatically towards those ends.

Having your goals always in front of you also keeps you primed and sensitive. So that when opportunities come up, or chances for synchrony happen, you are ready to recognise and take advantage of them.

They build motivation

Seeing the vision constantly helps to cultivate burning desire. Something that is essential to helping you stick it out over the long run. Sometimes we set the goal we want, but we don’t want it enough to do whatever it takes. Keeping your goals in front of you stimulate the visions of it in your mind. They help you visualise having it and becoming the sort of person that achieves it. They also help fan the flames of desire until you are going after it with all you got.

Keeping your goals front and centre in your daily life is a small thing, but can have outsized effects. You can do this in many ways. You could keep a vision board close by, in your office, in your room. You could do as I did and dedicate pages of your daily planner to it. You could make it your phone or computer wallpaper, or place post-its all over your apartment. Whatever works for you.

Keep your goals in front of you, and they becomes that much easier to follow through.

Thank you for your attention and reading this to the end. If you enjoyed this post, please share with someone who you think might benefit greatly from it.

Learning to Suffer II

Learning to Suffer II

A lot of the times when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I am going to say. But I trust that as I sit and begin, that the idea will reveal itself. That’s what has happened as I have sat down this Sunday evening to write the first blog post for the year.

It’s been a while away from the page and I wonder…do I still have what it takes? What if I have finally run out of ideas. Yet I must face the uncertainty and create. The blank page is before me, the blank canvas of an entire year lies ahead. We must begin.

And to be honest, there is something that has been on my mind lately and in turn something to write about. (And weirdly enough dovetails very nicely into the podcast topic for this week)

The past week was chaotic, and it seems like I wasn’t the only one. Apparently 3 planets are in retrograde…if that actually does apply to anything. But it was a rough one. I personally dealt with turmoil in my relationships and friendships. I am just glad that I had the presence of mind to be proactive in dealing with and resolving the issues. But that didn’t change the fact that it felt like shit, like the week at some points felt like such a slog. That it was painful to go through.

It’s also the beginning of the year. Things are still slow. Things are gradually picking up. In a month or two, the year will be in full swing and things should be moving all around. But for now, we remain in the dip, especially if you are in the freelance or contract space. That comes with its own anxieties.

And as we move through this inevitable slog, I find myself thinking about a concept I’ve written about a few times on this blog here, here and here – learning how to suffer.

I like to look at life as the weather. So even with weeks like the last one, I am reluctant to call it a bad week. I’d just say that the weather was bad. Life is fine, there was just a bit of turbulence.

And that is okay. Because there must be variety. Things aren’t always easy. Things won’t always be chilled. Sometimes it will be rough. Sometimes there will be trouble. But in all these things, you can remain even keeled. You can practice virtue. You can do your best. You can be patient and consistent.

I think it is a good thing to remind the self from time to time. About the need to be able endure suffering, to embrace the pain. How to get back to the grind, how to hustle, how to push the body past its limits. How to focus and get things done when all you want to do is relax and Netflix. How to let the past die. How to stick to your guns and do what’s right even when your heart is pining to do different.

It is a crucial skill to remember. Because the year is long, and we have only just begun. We have another 12…well 11 now, months to go before this cycle is done. That is 11 months to move forward, to improve, to put to practice and to practice. To act on everything we have learned in the year(s) before.

It will take a lot from us. It will demand our energy, our concentration, our focus, our discipline. And there will be rough spots. Times we feel defeated before we begin, times we feel like we have wasted years, decades with nothing to show for it. Times we can’t see the results.

We must remain calm, and focused on following the plan, on doing the things we know to do. To weather the storm with an eye still firmly fixed on the goal. To not suffer needlessly with things that can be easily avoided but to suffer well in service of the path we take.

Because it will get easier. We will get into the groove of things and the wheel will begin to turn. And as we embrace the pain, we will get stronger. Our muscles will grow, and we become more capable. Our minds sharpen and our hearts get more resilient and we are able to carry more, to be the strong pillar in life’s inevitable storms.

Soon we will be back in still waters, in crystal clear oasis and sunny skies. And we will enjoy the harvest and live the good life. And when the next storm rolls in, we will be ready to do it all again.

Cultivating the Mind of an Artist

Cultivating the Mind of an Artist

I picked up this lovely little yellow book the other day – Brief Lessons in Creativity by Frances Ambler. And it is quite the gem, helping to inspire and nudge me deeper down a path that has been on my mind on-and-off for years now.

See, I work in the creative industry. I genuinely create something almost every single day whether it is content, or client work, whatever. I am always making something. However, it can become quite mechanical. You have your set of tools, your set of trusty techniques and ways of doing things. You can competently create on demand. But it is also very easy to stagnate and get stuck doing the same things over and over again.

It is difficult to grow and break ruts, to grow new skills and ways of looking at the world, and yet we must. To keep fresh, to honour the muse, to have longevity in the game. It is important to keep exercising the muscle of creativity and stretching it to new places.

I’ve always wanted to live a more artistic existence, and I suppose this has always been an underlying reasoning behind my life path. Working for yourself gives you control of your time. It then becomes up to you to optimise that time and be able to spend it how you want to. But it is very easy to get stuck in the day to day business of commerce, and not having enough time or energy to explore the possibilities.

Yet, if you want it, if you want to become better, to experience a new level, to maybe even become great, then somehow the price must be paid. We must incorporate practices and rituals, spaces and times to nurture the soil of creativity, to improve how we see, how we process, and the techniques of creation. To become better creators and artists.

Here are some ideas inspired by Frances’ book.

Just start/Begin anywhere

The blank canvas can be very intimidating, especially if we have not created in a long time. We might hold some romantic notion of how we ought to be as creatives, of how good the artwork has to be, or of how good we should be. We should throw all of those concerns away and just begin from anywhere. Just start. Take a piece of paper and make a scribble. Write a few random words in a notepad. Record a couple random melodies. Make a mess. Do something.

Doing this will shake out the cobwebs so to speak, limber up those stiff limbs and get you back in the groove of creating.

Follow your curiosity

What interests you? Put some time aside and do a real deep dive into it. What ever piques your curiosity. Maybe you always wondered about UFOs, or medieval weaponry, or knitting. Whether it is something mundane or something outlandish, allow yourself the space and time to dig into it. Do some research, go down an internet rabbit hole, visit sites, connect with people. Follow your curiosity, you will find new things, good, bad, boring, interesting, and it will fill your tank with new ideas and new references.

Make space

I have blogged at length about the need to create and protect creative space. To be able to cultivate and nurture your creativity, you need to have the space and time to devote to it. You need a place to make your art, whatever that is. This space needs to stimulate or support you as needed. It has to be sacred and set apart. This is an important time of enquiry, of experimentation, of worship.

Curate a cabinet of curiosities

Collect stuff. In your travels, in your movements around the world, you will come across things – signs, images, discarded objects, places. Bring something back with you, take a picture, make a film. Build and curate a storehouse of inspiration, of little odds and ends that you can come back to, study in more detail or tap into for ideas and direction. You are only as good as your references.

Actively experiment

Try different things. Start your process from the opposite end, or start from the middle. Create in a different medium or work with a different technique. Try creating with your less dominant hand, or in a different environment. Keep pushing the boundaries of what you create and how you create it. Shake things up to unleash new skills, new perspective and fresh takes.

Travel

Move around, it could be as close as a walk around the neighbourhood, or as far as moving across continents. But exposure to new places breaks up monotony and allows us to see things with fresh eyes. And it brings us in contact with new people, ways of living, and ideas.

We could all gain wonderfully from cultivating an artist’s eye and mind. Beyond the boons to creativity, the work of creating pushes one into a deeper state of being. A space where one must be still, and observe, really look, or really dig in and think and draw from the depths to birth something new. It is in these spaces that we learn about ourselves, that we tap into our powers, that we create something tangible, something truly us. It is here we meditate and connect to the sublime. It is here that we discover, that we learn, that we break through.

It is through the way of the artist, that we can become even more ourselves.

The audacity of hope

The audacity of hope

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching Barack Obama speak live at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg.

I thought of capturing some of my thoughts on his lecture, and the title ‘The audacity of hope’ came to mind. It is the title of one of his books, and ties in powerfully with the themes he expressed.

His pleasantly meandering talk took us on a 100-year journey from the birth of Madiba until present day. Who would have thought that a young boy born in Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa a century ago, would have such an effect in history, altering the destiny of a nation, and in a way, the world.

He called on us to appreciate just how much progress has taken place in that 100-year period, a blink of an eye in the larger context of our human heritage and history. In that time, nations have been liberated from colonial rule, countries have shifted from unjust arrangements to more democratic ones. Globalisation has brought the world closer together, and all in all, billions have been lifted from poverty. We live in a world that is safer, more prosperous and more tolerant than ever before.

Not to say that we have not made mistakes. Ideological and tribal conflicts still happen with heart-breaking frequency. The things that have brought us progress and made us closer in some ways, globalisation, technology, trade, have made it easier for the rich to get richer and exert more control. Social Media, supposed to connect us has been weaponised to keep us misinformed and outraged. Unfettered capitalism has decimated communities and environments. We have failed at many of the bold claims we have made.

Which is why today, the world seems teetering on the edge of return to days gone past. From the ideals of democracy to politics of the strong man, the authoritarian. It can seem that we are on the regress, back to the historical cycles of competition, mistrust and conflict.

And that is where the audacity of hope comes in.

Progress has always been as a result of people fighting relentlessly for it. The fact that you are ‘right’, or ‘good’ does not mean your win is automatically assured. There is the prevailing sentiment, that things will work out, that ultimately the arc of progress is always forward, that technology will solve the problems, that our politics will eventually work for our benefit.

But that is not the case. We mustn’t just hope for the best, we must also fight for the best.

In his book, Zero to One, Peter Thiel outlines four main philosophical tendencies – definite optimism, indefinite optimism, definite pessimism and indefinite pessimism.

 

An indefinite pessimist looks out to a bleak future, but he has no idea what to do about it. 
A definite pessimist knows the future can be known, but since it will be bleak, he must prepare for it.
To an indefinite optimist, the future will be better, but he doesn’t know how exactly, so he won’t make any specific plans. He expects to profit from the future but sees no reason to design it correctly.
To the definite optimist, the future would be better than the present if he plans and works to make it better.
  • Peter Thiel (Zero to One). Emphasis mine.

In a postmodern society like ours where repeated disappointment has made it far easier to be cynical than to believe, easier to disengage rather than hold firm convictions and advance forward, it is rebellion to believe. It is activism to hold on to hope and act accordingly.

We can create a better world. We have knowledge, we have technology, we have several billion people on the planet. We can do it. But it will not happen automatically or by accident. It will take us working together towards definite goals. Keeping the wheels of progress moving forward is perpetual work handed from generation to generation.

It will happen with great leadership. Individuals across all strata and levels of society, government and business. People with the Madiba spirit. People without ego, people with a passion for people. People with firm convictions, a stoic attitude and a steady patient hand. From the president of the nation, to the student leader.

It will take all of us. In his article, Umair Haque (one of our present day greatest thinkers in my opinion) outlines the idea that the forces of darkness and authoritarianism are not defeated by any one person. The idea of the lone ranger, the sole hero is a myth perpetuated by western thinking. But what’s the opposite of a hero? A chain reaction. Real change is as a result of a chain reaction, of waves of actions multiplied by the masses. Of people around the world being inspired by an incarcerated Mandela and continuing the struggle. Of people risking safety and even laying down their lives in service of an ideal. That is how change happens. When the people move as one, with leaders to steady the course and ensure safe landing.

So, we must believe. So, we must have hope. So, we must challenge ourselves to imagine a better world. To imagine new ways of engagement as a society, as businesses, as nations, as a human race. Our greatest challenge ahead is not one of technology, or ideology, or conflict. It is one of imagination. It is one of resolve.

Amandla Awethu. A luta Continua. The struggle continues. In solidarity, we will prevail.

Keep Moving – Calculated Momentum

In the present there is constant change and so much we cannot control. If you try to micro manage it all, you lose even greater control in the long run. The answer is to let go and move with chaos that presents itself to you. From within it, you will find endless opportunites that elude most people. Don’t give others the chance to pin you down.; Keep moving and changing your appearances to fit the environment. If you encounter walls or boundaries, slip around them. Do not let anything disrupt your flow

-The 50th Law (50 Cent and Robert Green)

It’s monday, and it’s a new week. Everyone is back at it, back at the hustle whatever that may be. The students are off to school, the workers are at their jobs and the hustlers are back in the streets. Lets get it in!!! My word to you today is simple, ‘Keep Moving’. This week, you are going to encounter setbacks, not every thing is going to go as planned. Stay fluid. Stay focused on the end goals, just be flexible on how you are going to get there. Be like water. Flow around the rocks and obstacles in your paths. Stay in the moment, enjoy each one as you race past it. And of course, do your very best!