As promised this blog post will be one to help you get started on doing the work. Or maybe you are already looking at how you can improve your life and are taking steps in the right direction.
If you have read some of my previous blogs and listened to some of my podcasts then you are already aware of our ability to improve our lives by looking at ourselves.
You are already stepping up to take responsibility. To develop your Mindset. To get the most out of our time here in this life.
To you I commend you. You are my people and I’m pleased to be with you on your journey.
Those new to this blog. To this work. A big warm welcome! There’s no better time to start than right now, so you have timed it very well indeed!
Just a little warning before we go “in”. Doing “the work” is not for the faint-hearted. It is not a whimsical thing you do. It is something that takes courage, grit, radical acceptance and responsibility and a whole lot of honesty.
Many people choose to live in willful ignorance of the part that they play in their life. Instead, they blame others, governments, parents, friends, walls for being there and doors for closing.
But fear not. They are not our people, hopefully, we can persuade them around while we ourselves get down to the nitty-gritty, get our hands dirty and start doing the work.
Remember we do this so that we may shine bright, improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
We do it so that we can show up for our friends and our families and raise children who have to deal with less shit handed to them by us.
We do it so that we can be the positive change in the world and by focusing on the controllable (us) we can ripple positivity and change beyond our imagination!
So let’s get to work! But first, we need to fill our Toolbox!
We can have tools for everything in life. Just as working on any machine there is normally a tool for every job that needs doing.
We are machines, incredibly complex, fleshy machines. Our society is also a fantastically interwoven machine. To fix these machines, to tweak them and to make them perform optimally, we need tools.
We keep them in our toolbox. Maybe our Mindset is the toolbox that can enable us to have an abundance of tools and methods to help us, or very few.
Whether we have a fixed or growth mindset will determine how many tools we have, how versatile they are and how good we are at accessing them. If you want to know more about Mindset check out my previous blog to understand this more fully.
The fact you are here reading this says to me you likely lean more towards the growth mindset or at least trying to develop it!
You can have a whole host of different tools for any occasion or maybe you have fewer more versatile tools that can be applied to different situations. Either way, the important thing is that we have these tools to call upon when we want to make a change.
I have some I use for “doing the work” and these are the ones I am going to share with you in this post.
Exercise and Physical Challenges
Exercising is not just about getting healthy and having abs. I mean a huge focus is on health and rightly so but there are other benefits for exercising that are less talked about.
We are animals. We are designed to be in the world. We are designed to be moving and using our bodies. We are poorly adapted to sitting inside all day and not moving. Our bodies are designed to crave high calorific food to keep us alive as we navigate the outside world moving large distances on our feet.
Now, the original hardware that saved us is killing us in the form of obesity, diabetes and many other chronic illnesses as our society and lifestyles have become comfortable and sedentary. So yeah, we need to get moving.
Exercising helps us reconnect to our bodies, to have a better idea of our capabilities and what we are made of. It is fantastic for managing mental health as it releases all kinds of feel-good hormones.
I find exercising a huge way of improving myself mentally as well as physically. It can be used as a tool to highlight aversions, insecurities, self-doubt and push our mindsets to grow. By using physical challenges we can strip down any lies that we tell ourselves and really see ourselves raw and exposed.
We can find that we have the strength to pick ourselves up out of the darkness and push forward. We can show that we have the courage, grit and determination to complete things we once thought unachievable. This does wonders for our self-confidence and mindset which spills into all other areas of our life.
I also find exercising, particularly running or long-distance cardio (even walking) a really important tool to contemplate and process things. Firstly, it is proven to generate and allow immense creativity but also allows you time and space to process thoughts and feelings.
For example, the thought patterns that emerge during a long run are very interesting. I find myself going through processes and often result in real lightbulb moments. I often have to take notes on my phone to jot down ideas and revelations.
Lastly, it’s really connecting with our bodies and giving ourselves a sense of satisfaction. I personally believe this is so incredibly important for men to get rooted in their physical body and get that testosterone flowing by exercising.
I think a reason why so much toxicity is played out in our society is that so many men have lost a sense of rootedness in their body so they try and play out their masculinity in other more insidious areas like domestic violence, alcohol abuse, controlling behaviour and abuse of our fellow men and women.
I personally believe if men stopped drinking alcohol so much and started connecting with their bodies they would feel more in control and more rooted and secure in themselves. This would allow them to show up in a more mature sense for the rest of their lives.
So yes, Exercise and physical challenges are a huge and powerful tool to put in our toolboxes.
Reading and Education
Well, I guess there is a reason the self-help industry is 11 billion + Dollars! I guess we all have flaws and need help. The good news is that there are lots of people trying to point us towards some solutions! (Yes including me!).
Information has never been so easy to access. There is so much out there, yes there’s a lot of trash but there are really amazing sources at the click of a button! I have read some incredibly informative and inspiring books over the years. Many of which I keep returning to for reference and new ideas.
We can learn from other peoples experiences and expertise by reading. We can find fantastic nuggets of information and select some aspects that really resonate with us so that we can implement them into our lives.
If we are facing a particular problem then the chances are there has been a book written on it! One I found hugely powerful for me was “The Highly Sensitive Person” by DR Elaine Arron. This book realy helped me see some of my traits in a new light and helped me take steps to manage certain aspects of my personality to perform optimally and maintain good energy levels.
It’s not just books though. There are youtube channels, podcast, audiobooks and online courses which could all help make some incredible breakthroughs and shed new light on things.
I do believe that education is a way that we can work on particular areas that we may have highlighted by using one of our other tools.
For instance, while running I may have a process that I am constantly thinking about the future, I am constantly wanting my run to be over so I can move onto whatever is next.This may prompt me to find ways of being more present and being in the moment which may result in me finding books on mindfulness and Buddhism.
If you would like to know a few places to start with books, podcasts and teachers then check out my library section on my website where I have compiled some of my favourites for you. (What a guy eh? You’re welcome!)
Journaling can take many forms. There is no right or wrong way to do it. It can be a consistent daily practice or something you turn to in times where you have a lot on and are faced with troubling feelings or decisions to make.
One way is to open and/or close the day with some writing.
For example, it may be beneficial to open the day with a few notes on what you are grateful for. These can be the same every day such as your health, your family and healthy food. It sometimes helps just remind us of the good things in life.
One exercise I particularly find useful is finishing the day with a list of things that went well that day. They can be simple things such as “I ate a healthy meal” or “I exercised” or even… “when faced with a difficult situation I didn’t lose my shit”.
We often look back and our brain highlights the negative (well mine does anyway!). This practice of finishing the day highlighting the positives helps us look back on the happy memories and the good things!
The other way to journal is just to free write. It could be a daily practice like a diary or it could be specifically used to figure out thoughts, emotions and even decisions. You may pick a topic and just start writing what comes up. No matter what, just get everything out on the paper.
This helps in two ways. Firstly it helps empty the thoughts from our heads. it can help us to stop going over and over something again and again. Sometimes it just helps to empty them onto the pages. Sometimes we don’t even have to analyse them! Just that process of getting them out of our head helps.
Secondly, it can be useful to order and analyse what’s been going on for us. You can re-read and cross out the nonsense and focus on the important information. It can help highlight thought patterns that may not be serving us and then help us create an action list and path forwards.
Mindfulness and Meditation
The art of being in the present moment. Making space from our thoughts and focusing on the here and now.
We are so often replaying our past or living in the future. To the extremes, this can lead to depression or anxiety. If we can learn to create space and focus on the present we can use this as a tool to alleviate some of the anguish that our brains cause us.
Mindfulness can take many forms from walking/running to gardening and even washing up. The practice is to focus on exactly what you are doing at that moment. To get consumed by it and focus your attention to that moment. Most tasks can become mindful if we try and focus our attention. It is a powerful tool to help create some space.
Meditation is the ultimate form of Mindfulness practice. Seated, lying, standing or walking. Focusing on the breath maybe or a point of focus such as a flame. Letting thoughts flow past you without attachment and clearing your mind.
These allow us to get some space from thoughts, to not attach to thoughts and feelings, yet still honouring what is going on. Sometimes it highlights patterns and things that are needing attention. These are good to write down and maybe use one of our other tools to tackle.
These are practices, you don’t just turn up and be good at them. They are to be worked on and to be kind to yourself in your attempt to quieten the busy mind. Too many people give up because it’s difficult. Let's not be one of those people, let’s use our growth Mindset here.
The key is to turn up and take some time to practice.
Therapy and Coaching
These are the Daddy of all tools to highlight areas that you aren’t addressing and may not be aware of. I started working with a coach/mentor back in 2016 and I haven’t looked back! I continue to work with him on a less intense basis but I do check in to catch up and make sure I am not missing anything.
Working with my Mentor cracked open my awareness to the way in which I think, speak and approach life. He helped me bring awareness to sabotaging habits and gave/suggested me the tools to start to change the way I think. This was very much a catalyst for deep-diving into “the work”.
Since then I have also worked with several therapists that have helped unpick certain things from my past that helped me better understand why I think and act the way I do. With the help of a therapist, you can begin to let go of past trauma, discard behaviours and thoughts that don’t serve you and start to live in a way that is not holding you back.
For decades, there has been a stigma around seeing a therapist. However, it is completely unfounded. Going to see a therapist means you are taking ownership of your shit. It means you’re not willing to blame anyone else for the way that you act and that you are willing to do the work.
Going to see a therapist does not mean you have anything wrong with you. It means that you are aware of things that may not quite be right and you want to fix them.
Ultimately we all have shit we need to deal with. We have all been passed down ancestral trauma that we need to work on so we don’t perpetuate the cycle. I have the utmost respect for anyone who goes to see a therapist.
I value it that much that I see it as a massive green flag in a partner. Someone who has tackled the depths of their mind and taken enough responsibility displayed enough courage to seek external help. For me, this is a huge sign that someone is willing to do the work, learn and grow. Good partner material!
Hiring a coach and seeing a therapist is so powerful. If you can afford it then I can’t recommend it enough. If you can’t, I know the NHS provide some services and many therapists run discounted rates as they want it to be accessible for everyone.
Be brave, be courageous, take ownership of your shit and go and dive deep!
Last but by no means least, Retreats! These are incredible for self-discovery and transformation. They allow you time and space away from the internet and distraction to really go deep and see what comes up.
There are many variations you can go to from secular Mindfulness retreats to full Vipassana silent retreats where you don’t do anything other than meditation and contemplation(no reading, writing, speaking, listening to music, some even eye contact)!
You can also go to retreats that offer activities and address specific things such as yoga, mens/female retreats, woodland retreats and other activities. There are many options available and are suited for anyone no matter where you are on your journey.
This time away from distraction really helps give you the stillness to work through things. I personally have found them huge for personal growth. Experiencing community-based Buddhist retreats to a Vipassana silent retreat.
I am such a big fan of these that I am currently in the process of building my own retreat space to facilitate others personal development and guide them through doing “the work”.
Many retreats, especially Buddhist based ones, offer subsidised places so cost isn’t always a barrier either! Check out the Sharpham trust for the retreat space I visit and aim to attend at least yearly!
Wherever you are on your journey, there are many tools at your disposal. The first step is being willing to start the work!
Yes, it can be painful and unpleasant. However, the amount of power you gain from embarking on this journey is incredible! You will discover new levels of self-awareness, confidence and clarity that you never had before.
Warning. You have to hold compassion in your heart for yourself and everything that you have been through and will go through on this journey. You will also have to do this for others.
We are all at different stages on our journeys so we have to remember that it is unfair to expect everyone to be courageous enough to do “the work” and we must remember to not get frustrated with others. Especially our loved ones!
Ram Dass is quoted “If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family.”
I couldn't agree more with this quote. Especially when it comes to our parents. They act as such a mirror to our bad traits as we often inherit theirs if they failed to do the work. This can be painful and frustrating but we have to accept them and focus on ourselves (easier said than done).
By doing the work ourselves we become a beacon and light for others to start. It is up to them if they choose to do so. All we can do is focus on ourselves and be kind and compassionate with those around us.
I truly hope that this post helps in some way. If you’ve read this, I applaud you, as it shows that you have started or are thinking about starting to do “the work”.
You can do it! Good luck!
Love First but always Make Ready