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The power of lessons learned

The power of lessons learned

“The real trick in life is to turn hindsight into foresight that reveals insight.” ~ Robin Sharma

I find so much wisdom in those words. There is nothing like hindsight – the past – to teach us valuable life lessons and help us improve our present and ultimately our future. This is why a major component of The DREAM DO LEARN system® – a system I created over the years to keep me laser focused on my goals and heading in the direction of my dreams – is learning. If we don’t learn lessons, we will keep making the same mistakes, falling into the same pits we always fall into and just go round in circles.

So how can we stop going round in circles and making the same mistakes?

Taking time out to reflect and review

If your remedy to achieve your goals after not quite getting the results you were after is to grit your teeth and try harder and faster, then maybe it’s time to press the pause button and take a little time out to learn some lessons before forging ahead at full speed. I promise, it will be time well spent!

So how can you apply the principle of learning lessons to your life?

In my Born to Flourish® planner-journal, it begins with the LEARN section (followed by DREAM and then DO) because it’s key to learn those all-important lessons before you set off on the next leg of your journey, so that you can avoid the mistakes you made previously.

To learn lessons in your own life, you can simply set aside some time and grab a notebook and pen – or use my Born to Flourish® planner-journal which is a hybrid planner-journal that covers a 12-month period (undated) that you can start at any time of the year – preferably the beginning of the month. The LEARN section will take you through a review of the last 12 months – the ups, the downs and everything in between. You get to look at each life area and note down your lessons learned in each. The whole point of the LEARN exercise is to take some time to look back at the last leg of your journey and reflect on how it went – whether you veered off track and why, and how you can change that in the future.

If you’re not using my Born to Flourish® planner-journal, you can simply make some notes in your own journal or a notebook – or on your laptop / tablet – wherever you please!
Some prompts for your very own lessons learned exercise

Here are ten questions you can use to ask yourself to get the juices flowing as you go through your lessons learned exercise. The period you’re looking back on depends on your own preferences – it could be the last 12 months or the last 5 years or beyond.

“On a scale of 1-10 how did the last [12 months] go in comparison to the intentions I set?”

“What were the highlights of the [last 12 months]?”

“What were the lowlights?”

“How could I have done things differently?”

“Was I the person I needed to BE to reach my goals? If not, why not?”

“Which life areas did I excel in and which did I neglect? How can I change this going forward?”

“What are the top ten lessons I’ve learned over the last [12 months]?”

“How can I apply each of these lessons to my life going forward?”

“What could I have done more of in the last [12 months]?”

“What could I have done less of in the last [12 months]?

Those are just a few questions to get you thinking and reflecting. Pondering over these questions may well prompt you to ask yourself other questions that aren’t listed here but are important to you and your individual circumstances.

Observe yourself as an outsider

I sometimes like to look at myself and my life as an observer sometimes, it’s so much easier to see things objectively. It’s easy to give someone else advice because we’re an outsider looking in and can remove all the emotion involved. It’s a great idea to do this for ourselves – look at yourself and your lessons learned as an outsider would. This is also because outsiders are often much kinder than we are to ourselves! We look for all the bad things and forget the good. So, try to be objective, like an outsider would, when reflecting on lessons learned from the past.

Remember to learn from the good

Equally, don’t beat yourself up for mistakes you may have made, this is not the point of the learning lessons exercise – the point is to look at these errors and ask yourself how they might have happened and how you might avoid this in the future so that it doesn’t happen again. And remember – it’s not just about looking for the negatives to learn from, but also the positives. What successes did you experience? What made you succeed? How can you build on that going forward to experience more success? How can you translate what you did into other areas of your life that you might be struggling in?

Businesses learn lessons and so can we

Businesses often carry out lessons learned exercises and whilst I witnessed this in companies I worked in, I did think to myself this would be so helpful if we, as individuals, applied this to our own lives too. Instead, many of us just plan out what we want to achieve, then take action, and then evaluate our results, maybe readjust the plan, and keep taking action, without properly taking out the time to reflect and review the actions we took and then adjust the plan accordingly. Reviewing and learning is often seen as a waste of time and not really necessary but you really can’t afford not to learn lessons from the past to improve the future!

Learning lessons is a regular activity

And it’s not just once a year you should be learning lessons. I carry out a review on a daily basis, as this is built into my Born to Flourish® planner-journal which I use myself every day to keep me focused and on track with my dreams and goals. Every morning I set intentions for the day and every evening I review my day to see whether I followed through on my intentions and if not, why not. It’s just a short paragraph but it’s really helpful for me to nip any issues in the bud straight away and adjust things for the next day, rather than wait for a December 31st review only to find I’ve veered so far off track I have no idea how to get back on track! As with the daily review, I also do a weekly, monthly and quarterly review (also in my planner-journal), so I am always reviewing my progress, learning lessons and adjusting course as I need to.

Are you ready to learn some lessons?

If the answer’s yes, then get into the habit of taking just a little time out every day to reflect on and learn from your day. If you’d like an easy system to help you do that regularly, then have a look at my Born to Flourish® planner-journal which is designed to help you learn lessons where you need to as you journey towards flourishing and being all you were destined to be!

How to stop comparing yourself with others

How to stop comparing yourself with others

Do you ever find yourself falling into the trap of comparing yourself with others? Whether it’s your achievements, your looks, your social media followers or whatever the case may be, it’s all too easy to bring yourself down by comparing yourself, usually unfavourably, with others.

I love to look to nature to learn life lessons and I thought to myself one day, whilst admiring a beautiful bed of flowers I was passing: these flowers don’t compare themselves with their neighbouring flowers. Can you imagine these flowers thinking “oh my gosh, she’s purple and I’m red, maybe I should be red too?” or “Why are there so many leaves on her stem when I’ve only got two? There must be something wrong with me.” Or “Why has she bloomed far bigger and brighter than I have? What’s the point in me even trying, I might as well quit.” No! Of course, flowers don’t have brains to think these thoughts to begin with and that’s why they simply just do their thing – they flourish and bloom into all they were meant to be – whether they were meant to be blue, pink, short, tall, a huge spray of flowers or one elegant blossom. They don’t have that inner critic whispering in their ear all day, pointing out their faults and telling them that they don’t measure up to the others around them. Meanwhile, us humans do! We are blessed with faculties that allow us to think, feel and choose but we often use these faculties against ourselves by entertaining negative self-talk and focusing on the wrong things.

Here are my top three tips to stop the comparison monster rearing its ugly head in your life:

1 | Focus on your own journey

An important thing to remember is that each and every one of us is on a completely different journey to the next person. So many different factors come into play and we often fail to take those factors into account when we look at ourselves and then compare our progress or results to others who seem to by just doing everything right and getting ahead effortlessly. I remember trying to build my business around my full time, really stressful job and would constantly beat myself up for either being too exhausted to do anything when I got home at the end of the day or for moving at a snail’s pace compared to others who built the business of their dreams in one month alongside their full-time job. Well, good for them if they made it work! Maybe they didn’t get home feeling like they’d been in a boxing ring all day as I did and they had the mental and physical energy to work on their business throughout the evening. I didn’t! Instead of looking at someone else’s journey – of which I could only see the surface and not the underlying factors – I needed to instead focus on my journey. How far had I come overall if I looked at the bigger picture? If I was spending a fraction of the time building my business around work that others were spending, that was good progress for me given all the things that I had to contend with in my life. The next time you look at someone else and think ‘wow, they’ve got it all together, I must be a complete moron’, just remember that you cannot compare your chapter 1 with someone else’s chapter 20. They are at their own stage in their journey while you’re at yours. Give yourself credit for where you are and what progress you’ve made. How do horses win their races? By wearing blinkers – the blinkers block out the distraction of what the other horses are doing and how fast they’re going compared to them. The blinkers mean they are 100% focused on their own journey and making it to the finish line. By all means, look at others as inspiration and learn from them, but remember that their circumstances are not the same as yours, your journey is unique to you!

2 | Change your perspective

One quote I love by Wayne Dyer is ‘Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.’  I’m a huge believer in the power of thoughts and just changing your perspective on the way you look at things can make a huge difference in your life. I worked for a long time in the engineering industry alongside some really brilliant engineers and sometimes I would find myself feeling inadequate around them, after all they were so smart and solving some of the world’s biggest problems and I, well, wasn’t. But then I would stop myself and tell myself how ridiculous it was for me to compare myself with these people who had clearly mastered what they did for years, some for decades, to get where they were. Like the saying goes, you can’t compare apples with oranges, they are different! Apples are good at being apples and oranges are good at being oranges! I am pretty sure there are things I can do well that an engineer can’t do! Just by changing the way you look at things can change its effect on you. The next time you find yourself comparing yourself with someone else, ask yourself ‘does this make any sense? Is there another way I could look at this?’ Try and be that outside observer – what would you say to someone else who was making this comparison? We often dole out good advice to others but are really hard on ourselves. Be your own cheerleader and stop to look at things from a different perspective the next time you start comparing yourself to someone else.

3 | Focus on your strengths

Where your focus goes, energy flows. So, what’s going to happen if you keep choosing to focus on your perceived shortcomings? They’re just going to be magnified, you’re going to look for more shortcomings and you’re just going to end up feeling really terrible about yourself. Not exactly helpful, is it? Instead of looking at the half empty part of the cup, look at the half full part. What are your strengths? What makes you special? Write them down. And you don’t need to be an Olympic level athlete or be able to sing like Mariah Carey, there are so many strengths that we all have that we often under estimate – maybe you’re great at organising and planning, or you’re an excellent listener (very hard to find these days!) or you’re good at writing. Focus on and build on those strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses and feeling bad about them. Build on your strengths and improve in your weak areas without thinking you’re inferior because you have weaknesses – everyone has weaknesses that they need to improve on, you just don’t need to feel bad about it! Another spin on focusing on your strengths is to focus on the progress you have made. When I look at the space of a month I often feel really bad about the lack of progress I’ve made – and often there’s a valid reason for the lack of progress. But if I step back and look at the bigger picture – if I look at the last year or two, I can see that actually, I have made good progress overall. Pat yourself on the back for the progress you have made and keep going. Taking a tiny step forward today is progress that you need to celebrate because all those tiny steps soon add up.

In addition to these three top tips, I really recommend working on personal growth, daily if you can! Read good books, surround yourself with positive people who encourage you and lift you up rather than bring you down. A book I highly recommend reading is ‘Worthy’ by Jamie Kern Lima, I did a review of this book which you can read HERE. It’s a great reminder that every one of us compares ourselves to others, it’s perfectly normal – we are all human after all, but the most important thing to remember is that you are worthy just as you are.

You don’t need to be someone else or somewhere else, you are exactly who and where you need to be right now.

Why you need to master the art of being patient

Why you need to master the art of being patient

Patience is something that has never come easily to me. When I want something, I want it now! Or at least, pretty quickly. And yet, when we’re trying to achieve our dreams and goals, the one thing we need to have is patience because in most cases, it’s going to take some time and effort to achieve those goals. It’s a journey we have to make and there are simply no shortcuts! There’s going to twists and turns in the road, we’re going to go off track sometimes, we might hit a dead end and have to backtrack or we might be completely rerouted.

It’s funny how we can learn life lessons from our every day experiences, if we look for them. The other day I was putting together a pretty basic footstool from IKEA which comes flat packed to be assembled (as most things from IKEA do!). “This’ll take ten minutes.” I thought. Ha! And I’m usually pretty good at putting things together. Well, I struggled more than I expected with this darn stool! After screwing in a few screws, I realised one of the sides of the footstool was actually facing the wrong way which meant I couldn’t progress with the next piece because nothing was aligned. Arggh! So I had to unscrew all the screws on that side and basically do some major backtracking to make sure the side of the footstool was facing the right way and then retrace my steps again with the screws. I paid more attention to the instructions now instead of assuming a footstool is really easy to assemble and I can probably do it without instructions! I succeeded in the end 😊… and also learned some priceless lessons in the process.

Be in it for the long game

Firstly, I learned not to underestimate how long it would take to achieve a goal and I tend to have a bad habit of doing this and then end up getting frustrated when things don’t happen quickly enough! Underestimating how long a goal will take to achieve is just setting yourself up for failure from the word go, not to mention frustration. You’ve got to be in it for the long game, whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. If it’s worth achieving then it’s worth doing properly, even if it does take a bit longer than planned!

Things rarely go as planned

Secondly, as with our own personal journeys to getting to where we want to be, there will always be obstacles and challenges to overcome, there will always be some mistakes made and some backtracking to be done. Just as assembling my IKEA footstool took longer than planned and turned out to be a little more complicated than I expected, we also need to cut ourselves some slack when things don’t go as we meticulously planned. Ask any successful person about their journey to getting where they are and they’ll tell you they hit many unexpected roadblocks along the way!

There’s a season for sowing and a season for reaping

Whenever I feel impatience rising within me, I remember wise words by Jim Rohn:

“There’s a season for sowing and a season for reaping, but you can’t do both in the same season.”

After diligently ‘sowing your seeds’ by putting in a lot of effort towards your goals, its all too easy to then expect your harvest straight away. “I’ve been working so hard! Where’s the fruit of my labour?” But what we’re expecting is to sow and harvest in the same season. We forget that as with al nature, there are seasons. We can’t sow AND reap straight away in spring. Neither does autumn/fall follow spring, there’s another season, summer, in between. A season of patiently nurturing those seeds you planted and watching them grow and flourish. What ends up happening is, you plant your seeds, see nothing happening and then give up in despair and go sow more seeds elsewhere. Shiny Object Syndrome, anyone?! Then you end up sowing all these seeds in all these different places and without you being there, patiently nurturing those seeds to help them flourish, those seeds wither away and die. Meanwhile, you’ve worked yourself to the bone planting seeds all over the place and getting absolutely no harvest!

This is where patience comes in.

When you physically plant a seed, you don’t see any activity for some time. But something is happening. That seed is germinating and getting ready to start growing. You just can’t see it. But if you stick with it patiently, you’ll soon see signs of growth – a little stalk peeping above the soil, then a leaf, then two. It’s no different when we work on our dreams and goals. We put in lots of work, and then instead of getting discouraged, we stay the course. We keep going. We nurture what we planted. We start building momentum. And as momentum builds, we start seeing results, maybe teeny tiny results to begin with but again – you don’t see an enormous oak tree spring from the soil, do you?! No, it starts off as a tiny little seedling and then keeps growing over time.

The strange thing is, we know this is true when it comes to assembling IKEA furniture and growing plants in our gardens and yet we expect this not to apply to us! When things don’t happen overnight, we get discouraged and feel like giving up. When one tiny stalk begins to show its head, we think “is that all, after all that effort I put in!?” and we abandon the little stalk that was about to start growing into an eventual oak tree.

Look at the bigger picture

Looking at the bigger picture allows you to step back and see not just where you are at that moment in time in isolation, but where you are along your entire journey towards achieving your goals. Whenever I do this, I realise I am actually a lot further along in my overall journey than I think. It hasn’t been wasted effort, things are happening (just like the seed germinating underground), sometimes you just don’t see it. Just keep going and know that every little step you take is taking you another step closer to your goals.

Pause and reflect

Spending time on meditation and reflection is a great way to pause and reflect on things and master the art of being patient. This allows you to tune into your bigger vision and see yourself taking each little step towards accomplishing that vision. It also helps you to realise and accept that things might not always go the way you expect them to or the way you planned but that’s ok, it’s all part of your journey. Journalling is another great way to regularly reflect on your journey and explore any feelings of impatience. If you haven’t already come across my Born to Flourish planner-journal which is personal growth focused and full of prompts to help you set intentions and reflect on and review your progress, you can find out more about it here.

Here’s a great quote by Benjamin Franklin, I’ll leave you with:

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

Have patience friend, and you can make anything happen!

5 reasons you should keep a journal

5 reasons you should keep a journal

I have kept a journal on and off since I was a teenager – I always loved to pour out my thoughts and ideas onto paper (it’s a shame I lost those teenage journals, I would have loved to read them today!). Journalling is now a firmly engrained habit in my life and I never go more than a couple of days without journalling.

Do you keep a journal? If not, here’s five good reasons you should!

1 |  It’s therapeutic

Whether you can barely get the words onto paper fast enough in excitement, or tears flow onto the page as you write down how you feel about a painful experience, journalling can be really therapeutic and it certainly is for me. There’s something about being able to get those thoughts and feelings inside of you onto paper that immediately lightens the load within and can also help to create more clarity. Some people don’t feel comfortable talking to someone else about their deepest, darkest thoughts or else don’t have anyone to talk to and so journalling is a great way to be able to have an outlet to express what’s on your heart. Even if it’s just a log about how your day went and what you hope to achieve over the rest of the week, it’s still therapeutic to get it out there onto paper. Research has indicated that keeping a journal can help to relieve stress and anxiety as you’re getting your feelings out onto paper which is another great reason to get your pen out. I have had some occasions where I’ve been really annoyed, ok, even angry! – and writing my annoyed, angry thoughts down helps to dissipate those angry feelings and stops me from saying things to people in haste that I might later regret. It often makes me see things in a totally different way, like ‘this is actually silly and not even worth getting angry over!’

2 |  Improve your productivity

Journalling has always been one of the foundation stones of starting my day – by journalling, I am setting my intentions for the day ahead and deciding what to focus my attention on rather than letting the day throw whatever it wants at me. As Jim Rohn once said ‘Either you run the day, or the day runs you!’ Throughout the day I know what intentions I set earlier and I make a conscious effort to ensure all my actions align with those intentions. Sure, sometimes other things come up unexpectedly but generally, it’s good to be in control of your day! Even if it’s just a short paragraph, journalling can help you organise those thoughts and ideas swirling around in your head and start taking action on them. If you’re journalling regularly too, you can see how you’re following through on the intentions you set from day to day, which leads me onto the next good reason to keep a journal …

3 |  Document your journey

Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to document your journey whether its personal or professional or both. I keep both a personal journal and a business journal and document my respective journeys in there. By getting the words out onto paper, it really does feel like a journey because each day I am taking another step and experiencing new things. The great thing is going back and reading your journals – this is something I only recently started doing when I realised that I really did need to properly review my past journey to learn lessons and reflect before continuing the next leg of my journey. By documenting your experiences and then looking back, say six months, or a year later, you realise how far you have come and how much you have grown as a person. And … you are literally writing the story of your life, how amazing is that?

4 |  Become more self-aware

Socrates famously told us to ‘Know thyself’. Journalling is probably one of the best ways to get to know yourself. It’s a great opportunity to do some deep self-reflection and self-discovery. So many people simply rush through each day without giving a moments’ thought to why they are doing what they are doing, or where they are actually going in the long term – they just go through the motions each day. By taking time to pause momentarily and write down your thoughts and feelings, you become much more aware of your real self, your ‘higher’ self, and the things that really matter to you. When I journal, I often feel as though I am observing myself as an outsider, this gives me a fresh perspective on things and allows me to almost coach myself, if that makes sense! Seeing what I’ve written down on paper makes those thoughts real and makes me far more aware of who I really am and what I need in that season of my life.

5 |  Improve your creativity

Finally, journalling allows you to unleash your creativity onto the page. There are no hard and fast rules for journalling, some people are short and to the point and others waffle on forever (yep, that’s me, although I do restrict myself nowadays!). By exploring your thoughts, feelings and emotions, you’re allowing your creativity to unfold and work its magic. We all have creativity within us, we just have to give it space to emerge and journalling is a great way to do that. I sometimes get random ideas pop into my head and I capture those ideas in my journal with a little lightbulb image next to it!  At some point, when I need some inspiration, I’ll look back for all my little lightbulb images and notes and viola – creativity starts to flow again!

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of journals out there and I’m sure there is at least one that suits your needs – from bullet journals to write as much as you want journals, and everything in between.

Because I love using planners to stay organised and love to journal too, I created my own bespoke ‘planner-journal’ called the Born to Flourish ® planner-journal. It combines all the practicalities of a planner (with planning and organising aspects) together with the all-important ‘mindset’ elements of a journal. It has a strong focus on personal growth with plenty of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly prompts and reflections to keep you focused on what truly matters to you. I use my planner-journal every day and now share it with anyone who wants to use it in their own journey to flourishing and being all they were destined to be!

You can check out my Born to Flourish ® planner-journal which is available in printable PDF and Digital formats (to use on your iPad / tablet) << RIGHT HERE! >>

Do you keep a journal? What do you love most about it?