10 Ways to Win Back Your Mind.

This is the conclusion to this 4-part series on mindfulness. If you have missed any of the preceding posts, you can read them by clicking on the links at the end of this post.

So, now that you know that mindfulness is a powerfully good thing to practice, let’s get to it.

I have compiled a list of ten simple things that you can do starting at this very moment to begin developing a habit of mindfulness. Pick just one or two and DO IT at least once every day!

Like most things, these are simple enough, but few people will actually do them consistently.

I challenge you to be one of those few, and perhaps to share with me in a month or to me in a month or two if you have experienced any significant improvements in your life.

Before we dive right into mindfulness, I’d like to talk briefly about distractions. Many productivity gurus talk about removing distractions. Sure, it is helpful, but life is full of distractions that are outside of our control, so the only thing we can do about those is to learn to deliberately filter them out. If you can only focus when you are in a perfectly ordered and controlled environment, you have not mastered mindfulness, you have simply created a situation where distractions no longer exist, an environment in which mindlessness becomes difficult. But unfortunately the world in which we live is no such place. So we need to learn to master distractions, not avoid them. The first four items are all about mastering distractions and help you own your space. The rest actively engage a state of mindfulness.

1. Set task timers.

That sounds more like a productivity hack, but what I mean by that is that you set a three, five, or maximum fifteen minute timer in order to do an activity, and during that time your goal is to not allow any other activity to interfere. You are just doing that one thing, nothing else. For a brief period of time (keep it short – match it to the task if possible) give yourself permission to ignore everything else – the phone, email, anything that is not part of your immediate activity. Don’t make it an hour long, just enough to do a meaningful chunk of what needs to be done. If you finish sooner, great. If you go over time, so what, go until you reach the natural stop. The key here is brevity, and trying throughout that time to maintain deliberate awareness about what you are doing, and stop yourself from drifting into autopilot (aka mindlessness!)

2. Turn off all social meadia, TV and news.

Harsh? These rarely contribute something useful to our lives, and they are the ultimate weapon of mindlessness. Set times of the day that are specifically devoted to attending to those if you can’t live without them. Think about this: advertising works. Advertisers know exactly why it works: the moment that the subject matter of your thoughts is determined by someone else, you have “lost” your mind – quite literally –  they own your decision-making process because your story-telling part of the brain has been handed a script. Perhaps somewhat Orwellian, but a fact worth trillions of dollars in sales. Claim some ownership back, give yourself a little space to have your own real experience.

3. Do ONE thing at a time until done.

Nothing fosters mindlessness more than multi-tasking. If you need to interrupt, then break one activity to do another and then come back to it. Science has consistently demonstrated that doing two or more things at once is inefficient and increases the rate of errors exponentially. Finish the coffee or the sandwich, taste it, experience it. Then you can return to checking your email. whatever it is, see, feel, touch, smell, taste, engage, allow yourself to be involved.

4. Turn off your phone when attending meetings.

The fact that our phones have become our forever-ready personal assistant does no mean that we need to have them participate in every one of your human interactions. Besides being a gesture of disrespect by showing that we downgrading the importance of the person or group we are engaging with, it is also very hard to stay attentive when your phone blinks, twinkles, buzzes and fuzzes or suddenly starts singing “I was made for lovin’ you baby…” in the middle of a conversation. Give the people you are with your full undivided attention. Let your heart, your ears and your eyes be absorbed by nothing else than them and their story. Try to feel what they feel. Mindfulness causes your brain to become more empathic. Use this to your advantage, you will become more respected for it.

5. Focus on the food when eating.

We have forgotten to eat properly. This is one of those fundamental biological things that keep us alive, yet we treat it as a mechanical and indulgent anchor for other activities. When you eat, smell the aromas, feel the textures on your tongue, look at the colours on your plate, think about the ingredients, how they nourish. We forget that food is our number one medicine. Chose your foods wisely, and enjoy them, regardless of how humble and simple they are. No two foods taste and smell the same. No two foods nourish us in the same way. And besides water, virtually every mouthful that you eat whether plant or animal comes from something that was once alive. Be grateful, recognise its sacredness, and eat it with the respect it deserves.

6. Break your routine.

This is a both easy and fun way of creating a mindfulness-inducing situation. Take the opportunity to experience the difference with all your senses. Here are some ideas: take a different route to work, or perhaps public transport. Try something adventurous in your lunch-box. Buy at a different store. Set your alarm clock for a different time and get up earlier. Try a different breakfast. Dare to have a cold shower. Go for a walk in the rain. Since you have turned off  off facebook and TV, you will suddenly find time to read a book. Or chat with your family. Take your dog for a walk, and walk in the opposite direction.

7. Journal – and write by hand!.

Handwriting is a mindful activity in its own right – and one that engages our brain far more intensely than typing the same words on a keyboard – so when it comes to mindfulness, typing it does not qualify. Besides the act of writing by hand, reflecting on your day’s experiences is intensely satisfying. Once you begin, it is likely that a page or more will flow effortlessly. Other days just readying past days’ entires can be equally fulfilling. I am very passionate about my papers, pencils and fountain pen inks, but whatever you choose to use, let it be personal and special, and give yourself time and a space to make this special. Just doing this regularly will gradually raise your awareness and presence in all your life experiences.

8. Make TEA, and drink it.

Japanese have refined the act of preparing and sharing tea into one of the most iconic acts of mindfulness in its tea ceremonies. But all rituals aside, there is a simple chemical reason for this: Tea (the kind derived from the Camellia Sinensis, not herbal teas and infusions like rosehip, camomile and rooibos) contains a powerful combination of caffeine, flavonoids and antioxidants. Think this: the best medicinal properties of coffee, chocolate and red wine in that cup. Clear alertness, calm contentedness and healthy antioxidants all at once!. But rather than just jingling a bag in a cup of hot water and then tossing it in the bin, then letting your cuppa slowly go cold while you are back at your desk, take the time out to brew it, pause all things and drink it with all your senses as you would invest your senses into a glass of Penfolds Grange or your favourite single malt.

9. Listen to music  – while doing nothing else.

Really listen, not just have muzak/radio/spotify playing in the background. You don’t have to be a music expert, simply listen, observe how it makes you feel. I recommend instrumental, classical or good meditation music, mainly because music with lyrics can be a distraction. Not only does the act of listening help in clearing the mind of distracting thoughts, listening to music also wires up new connections between your left and right brain. You get smarter while relaxing!

10. Meditate.

This merits a post in its own right. But here is the really simple version: sit quietly, get comfortable. Observe your breath – don’t force it, simply observe. Feel the air entering your lungs, then pausing, then the exhaling. By the time you do this for a few breaths you will have an avalanche of thoughts tumbling through your head. That is normal. The work is in not engaging those thoughts, but keeping your attention on your breathing. As soon as your mind begins to wander, pay attention to your breath again. Do this for five to ten minutes, preferably every day, and ideally not when you are tired or about to go to bed. Meditation should not send you to sleep, it invigorates the mind. In the beginning this will be hard, don’t be discouraged by the seeming difficulty of ignoring your inner voice, but with a little practice and after two or three weeks you will begin to maintain your attention on your breath for longer, and will also be able to re-focus a lot quicker as soon as the distracting thoughts make themselves known.
If you have made it to number 10, congratulations, you may even have experienced mindfulness while reading!

If you wish to know more or have a question about mindfulness practice and meditation please post it in the comments sections and I will do my best to help out.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts. Here are the links to the first three parts in case you missed them. Share them, and all the best as you go about reclaiming your mind!

The awesome things that mindfulness does to your brain!

“You can’t run that fast.

He/She is not going to be interested in you.

You look frumpy.

People are not going to like your haircut.

Your voice sounds funny.

OMG is that a wrinkle???

They will never accept those terms.

Blah blah blah.”

 

“Oh, hello, this is your inner voice speaking.

I am going to make sure you second guess yourself.

I will remind you of the impending dangers, and cause you anxiety about an upcoming event or meeting.

I am your personal reminder to worry, stress. assume.

I am here to tell you a story, to pre-emptively inform you of your story.”

Mindfulness.

Your inner voice is silent. Or at least out of hearing range. There is no pre-written plot here. You chose.
Ok, so what was that all about?
Last week I promised to reveal what happens in your brain when you are “mindful”. What you have just read is an example of what actually happens. Many studies have been done to find out what goes on in your brain during and after meditation. Although meditation is not the same as mindfulness, it is one of the most common – and easiest – ways to practice mindfulness, and develop it. From that practice we can then apply it anytime, anywhere. Next week I will go into more detail about how you can easily begin to develop mindfulness as a habit, but for now, lets get back to the brain.

Two important things happen in your brain during and after meditation or mindfulness practice:

First, the inner voice is muted.

Your inner voice, or story-teller uses the information it receives from your reticular activating system (see my post on this here) to develop stories that are strictly speaking fantasy. These stories are generated by our language centre based on past experiences, assumptions, live information that comes in through our senses, and “stuff” that is floating around in our subconscious.
Mindfulness separates and severs this link.
At first that may sound like a bad thing, but it is not. This severing allows the more evolved parts of our mind to engage with the information that comes in through our senses, and effectively bypasses our more primitive flight-or-fight type brain functions and stop the behavior triggers. So what that really means is that instead of second guessing, doubting or deluding ourselves by way of this creative story-telling , our awareness is actually processing the information that comes in “clean”, in other words, without emotional bias, not altered by our past experiences. It does not mean we don’t “feel” emotion, it simply means the made-up story does not undermine our perception with assumptions. Our inner voice is powerful, and our ability to silence it and bypass it means we will worry less, stress less, abstain from passing judgment preemptively, draw foregone conclusions and so on. It means that we are able to work with untampered information and as a result we will make better decisions. Its that simple, and it has a very direct effect on our body and our health.

The second thing that happens is we become more empathic.

This is not some warm-and-fuzzy theoretical thing, the areas of our brain responsible for empathy and compassion are stimulated and become more active. We are able to connect with our surroundings better (not just people) and it increases our awareness as a part of a greater whole. The benefit of this needs no explanation. Because of this, meditation is being used as a highly effective way of helping people recover from depression – meditation instead of medication!
Although significant and lasting physiological changes to the brain take some time to reach, (the first real changes begin to occur after about two months of regular daily meditation), you can quite literally change the experience of your day on the spot by either meditation or mindfulness exercises. And that does not require preparation.

So in summary, your brain will reconfigure itself to reduce stress and increase health, and you will become a nicer, kinder more authentic person.

I deliberately left the heavy science stuff out, but I will post links next week to some relevant scientific publications and media if you wish to immerse yourself the clinical and detailed explanation (no pseudoscience!). Next week I will show you simple ways to tap into this wonderful state of being, and give you a starting point towards a healthier, happier, mindful life.
Enjoy, share, comment…

Rule-change! Whose game are you playing?

While playing snakes and ladders with one of our sons, he proceeded to define a set of game rules that were not striclty part of the game. So we played the game with that modified set of rules. Children master the art of imagination. Rarely do they participate in a game where they do not have a say in the rules. It is their game, and they make the rules.

As adults we become more strategic about this. We deliberately allow ourselves to comply with overarching sets of rules in business or personal life that generally position us favourably. But in doing so we also forego something, and the cost of this is not always obvious or immediately apparent. Ever so quietly compliance creates a mindset and culture of perpetuating, and eventually even protecting the status quo. Last week I explored this subject in my post “The most dangerous assumption ever”.

What we forego is a degree of control. Specifically, we forego that level of control which allows new possible outcomes to emerge.

As a design professional I was trained to question pretty well everything, but even that is no safeguard. After a while we become accustomed to challenging ourselves with the same questions.

So how we reclaim that imaginative rule inventing capacity that we had at age 5?

Begin by observing…

What is the underlying “game” in a particular transaction, interaction or relationship?

When we understand the game, the rules will gradually become apparent. And when we know them, we can literally begin to mess around with them, create new possibilities, and have fun doing it!

  • What are the rules that you have sub-conciously agreed to play by?
  • What other moves would be possible if you ignored those rules?
  • What happens if you took the rule and reversed it, or made it the opposite?
  • How are the rules impeding of helping your intentions?
  • And finally, what is possible you take a rule from another game and apply it here?

 

Cultivate this this skill, and in time you will inevitably find yourself ahead of the game…

Full Steam Ahead: Why You Have Everything You Need.

The new project. Today’s to-do list. Launching a new business. Finding a soul-mate. Changing careers. Whatever it is you wish to start, accomplish, create, finish or do, you have all you need. Right now. There is absolutely nothing in the way for you be in motion, wether this is to get started, to advance it, to finish it, to ship it.

I must admit, this was a hard lesson for me to grasp.

We must never confuse aspiration with necessity.

Yet we do.

Aspiration tells us where we want to go. Evidently we are not there, so in order to get there, we must first begin the journey. And any journey begins at the point where the decision to undertake it is made.

Necessity is the absolute minimum that we need to commence that journey. If you are reading this, there are very few things for which you do not have that absolute minimum, and everything else is within reach.

Provided that you do one important thing: take one next step.

Invest even just one minute writing down a list of things that you need to do in order to proceed with your project. Inevitably there will be things on that list that are not immediately possible or viable. And then there are other things that are absolutely doable, sometimes right at that very moment. That is your next step. Take it. It is not more complicated than that.

We complicate it by overlaying the aspirational circumstances over the present moment, and label it necessity.

                       And then……. we are stuck!

Throughout life we accumulate a magnificent toolkit of expertise, experience, wisdom and skills. Yet we rarely look into that toolkit. In fact I bet you are not even sure what tools are in yours, and you may not even be sure as to what some of those mysterious items can do. But in that toolkit is something that makes the next step possible.

Write that little list. Discover what is in your toolkit. Use it. In it is everything you need to take the next step. And with every new step you take, new things will appear in your toolkit.

You will need them……..

Later.

                        The ones you need now you already have.

The hardest thing that most never have the courage to do.

Justice.

It seems that this is one of the pivots of civilisation.

The scales that balance everything, impartially.

It moderates activites, it ensures appropriate behaviour, it provides a framework where righteousness bestows impunity, and wrongdoing elicits punishment. It is  the foundation of what we generally consider to be fair.

Of course it has some limitations and weaknesses that are most evident around big-picture economic and political matters, where conflicts of interests propagate into all sorts of absurd and outright inhumane propositions that are nevertheless are still strictly compliant. But in general terms we accept this principle as a given, and in most stable countries we are able to enjoy its benefits. It becomes an embedded part of our culture and our behavior and we apply it broadly and liberally to our lives. We like to be fair. We like others to be fair to us.

It is a profound expectation. And just as we expect fairness, we also expect that unfairness in whatever from should bring with it consequences. It is the foundation for all things from the business of remuneration for our knowledge, work or wares, all the way to religion. 

It makes life, and human transactions easy. Clear-cut. Even. Fair.

I am good to you, I expect you to be good to me, and as long as we all abide by this I can continue being good to you (and everybody will – or at least should be happy). We beat our chests with pride when we uphold this idea.

Natural law however does not work on fairness. Things are not even. We are not all equally happy.

We defend a small idea on the basis of righteousness against an unfair or unjust opponent, even as we laying waste to all that surrounds us, and yet we feel courageous because we have remained just and fair, stood the proverbial higher ground.

But there is something that takes a far greater courage, and it pays in ways that fairness can never pay. It creates wealth and happiness, it creates sanctuary, it revives, it renews, it is above the higher ground, – and oddly enough, it costs nothing!.

Compassion.

You may sigh tediously as you read this heavy word. But the simple fact is, you are probably not brave enough to truly practice it.
You see, in order to give it, you need to repeal all ideas of fairness. You have to reject justice. You have to forfeit your advantage. You have to silence all judgement. You have to smash the scales. You have to become partial. Partial to the “other”, the recipient of your compassion. You have to listen instead of speaking.

And compassion creates things that fairness can not.

It creates real trust.
      With trust comes sanctuary.
           With sanctuary comes healing.
                 With health comes inspiration.
                      With inspiration all things become possible.

Just pause for a moment an imagine what richness is possible when people are good to one another for no other reason than the belief that it is the right thing to do. I hope that with that thought you will find the courage to be compassionate where you could have been just, or fair, or right.

Our world is broken. Broken by too much fairness and justice. It can only be repaired with compassion.

Someone you meet today will need your compassion above all else, and will be grateful to you for it in ways that you can not imagine. Give it.

How to catch the monster that stops you!

I had a conversation with a young man at the pool this morning. He was seeking some advice on how to swim longer distances, and shared that the best he has ever done 500 metres, but that he was not sure he could do it again.

That fear stops us from achieving what we are truly capable of is well documented. Less often however do we talk about the signs, the behaviours, the evidence that it is in fact such fear that is getting in the way. That is because fear is most frequently disguised as a harmless and often quite logical reason.

  • I am not cut out for this.
  • I don’t have the bone structure to run like that.
  • Every time I try it goes wrong.

Beneath phrases like these are apprehensions far scarier than the most ghoulish Halloween disguise. And beneath that disguise is a simple monster, one that is common to most people: OUR fear of other people’s opinion.

It comes wrapped in more complex fears, like public speaking, or fear of failure. But ultimately it comes down how we want to be seen, and since all of us live with some inconsistencies and slip-ups of integrity, we are very weary of anything that will give away our weakness.

Most of us believe that it takes courage to be exposed for who we truly are. The reality is actually the opposite: most of our closer friends have a pretty good idea of who we truly are, and they also know the lengths we go to in order to hide some of our perceived weaknesses.

What takes courage is not exposing your true self to others, but to expose it to yourself. 

You have things that somewhere deep inside you wish you could do, but it sits wrapped up in the conviction that it is not possible for you.

Here are three reasons why it is virtually certainly possible for you, three thoughts that you can summon to expose, catch or chase away the monster that stops you:

  • Its been done successfully before  – by people who you think less of!
  • It will not kill you, infect you or cause you to break out in an incurable rash.
  • You live in a world of great fortune and privileges (because you can read this!), and therefore you have not reached your risk limits yet. In fact you are nowhere near them.

You and I know these are absolutely true for you. So go ahead and do the thing that scares you the most first. You now its is safe to do so.

I left my new friend at the pool with some ideas how he could break 600 metres within a few sessions. I will find out soon if he succeeds, I do hope he does, because I know he can swim 1000. Only he knows if he has the courage to endure some fatigue.

 

Multiply your effectiveness with potency.

A few mornings ago, as I was starting my warm-up laps in the swimming pool, I felt I could have done with a few extra hours of sleep.

My arms were turning, my legs were kicking, my gaze was absently following the blue line on the pool floor. A few hundred metres into it and the thought that I had a solid three-quarters of an hour still ahead of me was well and truly deflating me. I was not “present”.

When you are submerged, you hear nothing but your own thoughts, and the repetitive muffled gurgling sounds of your body moving through the water. It is meditative in a way, and because of this I soon had dismantled my lethargic thoughts with the mental exploration of effectiveness versus potency.

The word Potency is defined as the capacity to influence, and it is most often used in heard in relation to medicine, biology and physics.

Often we are time-locked in our activities, we can not opt-out sooner, we can not avoid a particular process. When we are in this situation the only variable we can adjust is the intensity, the presence, the potency. A small increase in potency often can create a significant increase in results.

The time will pass..

You will arrive at the other end as you drift through the activity, the time will still pass.

You will arrive at the other end as you move through the activity with intention, the time will still pass.

When the time has passed, will you simply arrive, or will you arrive with a payload?. 

What is the best that you can get out of a given activity? In my case I promptly decided to “engage” with my training session, to be fully “present”. I did not do a personal best that day, but a simple almost insignificant shift in thinking, a marginal increase in effort turned an hour of uncommitted motion into a worthwhile training session.

Effectiveness means something works. Potency determines how great a result you will get from that work. When we are faced with an activity that perhaps is not avoidable, we can always increase our potency.

Either way you will pass the same point in time, but you will be heading in very different directions.

 

Punch if you just want to fight, punch through if you want to win.

Martial arts, whether in practice or in philosophy, have been a fundamental part of my beliefs since I was a kid.

One principle Sensei would always emphasize when we were practising our punches or kicks against pads was that we should aim to kick not at the pad, but right through the person holding it.

This may sound extreme, but the experience was remarkable. If you were the person holding the pad, you would certainly feel the difference. It didn’t matter if the opponent delivering the punch was half my size, a through punch or kick would always be felt and was enough to displace me while holding the pad by a foot or two and often throw me off my spot. Whereas a punch or kick at the pad could always be resisted and the impact force easily absorbed by your arms.

When we set a goal, we naturally tend to work to the goal, not through the goal. In doing so we often loose the momentum that we have acquired leading up to it. How often do we hear of people tracking fabulously and then giving up or running out of drive so close to their goal!. They had their eyes on the finish line, not at the ground beyond it.

Punching through is different to a stretch goal.

A stretch goal is an ambitious target beyond the goal.

Punching through means not winding down to finish at the goal, to continue at full speed until the target has been passed.

Even a marginal pass is ok, the key is that you are applying the brakes only after you have reached it.

What tends to happen in reality is that this seemingly unimportant extra effort is precisely that what got you there. That little extra effort is what separates the finishers from everyone else.

Whatever it is you are seeking to achieve, whether you can see your goal or not, don’t slow down until you have passed it.

When you set a goal, know what it means to pass it:

   Is it a sales target?

      Is it a chapter completed?

        Is it an eating habit change or exercise program?

When you know what the turf looks like just beyond the finish line, you will know to keep going until you are standing on it.

Sensei always used to joke “Punching at someone will only get you into a fight, but punching through will overpower your opponent.”

Don’t spend your life fighting, live life winning.

Timecounting 101: The True Price of Waiting.

15,000 Days.

That is the number of days most people spend in “working life” till retirement (assuming that you start a career in your early 20’s and retire in your early 60’s). Yes, that is not a typo: fifteen-thousand days. That’s it.

If you are not are reading this on your mobile device, go pick it up now, open the calculator app and type in your age. Multiply by 365. Read the result out aloud.
That’s roughly how many days you have already lived. 

When I did this a few years ago I found this exercise very unsettling.

  • The average life budget is somewhere around 27,000 days. Compare that to your number.
  • If you make it to 30,00 you are in very a small minority.
  • If you make it beyond that it won’t be by far, and you are an exception.

The problem with life is that we are not given a budget at birth. So, with a credit-card mentality, we spend liberally the most precious thing we have, as if there was time to do the meaningful stuff “later”. For a great part of the world’s people the precious available “now” is spent on totally worthless consumables: TV and “pulp” entertainment. Life is spent watching other people’s stories. Or it is spent in careers that fulfil other people’s expectations, not our own.

The problem is that “later” has a frightening price-tag. If your life right now is not the way you had intended, then the absolute worst thing you can do is stay on that track for another second!. It is quite simply put, your most expensive option, by far.

Why?

  1. It costs your time: You have one wallet, with an undisclosed limited amount of time in it. It is always less than you think. You must spend it, and can only spend it once.
  2. It costs you opportunities: while you wait to decide, someone else is taking the chance that you may have wished for.
  3. It costs you health: discontent and frustration deteriorate your health. The worse it gets the harder it is to recover and repair. Bad health also charges a hefty interest to your days credit, reducing the time you get.
  4. It costs you relationships: unhappy people propagate unhappiness, and the social cost of this is staggering. Time spent with bad company and mindless activities reduces the time available to spend with the people you care about most.
  5. It costs you money: For most, every dollar you earn is generated by “spending” your minutes. But while you can always multiply the dollars, you can NEVER multiply your minutes. It is a “spend once” commodity. There is no re-draw facility, no ATM where you can withdraw another 1000 days, no bank that can extend your limit. Real fulfilling success can not happen in this space.

I excel at procrastinating.

Most of us do, we are masters at it.

From small insignificant activities to big changes, we postpone with refined skill. We excuse ourselves with great eloquence: “just need to get a few things sorted, and then I will…”, or “now is not a good time…”.

But we know that later is always a WORSE time, as it is already reserved for a future activity, and we know those things will never get sorted UNTIL we make that change. It is easy to mask our lack of courage with justifications, but it does not stop the clock!.

Fortunately, we do not have to excuse ourselves, because we don’t have to embark on that daunting journey alone.  Most paths in life have been walked by someone before you, they are always willing to help, and have the tools you need.

Fortunately, no matter how many days you have used up, you can live amazingly, irrespective of how much is left in your time-wallet.

The important thing is not to postpone the decision to do so. Anyone can avoid paying the five great expenses of waiting.

One day – sooner than you think – you will draw your last time-penny out of your time wallet. Will you gasp with a knot in your throat and say “Wait…now is not the right time!” or will you look back, smile and say “Wow – what an awesome life I’ve had!”?

Today will be charged to your time credit. Spend it on “wait!” and it is wasted, spend it on “Awesome!” and you create a memorable legacy!.

[I enjoyed reading a book published early this year “20,00 Days and counting” by Robert D. Smith, which explores this subject in depth and is worthwhile and inspiring reading. I am however in no way affiliated with the author, there are many other books on this subject.] 

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The power of a meaningful friend.

I recently caught up with a very dear friend whom I had not seen for a long time, we worked out it had been at least six years!.

It prompted me to think about how we often allow ourselves to be immersed in business or work relationships, and as our time is increasingly consumed more vicariously by these activities (largely a byproduct of mobile technology) we can easily drift into maintaining relationships mostly for professional gain.

Our work colleagues are rarely the people whose influence, mentorship and life guidance in life we value the most. In fact, in most cases these are the people who stand in direct conflict with our true selves, and somewhere on the fringes are the people who matter.

These special people on the fringe are our compass, they point us to our true north.

They are the people we respect deeply, we look up to them. Sometimes we idolise them.

They inspire us, they are role models in some form.

They are often appear in our imagination, and participate in our inner conversations.

When we can, we ask for their opinions on the really profound stuff. When we hear it from them, we know it will be the truth no matter how beautiful, ugly or inconvenient.

These are not necessarily our closest friends. Sadly these are often our most neglected friendships. They take a greater effort to nurture because they also expect more of us. They challenge us. They are the relationships that grow us the most.

Who are the two, three, perhaps even five people who have made a significant difference in your life (besides your family)? When was the last time you made contact? Write down their names, then next to it write one word that describes why they matter. Do not let the sun set on this day without having made an arrangement to connect with them, and to thank them. Avoid email. Do it in person if you can, the phone or a handwritten card if they are cities away.

I am deeply grateful for this friend, and a handful of friends like her, even if I rarely see them. She reminded me that there are people we spend time with, and people we invest time in.

We need to do less of the first, and a lot more of the latter.