Taking control of your destiny

Last Updated: Wednesday 26th December 2007

©Derek Stewart

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Taking control of your destiny
People from all walks of life fascinate me. In my travels I watch people scurrying around an airport, rushing off to a business meeting looking stressed and on a regular basis complaining to their companion what a waste of time the meeting will be or making negative comments about their colleagues – how sad. What has happened in our life that means work can become all consuming and we have lost that illusive work life balance?
Technology has the potential to help us but we have allowed it to take over. We are now contactable 24/7 and some people are even tempted to take their blackberry on holiday so they can stay in touch. Have we gone mad? Look at the first thing people do when the plane touches down – turn on their mobile phone or blackberry. As soon as they have a signal they are making contact with their colleagues, friends or family – “put the dinner on I’ll be home in 40 minutes!” In the past we would have gone to a telephone box and phoned if we were going to be late. The more people think we are contactable the more we will be contacted – this is the culture we have created.
There seems to be a feeling that if we are not texting, emailing or on the phone to someone then we aren’t important or wanted. This mindset is giving us no time to think, to reflect and have time for ourselves – down time. I recently ran an intensive workshop for a group of executives and gave them ample warning that blackberries were out of use for 2 days as they needed to focus – that lasted till the first break! What if you were in hospital I asked, who would do the work then? It seems to me that our insecurities are exposed when we are not being asked for an opinion or being involved in even simple decisions.
Six years ago I had a wonderful break with my wife in Mauritius and every year since the hotel has sent us a communication reminding us of the tranquillity we enjoyed. It arrived again this morning and there was a simple message – “take refuge from the norm”. That thought stopped me in my tracks. What was the norm and if it is rushing from one meeting to the next then perhaps I do need to reconsider my plan but more of that later.
Last week I was speaking at a conference and got the opportunity of listening to another speaker who had a foot amputated but later on went on to climb Mount Everest unassisted – the first disabled person do so. How incredible and inspiring I though but as with many of these messages it can be difficult for the audience to relate to it and see what they will do different when they get back to the office or home.
The same is true of all the self help books filling the shelves in the bookstores. If as human beings we took in everything we read and acted upon it then there would be many unsold books. However just the act of buying the book makes us feel better until we see a pile of unread ones beside our reading light. But as humans we need a very good reason to change but I would like to offer you a positive reason for doing so now.
Imagine you were lying on your favourite beach in the world with the sun shining and the only sound was the waves rolling onto the beach – if I close my eyes I am immediately transported back to Mauritius. You have no cares in the world and have decided to change your life when you return. If it were possible, what would you change? Your job, house, country, relationship, your shape? Picture yourself in those new circumstances and think how you would feel. Whatever the change is focus on what you would need to do to make a start and the timescale to make it become a reality.
You need a written plan and not just one in your head. A mind map, or spiders web, is a very creative way of outlining your plan on one piece of paper and you should share this plan with a trusted friend and get them to ask you on a regular basis how it is progressing – we work better when we have deadlines and someone reviewing them. Make time for yourself to visualise your plan by visiting your favourite beach in your head and dreaming about your future. The more you dream about it the more likely it is to come true. Don’t put hurdles in the way, there will be plenty of other people doing that for you but you can use their negative comments as fuel for your fire. Some people see hurdles as an obstacle, you should see them as a form of exercise – see the difference.
However you could wait for a negative reason for change such as a life threatening illness and then you will want to make the most of every single moment. Eugene O’Kelly ex Managing Partner of KPMG was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given 3 months to live and in his remaining time wrote a book entitled Chasing Daylight. It is an unbelievable read with no happy ending but his observations are simple and powerful. He said he wished he had treated life more like skiing rather than golf. In golf one mistake can ruin your round but in skiing you make lots of mistakes on the way down, quickly recover and get on with it. I hope we have the sense to make the required changes to our lives before it is too late and to appreciate this is not a dress rehearsal so make the most of it.
If you are going to make changes then you will come across people questioning your decisions and saying you will fail. The fear of failure can constrict us, paralyse us and leave us like a rabbit caught in the headlights. However if you are not failing you are not pushing the boundaries as illustrated in the quotation below and the short story:
“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I was entrusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan
Now for the impossible. Before Roger Bannister broke the 4 min mile it was said to be impossible and could significantly damage the health of the athlete. However he was determined and had a plan. He had two pace makers who shared the pressure and worked to a plan – he only took over the lead with 200 yards to go. Once this barrier was removed the record was broken again by 1.5 seconds a month later.
Life is for the living, why not start appreciating your life now and be grateful for everything you have. If you want to change, make the plan and shape the future.

To contact Derek email derek@silentpartner.co.uk .

Derek Stewart

Derek Stewart is an entrepreneur whose passion in life is getting the best out of people. His businesses specialise in the financial services sector where the large corporate culture can restrict the very assets they should be nurturing. Much of his time is developing teams to optimise results for the individuals and the company.
Derek was a qualified professional tennis coach running some of our national training squads however has turned his focus to martial arts and is a third dan black belt in Shotokan Karate. Derek also has a second degree in Reiki and combines all of this experience when developing people.
Derek is a regular speaker at major conferences and is a correspondent for Success magazine, voted Best New Magazine of the year.

Derek is on a journey himself and has the constant reminder of three children who keep him grounded in case he starts believing any of his own publicity.

To contact Derek email derek@silentpartner.co.uk .