How to change your life when the odds are against you
The following is a script of the talk I delivered at last night’s DARETOGROW event in Newcastle!
Hello and welcome to DARETOGROW. My name’s Lisa if we haven’t met but I think we have!
I am so happy to be standing here with you today, for so many reasons but the biggest reason is that I’ve made it through the hardest, toughest period of change in my life to date and in going through these changes, have learnt so many ideas, techniques, strategies I can share with you here today to help you change your life too.
This is my 8th event and at each event I’ve stood up and talked about change. How I changed my life, and how you can change your life but standing here today, I am not half or even two thirds of the way through the transition – I am all the way through. The goals I set last year I have achieved and now I’m setting new goals for the months ahead.
In fact, when I say ahead I mean Christmas. I love Christmas and it’s only 20 weeks away. That is my next horizon; my next checkpoint for building my dream life and this is an important distinction. Too often we come close to achieving a goal and then move the goalposts on ourselves! How many of you do this – you complete the goal but instead of pausing, reflecting and celebrating you make the goal bigger than what it was in the beginning or you start to compare where you are now to where you want to be in another six month’s times so you never actually feel like you’ve achieved anything – you’re just a big failure forever?? Come on, we all do this.
Well, I’m learning not to do this. To stop, pause and celebrate the achievements on the journey. To mark off goals as being ‘complete’ and set all new goals for the months ahead.
So, before we begin I’m going to ask you to do this. Today is 25th May. We’re nearly half way through the year. Think back to six months ago, or even 12 months ago and write down three things you’ve achieved in that time. Three achievements no matter how small or big that have changed your life in some way.
Okay, well done now I want you to turn to someone on your left and on your right and high five them and say well done you’re awesome!! (If you’re reading this, see if there is someone nearby you can high five too!)
Now I’ve called my talk today “How to change your life when the odds are against you”. I’ve called it that for two reasons. Firstly, that’s how we all feel when making a change and secondly that’s how we all feel when making a change.
Am I right?
Change is hard. Changing anything about your life is harddddd! It’s easier when you haven’t got a choice, right? Like for me, I was creased in a pile on my bathroom floor crying most nights, lying about how I felt and racking up more and more debt growing a business I wasn’t deeply passionate about. I felt like I didn’t have a choice – I’d hit rock bottom and I HAD to change!! How many of you have been there? One moment you’re coping in the chaos and the next moment you’re slamming your fist on the table saying that’s it, I’ve had enough something has to change!! Who’s been there?
Well that’s where I was 12 months ago nearly to the day. I couldn’t cope any longer. Tony Robins says change happens in a moment, it’s all the deliberation about change that takes time.
And so I changed some major things in my life: (1) my business, (2) my financial situation, (3) my relationships, (4) where I lived, (5) how I worked and (6) how I treated myself!!
Then there is the kind of change that’s even harder still. This is the change you could do. You know you should do but you also know you can totally get away with it, right? For me, this is my body shape and my health. I look good, I know that but I haven’t always drunk enough water, or gotten enough sleep or taken enough exercise. I’d comfort myself with chocolate and sweets and coffee. “I’m travelling today, I deserve a croissant…a chocolate one, with a cappuccino please”. We’ve all done this.
I feel like I’ve conquered the essential change – change it or go bankrupt – and now it’s time to conquer the stuff I could get through life without changing, and because of this I’m learning a whole load more about what it takes to change your life.
So, what I’m going to do this evening is share with you four keys I learnt over the last 12 months about how to change your life and I’m going to focus on the one and only thing that will truly allow you to manifest lasting change in your life.
Let me start with this.
In early 2000, a scientist in Japan decided to run an experiment. He took water that had been twice distilled and exposed it to four sets of stimuli: words, pictures, music and prayer. He then froze the water and photographed the crystals that formed. For example, he took one jar of water and wrote ‘thank you’ on it and took another jar and wrote ‘you fool’ on it. When he froze each jar and looked at the water, he found the crystals in the ‘thank you’ jar formed beautiful, unique, symmetrical crystals and in the jar with ‘you fool’ on it, the crystals didn’t form at all, or were disfigured. These pictures were published in a book and it became a best seller in Japan and other countries.
Now, whether you believe this or not – it was a scientific study – if you ‘distress’ water and this happens…and we’re 60% plus water…what do you think happens when we distress ourselves, with mean words, thoughts, actions, food, ideas?
We’ll come back to that.
For now, let’s focus on a goal you have. I want you to pause for a moment and as I’m talking (or as you’re reading) think about a goal you have: something personal, something meaningful to you. Think of a goal you’ve either always had on your list, or never had much luck conquering. It’s important you don’t think of things you ‘should do’, or things other people want you to do. Think about a goal that is deeply meaningful to you – something that will change your life when you achieve it.
Have you got a goal in mind?
I’m going to use this goal to walk you through four key things you need to master in your life if you’re going to achieve this goal.
Are you ready?
- IT MUST BE COMPELLING
Okay number one – the goal you have and the outcome you get when you achieve it has to be compelling. It has to be so compelling that it pulls you through the darkest, longest days. If your goal isn’t compelling enough, if it doesn’t make you push hard when you’re tired then you won’t achieve it. You’ll give up and go back to what is compelling in the moment – that box set, pizza, your current job.
Look at your goal now and ask yourself – is this compelling enough for me to work my backside off to get it? Will the quality of my life be so much more improved when I achieve this that it’s worth the sweat, pain and tears? If no, you need to change the goal – up the stakes or focus on something else or together.
Who here runs or does any kind of physical exercise? You know that moment when your heart is beating in your chest, and your legs are wobbling and your whole body is telling you to stop but that little voice inside you says “keep going, it’s worth it”. What you’re remembering there is how you want to feel at the end of the run, how you want your body to look, what you want from your life. In that moment, the vision of the new shape and improved fitness is more compelling than the pain you have to go through to get there. Do you see what I mean?
Okay let’s do this. Who here has ever tried a visualisation exercise? Let’s try it now. Take that goal, close your eyes and follow these steps as I talk.
[I’ll be sharing a recording of this tomorrow…]
- Imagine a timeframe in the future. It could be one year away, a month away, tomorrow. You have achieved your goal. You’re waking up in your home. Where are you? What do you see? Who is around you? How do you feel? What do you have in your life that makes you feel safe, happy and secure?
- Is this a typical day in your life, or a special day?
- How do you feel, who are you as a result of having achieved that goal?
- What time is it? What time of year is it? What’s the weather like outside? How do you see the weather? Through a window, a door, by getting outside?
- How do you start your day? Where do you go? What do you eat? How do you wash? What clothes do you select?
- How is life different for you now?
- You’re leaving the house now. Where are you going? What to do? Who to meet?
- How do you get there? Do you walk, run, drive? Do you fly? Are you being chauffeured?
- What happens when you arrive? How do people greet you? Who greets you? How do you feel? How do you look? What are you thinking about as you arrive? What are you working towards?
- How do you spend your day? What kinds of things do you do for the rest of the day? What do you experience, say, feel because you’ve achieved that goal? Pick a moment in the day and let your imagination play it out. Keep your eyes closed and spend a moment on this. Who are you with, what’s happening?
Okay, open your eyes.
Now, Wayne Dyer says our imagination is perhaps the greatest gift we’ve been given. He also says our imagination is ours and ours alone – no-one can see what you’re imagining and you can tap into this whenever you want. We should never let anyone influence our imagination because in order to achieve new things for ourselves, we must first be able to imagine them for ourselves. I’ll come back this point.
Now, what you just saw, heard, felt in that visualisation exercise…was it truly compelling enough for you to change your life to get it? Look at the goal you’ve written down and take a moment to update it now.
Wherever you are in life right now, remember that your situation is temporary. You can change anything about your life, yourself, your circumstances but first you must dare to imagine a new life for yourself. You might be going through a tough time right now but this too is only temporary.
- RAISE YOUR STANDARDS
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I learnt about change over the last 12 months is that it’s impossible to change only one aspect of your life. As you begin to work on yourself, to change an aspect of your life, other things in your life begin to change and there is a reason for that. In order to change our lives we need to raise our own standards and those standards cause a ripple effect in our lives.
Now, don’t put your hands up for this but just think:
- Who has been leaving the house recently without doing the dishes – leaving them in the sink?
- Who has left laundry in the washing machine for a few days because you didn’t make time to hang it up.
- Who, lately, has been scrambling meals together because you can’t be bothered to do a big food shop?
- Who has not been getting enough sleep, or drinking enough water, or taking exercise?
- Who has not been as kind as you’d like to a friend, partner or family member because you’re busy or tired or fed up.
- Who’s been beating themselves up over small things?
A year ago, this was me. I wasn’t lazy, I’m not lazy, and I’m not mean…I just prioritised other things – like making money and hitting client deadlines. I worked my backside off ‘at work’ but my life around me was a shambles.
When I first started looking into how you change your life, something Tony Robbins said in a video clip stuck with me. He said: don’t try to figure out how to be the best at something through trial and error. Go and find someone who’s mastered that aspect and copy them!
So I did.
I went to Waterstones and I bought five, ten books on how to get out of debt and manage and accumulate personal wealth and I followed the steps they outlined and it has changed my life. Hooked on that, I started looking at the habits of people who are financially free and successful – what do they do. Well for one, they all exercise. (2) They all respect their money and pay themselves first. By this I mean they take a portion of what they earn each month and put it in a savings account before they pay out bills etc – they pay themselves first. (3) They all eat well, and sleep well and dress well. They have high standards for themselves in life generally and these standards carry them through change.
Now think about it. What standards do you have in your life? What is acceptable for you and what isn’t? Changing your life means respecting yourself enough to raise your standards and sometimes this means teaching people around how they can and can’t treat you too. You can’t just do this stuff in public, and let go in private, or vice versa for that matter. This isn’t about putting on a show for people – it’s about changing your life. If you’re not worthy of a tidy flat, enough sleep, how will you find yourself worthy of what you really want – look at your goal and remind yourself what you’re working towards.
I wrote a blog about it yesterday and I mentioned that I love to bake. A year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of baking – I was too busy – who has time to bake? I love baking and it makes me feel so good – squishing my hands in the mixing bowl, forming little dough balls that rise into cherry scones and then unnecessarily putting them into little boxes to give to people. It makes me feel so good and now I make time for it every week. Sometimes I have to say no to a request because I’m busy…I’m baking.
You see, you don’t manifest what you want: you manifest who you become. You’ve got to become the kind of person who gets what you want and then it will flow into you in total abundance. I want to be the kind of person who gets to read, write, talk and bake every day and so I’m just ‘being’ that person the best I can right now, I’m not waiting for more time to begin those things – I’m just doing it. Things will grow from there.
But there is no need to judge yourself for anything you’ve done in the past. We all do the best we can with the information we have at the time, based on the standards we’ve learnt from the people around us: from our communities, from ourselves. Louise Hay, founder of Hay House publishing said in her book “You can heal your life” that “criticism keeps up locked in the very pattern we are trying to change”. So don’t do it. Forgive yourself, raise your standards and move on.
So let’s try this: take a second and think about three core standards in your life that you’d like to raise? What kind of person do you want to become and what does that kind of person make sure they do every day? Exercise, tidy up, speak up, write, practice a new skill, bake? Write it down. These are commitments to yourself to try and put into practice over the next month.
About 8 months ago, I felt so low. We were so, so broke. £20k overdrawn, we had to find something like £15k each month to pay what we owed for wages, office space, funding circle loans…everything and it was, at times, overwhelming.
As if by chance, I bumped into an old friend and she invited me and Alice round for tea and cakes – in fact I’d been trying to give up sugar at the time so she even baked sugar free treats. When I was there, she showed me a few new books she’d bought and one of them was ‘the Magic’ by Rhonda Byrne, who wrote The Secret, which is one of the first books I read on ‘how to change your life’. The Magic is all about practicing gratitude. It’s a 28 day programme for recognising and saying thanks for what you have in your life and it’s amazing.
It’s simple in its idea but the effects are huge.
One of the activities it asks you to do is keep a gratitude diary. Every morning when you wake up, you have to write down five things you’re grateful for and explain why. But, more than just write it down, you have to practice feeling that gratitude. It is quite hard to maintain because it’s a new ritual but it’s so worth it. When you start to list all the things you’re grateful for, it’s really hard to think about lack, or what you don’t have.
I don’t always write in my gratitude diary but I do say thank you for what I have every day and I do think about all the things I’m grateful for every day and I am so particular about the language I use now too.
I used to whinge, and moan and complain but what I’ve learnt is that those behaviours were trapping me there. Like attracts like and so you’ve got to focus on what you have and what you want more of, and not what you don’t have and want to get rid of.
So instead of saying things like “I’m sick of being in debt”, I’d say things like “I’m so grateful we’re paying off this debt every month: I can’t wait to be in the black”. And even “I’m so grateful for the debt because it taught me what I needed to know about money”. In fact I learnt that lessons keep showing up for us until we learn them. In order to get out of debt I didn’t just have to take different action – I had to change my entire attitude to money. We’d talk really positively about what was coming and why we were doing it and not about our current situation and what we wanted to change.
Does that make sense? I’ll give you some examples.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of being in debt was being dirt broke all the time!! We didn’t have money for new clothes, hair-cuts and meals out – we agreed to pay it off aggressively so we could move on. And so, in order to feel abundant and not broke, I’d carry a dollar bill in my pocket and on it, like the book suggested, I’d written on it ‘prosperity’. Every time I reached in my pocket to pull out my bank card I saw the dollar and had prosperous thoughts. It was a positive trigger for me to keep going.
Another trick I had was to carry cash in my pocket. For one, I was terrified my card would be declined in shops so using it filled me with fear – which is not practicing gratitude. But for another I’d sit there with a £20 note in my pocket, look at a menu and think I could afford anything I want on here and that is a privilege position. I felt gratitude and I was rewarded.
Before we move on, I want you to think and write down five things you’re truly grateful for in your life. It could be your health, a relationship, your car, your job, an ability of skill you have.
- YOUR THOUGHTS DETERMINE YOUR FUTURE
This is the final point I want to make but it’s perhaps the most important: your thoughts determine your future.
In order to accomplish something, you must first think it’s possible for you. This is so obvious but by the time I’ve finished this point you’ll realise how much more we can all do on this point.
In order to create anything new – a feeling, a look, a business, an idea – you have to take something that does not exist and make it real. That is magic. It doesn’t exist and then it does. The only way for that to happen is for someone to imagine it and then take steps to make it a reality. Like DARETOGROW – it didn’t exist but I imagined it and talked about it and took steps and now it’s here and more than that – it’s growing. It’s gotten into other people’s imaginations and they’re growing it too.
What didn’t used to exist for you, but now does? Write down three things.
Louise Hay in her book ‘Heal your life’ says that every thought we think is creating our future and that in order to change what is on the outside, we have to change what is on the inside first.
Now, I used to be pretty good at putting myself down. I would look in a mirror and say ‘are they wrinkles, you look tired, you’ve put on weight, your hair is a mess, you look a state’. I never commented on my ability to win work, or grow a business, it was always about how I looked – I beat myself up constantly. Now, how can someone who is that mean to themselves possible find themselves worthy of happiness, wealth and love?
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that our thoughts create our reality an in fact our external situation is a reflection of what we hold to be true for ourselves – our standards. Based on the thoughts we have, we make decisions and those decisions become actions and those actions determine our future.
Just three weeks ago I was having a battle with myself over whether to launch the DARETOGROW web site and build a proper network with membership fees and the works. I delayed and delayed and delayed because (1) I was so busy with client work and (2) I didn’t know how to do it, and therefore if I could.
Meanwhile I kept saying to Alice – I just want to write and read and talk – that’s what I want from life. Then for the next few days I continued to spend all my time on client projects, no breaks, and took on more and more work with more and more ridiculous deadlines. My choices every day were creating a pattern I lived out.
I mean honestly…what did I expect? I wanted one thing but all my thoughts and activities were building another life for me.
One morning I woke up, and I said NO. That’s enough. I want to read and write and talk and so I decided in that moment only to work until 2pm. Alice and I went into a coffee shop and I started building the DARETOGROW website. I didn’t know how I was going to make this happen, or what the offering was or how it would turn out but I just did it, I took another action and the next one revealed itself. I said to myself ‘you’ll figure it out’. You will and I did.
You get back what you put out so I started to put out more of what I wanted.
For any of you, like me, delaying your dreams because of duty or obligation or fear or doubt, now is your opportunity to recognise that and say this one simple line: “I am willing to act according to my dreams”. You don’t have to do anything drastic just say it for now, go on say it with me: “I am willing to act according to my dreams”.
Trust in your own resourcefulness, give yourself a chance and be kind to yourself.
Months ago, months ago I said to Alice: I want to build a life whereby I have a truck – a white range rover – we have matching luggage which just slides neatly into the back (right now we have to push the seat forward and negotiate the luggage onto the backseat, or drag it all over London). I want to tour the UK with DARETOGROW, delivering the same talk three times in the first week, and then spending the other three weeks abroad working on new content for me next talk – doing what I love. This is the goal and it was laughable when I first said it, I mean I was so far away from that. I had no web site, no membership programme, I couldn’t afford a truck. But I thought, no, that’s what I want and I trust in my own resourcefulness to make it happen. Now, my web site is live, the membership programme is open and Alice and I are booking in test drives for this white range. I’m not joking. All I did was believe in myself and then back that up with action and here I am. Where could you be tomorrow if you only dared to believe, told yourself you could do it and then took actions towards it? Remember the water story at the beginning. If we’re 60% water, and saying nice things to ourselves forms crystals and saying mean things forms goodness knows what – illness probably – why on earth would we not think and say positive things to ourselves?
I’ll leave you with this quote to end:
“Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, expect more than others think is possible.” ~Unknown