Category: Confidence

4 Steps to achieve your goals

Achieve your goals!

Clients come to me looking for counselling for all sorts of reasons.  Some come because they keep losing their temper and want help with their anger.  Some come to me because they’ve become so anxious that they struggle with social interactions, that many of us take for granted.  Some come to me because they’re suffering from depression and find some days that they just want to stay in bed and be left alone.  Some come to me simply because they have “lost their way” in life and are looking for help getting their life back on track.  In this blog, I’m going to show you how you can turn your life around and achieve your goals.

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.
– Albert Einstein

The one thing that all my clients have in common is that they are all looking to achieve something, even if they don’t know what it is.  Now as a counsellor who takes pride in practising ethically, I can’t talk about what my clients and I talk about in counselling sessions but I can talk about what all my clients want and indeed, all of us want – to achieve our goals.  Whether we want to find a partner, feel less anxious, get a better job or just enjoy life, we all have goals.  The problem is, sometimes our goals are too diffuse – they aren’t clear to us or maybe we just don’t know what our goals are at all.

Maybe we’ve set goals in the past and we haven’t achieved them or maybe we’re just struggling with the goals we have and need some help.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how we can get to where we want to be in life and achieve our goals!

Goal Setting – what are your goals?

If we’re going to achieve anything in life, we need to establish our goals.  We need to know what we want if we are going to achieve it.  But knowing what we want is only half the battle.  Most people have at least an idea of what they want, it’s achieving our goals that most of us struggle with.  If I want to learn to swim but I don’t know where I can find someone to teach me, I need to start to think about how I’m going to do it.  If I plan my goal, it’ll keep me focused while I solve the problems that are stopping me.

Lets take a look at a plan to figure out what our goals are and how we are going to achieve them.  Grab a blank piece of paper and a pen and lets get started!

1. Set no more than 3 goals to begin with

So it’s time to think about your goals but to begin with, set yourself no more than three goals.  If we set anymore than three, there’s a danger that we’ll become overwhelmed.  While it’s great to have lots of goals, if we can prioritise three to begin with, it’ll help keep us focused on what’s most important.  As we begin to achieve those goals, we can make revisions to our goal plan and this can then include some of the other goals we have.

For example, if we decided that the goals we wanted to achieve was ‘to get into shape’, ‘to socialise more’, to ‘find a hobby we enjoy’, ‘to change jobs’ and ‘to meet the right woman’, then we might find that we try to do all of them but lose focus because we’re trying to change our lives too dramatically and too quickly.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
– Bruce Lee

If for example, we focused on socialising more, getting into shape and finding a hobby we enjoy, there’s every chance that by socialising more, you’ll meet someone your attracted to.  If you’re doing more, socialising more and exercising more, you’ll be more appealing to a potential employer too.  Wouldn’t you hire someone who is sociable, looks after themselves and has things in their life they’re passionate about? You’ll also tend to find that as you achieve your most important goals, you’ll be achieving your other goals too.

2. Focus on short term goals

While it’s important to focus on a manageable number of goals, to start off with, it is also important to work on short term goals.  So for example, if your goal was to ‘learn a foreign language’, a short term goal might be to ‘enrol on an evening course at a local college’ or ‘buy a teach yourself French audio book’.  The useful part of short term goals is that they are easier to achieve and measure.

For example, to enrol on an evening course it is usually a case of applying to the college.  It can be done fairly easily.  If you are accepted on to the course, you’ve achieved your goal.  If you don’t make contact with the college, you won’t achieve your goal.

If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.
– Elon Musk

You can measure success and failure much easier than you can the longer term goal of learning a language.  Once you start to get into the habit of achieving goals, you can then vary between the short, medium and long term with more confidence.

3. Keep it positive

It might sound obvious to say but if you’re in a place where you are feeling negative about your life, being positive about achieving your goals may not come naturally.  So, rather than setting a goal like ‘stop playing on the Xbox every night‘, it is more useful to set a goal of ‘playing on the Xbox for no more than 2 hours each night’.  Another example might be ‘eat less takeaways’.  You could alter this to ‘eat a cooked meal three time per week’.  Both of those examples can be “shortened” too.  You might need to drop to 4 hours on the Xbox each night first or cook a meal once a week before you can get to three or more.

4. Lets be SMART about this

Now that we’ve established our goals, we need a framework to help us realise them.  A really useful technique for achieving goals is to us S.M.A.R.T goals;  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time specific.

Specific:

Be as to the point as you can.  If for example, you wanted to save up enough money to buy a new car, then it would be useful to write down things like; which car do you want? How much will it cost? How long will it take you to save the money? Adding as much detail here, will help you overcome the obstacles to your goal.

Measurable:

We need to be able to ‘measure’ the progress of your goal.  Staying with the car example, if you wanted to save £5000 as a deposit, then we can measure the progress towards the figure by depositing a certain amount each week into a bank account and checking the progress on a monthly basis, when the statement arrives.

Achievable:

Setting a goal like ‘I’d like to become a Hollywood superstar within the next two weeks’ is unrealistic if you have just realised that your goal is indeed, to become a Hollywood star! If your goal isn’t achievable, it isn’t useful to you.  If you really wanted to become an actor then a goal which might ‘getting a role in a play’ would probably be more useful.

Time Specific:

You may have already thought about how long it would take you to achieve your goals when we looked at the ‘Specific’ aspect but if you haven’t, it’s useful to set yourself a time limit to achieve your goal.  So for example, if your goal was to ‘join a Thai boxing club‘ then you might want to give yourself a week to complete the goal, as you’ll have to find a club, work out if you can afford membership etc.  If you don’t make your goal time specific, you may find yourself “putting off” your goal.  If you can’t make it time specific, go back to ‘Achievable’ and make an adjustment.

For example, your goal was to ‘learn how to design websites’, you might want to set yourself a longer time frame, if the course began in the September and it was now July.  But, you could alter the goal to ‘prepare for the webdesign course beginning in September’ and start working towards your goal, now.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
– Steve Jobs

While it’s great to achieve a goal, don’t be too disheartened if you don’t.  You might be too ambitious when it comes to ‘Time Specific’ or maybe you wasn’t ‘Specific’ enough but if you set a goal and use this framework, you can always re-vise your goals.  So for example, if your goal was to ‘learn Spanish in 6 months’ and your on month 12 and you’ve only mastered half a dozen phrases, you just need to re-vise your goal.

Maybe the goal needs to be something like ‘practice spoken Spanish with a friend twice a week’.  Also, if you have set yourself a goal that’s not ‘Achievable’, re-vise it but also remember to give yourself credit for what you have achieved. Taking the Spanish example, you’ve still learnt some Spanish.  Perhaps you’ve made some friends from the classes too? The SMART framework is to help you focus, not beat yourself with!

Finally, you need to refer to the framework on a regular basis to keep your goals focused  and relevant.  If you met someone on that Spanish course and started to date, is that other goal of ‘to meet the right woman’ still relevant?

Conclusion

The SMART framework can be a really handy tool if you struggle to achieve your goals.  This isn’t something you’ll need to do for the rest of your life, it’ll help you get into the habit of making achievable goals and attaining them.  I’ve used it with my clients and it works.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Have you tried it and had success? Have you tried it and failed? Why do you think that could be and what did you try instead?

Thanks for reading.

Kieran.

'Scrabble' tiles spelling 'positive' on a cork background

You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.
– C.S. Lewis

If you’re looking for a counsellor who understands and can put themselves in your shoes and feel how you feel, get in touch.

a-selection-of-cold-and-flu-remedies

Is mens confidence hit by ‘Man Flu’?

Confidence is an issue for a lot of men and when I wasn’t feeling well recently, I got thinking about whether terms such as ‘Man Flu’ (and the other common one ‘Man Up’), really can have an impact on the way men feel about themselves.

It started as I was walking up a steep hill I walk up on a fairly regular basis, I noticed that I was finding it harder going than usual.  I felt a bit sweatier than I normally would and when I arrived at where I was going to, I felt that I had walked for more like 2000 minutes than 20 I had actually walked.  I usually have a pretty good appetite but I didn’t feel as hungry as I normally would and although I did eat, I felt like I wanted to go to sleep as soon as I had finished the meal.  Shortly afterwards, I noticed that I could really feel my hips, knees and back and then in it ocurred to me – I must be coming down with a cold!

A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot – Joe Vitale.

Later on that night, I woke up with a blocked nose and feeling quite sick.  My other half had work the next day, so I decided to go and sleep in the other room as I didn’t want to keep her up all night as I would probably be snoring because I couldn’t breath very well.  I really felt awful.

When I woke up in the morning I wasn’t feeling any better and I immediately started to think about the 101 things I needed to do that day, things that I was sure wouldn’t get done because I simply didn’t have the energy because I was now fighting an awful cold.  Then I thought to myself “is this the so called ‘man flu’? I then began to question whether I was really ill or not and whether I was just being ‘a sissy’ or ‘a pussy’.

I thought, I feel terrible but it really bothers me that I might be judged for suffering at the hands of an infectious disease! And why should we be made to feel this way? Is it so wrong to simply feel unwell? It started to make me wonder how much damage to your self-confidence a phrase like that can have and the anxiety it can cause.

I’m a ‘wimp’ because I have an infection?!

Since recovering from the ‘Wimpy Man Syndrome’ (yep, I read an article by an American doctor and it is actually known as that in some parts of the world), I thought I would do some research and see if there was any truth in whether men were more affected by cold and flu than women and there is so evidence to support this theory.  According to Professor Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor in family medicine, who published a study in December 2017, men were more likely to be affected by the flu, than women.   The study showed that:

  • Influenza vaccination tends to cause more local (skin) and systemic (bodywide) reactions and better antibody response in women.  Testosterone could also play a role, as men with the highest levels tended to have a lower antibody response.  A better antibody response may lessen the severity of flu, so it’s possible that vaccinated men get more severe symptoms than women because they don’t respond to vaccination as well.
  • In test tube studies of nasal cells infected with influenza, exposure to the female hormone estradiol reduced the immune response when the cells came from women but not in cells from men.  Treatment with antiestrogen drugs reduces this effect.  Since flu symptoms are in large part due to the body’s immune reaction, a lessened immune response in women may translate to milder symptoms.
  • In at least one study reviewing six years of data, men were admitted to hospital with the flu more often than women.  The mortality rate in men was also reported to be higher than in women.

Knocking your confidence.

So it would seem that there is evidence to support that men are more likely to suffer from cold and flu symptoms than women and women are more able to cope with the affects than men, hence why men may feel worse than women when they contract the cold or flu.

But even if there wasn’t any evidence, why do we ridicule men who don’t feel well? Why is it shameful not feel great and pretend everything is “fine”? Do some men lack confidence in themselves because of terms like this?

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves – William Shakespeare.

I personally have no idea whether the evidence mentioned earlier is true or not but more to the point, even if it is true, I highly doubt it would change most peoples reactions to a man who says he has a cold.  Men are criticised for not sharing their feelings yet with a culture who ridicules you for “not feeling great” it is understandable why we keep a lot of our thoughts, feelings and emotions to ourselves.

Why don’t we ignore the opinions of others and just be ‘unwell”?

With the perception in mind that we are going to be laughed at or thought as being “less of a man”, it’s easy to see why many men will hide how they are feeling, dose up on cold and flu tablets and carry on “as best as they can” but would it be so awful to simply say “I’m not feeling very well”? Do we have enough confidence that we won’t be laughed at? We fear the reactions of others because we are conditioned by society to act and behave in particular ways and in the case of men, we are conditioned to not admit to feeling ill because of fear of ridicule.  If men are taught that illness equals weakness, how many men are going to say “yeah, I have man flu, I’m weak because I’m ill”?! Not many.  As I’ve said in previous blog posts, communication is so important.

When we start to communicate our thoughts, feelings and emotions to others, it gets easier.  We when men start to recognise that illness isn’t a sign of weakness and talk about whats wrong with us, then self confidence will naturally grow but shaming men with sexist phrases isn’t exactly going to encourage anyone, is it?

Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were going to do anyway – Robert Downey Jr.

Without getting too scientific, as you learn to communicate your feelings, neurons kept in the area of your brain that’s storing your existing communication skills would send electrical messengers down the axons to the cell’s centre where it is then routed to a particular group of connected dendrites which would then release a chemical messenger to the new targeted group of neurons that are located next to it.  New neural pathways begin to be formed to acquire and store the new communication skills. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories.

Practice makes perfect – practice communication.

The more we practice, the better we will be at it.  The more you tell people how you feel, the more they will get used to you doing so.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Put it this way, would people shame a man who found a lump on a testicle and wanted to tell the doctor? Most people would be telling him to make an appointment asap. But if the same man had never been able to express his feelings, what chance does he have? If he’s never practiced telling people close to him that he isn’t well (like he has a cold!) then is he likely to tell a relative stranger? If he doesn’t know how to say “I’m feeling frightened, I don’t know whats going to happen to me”, then he probably won’t.

By ending the use of terms that make people feel ashamed of how they feel, we can get men to open up about how they feel and build their confidence in themselves and allow the real self to come out and erode the self which needs to hide behind the macho facade that pretends “everything is ok”.

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self – Ernest Hemingway.

On a final note, Guys, if you don’t feel well, it’s okay to say so.  Listen to whats going on inside, your feelings are there to help you.  If you need some help making yourself heard or want to learn to listen to yourself and not be afraid to be the real man you are and feel that talking to a counsellor would benefit you, get in touch.  I can help you improve your confidence!

Everyone needs confidence

I can help you need find your confidence .

confidence-isn't-found-at-the-gym

Confidence (and why men don’t find it at the gym)

Edit: May 2020

This was the first blog post I wrote and while the information in it is still relevant, the layout makes it difficult for me to read and I guess, to you as well.  While I’ve updated the blog about gym confidence, I’ll be publishing a new blog post on confidence and how to build it soon.  Watch this space!

Confidence is important to everyone, especially if you don’t feel very confident. A common misconception is that by going to the gym you will feel more confident but is that true? Maybe sometimes. In this blog post, I’m going to talk to you about why you won’t find confidence at the gym but how you can still become more confident.

In this post I will:

Explain what stops you from going to the gym.

Show you a real case study of someone who lost confidence at the gym.

Explain the real reason why you don’t go to the gym.

Show you 5 steps to overcoming a lack of confidence.

What stops you from going to the gym?

So you think you’ll feel more confident by heading to the gym? Does this sound familiar though; by the time you get home from work after a busy day, the last thing you want to do is get shorts, t-shirt and trainers together and head out of the house again!

And the worst thing you can do is sit down and think “I’ll just have a rest for 5 minutes, then I’ll go” because once you sit down, your body really does not want to stand up again! After all, you’ve had a hard day, the gym will be really busy, you can never get on the equipment you want to get on, you can go tomorrow night etc etc etc.

confidence-isn't-found-at-the-gym

“Imagine your life is perfect in every respect; what would it look like?” – Brian Tracy

These are all the reasons that run through our heads for us to not go. And most of the time, we go with one of these reasons. Instead, we sit down in front of the tv, play some computer games, help the kids with their homework, cook some dinner, go for a pint or two etc etc.

But we really meant to go to the gym, didn’t we? Or did we? It can be really tough trying to add something new into our already busy lives.

Making time for something new often means sacrificing the time we spend on something else and for the most part, that thing will be something that we have to do like going to work or cooking and eating an evening meal. Which is often where the problem lies; Do we want to go to the gym bad enough we’ll make time for it in our otherwise already busy schedule?

This is a long part, skip to the confidence steps HERE

We probably enjoy the idea of getting “buff” and looking better to boost confidence but how much do we enjoy getting there? Do we ever get there? In most cases the answer to both is “we don’t”. So what makes us want to go to the gym then?

Here are a few reasons why guys want to go to the gym:

• To get fitter.
• To be better at sports.
• The social side/meeting people.
• Look more attractive to possible partners.
• To feel healthier.
• To relieve stress.
• Build confidence.

And these are all good reasons for going to the gym.

Case study: 31 year old, male.

Let’s look at an example. A man, who is below average size but physically fit, once told me that after splitting up with his girlfriend, he started “going back to the gym” and was working out several times per week.

gym-dumbells

He found that he had a good appetite and was taking whey protein to bulk himself up and was genuinely enjoying his workouts. He told me that he could see that his body was growing and he felt more confident about himself and felt that by having more confidence and looking better, it would improve his chances of getting a new girlfriend.

A few weeks later he told me about a girl he had met and how he really liked her. He felt they “clicked” and he really liked spending time with her. While this man was still going to the gym, he wasn’t going to the gym quite as often as he had been before because as you would expect, he had to make time to see her.

Do you need some help finding your confidence?

 

As the weeks wore on, he wasn’t going to the gym anymore but “didn’t miss it”. Sadly after a few months, the relationship came to an end. Without going into too much detail, they weren’t getting along and decided to go their separate ways. While the client was happy the relationship had finished, his confidence and self esteem had fallen and he had noticed that he was eating very little. He didn’t want to go to work and had phoned in sick a few times because he wanted some time to get over the end of the relationship.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

A few weeks after they split up, this guy has started going back to the gym again and feeling better about himself too. You might say, “he was enjoying the gym before and it built his confidence which led to him getting a girlfriend, so surely it’s a good thing he’s working out again”? And that would be a fair question. The gym does boost his confidence, which then would possibly lead to him getting another girlfriend. Great! Problem solved! Well, sort of.

thumbs-upThe guy in question does now have a new girlfriend but the cycle has started again, where he no longer has time for the gym because of the girlfriend, so he has stopped going again.

The confidence boost from the workouts is gone. The motivation to go to the gym, is gone. The client started to notice his muscles aren’t getting any bigger and wonders if the new girlfriend still finds him attractive, now he isn’t so muscular.

He even started to wonder whether she would still find him attractive if he starts to put on weight because he isn’t exercising anymore.

This made him worry even more and his confidence dipped further. Does any of this sound familiar? It has done to me in the past.

find-confidence-at-the-gymSo, back to the original question; why doesn’t the gym work for you? If like in this example case you’re going to the gym to make yourself look more attractive, it’s probably never going to work.

The real reason you don’t go to the gym.

We need to start with the REAL reason for going to the gym. Rather than trying to make yourself more appealing to a prospective partner, you need to think about why YOU don’t think you’re appealing already.

So for example, if you are overweight and you think no woman (or man) is going to be attracted to you because you’re “too fat”, you need to think about why that is.

“If you put a small value on yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price. “– Anonymous

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