How do you measure your life? Part 1.

Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) is perhaps best known for his profoundly inspiring book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.

In this book he poignantly describes his experience in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. One of his key observations was that those prisoners who gave up on life, who had lost all hope for a future, were inevitably the first to die. 

Frankl kept alive by maintaining hope, he dreamt of the prospect of seeing his wife again and indulged in ambitions of lecturing on the psychological lessons learnt from his Auschwitz experience after the war. Engaging with vivid mental imagery allowed him to maintain his focus and motivation to survive, giving him the meaning and purpose required to bravely ‘soldier’ on.

Horrific as his experience was, it reinforced what was already one of his key ideas: Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.  

Frankl proposed that the greatest task for any person is to find meaning in their life.  

Reading about Frankl’s story made me consider; what gives my life meaning? This is my invitation to those reading, how do you measure your life? It would be great to hear and read about what gives your life meaning – so readers… can you think of up to 3 things that gives your life meaning?

Information cited from the Financial Philosopher and Viktor E. Frankl’s book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.

What we allow is what will continue. Do you enable?

One of our noblest human instincts is our desire to help others, especially those who mean the most to us. Parents want to help their children succeed in school, spouses want to help each other to solve their loved ones problems, work colleagues want to help each other to develop professionally and friends want to give advice with personal relationship issues. Unfortunately though, this well-meant impulse can sometimes have a negative affect.

Do we enable those people we seek to help when we should be empowering them. When people aren’t challenged to do as much as they possibly can to help themselves, they learn to constantly look for answers, remedies, solutions and fixes outside of themselves. They begin to feel powerless, useless, incapable and needy. Sadly, the more they feel that way, the more they attract circumstances that prove them right. The more they attract those negative circumstances, the worse they feel. The worse they feel, the worse it gets. And so this cycle continues…

This can be witnessed in all walks of life, let’s consider helping a friend with a relationship issue. By drawing on your personal morals, values and experiences you give ‘advice’ based on your own filters which, for your intended recipient, may not be the the right or required advice they need. Clinical interventions can be just as difficult, most noticeably in addiction cases. By stepping in to “solve” the addict’s problems, the enabler takes away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for the addict to change. This is similar in exercise rehabilitation with musculoskeletal injuries or as a physical trainer dealing with obesity, advances in our ability to diagnose allows us to attach a label to a person, this gives them an identity formed around their condition so they can then adapt their behaviour in accordance and define themselves by their symptoms taking away their motivation for change.

Enabling creates a sense of powerlessness, often discouraging and de-motivating the person who needs help. It can be difficult to perceive our enabling when deep down our intention is to help or appease. The question we should all ask ourselves is… For what reasons am I attempting to help someone? Am I just problem solving or you attempting to empower that person? Are my actions helping this person to feel more self-empowered? Does this person actually want help and are they motivated for change? What good or harm can come from my intervention? It’s easy to think that we have all the answers and if people just listened then we can shower than with this valuable knowledge.

We have a moral obligation to empower people so they may realise their own potential, people are capable of amazing things and don’t require spoonfuls of our world. Give those in your life an opportunity to express their feelings, talk frankly and as you engage, be open, actively listen, emphasise and keep your personal view of the world in check. By empowering those who touch your life, you will give them a true opportunity to take responsibility and ownership of their situations and experiences.

Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology once wrote, ‘People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner. I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds’. 

We all want to help others, be supportive, and care for those we love, however I would invite you all to consider the potential of empowerment.

Information cited from Psychology today, and Dr. Tad James, NLP Trainer, M.S, Ph.D.

Magic, Life and Marmite

People love and hate magic in equal measure and for similar reasons. What ever side of the fence you sit, the question is the same, how do magicians do it? Do you feel frustrated at being ‘tricked’ or does it trigger similar emotions you felt as a child when you saw something new for the first time?

As children, the world is a brand new place for us – everything is a mystery. We embrace the unknown simply because we have no other choice, maybe this is why they are so enthusiastic about magic. Then something happens… we grow up. We develop critical faculty and that wonder is replaced by fear, we learn that the unknown can be dangerous and discover the hard way that what we don’t know can hurt us. 

It’s ok not to like magic, our brains are designed to look for causal links, if you know that A equals B, and a magician creates a situation where A equals C then we develop cognitive overload. The human mind is designed to look for patterns, to identify connections between life experiences i.e. if I don’t look both ways when crossing the street I may get knocked over or if I don’t put suncream on in hot weather I will burn my skin. Making these kinds of links is beneficial for human survival, but what sense can our mind make of situations where the pattern of an experience isn’t as predicted? This is where the magic happens.

The reality presented by a magician isn’t the the reality our brains are used to engaging with, thus creating something called ‘cognitive dissonance’. This is where our brain forces us to justify events even if they didn’t go as expected. Eventually a point occurs where the brain cannot rationalise the events it’s just seen as magic creates a situation which can’t physically exist, thus leading to a unique sense of astonishment.

Magicians have explored the techniques that most effectively divert attention or exploit the shortcomings of human vision and awareness. This is known as ‘exogenous attentional capture’, the brain will always be drawn to something new that it has difficulty predicting and this will disrupt the processing of that experience.

Our brain sometimes ‘remembers’ certain actions or processes, it stops paying close attention because it predicts how they will end. This is known as a ‘memory-prediction framework’. When a magician puts a ball in a cup only to have it disappear when the cup is lifted, we are shocked because what our brain predicted didn’t come true. Our brains often feeds us a prediction and convinces us that we saw it happen, which leaves us even more shocked when the predicted action didn’t happen at all.

On a physiological level. The release of Oxytocin makes acts of cooperation and social interaction ‘feel good’. Oxytocin release means people are less likely to be critical of the tricks they are watching and even more likely to miss sleight of hand because the attention will be drawn to the magicians face as they engage with and charm their audience.

Magic’s gift is wonder and amazement, magicians make people question their reality, making the impossible seem possible. As we grow older we dilute this world, life can become predictable, unchanging and dull. We have a hard time accepting that life can’t always be the way we want, that we won’t always have the answer we need. In the words of Lao-Tzu ‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them as it only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality.’

The solution may be simple, enjoy the magic that you encounter in your life, accept it and go with the flow.

Information cited from and Davenport Magic Training, Charing Cross, London.

Unsolicited advice to my teenage self.

If you had the opportunity to speak to your teenage self, what advice, support and guidance would you offer yourself? Here are a few pearls of wisdom I would consider offering the overweight, spotty faced teen I once was…

Matt, your self-worth must come from within. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and ditch those negative influences that drag you down. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Fear is the number one source of regret. When you look back on your life, you will lament the chances you didn’t take far more than you will your failures. You will never fail, you will however find thousands of ways that won’t work out. Have faith, stay focused and don’t take the path of least resistance.

Great success is often preceded by failure. The biggest breakthroughs typically come when you’re feeling the most frustrated and the most stuck. It’s this frustration that forces you to think differently and see the solution that you’ve been missing. 

You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive someone. Grudges let negative events from your past ruin your happiness. When you forgive someone, it doesn’t condone their actions; it simply frees you from being a victim.

Being busy does not equal being productive. You are the product of your output, not your effort, success doesn’t come from movement and activity, it comes from focus. 

Choose your attitude, it is your reaction to what life hands you, and it is only you who can choose that reaction. You can be subservient to external events, few of which you have any control over, or you can take charge of your own response.

Chasing girls is a misnomer. The paradox is that you often find the one you’re looking for when you stop looking, do the things you love and she may just be there.

You are the total sum of your experiences, everything that has happened to you both positive and negative has made you the person you will become and you will be thankful for all those events. Life is unfair but you will thrive in spite of it, in the words of Martin Luther King “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

And finally… buy some stock in Apple, seriously… you will thank me later.

Maybe the question isn’t what advice would you offer your teenage self but would you actually give yourself any advice at all? You are you because you discovered, learnt and grew by making mistakes, taking risks and living through experience on your own personal journey through life… and surely that is what makes being alive so special.

Information cited from Dr Travis Bradbury and the FISH Philosophy,

As is…

Have you ever walked into a shop and seen a label that states “As is” on an item of clothing? Although more common in the U.S. in shopping terms this denotes that the seller is selling, and the buyer is buying an item in whatever condition it presently exists, and that the buyer is accepting the item “with all faults”, whether or not immediately apparent. 

This labelling made me consider my family, friends, past relationships and work colleagues, do I accept my friends as they are despite their flaws? How often did I find myself annoyed by my partners behaviour? How often do I judge work colleagues for not being like me? I’d like to think of myself as an open-minded and accepting person, but when I stop and reminisce on the rare occasion I have reacted unfavourably to those closest to me, I realise that I’m not exactly the embodiment of acceptance. 

What is the purpose of this thinking? I’m frequently in positions where my expectations of what others should be doing cause me not to accept them for who they are. A typical example is watching my work colleagues facilitate, I may sit at the rear of the class rolling my eyes as they are not behaving or instructing as I consider it should be done. I assume, like so many people, that what I’m doing is right and what someone else is doing is wrong. 

The challenge as always is to make conscious change through measured self improvement, one option is to review some Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) presuppositions (convenient truths about life), maybe these can shed some perspective on how to actively engage with the process of change. 
Every behaviour is motivated by a positive intent.

Not accepting someone is seeing the negative in them, I will look for the good intentions, the positive choices and actions they make remembering that my way is not necessarily the only way.

The map is not the territory.                                                                                                                                                      The world is not black and white, it is too tempting to get into right and wrong dichotomies by using my own personal belief systems and filters. Things don’t have to be right or wrong if I choose to accept them as they are. I’m going to stop labeling my way as “the right way”.

Perception is projection.                                                                                                                                                                   Maybe I judge myself too harshly. I’m passionate about learning and maybe my judgments of others are a result of personal criticisms. If I stop putting pressure on myself to do things the “right” way, I’ll also stop putting pressure on others as well. 

There is no failure only feedback.                                                                                                                                               A famous quote proclaims “Failure is a pre requisite for great success”. Maybe we could reframe this sentence, “The feedback from our mistakes leads us to a path called success”. Feedback allows performance to develop, it is an opportunity to motivate and a way to continue learning. By continuing to recognising the fundamentals of acceptance I can still offer and receive feedback to improve myself and others.

Are you are the same as me? Maybe you struggle with accepting someone who is different or does something that isn’t the way you would do it, if so I would invite you to consider a productive way to live. To be positive and present in life’s moments is to accept what is, something you certainly can’t do if you don’t accept others for who they are.

Information cited from Padre Chris Acher, the Longevity Happiness Course and the Inspire 360 training manual.

I am what survives me.


Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson wrote that in the middle years of adult life we come to realise: “I am what survives me.” But what did he mean? We as a species have the passion and ability to be motivated to, not only make something of ourselves, but to share that with others?

Let’s consider JFK and MLK, both died before their legacies were fullfilled, but they will be forever revered for their efforts. We as a people invested in their legacies and their vision which in turn inspired a generation. Now consider yourself, do you feel what you have learnt, your life experiences and your skill sets will be invested for future generations? Would it be a comforting thought to know that your personal strife, hardships and efforts will have been for the benefit of others? Your morals, values, beliefs and opinions will one day have the potential to benefit or influence your children and their children?

A legacy is a gift you leave behind without expecting anything in return, just as a farmer may plant a tree knowing full well that they may never taste the fruits it bears. It is something you create during your life solely to benefit future generations. When you leave a legacy, the most important gift you can give your loved ones is not a tangible item such as money, but a piece of yourself in the form of values.

Knowing that one day I won’t be here helps me stay focused on what I’m doing in the present so that my goals are in line with my legacy. It offers a concrete sense of purpose in choosing what I am giving my energy to. 

Imagine your funeral (not the happiest topic) but one worth serious thought. Beyond your last will and testament, what part of you remains on earth? Your legacy remains, the power to shape that legacy is in your hands today. In order to be that example to future generations, in order to pass on these beliefs and values, you have to live them consciously, right now. Remember what you do for yourself dies with you, what you do for others lives on.

None of us are promised a tomorrow so lets take this opportunity to live our legacies, actively engage in it everyday, living each day as if it was our last… because one day we will be right!

Information cited from, Success Magazine and Barbara Greenspan Shaiman founder of Champions for Caring.

Is the Universe created for us?


On face value we are just an intelligent chimpanzee living on a smallish rock orbiting an unremarkable 40 billion year old star. Maybe we all being too hasty in writing our species off. Have you ever considered yourself the centre of the universe? There is a wealth of evidence suggesting that the universe is finely tuned for human existence, so actually there may be some truth in this thinking. 

Science teaches us that the laws of physics are ridiculusly fine tuned for us being here. The electro-magnetic force has a value that is so perfectly set, allowing stars to bind to protons and neutrons creating carbon, the building blocks of all life. Nuclear force binds neutorns and protons, even if this bond were minutely stronger the whole world would be made of hydrogen, if weaker, there would be no hydrogen at all – in each case we would not exist. Even the amount of empty space seems perfectly set to allow intelligent life to flourish. All told there are a total of 12 parameters that have been identified as being just right for life to exist.

Why is the Universe so perfect? Some theorists consider that it could not have been other wise. Such reasoning has given rise to several different answers known as ‘anthropic principles’. One end of the spectrum points to us being the centre of the Universe in as much as there must have been, from a theological perspective, a divine creator or from a more scientific standpoint, some fundamental feature of the cosmos that drives it towards intelligent life. 

Another anthropic principle states that the Universe only exists because we do, is there a possibility that since we are around to experience and observe the Universe, it simply has to allow for our existence?

So what does this all mean to us? As humans we create meaning around our experiences, is it our perception of the universe which determines the way we see it? Maybe the universe has no intrinsic meaning, if this was the case we therefore have a responsibility to create our own universe. Having ‘free will’ allows experience to be a choice created by each individual person on their journey through life. I would suggest that everyone and everything has no meaning outside of what we assign it. 

The pursuit of my universe is to find happiness in life experiences – what’s the meaning of yours?

Information cited from Stephen Hawking’s ‘The Grand Design’, New Scientist and Discover Magazine.

Whether you think you can or think you can’t – You’re Right!


Experts once said that the human body was simply not capable of completing a mile in under 4 minutes, it wasn’t just dangerous; it was impossible! Further legends suggest that people have tried for over a thousand years to break this barrier. In the 1940’s the mile record was pushed to 4.01 where it stood for 9 years as runners struggled with the idea that maybe, just maybe, the experts were right. In 1954 a man by the name of Roger Bannister achieved the impossible and managed to run the mile in 3:59.4 and since then tens of thousands of people have completed the impossible, even non-professional athletes have achieved this feat once thought to be physically out of reach for human beings.

So what changed? How has this achievement been repeated on so many separate occasions? Some would say it was the realisation that it was possible, the ability to mentally process something, that at one moment in time, limited people’s beliefs was now a physical possibility. Maybe people asked themselves, why not me? Why can I not achieve this? The perception that it could not be accomplished was shattered and now people were left with hope, the excitement and trepidation of the possible, and then came the question – “Could this be MY reality”?

Self limiting beliefs constrain us in some way. Just by believing in them, we do not say, do or think the things that inhibit us, so in doing so we impoverish our lives and discourage that investment. Limiting beliefs are often about ourselves and our self identify; however the beliefs may also be about other people and the world around us.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Man is but a product of his thoughts, what he thinks he becomes”. Human thoughts determine human behaviour and ultimately determine human actions, if you think that you won’t achieve your goals in life, your behaviour and actions will fulfil that prophecy. Reframe those thoughts to positive affirmations so behaviour and actions reflect that positivity and just maybe you will achieve those life goals.

Take a moment to consider where you could use some certainty in your life? What would it take, short of proof, to make you believe in your own talents and believe in yourself?

Information and influences cited from Ewan Mochrie and Tony Robbins.