The second extract for this week's series is from Your Best Life at Any Age by Andrew Fuller. This best-selling book is an interesting read for everyone, either by looking at the life stage you are in at the moment or looking to the future.
Full of practical advice and understanding, it is a great way to know that you are not alone, many people have possibly felt this way before...
From the Introduction
Your best life at any age
We live in a very mixed-up world. Opportunities may be vast but so are the challenges we face. It takes some personal determination to step back from the maelstrom of our busy world, to pause and consider the life you want to have. It is more about ‘won’t power’ than ‘willpower’. If you can, switch off the computer, put your phone down, turn away from the flood of news updates, dampen the screeching voices on social media who want to inform you of their opinions about everything and take some time for you. Invite yourself to ponder what kind of life you want for yourself from now on.
That is the purpose of this book.
People sometimes reply to this invitation by opening their hands in despair and sighing, ‘How can I take the time with all the things I need to do, all the things my partner or family need me to do, or the bills I have to pay?’ as well as a thousand other good reasons. All those reasons are demanding and have validity. But the problem is that if you don’t take the time, you eventually diminish your values and dilute the quality of your relationships. Basically, you wear out! Depleted, you will plod your way through the rest of your life, wearily doing the same things in the same way over and over again.
The rate of change in the world is mind-boggling. Many people are so busy on the treadmill of existence, fulfilling the demands they face, they lose sight of what is important to them. In their exhaustion they then lose their belief in their ability to create a resilient life.
Resilience is the ability to flexibly respond to whatever life throws at you. It involves capitalising on opportunities and learning to reflect and adapt to shifting circumstances and times. It also requires an awareness of how to thrive at different times of your life.
When people lose their belief in their resilience they can feel disheartened and disengaged. Sometimes, a loss of resilience can cause people to deliberately become less engaged with their lives, thinking that if they care less they will more or less immunise themselves from the toxicity of the world.
Taking time out is most beneficial when we use it to rejuvenate and renew ourselves, and where it leads to more involvement in our lives rather than disengagement from it. There is little point having a blissful, calm escape if one month later you are just as exhausted and distracted as you were before the time off.
Where people struggle with this concept the most is when their stage of life has changed but they are stuck repeating the ruts of the past, rather than creating a pathway towards a better future. This is mainly because most of us are resistant to the idea of change and what it represents. We often think of change as requiring hard work. Words like ‘perseverance’, ‘effort’, ‘grit’ and ‘determination’ come to mind when thinking about the concept of affecting change. The odd thing is that change in people’s lives occurs quickly. It is as easy as turning and walking in a different direction.
Having worked as a therapist for a many years, I have watched people’s lives shift in the time it takes to click their fingers. A pivotal idea or possibility enters their awareness and before they know it they are ready to compose a new, more resilient life. It creates a revolution in their heads. In fact, often we need to slow down the rate of change to lessen the shock for those around us.
The three essential ingredients of living your best life
Your best life is a resilient life. All of the research on resilient lives can be distilled down to three essential ingredients.
Take the time to connect again with who you are and what stage of life you are at. Explore and determine your strengths as well as your limitations.
Connecting with your personal strengths and opportunities enables you to capitalise on them. It also increases your ability to overcome any obstacles that may arise. One of the tragedies of modern life is people are often so good at identifying problems and obstacles they allow them to obscure possibilities and opportunities. If we turn up the volume of obstacles really loud, we can fail to hear the sound of opportunities knocking on our door.
Take care. It is easy to go to war against yourself. Don’t concentrate so hard on your failings you completely overlook your strengths. There are moments when all of us are challenged by life. To not just survive but thrive through these times we need to utilise our strengths, as well as overcoming obstacles. By protecting our strengths we can not only bounce back but often bounce better. This applies to the strengths of those around as well.
Today’s world seems to treat people as if they are expendable and completely replaceable. The increasing rates of family dislocation, loneliness and cyber-trolling are just a few examples of this.
One of the most powerful ways to create a resilient life is to build and maintain respectful relationships with people. The point of taking the time to rejuvenate, renew and replenish yourself is not a selfish course of self-indulgence but will enable you to send your gifts outwards into the lives of others, as well as enhancing your own. It has a ripple effect – when you benefit, others around you also benefit.
This is not just about creating a perpetually happy life. Resilient lives are real lives and they have ups and downs. The pursuit of just happiness often leads to misery. All of the research on happiness indicates that people are happiest when they contribute in meaningful ways to the lives of others. When we do things that are meaningful to us and benefit others, we enjoy life.
This requires us to savour the best of our lives and also to see the best in other people. This is an area the media are not going to help you with. The media is filled with the most alarming, shocking, attention-grabbing, outrage-inducing items.
In its desire to grab our attention, the media creates shared experiences of alarm and fear that metastasize through our sharing of worries on social media. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell where anxiety ends and where the news begins.
One way of countering this is to use an idea developed by Vilfredo Pareto in 1906. What has now become known as the ‘Pareto Principle’ is the idea that roughly the world works on an 80/20 ratio. About 80 per cent of effects are caused by about 20 per cent of causes. This statistical principle has been found to hold true in many areas of life.
In order to get your attention, the media wants to portray the world as being filled with 80 per cent of bad news and only 20 per cent of good news. This is not true.
In order to help you respect yourself and other people, try reversing this equation. For example, you might think to yourself while there are bad people in the world, say 20 per cent, the majority are good (80 per cent). While 20 per cent of drivers may flaunt the road rules, about 80 per cent of people drive responsibly. To shift this we need to be aware of our natural bias for thinking negatively. It is always easier to think about what went wrong rather than what went right, and therefore so much easier for us to focus on the person who cut us off rather than the person who let us in!
The reason why negative events stick for longer in our awareness is because positive events are fleeting and don’t demand a lot of our attention. Negative thoughts, on the other hand, were vital for our ancestors’ survival. They survived by keeping in mind threats to their lives (sabre-tooth tigers, ingrown toenails and the lack of decent dentistry being among them) more than they did appreciating the beauty of a valley, the clean air and a sunny day. As they have survival value, negative thoughts domineer our attention. To shift ourselves towards creating resilience, we need to consciously notice the small, fleeting positive events that we otherwise overlook.
Just as negative news spreads fear and alarm, positive efforts are also contagious. The Pareto Principle would suggest that if you can make a positive impact on 20 per cent of your life, the rest of it also benefits.
We also know that what you do affects your friends and family. It affects your friends’ friends and even stretches as far as your friends’, friends’ friends. So if you have six people in your immediate family and friendship circle and they each have six friends or family members and those people have a similar number of connections, you have some influence over the lives of at least 1296 people.
So, if you can’t justify taking the time to design a resilient life for yourself consider doing it for the other 1296 people who will benefit.
How to live your best life in a crazy world
As mentioned earlier, living your best life involves improvisation and flexibility. This requires us to balance the skills and knowledge we have against the challenges we face. The fine art of balancing gives us the freedom to choose what we want to create.
Essentially there are three main zones or states of life and we shift between all three of them all the time. BUT! If we want a resilient life we should aim to be in the balanced resilient zone or state.
Your Best Life at Any Age
We have three main states:
There are times for all of us when the challenges or problems we face exceed the skills we feel we have to handle them. We can become overwhelmed, anxious or agitated.
There are also times when we feel our contributions and skills are not valued. We have abilities that are being under-utilised. When our skills exceed the challenges we become bored, disinterested and listless. If we add stress to this mix we might give up, feel we can’t be bothered or ask ourselves, ‘What’s the point?’
This is the state where we find our balance between the challenges or problems we face and our skills to meet them. This is where we can live our best life.
It is only when we are in this resilient state that we can learn, be creative and respond flexibly to life’s opportunities and challenges. Our relationships improve and our immune system works best when we are in this zone. Knowing how to spend most of your time gives us better health, better relationships and a better, more resilient life. This is where we should aim to be!
How to use this book
Your Best Life at Any Age is based on workshops and interviews I have conducted with over 500,000 people around the world. The generous sharing of ideas and knowledge of those people are woven into the tapestry of ideas contained here. I am humbly grateful to them and also to you for joining this journey.
This video is taken from a series of interviews we did with Andrew Fuller on the release of Your Best Life at Any Age – We thought we would post it now because it talks about dealing with big changes in career and life, originally about retiring, but I think with all that is happening now it might just help people to understand they are not alone when struggling with some of these feelings…