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Do you get in your own way?

Apr 15, 2024

The trouble with ‘normal’…

In our experience of delivering The Winning Edge for the past four decades, we find that most people stop setting goals by the age of 25. The question is, why?

How many young people say to themselves at the age of 18: ‘I hope I lead a really average life, with a partner who doesn’t seem to understand me, kids who don’t appreciate me and in a job that feels like Groundhog Day!’ I doubt very many.

Yet could it be said that far too many people lead their life by default? Perhaps they’re in a less than harmonious relationship unable to hold a civil conversation, with it seems, no shared interests. They’re going through the motions day to day because it’s become a habit. Maybe there are teenagers in the house whose behaviour is less than desirable. It feels like they’re the puppet master– pulling the strings because their mood seems to dominate everyone else’s. It might feel if they’re approached about it, it’ll just cause a row and then there’ll be more tension. It feels easier to stick with the status quo. In terms of work, many feel their role is like wading through treacle; nothing ever changes, the management are staid, and motivating the staff is not even on their radar. Recent turbulent times have made it even more challenging, and it seems harder to look for something else, so it feels so much worse. It feels more a case of making a living, rather than designing a life.

Far too quickly, we can get used to a normal which doesn’t serve us well. Around 95% of our thinking is subconscious and 95% of what we do day-to-day is reactive habit so very often, we turn around and wonder how we got to where we are today. A bit like a routine car journey you take – sometimes you don’t remember passing half the familiar landmarks.

Perhaps none of this resonates with you. Perhaps too much of it does. We once had a course participant who was approaching his 70th Birthday. He admitted that up until that point, he had felt like a pinball in a pinball machine, being buffeted around by the flippers and springs of circumstances and other people. Seemingly, he felt everything was out of his control. However, he admitted that The Winning Edge had helped change that view.

Thinking about the way you think

Life is hectic, life is busy, but we get to choose what we do with it. Something which sticks with me is when I’ve heard the co-architect of The Winning Edge – Richard Jackson MBE, greet people by saying: ‘Hi! How are you? How are you treating life?’ For that’s it, isn’t it? The big wheel keeps on turning and time ticks by and it’s how we choose to spend it that’s down to us. This is of course down to your values- those people, things and principles which are most important to you. All your choices stem from your values, from the tin of beans you buy, to your life partner. Your values are individual to you but the thing is, most people don’t have a set of consciously chosen values, they have values they live by which are adopted from someone who didn’t think about them much either.

If we give careful conscious thought to what our values are, it makes decision making a lot easier and our choices will feel aligned with what we truly want.

Do things happen to us that are not of our choosing and that we have no control over? Absolutely. A serious illness for us or a member of the family, bereavement, redundancy. It’s not simply a case of picking yourself up, dusting yourself down and carrying on as normal. It’s important to give yourself the time and head space to recalibrate. Two key words here are ‘over time’. Over time, the thoughts and feelings become less raw, less intense and by your thoughts changing, your emotions do too and over time, you do have the ability to recalibrate, to build a new normal.

However, when it’s a case of not liking your job, disliking where you live, a relationship that doesn’t feel fulfilling or the respect is lacking, friendships which feel too much like take take take, rather than support when needed, or family relationships which feel too combative- you can choose to do something about it. Or you allow inertia and procrastination to come into play.  As the saying goes:

If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.

Rather than live with your frustration, disappointment or upset day in and day out- you can make a change for the better. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Making the mindset shift

Do you often ponder how you’d like to transform your life and create some positive change? If so, what’s standing in your way?

  • Inertia– you just don’t want it enough and can’t be bothered to challenge the status quo– perhaps you think it takes up too much thought and energy.
  • Procrastination- you keep putting things off, saying you haven’t the time. If you want something enough though, you’ll find the time- you'll make the time, your values will ensure that.
  • Perfectionism – isn’t imperfect action better than inaction?
  • Lack of self-worth – you don’t think someone like you deserves the good stuff in life.
  • Fear of failure- this could be Imposter Syndrome and self-limiting beliefs.
  • Fear of success- what change might that bring?


The thing is, far too many people live on Someday Isle- that mythical place where we’ll at some point, get things done:

“Someday I’ll clear out the garage and turn it into a Den. It can be somewhere for the kids to hang out with friends, giving the grown-ups a bit more space.”

“Someday I’ll start learning Italian and we’ll plan that trip to drive the Amalfi coast.”

“Someday I’ll leave this job. Climbing the corporate ladder has its advantages but working these hours is too much time away from home.”

“Someday I’ll organise that family reunion. We say it at every funeral, until we go to the next one…”

“Someday I’ll make that phone call, have that challenging conversation and hopefully we can re-build the relationship.”

Someday is code for never. Just like tomorrow, someday never comes. Unless a timeframe is stamped on it, it’s a can that gets kicked down the road. If you don’t want to do it enough, be honest with yourself, stop chipping away at your self-respect and take it off the ‘to do’ list. If however you do some soul searching and decide you do want it enough, set a date and make a plan to help you to achieve it.

Eight-day week

When I deliver The Winning Edge, be it as a keynote, a workshop, or a 3-day course, I always, always include the following because for me, it gives perspective as to how precious this one life is that we have. Brace yourself.

In the Western world, we are told the average lifetime is approximately 80 years, the question is, how many days does that amount to (and remember, we could get more time, or less- we just don’t know). The options I offer on the flipchart/PowerPoint are:

30,000                  100,000

50,000                  150,000

75,000                  200,000

In 80 years, we get just 30,000 days. That’s around 4,000 weekends. A stark reminder of how time flies.

This is followed up with the Days of the Week.

If we go by the Bible’s three score years and 10 – i.e. 70 years – and allocate a day of the week to each decade, which day would you be on?

Monday              0 - 10 years                        Friday                   41 – 50 years

Tuesday              11 - 20 years                     Saturday             51 - 60 years

Wednesday        21 – 30 years                    Sunday                61 – 70 years

Thursday             31 – 40 years                    Bank Holiday Monday…!

This is an illustration which really brings home how quickly time passes and it is not meant to be a depressor – it is a motivator.

My Dad, Richard Jackson MBE – founder and co-architect of The Winning Edge course celebrates his 80th Birthday this year and is looking forward to approaching the King’s Coronation Bank Holiday weekend. He lives life with intention, in alignment with his consciously chosen values. The question is, do you?

Living with intention

It’s so easy to go through the motions every day. As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ellen Goodman once said:

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it."

The question to ask yourself is: Are you making a living or designing a life?

If you love life and live it with purpose- I celebrate you. If however, you want to make some changes, ask yourself what is stopping you from pursuing your goals in life? Very often it is you.

It can take time to address and unpick what is holding you back, but it is possible and I obviously know where you can get help with working on you and your mindset so that you can get the results you want in life, both personally and professionally.

This is not a rehearsal, this is it. So, rather than shuffle off at the end and wonder where it all went and have a million coulda woulda shoulda thoughts, why not embrace change, embrace challenge, embrace the new, and move forward and live your life- this one life.

Get out of your own way, get a one-way ticket off Someday Isle and do some brilliant stuff!

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