Benjamin Hardy on How to Become a Different Person

Have you always seen yourself as an introvert? Maybe you’ve never been able to lose weight and get fit. Do you struggle with public speaking? Are you labelled the office clown, but really want to be taken seriously? Sometimes we can get into ruts, thinking that’s just who we are. That these traits are part of our personality and always will be.

Think again. According to organisational psychologist Benjamin Hardy, that just isn’t true. It might not be easy, but you can change your personality. Want to know more about what he says? Then read on to learn three concepts from ‘Personality Isn’t Permanent’ by Benjamin Hardy.

Many of us love those magazine quizzes which reveal our personality, but they may be limiting your beliefs
Personality isn’t a Fixed Entity

Benjamin Hardy says you only have to consider how you behave in different situations in order to undermine the premise that your personality is a fixed entity. For example, I am sure that the version of you that your grandmother sees is very different to the person who goes out with your friends on a Saturday night. Compare who you are at home with your children to the you that arrives at the office every morning. According to Benjamin Hardy the problem with the traditional approach is that it leads people to have a fixed mindset about themselves, rather than realising that they are able to make changes.

I believe that seeing personality as a fixed entity can lead to self-limiting beliefs, a concept that I learnt from the life coach Natalie Bacon. If you have a rigid view of yourself and your skills, you may use that to justify why you can’t adapt to new situations. For example, I will always be overweight, I will never be good at maths, I’m a procrastinator. These are unnecessary ways of labelling yourself which will limit your future and your personal development.

It’s nice to look back at the past, but it shouldn’t restrict who you want to become
The past does not have to predict the future

I work in the area of behaviour change. One of the statements I hear often is that ‘the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour’. Benjamin Hardy says that this doesn’t need to be the case. If you are committed to making choices and sticking by those choices then you can change your life.

He says that within society there is the belief that your life is pre-determined and that you don’t have choices. This is not true. As I talk about in this post, you can decide on the type of person that you want to become and make choices that lead you to grow into that person. Instead of wondering where you’ll be in five years’ time, decide where you want to be and make a plan for how you’re going to get there.

We all catch ourselves on a few thorns along the way. We need to remove them and move on.
We define ourselves by past traumas instead of dealing with them and moving on

Why are some people forever defined by what has happened to them in the past, yet others manage to deal with past trauma and move on?

Benjamin Hardy refers to a section in the book ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael Singer in which a woman gets a thorn in her arm. Instead of getting it removed she changes her whole life to avoid anything ever touching the thorn. She lives a restricted life in the long term instead of going through the short-term pain of removing the thorn.

We all have thorns in our lives, some more so than others. You need to remove those thorns. Either through therapy, help from your family or just by reframing your childhood. Then you can move forward.

Write your own future
your future self

Very much in line with the thinking of Benjamin Hardy is the idea of creating your future self. This is a concept that I learnt from Natalie Bacon and which she talks about in this podcast.  

It is all about developing a picture of the person you want to be in the future and then working out a roadmap of how you’re going to get there. If you have a purpose, a goal or a vision of your future you can align your daily choices with this. You can then move closer to your end goal, whether that’s losing weight, starting a business or just being a calmer human being.

Want to hear more from Benjamin Hardy himself? Listen to him being interviewed by Paula Pant on the Afford Anything podcast.

Want to learn more about life coaching and how to design your life? Why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link).

Five Ways to Reduce the Number of Decisions You Have to Make Everyday

paper cut outs of question marks
Having to make too many decisions every day?

Do you feel overwhelmed with the number of decisions that you have to make every day? What to wear, what to eat, the best way to work out. We are constantly faced with making choices. Making some small adjustments to reduce the number of decisions you have to make can free up time. Then you can concentrate on things that are really important and make life run more smoothly. In this post I’m going to give you some ideas how to do just that.

garlic, potato, star anise and coriander
Meal preparation is a must if you want to save time every day in deciding what to eat
plan your meals

A good place to start is with decisions about what you eat, something which all of us do several times a day. In the world of frugal living this is a popular tactic used to save money. Not only will you reduce your food spending by meal planning, but it has an added benefit. You don’t have to make a decision at the end of the working day, when you’re tired, about what to have for dinner. Ahead of time you’ll make a healthier decision than one made in the moment. Choosing what to cook can be the hardest part about being responsible for meal preparation in your home. On the few occasions when I ask Mr Simple to cook dinner he always says that as long as he knows what he has to prepare that’s half the battle and he can just get on with it.

I picked up a really useful tip recently from Dawn on ‘The Minimal Mom’ which I know you will also love. When thinking about meal planning I expect that you’re imagining yourself poring over cookery books for hours on end trying to decide on the recipes you’re going to cook over the coming week. What you need to do is to create a master list of meals and use this to choose what you are going to eat. My list has about 60 meal ideas. This has made meal planning a much less onerous task and it only takes me about 15-20 minutes every couple of weeks to decide on our meals for the coming fortnight.

a plate with curry and naan bread on it
We eat curry in our house ever Friday, Saturday and Sunday night
create a meal pattern

The next way to refine this process even further is to have a routine for what you eat when. My list of main meals list has two columns, one for regular meals and one for curry recipes. My mother used to tell me that when she was younger she only had to look at her plate of food every evening to know what day of the week it was. Whilst I wouldn’t want to have the same meal every Monday or every Friday, we have got into the habit of eating curry on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Mr Simple would eat curry every day, but I like to vary things a little bit. Over the past few months I have planned a vegetarian curry for Friday evenings, fish curry for Saturdays and on a Sunday we have the left overs with flat breads and maybe an extra vegetable side dish. This is another way that I reduce the decisions that I need to make about our meals. Whilst ‘curry’ covers a multitude of things, it still limits the choice and makes it easier to decide what we are going to have.

You may be thinking that this all sounds extremely boring, but you will find that 60 different meals is quite a lot. Also, as the months go on and different vegetables come into season you can expand the list of meals, maybe having a different list for each season of the year.

hanging rail of clothes
Having a small wardrobe makes deciding what to wear much easier
Create a Capsule wardrobe

An area in which you may be more familiar with the concept of limits is when it comes to clothes. The idea of the capsule or limited wardrobe has been popularised by people such as Courtney Carver. If you don’t fancy the idea of restricting the number of items in your wardrobe, perhaps you could choose only to wear certain colours. My life coach, Natalie Bacon, only wears neutrals.

I haven’t yet worked on this area in my life, but I have fallen into having a sort of uniform for work. Some days I have to dress smartly, whereas other times I just wear jeans. On the ‘smart’ days I have taken to wearing trousers in navy or blue, with a white t-shirt, navy or blue cardigan and then to liven things up I add a scarf. I have a choice of four scarves. For me that has become a sort of uniform and I don’t really have to think about much except the choice of scarf.

woman on exercise mat doing sit ups
Following an on line exercise programme can mean someone else making the decision for you
subscribe to an online exercise programme

Do you struggle with being motivated to do exercise as you can’t go out to classes anymore and can’t decide what to do? Perhaps before Covid you just got in the car, drove to the leisure centre, swam 30 lengths and came home. When lock down started last year I was doing a local Pilates class, but that closed. Although my teacher was doing Zoom classes I found them difficult to follow. For some inspiration I initially turned to YouTube. Perhaps you’ve tried this too and like me have been overwhelmed by the choice or wasted time each morning searching for a routine to do instead of getting on with exercising .

To reduce the choices that I have to make about what exercises to do I joined a Pilates programme. Jessica Valant’s site offers monthly plans where Monday to Friday she suggests routines to follow from her video library. Not only does this save me time deciding what to do, it also ensures that by the end of the week I have exercised all of my body, as she has a different focus each day e.g. Friday is leg day. The cost of this programme is about £110 per year and there are many other similar ones available e.g. the well-known Joe Wicks offers his programme at £90 per year. If you want some structure for your exercise routine and are prepared to pay someone else to make the decisions for you, have a search for some online programmes.

lemons and a spray bottle of yellow liquid
Creating a cleaning rota is making decisions ahead of time and they just repeat every week or month
Create a cleaning rota

I used to be rather haphazard in my choice of what to clean, just focusing on what I thought needed attention in the moment. Now there’s no decision to make, I just follow my rota. For week day evenings I don’t even have to look at my rota any more as those tasks have become habits. Mondays I empty the kitchen bin and sweep and mop the kitchen floor, Tuesday is dusting day, Wednesday is when the vacuuming gets done, Thursdays I clean the bathroom vanity unit and the mirrors in the house and on Friday I clean the kitchen sink and the hob.

Obviously there are a lot more cleaning jobs than these, but they go on my rota for the weekend. As I know what I am doing when, at least for Mondays to Fridays, there’s no time wasted deciding what needs cleaning. If I have a spare twenty minutes during my lunch break on a Tuesday I often grab a duster and polish and dash round the house, which frees up some of my evening for other tasks. Having a set routine means that you can almost be on autopilot and I don’t even think about it. Just follow your rota and almost magically the house stays clean, with not too much effort.

You may be thinking that all this is too restrictive, but remember you can always choose to go back to how things were before if you don’t find them useful. You can also make changes as the seasons change – you’ll probably want to for clothes and for food. If life is busy why not consider implementing some of these ideas. I promise you life will run more smoothly when you reduce the amount of decisions that you have to make every day.

Want to learn more about life coaching and how to design your life? Why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link).

A Real Pleasure or Just an Escape?

Crisps in a white square bowl
I love a few of these on a Friday evening
Pleasure or escapism?

Even before anyone had ever heard of Covid 19 I must admit that my way to relax at the end of a long week and escape the stresses of work was to indulge myself with a lager and a few salty snacks. Before I start preparing dinner, I fill a small bowl with a few crisps or nuts and sit down and relax for half an hour or so.

The trouble is that I begin putting the crisps or nuts in my mouth and before you know it, I turn to get another one and the bowl is empty. How did that happen? Most of the time I hardly remember eating them, let alone what they actually tasted like.  I just shoved them into the hole in the middle of my face as quickly as humanly possible until they were all gone.

Recently I have been asking myself ‘Did I actually enjoy them?’. I know I enjoyed the thought of them before I started eating them, but did I actually get pleasure from eating them? The truth is, the moment passed so quickly that I don’t know. This behaviour has become a habit. A reward at the end of the week for all my hard work Monday to Friday.

I think that many of us engage in what are seen as pleasurable behaviours, but we aren’t always doing it because we actually enjoy the experience. Instead it’s a reward because we think that we deserve it or an escape, usually from our day to day lives.

Hand holding a mobile phone showing Whatsapp
Fed up of all those jokes about over eating and over drinking during lock down?
Examine your motivation

This behaviour has come to the fore recently during the pandemic. If you belong to the same types of Whatsapp groups as I do, you’ll have read all those messages and seen those endless jokes about eating and drinking to excess in order to survive lockdown. This appears to be the emotional coping mechanism employed by the majority of the population. Another escape from the reality of the current restrictions on our lives. We don’t necessarily do something because we enjoy it for itself, but in order to help us forget our everyday lives.

I think that this can also be true when it comes to holidays. During a Skype call recently a friend talked about wanting to go away for a weekend in her caravan. She said that it didn’t matter where she went, she just wanted to ‘get away’. I wanted to ask, but obviously didn’t, ‘get away from what?’

Should the purpose of a holiday be to ‘get away’ or to ‘escape’ from real life? What about the opportunity to explore another country or area of your country? How about the chance to try new foods and to discover wildlife or architecture that is different to where you live? It’s not to say that you shouldn’t take the opportunity to forget about work and home life whilst you are away. It’s always good to have some down time and switch off for a while. But consider going on holiday as running ‘toward’ something rather than escaping ‘from’ your life.

Man and woman walking in a street holding hands
Getting outside can really help you appreciate nature, even if you live in a city
choose simple pleasures

If this is all sounding pretty familiar to you may be it’s time to work out what you are trying to escape from and change your thinking about your everyday life so you feel more positive about it. Want to live a more fulfilling and intentional life so that you don’t feel the need to escape from it? Check out Natalie Bacon’s free training course How to Live an Intentional Life.

Another way to learn to appreciate and enjoy your life is to practise gratitude. If you have to stay at home due to Covid19, be be grateful for Zoom and the internet that enables many of us to do our jobs and keep in touch with our families without stepping outside our front doors. Need some ideas for making the most of being at home, read my recent post on this topic. If you want to ‘escape’ try enjoying some simple pleasures. A walk whilst listening to an uplifting or amusing podcast, reading a book, having a bubble bath or asking your partner to give you a massage.

Want to learn more about this topic then listen to Natalie Bacon’s podcast on Finding Pleasure.

Want to learn more about life coaching and how to design your life? Why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link).

The Only Time Management Tool You’ll Ever Need

Throw away your paper planner!

Here because you need some help with time management? Fed up of constantly feeling behind? Do you have an endless to do list that gets longer every day no matter how many tasks you cross off? Are you always playing catch up, rushing reports and never feeling that you are able to produce quality work?

If so, this is the post for you. I am going to go through in detail how you can plan and organise your working day so that you never feel rushed again and at the end of every day you have that sense of achievement that you have completed everything you wanted to get done.

So, what’s this magic time management tool I hear you ask? It’s what Natalie Bacon calls ‘calendaring’. I have previously mentioned this on a couple of occasions, but in this post I am going to give you a comprehensive description of how you can implement this in your working day. I will also let you know what in my experience are the benefits and challenges in using this method of organising your time.  

silver laptop and white cup on table
This is the only tool you need – and your electronic calendar

In a nutshell, calendaring is allocating every single item on your to do list a slot on your calendar. The starting point is therefore to make a list, probably a very long list, of every single task that you have to do over the coming months. Some of these will be repeated on a weekly, daily or monthly basis. For example, all of us read and respond to emails. Most people though just do this throughout the day, as and when the notifications pop up on their screens. With calendaring you are going to have one or two slots a day where you do this. Other repeat tasks that you might have are making phone calls, preparing for interviews or attending regular meetings.

Once you’ve got all of the regular tasks set out on repeat on your calendar, now go through the others on your list and again give them a slot on your calendar. If you’ve got some very short tasks try to group those with other similar tasks in one block, like you will be doing with emails and phone calls. Deciding when to schedule them will obviously depend on how urgent they are and it may take a bit of juggling, but that’s the beauty of an electronic calendar as opposed to a paper diary, there’s no crossings out.

Obviously, this is an ongoing process. Every time you get a new task to do, instead of putting it on your to do list give it a time slot on your calendar.

And that’s it, simple right?

pen calendar to do checklist
Rip this up
the Benefits

This way of working makes you feel as though you have done everything you need to do. When you have a to do list it’s never finished. At the end of the day you’ve still got a list. Alright, you’ve crossed some items off, but you’ve also probably added a load of others. With calendaring your to do list is shorter. Basically, you do the tasks on your calendar for the day and when they’re complete then you’re finished for the day. You don’t have to worry about all those other tasks that are on your list because they’ve all got a time slot and you’ll get around to them when your calendar tells you it’s time to do them.

By planning everything out there’s no last minute rush. Nothing will sit on your to do list for weeks on end and never get done until it’s urgent. If it’s a task that you’re not fond of doing you can break it down into small pieces and just do a bit at a time. It won’t seem so daunting as trying to get it all done in one go.

When everything has a slot you have a sense of calmness as you know you can get everything done. There’s no surprises. You won’t forget to do something because you didn’t notice it on that scrappy to do list that you’ve had for weeks.

Calendaring enables you to set clear boundaries for your day. How often do you sit there past five o’clock thinking, I’ll just tick one more thing off of my to do list. With this method, once all of the tasks on your calendar are completed then you’re done for the day. Anything else can wait, as it already has its assigned slot and it’s not today.

Putting all of your tasks on your calendar gives both you, your manager and your team an idea of the amount of work you have on. There should be no arguing with managers about whether you have capacity to take on more work. If there are vacant slots in your calendar you do, if there aren’t, you don’t. If they want you to take on something urgent then they can see what other tasks you’re responsible for that would need to be delayed for this to happen.

Now whilst the idea is that your agenda for the day is to complete the tasks on your calendar we all know that things can and do change at the last moment. To me, using your calendar in this way is like creating tiles of time. When circumstances change you can move those tiles around very easily. Now this doesn’t mean you should keep moving the writing of that report that you don’t really want to do to the following week, but in a situation where change is really unavoidable there is the ability to be flexible.

On the other hand, when meetings get cancelled and time opens up you just bring some of the following day’s tasks forward. No wasting time deciding what your going to do with that extra couple of hours or wasting time browsing emails or your company chat room.

For me, this method increases the quality of my work. Instead of doing a report all in one go, but instead in several parts, you will have the opportunity to review it at least once if not more. Often you will see mistakes, poor sentence construction, wording you could improve/make clearer when you return to a document refreshed.

It also gives other people time if you need to have your work reviewed by someone. You may get better/more considered feedback as they aren’t rushing.

It serves as a reminder of due dates e.g. if you read others’ work, by calendaring in a block of time to do so, it acts as a reminder that it is due and if you haven’t received it you will remember to chase it.

gray double bell clock
Just give your times slots your best guess
the challenges

So, what are the challenges of this way of managing your time?

Firstly, it’s a lot of work up front.  As you know, I am a social worker. When I get a new case I make a list of all of the tasks that I need to do on that case. Most of the time this is actually fairly easy as I use a checklist and just adapt it to that particular case. Then I give every task a slot on my calendar.

There are going to be days when you don’t want to do what it says on your calendar and the challenge is to do it anyway. Basically, you have made an appointment with yourself and you need to turn up for it. I can assure you that over time this will get easier as you reap the rewards of this way of working.

One question often raised is how long to give a certain task. You just have to give it your best guess. You don’t always know how long something will take. It’s a matter of trial and error. If you find you haven’t given it enough time, when you do a similar task in the future, give it more time. Other days, you’ll get things done more quickly than you planned, particularly if you’re not constantly answering emails whilst you’re doing it.

It may all seem like too much work or maybe you think it’s not for you. The question is, what have you got to lose? Why not give it a try and if you don’t find it helpful then you can always return to how you do things now. My guess is, once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back.

If you’ve got any questions please let me know, either in the comments below or by sending a message via the contact page. I would love to help you try this out and am happy to help with any difficulties you encounter.

Want to know more about time management? Have a listen to Natalie Bacon’s podcast on calendaring.

Want to learn more about changing your mindset, why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link) or one of her free trainings:

How to Live an Intentional Life

Overcoming Self Doubt

Time Management Tools

How to Fix Your Relationship

Online Business

Conquering Anxiety

Scarcity v Abundance Mindset

Money Mindset Exercises

A New Direction

I started ‘writing A Simple Life’ two years ago

I have been writing on ‘A Simple Life’ for just over two years. Up until now it has been a blog about saving money, with some ideas about personal development thrown in. I started ‘A Simple Life’ when I discovered FI/RE – financial independence, retire early – as this is what everyone does. Like all other FI/RE seekers I wanted to share ideas about saving money, making money and to monitor my own journey.

As time has gone on my interests have developed into a love of personal development. This culminated in me joining Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme ‘Grow You’ in February 2020, from which I continue to learn every single day.  

Over the next year there will be some changes on ‘ A Simple Life’
The Way Forward

In 2021 I will be changing the focus of ‘A Simple Life’ and starting to explore more personal development topics. By doing this I want to help you to make positive changes in all areas of your life. I believe that feeling happy and fulfilled is all about examining your life and making positive changes, no matter what life throws at you. Many people blame their circumstances for their unhappiness. I want to share with you how by making simple changes, including having a more positive mindset, it is possible to create happiness without changing anything about your circumstances.

Life should be considered and planned
Living Life in the Precontemplation Stage

I have been a social worker for almost twenty years. I work with people who are trying to make changes in their lives, or those who need to make changes, otherwise their futures look bleak. Unfortunately the majority of the people that I meet don’t think that they need to make any changes in their lives. I would regard these people as being in the ‘precontemplation stage’ of the ‘Cycle of Change’. This is a concept developed by Prochaska and DiClementi (1983). People in the precontemplation stage are unaware of or have a vague recognition of concerns, but at this stage they have not considered that their behaviour needs to change.  

In order to look at a wider definition of precontemplation let’s look at one of the dictionary definitions of ‘contemplation’:

the state of being considered or planned

So precontemplation is a time before you actually consider or plan. Now the reason that I say that the majority of the population live their lives in the precontemplation stage is that they don’t live considered or planned lives. Life is lived on autopilot. Most of us are brought up to think that our lives will follow a certain path and that’s just the way it is. For the majority of people that means school, university/employment, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, death.

Do you struggle to get up as you dread the day ahead of you?
Living a Considered Life

Whilst each and every one of those can be amazing (except perhaps the death part!), I want you to make choices about the life that you’re living. Do you wake up in the morning and bounce out of bed, looking forward to the opportunities that the day ahead brings? Are you able to look on the bright side when life doesn’t always go as you expected and accept that there will be good times and bad times along the way?

You may be thinking that the answer to a happy life lies in winning the lottery or making a killing on the stock market and retiring to a beach somewhere. If that’s what you really desire that’s fine, but the answer to happiness lies within you, in the choices that you make, in your attitude to life and in your thoughts. As we all know, particularly from 2020, life is unpredictable and there are many things over which we don’t have any control. What we do have a choice about though is our thoughts. This is the basis of life coaching, or at least the life coaching taught by those who have trained with The Life Coach School .

Many life coaches practise what Natalie Bacon calls action coaching. If you want to lose weight they will suggest diets to follow or if you want to get fitter they’ll recommend exercise programmes. I’m sure that like many people you’ve tried to get thinner at some point and found that the problem is not finding an eating regimen to follow, but actually sticking to it. This is where thought work comes in. Life coaching helps you examine your thoughts about your body, about eating and about weight loss. Once you have the motivation, action is easy. We’ve all heard of people who have tried quitting smoking for years without success, but a scary diagnosis leads them to give up overnight. None of the tips and tricks for quitting have changed, it’s just their motivation that’s different.

Want to manage your time better? Life coaching can help you.
Reasons why you might want to have a life coach
  1. Help you reach/achieve your goals
  2. Control your emotions
  3. Understand your motivation
  4. Improve your relationships
  5. Manage your time
  6. Help you change career
  7. Lose weight

We’ve all heard of therapy, which takes you from dysfunctional to functional. Life coaching takes you from functional to exceptional.

I don’t pretend that I am a life coach and I don’t propose to start a coaching programme here on ‘A Simple Life’. What I do plan to do though is to give you some of that action coaching, i.e. ideas for how to improve your life and also a different perspective to help you perhaps change your thinking about situations. Natalie also has lots of free training on her website and so I’ll make sure I let you know about those, particularly if they’re relevant to the topic of the post that you’re reading.

As a member of ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme, I have had the chance to become an affiliate and so will be including my link in my posts to encourage you to check it out. Obviously you can just stick around here and read my posts. Hopefully you’ll still get lots of ideas to help you live your best life.

Until next time, take care and best wishes, Sam.