Monday 1 August 2011

A pathway to achieving possibility

This article is my changing what's normal newsletter for August. Each month I write an in-depth article. You can subscribe to my newsletter here.

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A pathway to achieving possibility

I doubt I will ever lose my enthusiasm and excitement for the “privilege of the platform”. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to travel the world and share my ideas and insights with willing people. When clients/organizers agree I always end my 30, 45 and 60 minute presentations with a question and answer time.

After giving a presentation in early 2006 the first question threw me momentarily and the answer I gave surprised me, so much so I almost couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel room to write down what I said so I wouldn’t forget it! The questioner said “I’ve very much enjoyed your presentation but can you put it all into one sentence? After what seemed to me to be the longest pause I had ever taken in 15 years of professional speaking I said:

Principle before passion; passion before purpose; passion and purpose during practice = possibility

The audience cheered wildly including the questioner (You had to be there). On reflection these words capture what I am mostly on about.


For me there are three great life principles, an attitude of gratitude; the law of the farm; freedom of choice. These principles are unchanging and uncluttered by dogma, the hallmark of fundamentalists whether they are religious, political, business or otherwise. Fundamentalists believe their way is the only way and create dogma to justify their ideology. Principles don’t change, nor do they favour ideology, they simply just are, and, they can be lived in any number of ways regardless of beliefs, mindsets or culture.

An attitude of gratitude
When faced with a potentially life ending illness 33 years ago my doctor’s advice was to first have an attitude of gratitude. In order to get well he told me, I must first be grateful. I remember my reply as if it was yesterday. “You’re telling me I may die and you want me to be grateful. You have to be joking!”
In recovery I learned, and I am still learning, a great truth, when we are grateful for what we’ve got we can have more of what we want. The most productive people in history have an attitude of gratitude.

The Law of the Farm
My grandfather, a farmer, taught me this law. Grandfather knew the law as you reap what you sow. He believed as I do that more often than not if you have fertile ground, plough it, seed it, nurture it, you get a harvest. Today we phrase this law as what goes around comes around, or you get what you give. In my Changing What’s Normal book I use this law to explain my perspective on many things and how you can choose to use this law in your own way.

Freedom of Choice
We are the sum of the choices we have made and those we haven’t. As history has demonstrated over and over again, regardless of where we were born, and even in the most dire of circumstances, we can live a fulfilling, happy life that influences and inspires others. The most productive people in history make the wisest choices for them on a daily basis.

Living by principles such a these, is in my view the first step to achieving possibility.


I live and work with all the passion I can muster and inciting passion is very much a part of what I do. Two of my mates who are also experts on passion, best selling authors Keith Abraham and Charles Kovess.

I asked Keith and Charles three questions. Here are their replies

Question: What is passion?
Keith: “It is loving what you do and doing what you love. It is the desire to work towards a worthwhile goal that stimulates your enthusiasm.”
Charles: “Passion is a source of unlimited energy from your soul (or 'spirit' or 'heart') that enables a person to produce extraordinary results. Why 'extraordinary'? Because most people are not passionate about their work, or are not pursuing their passion in their lives, and this is the 'ordinary' level. When you tap into passion, and the amazing energy source that it is, you will perform at an 'extra-ordinary' level.”

Question: How do you discover your passion
Keith: “You can either list the activities that you love to do with your time or you can list 100 things you want to achieve in your lifetime and see what reoccurring theme keeps on coming through.”
Charles: “I recommend a four step process:
1) Be a Passion Seeker: decide to discover your passion. It's like making a decision to run a marathon: first you have to decide and then take action
2) Be a Detective: look for the clues throughout your whole life, since you were born up till now, that will give you the solution to the puzzle. Ask your parents, their friends, your siblings. Do a chart of your life, showing the ups and the downs, to raise your conscious awareness of your life journey so far.
3) Be the Riddler: once you discover it, it may be a 'riddle' to work out how to earn a living from your passion. I have always found, when advising people, that it is possible to earn money from pursuing your passion.
4) Be the Risk Taker: take the plunge! Take the risk and pursue your passion. Remember, 'the hardest thing in the world is to leap a chasm in two bounds!' I promise that the rewards will be worth it, because you are discovering and pursuing, your soul's purpose.”

Question: Once you have found your passion, how do you keep it?
Keith: “Make sure that you are spending time pursuing your passion each week or day. Focus on the things that count for you, that give you the greatest energy and enjoyment.
Charles: “You keep the passion alive by using the same principles that you use to stay fit and healthy. These are:
Write out your goals in great detail
Read them every day
Don't hang around with energy suckers, or negative people. Get them out of your life.
Don't share your goals with people who might kill your dreams.
Spend your time with passionate people.
Look after yourself physically, so that the machine you live in (your body!) can help you rather than hinder you.”

Living your passion, is in my view the second step to achieving possibility. When we are passionate in applying unchanging principles in our own way, we have unlocked the door to world of infinite possibilities.

Living on Purpose

The Macquarie Dictionary defines purpose “the object for which anything exists or is done, made, used etc; an intended or desired result; end or aim; intention or determination”

Poet and writer Gita Bellin said “success depends on where intention is.” This is a very powerful statement. To change an outcome we must modify or change behaviour, because continuing to do the same old thing expecting a different result is a good definition of stupidity! In my experience before behaviour change is lasting we must first modify or change our thinking and to do that we often must modify or change our feeling and to do that we often have to modify or change our intention or purpose!

So what is your purpose? What was your aim when you got up this morning? What were you feeling and thinking literally? If you are like me the answers to these questions can be elusive and often the day is over before it really seemed to begin.
I believe we humans all have the same broad purpose: to be at peace with ourselves. For only then can we make peace with others. How we find peace within ourselves and then make peace with others is an individual journey.

I have found regular contemplation, reflection, and just plain hard work on the following as great ways to keep myself living on purpose

Knowing my strengths and applying them excellent way to find out your key strengths click here
Allowing the strengths of others to make up for my shortcomings
Seeing my work as a calling and never a job or a career
Spending a hour a day on my own personal development
Engaging in activities that give me a sense of purpose
Knowing and understanding what gives me meaning and pursuing these things with vigour
Being the best I can be in each moment (and when I mess up, take the lesson and move on)
Continually asking why and why not
Maintaining positive self talk
Never saying anything negative about myself or others
Competing with myself and collaborating with others

When we combine purpose with passion (bringing everything we are to everything we do) and unchanging principles (gratitude, the law of the farm, and freedom of choice), we have unleashed an unstoppable force for good, leaving only one step left to achieve possibility.

the nitty gritty – practice

Actions do speak louder than words. We can believe in principles such as an attitude of gratitude, freedom of choice and the law of the farm; we can understand passion, “the amazing energy source” to quote Charles Kovess; we can grasp purpose as being at peace within ourselves; however it all means nothing if we do not take this trilogy into all that we do or practice.

12 actions for taking our principles, passion and purpose into everyday life

Instead of a to do list have a won’t do list and don’t do whatever you list

Be crystal clear on your goals but more importantly the steps you will take, one at a time, to achieve your goals. Then detach from your goals and put everything you’ve got into taking the steps

Wherever possible add value to transactions and interactions. The extra things we do that usually cost nothing, are often perceived as the most valuable to the recipient

Take responsibility for your feelings, thoughts and actions, but take no responsibility for other peoples feelings, thoughts and actions

Stop to celebrate failure as much as success, and then move on

Live in the now. Now is the only moment that matters. The past cannot be changed (we can view it differently) and the future will take care of itself if we are bringing everything we are to everything we do, right now

On a weekly basis review your actions. Next week repeat what worked and don’t repeat what didn’t work

Always tell the truth as you see it. My father used to say this means we don’t have to remember anything!

Invest wisely in time. We have 168 hours every week that’s it! I devote a third to work, a third to sleeping, eating and personal time, and a third to family and friends. Whatever your investment, see it as just that, and you will get a return. Forget about time management, it’s investing wisely in the time we have that counts

Apply the 80/20 rule; we get 80% of our results from 20% of our efforts. Known as the Pareto Principle, the law of imbalance or least effort, this one is worth a lot of thought. Most people are trying to achieve a lot by doing a lot. This principle says do less; just make sure that what you are doing is producing what you want. More with less is possible

Whenever you are doing a particular task focus on doing it to the best of your ability and do not allow yourself to be distracted

Be intense for short periods of focus then take a break. 45 minutes of intensity then a complete break for 10 minutes does wonders for our productivity

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community

Author of Changing What’s Normal

Partner of passionate and enlightened leaders in several countries since 1991, to change what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit.

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