3103, 2015

20 things I wish I knew about life before I was 40

By |March 31st, 2015|Life lessons, Miscellaneous|1 Comment

Am I really half way through my life ?

I turned 40 a couple of years ago. It was a great day and I had a great weekend celebrating with friends at an incredible house. Here I was an energetic, ‘young’ 40 year old celebrating and enjoying life – with loved ones around me, a positive future and no major regrets.

40th speech me on my 40th View from 40th house

But on the inside, there was a lot more going on. For me, turning 40 was a transformational time. It was a time of self-reflection where I started asking myself some big questions and thinking about life. Thinking about who I was. Thinking about my life to date. Thinking about where I was going and what I wanted to do and achieve in life. And thinking about what I wish I’d known earlier.

Fortunately I can say that I’ve given my first 40 years a good tilt. I’ve travelled to over 25 countries, studied overseas, written 2 books, lived overseas as a professional athlete and competed at two Olympic Games. I’ve driven a team of husky dogs for 2 days in Norway, dived with Great White Sharks and am soon to ride an elephant in Africa. I’ve seen the high life during some of my investment banking days, and had a glimpse into those who live in extreme poverty (through my work as an ambassador of the Global Poverty Project and when visiting my sponsored child in remote Kenya). I’ve met famous people, powerful people, inspiring people, homeless people, ordinary people and people I wish I hadn’t ever met. I’ve seen and experienced a fair amount and learnt a lot.

But one thing I have realised with the benefit of a little bit of wisdom as I grow older is how much I don’t know and how much I wish I’d known earlier. When you’re in your 20’s and 30’s you have all this potential … but often you don’t know what to do with it or how to really leverage it. Or you think you have it all figured out but you find out later that you didn’t really.

So here’s a list of things that I wish I’d known earlier.


1. I wish I had spent more time deciding what I really wanted from life.

Figure out your passion and purpose. Don’t wait until 30 or 40 to find that out. Chances are the guys and girls that figured it out earlier are not only doing what they love which is reward in itself, but are probably successful at it and now reaping the rewards. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to do something because that is all you can do and your stuck. Doing what you love is a key to life. So don’t feel the pressure to do any particular thing, or follow any particular path. It’s your life. So its worth taking the time to figure out (even in part) what you want from life, how you want it to look, what you want to do and how you want to live.

Passion-nicky kurta

2. I wish I had drunk more water.

Observe a plant before you water it and after you water it and treat your body the same. I wish I’d drunk more water and less coke and fruit juice.


3. I wish I had had more confidence around girls.

I was always really comfortable around girls when they were friends. But the minute it was a girl I liked – things changed. And don’t even suggest to me to go up and talk to that girl in the bar ! (Even if I knew in my head that she was out with her girlfriends not only to have a fun night with them, but to meet them too). The older you get the more you realise that women appreciate being asked out in a genuine and confident way. You come to realise that if the worst that happens is a ‘no’ then that’s not really that big a deal. You also realise that women are more attracted to men who have fun and make them laugh. That our male obsession with bodies and image is less important in meeting a girl and then making her happy than we thought. (Mind you – men are still from Mars and women from Venus !) 🙂

4. I wish I had known more about food and what was truly good for me.

Can you believe it was only after competing in two Olympics that I really started educating myself on healthy goods. Understanding what foods affect me poorly eg allergies, bloating. Understanding that most labels with “Light,” “Healthy,” “Diet”, “Sugar Free” are probably just trying to cover something up. Understanding that wholefoods are good. Understanding the difference between good fats and bad fats. Understanding how good I feel when I feed my body the right fuel / foods.


5. I wish I had followed my instincts more.

I tend to over-think things. And yet, my gut instinct has been nearly always right. Listen to that knot in your gut and your intuition. Take note of that red light going off deep down inside you. If you think she might not be the right girl, she probably isn’t. Same goes for your job. Of all the voices you hear, your own may be the wisest and hardest to listen to.

6. I wish I had taken more photos.

Ever noticed how photos are one of the first things that everyone rescues from their home in an emergency. There’s a good reason for that – photos mean memories and emotions. A reminder of experiences, of community, of fun times, and of a life well-lived.

pope selfie

7. I wish I had started my “private” university earlier.

Robert Kiyosaki is right. We go to school but do we really get educated on the things that really matter after we finish school ? Things like financial acumen; communication skills and emotional intelligence; life skills like discovering your purpose, getting over disappointment and developing belief in yourself. I’ve learnt that self-development and personal education is so valuable. So build your personal library and read more. Listen to more podcasts and CDs in the car. Read a book a month and you’ve read 100 books in 10 years. Listen to a podcast a week and that’s 250 learnings and lessons in 5 years. Imagine what that knowledge could do for you.

8. I wish I had learned the true power of a thank you.

I’m trying to make sure I say a genuine “thankyou’ more often. To adopt an attitude of gratitude. Life is nicer this way.  Hint: send a card, send a gift or write a letter to someone that deserves it today.

9. I wish I had not been “too busy” for my parents.

When you get older and life gets busier with family, work and other commitments, you only have less time for your parents and grandparents. Time is precious with them. And besides, when you realise that they’re people, just like you, it makes you realise that they’re pretty interesting, smart, and fun to be around. The older you get the more they appreciate that time with you too.

camping - bikes Fam - my 29

10. I wish I was less concerned with what everyone else thought about me.

Here’s eight words to remove from your vocabulary: “What will people say? What will people think?”
I wish I’d realised earlier how irrelevant other people’s opinions were to my life and to making me happy. I’ve learnt to not live by others expectations or opinions. Stay true to yourself and don’t be so concerned with what others think about you.

11. I wish I would have laughed more.

Make sure to laugh everyday. Just like children do. Learn to speak the language of “serious fun.” As it implies, get the serious stuff done … but make sure you have your share of fun and play, too.


12. I wish I would have realised that the world is “service” oriented and relationship based.

I wish I’d learnt earlier the power of serving others. From two aspects. From the selfish side, I wish I’d learnt the power of the “law of reciprocity” earlier – that is that people feel an inherent obligation to reciprocate your kind actions. But more importantly, the older you get, the more you realise that it’s not about what you get, but what you give back that really counts. And you realise that it’s the relationships you make that are the things that make life easier, better and more enjoyable.

13. I wish I’d learnt that there is a big difference between regret and disappointment.

I’ve learned this the hard way – through many disappointments. But the good part is that those disappointments came in the pursuit of my dreams and after having given it everything – like my crash in my second Olympics. In these tough times I had no regrets eating away at me, only bitter disappointment. But they’re different. And the understanding that regret and disappointment are different is so powerful because it frees you up to go after every other dream you have for your life, even if you don’t know whether it will turn out the way you want. You’ll go after these things because you understand and appreciate that twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.


14. I wish I had been a morning person.

I’m still not a morning person, but I’m trying. It is indeed the best time of the day. The time to get things done early. Or the time for stillness and reflection. Or the time for exercise before the busyness of the day.


15. I wish I had learnt the power of language earlier.

Through my sport and NLP courses I have learnt the power of language – to effect the image we have in our mind, which affects the emotions we feel, which affects our actions. Language is far more powerful than we often give it credit for. Use it powerfully for yourself and use it powerfully to encourage and build up others not tear them down.

Its easier to build up a child than repair an adult

16. I wish I had built my network even faster.

The older you get the more you realise the power of networks, connections and relationships. Both for business and for your personal life. Surround yourself with people who have done more than you, gone further than you and inspire you. Just like the tide, you will rise or fall according to the influential people around you and the relationships you have.

17. I wish I had learnt to count to 10, recite ‘Baa baa black sheep’ or sleep on things earlier.

I’m a bit impetuous and emotional. I react quickly. As you get older you realise it is much better to be wise about what you say or email in the first instance as it is far harder to try and restore relationships or take things back later. You realise that reacting and retaliating merely escalates things and responding with a clear head rather than emotions is much wiser and will serve you better.

18. I wish I had learnt that the best things really are free.

Health. Loving relationships. Freedom. Inner peace. Purpose. It is these things that make our lives rich and make us truly happy. And they’re free. They can’t be bought and they can’t be earned. And sadly and ironically that’s the opposite of what the world teaches us.

Trying to be happy by possessions

19. I wish I had learnt that only the good feel guilty.

Bad people don’t feel guilty. Good people feel guilty because they are good and they feel they have done wrong, let somebody down or made a mistake. Good people have a conscience. So if you feel guilty that’s a good sign. In that event, recognise the guilt, put it right, learn the lesson, drop the guilt and move on.

20. I wish I had learnt that you’ll never understand everything.

I’ve learnt that the world is big and complex. That people behave oddly. That things will go unexpectedly wrong – or right. That some things just don’t make sense. That I wont be able to understand everything or figure everything out. But letting go and learning to live with the questions and the unknown can ironically help you sleep easier at night and bring a peace of mind.


1803, 2015

Fishing without knowing it is not fish you’re after

By |March 18th, 2015|Life lessons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after”
(Henry David Thoreau)

It’s a funny quote this isn’t it because it could be interpreted in a few ways. For me it makes me think of two things.

Firstly, the journey. In today’s society we are so goal focussed. And I’m certainly guilty of this – both as an individual and also as someone who writes on this and speaks on this a lot. But ‘guilty’ is not the right word because being purpose-driven and having a dream and chasing goals around this dream is not a bad thing at all. In fact it is a great thing. BUT, often we spend our whole lives chasing the goal (our whole lives fishing), without realising that it is not in the achievement, but in the activity itself that we find enjoyment, meaning and value. Is the contestant on The Biggest Loser proud of losing all that weight? Of course. But do they also look back and realise they are prouder of the person they’ve become through the journey that enabled them to lose that weight?! Is the Olympian proud of getting to the Olympics? Of course. But are they also proud of the journey and what it took to even qualify and get there?!

Secondly, perspective.  When I wrote A Life That Counts and chose the title it was because I wanted to challenge us as to what it means to live a life that really matters and stands for something. I’m all for following my/your dreams and achieving my/your goals. I write about this and speak about this so often. But, they’re just part of the picture of life. They’re not the whole fabric. The purpose of life is far greater than our own personal fulfilment, our career and our own peace of mind. It is not measured solely by an Olympic medal, by a particular goal achieved, by how wealthy you are and what you earn, by how many twitter followers you have, or by public recognition and fame. After all, at our funeral and after we die, it’s not our achievements, our degrees, our bank balance or our fame that people will really remember and speak about. I write more about this in the last chapter of my book. What is it to live a life that counts?

Furthermore, happiness and fulfilment aren’t ‘out there’, they’re within. They’re independent of circumstance and they don’t rest solely on whether we achieve a specific goal. Succeeding in the game of life is bigger than all this. How often do we go running after things that we think will make us happy, only to realise that they don’t ultimately satisfy? The next car. The next job. The next girl or boy. The next drug. The next adventure or experience.  We go fishing to catch one kind of fish and realise it doesn’t make us happy, so we try and catch another one. We spend our whole lives fishing without realising it’s not the fish that will make us happy.  As a christian, it reminds me of the wise words of Jesus “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul. And what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). For me, Jesus is the only one that could satisfy my heart and fill that God-shaped hole that I tried to fill with so many other things. He is the only one that could fill me with a peace which is unexplainable.

Many men go fishing their whole lives, without knowing it is not fish they’re after. Food for thought.





1711, 2014

Are you happy ? … how to get happiness

By |November 17th, 2014|Life lessons, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Happiness. We all want to be happy don't we. It's on top of all of our lists when it comes to things we want in our life. And its the same for everyone – regardless of where you live in the world; no matter how rich or poor you are; no matter your background or your age – we all want to be happy.

The question then is how ? Some try and achieve it through money and wealth (buying happiness). Others through service and charity. Others through achievements. Others through meditation. Others through drugs and alcohol. Others through relationships and sex.

So what makes you happy ? Perhaps you remember a past blog I wrote on happiness where I shared some findings around happiness. Some of the key points I wrote about were:

  • Surprisingly, according to this research, genetics play a bigger role than we would have first thought in our happiness. And yet, life's circumstances (our wealth, material possessions, what happens to us) play a much smaller role than we would have first thought. It is why a Masai herdsman can be as happy as a multi-millionaire (see details here). Or why a lottery winner and a paraplegic can return to the same previous long-term happiness level (see this article and see here).
  • Most importantly, a big part of our happiness is determined by our intentional activity – what we think and what we do. And the good news is that this is in our control – so in this way happiness is a choice. So if we find and use strategies focussed on increasing our happiness (exercise gratitude, enjoy pleasurable activities, improve your stress management skills, manage and harness your thoughts, focussing on those things and those people that make you happy, make sure you are striving after the right goals for the right reasons etc) it can have a big effect.

So with that in mind, here's a couple of thoughts from my life experience so far as to things you can do that will contribute to being happier.

1.  Realise that it's your life and that you (and noone else) is responsible for your happiness.  This sounds so chiche, but it's true. You along know what makes you happy. You alone cultivate those things in your life. You alone do those activities, and surround yourself with those people, and think those thoughts, and make those decisions that contribute to your happiness. You alone create the happy life you dream of. You and not someone else.

2. Don't live your life by other people's expectations or to try to please everyone.  Don't live to please others. And don't live by their expectations and their comments. You'll never please everyone anyway and it honestly doesn't really matter that they think anyway. Live your life by the beat of your own drum. Live your life how you want to and on your terms.

3. Quit worrying.  What will worrying add to your life? It is time and energy invested in what you think and hope wont happen, and may not actually happen. Worrying achieves absolutely nothing. It isn't productive. It wastes precious time. It is destructive in many cases. And it puts your focus in the wrong direction. Learn to quit worrying and you'll be a whole lot happier.

4. You can't buy happiness. Never forget that the best things in life truly are free. Health. Love. Relationships. Satsfaction. Enjoyment. Purpose. Happiness. You can't buy these. We try and fill our life with things that give us 'momentary' pleasure. And in many respects these 'things' complicate our lives. Life is simpler than that. And happiness is simpler than that too – despite what the world tries to tell us.


My Challenge
What makes you happy ? Find out. Cultivate and embrace these things. Implement them in your life
. And let your happiness be the judge and proof of if they make a difference. 

1009, 2013

I believe …

By |September 10th, 2013|Life lessons|0 Comments

I’m always reading books on life lessons and wisdom. Perhaps it is me just getting older. Or perhaps it is me getting wiser 🙂 and realising that the smarter person learns from the experiences / mistakes / lessons of others, rather than needing to learn everything through their own experience. Either way, I hope you’ll like this. I saw it on Facebook and thought I’d share it with you, along with a few of my own additions throughout. Enjoy.


I believe … You should take more photos. A Birth Certificate shows that we were born. A Death Certificate shows that we died. But pictures show that we have lived !They remind us of all out adventures and experiences. Of the people we’ve met and the friends we’ve had/have. They remind us of the good and the bad times; the funny times and the sad times; the silly times and the sacred moments.
I believe … That just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do.

I believe … That we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I believe … That no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that. No one is perfect after all and we all make mistakes, whether intentionally or not.

I believe … That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. The same goes for true love.

I believe … That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life. Regret is a terrible thing.

I believe … That it’ s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I believe … That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them. And even if it isn’t, telling people how you really feel is such a great way to live your life and enrich your relationships.

I believe … That you can keep going long after you think you can’t.

I believe … That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I believe … That either you control your attitude or it controls you. And this is one of the hardest battles. To conquer that little voice and to master your speech and thoughts. But it is a battle that is worth winning. As mindset and attitude are such keys to living a happy, enriched and fulfilled life.

I believe … That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. And the greatest heroes are often the ones no-one sees.

I believe … That money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I believe …  that trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body. (A great quote by George Carlin – and its true. True happiness is so much deeper and broader than just possessions or money.)

I believe … That sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I believe … That maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I believe … That it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I believe … That no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief. For better or worse, life goes on.

I believe … That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

I believe … Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I believe … That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

I believe … That even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you – you will find the strength to help.

I believe … That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I believe … That life is precious and that the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.

I believe … The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have. Or said another way – happiness is not necessarily having everything you want, but wanting what you have.

I believe … we were created by God. That the world he created is incredible – from every different animal; to the miracle of birth; to the intricacy of the human eye; to the power of the human brain; to sun and wind and snow and sand; to the conscience he imprinted on everyone’s hearts. I believe that Jesus was born, lived, died and rose and that he is God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that the bible and science aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe that there is a lot we don’t yet know about the world and a lot we may never know. I believe that religion is man-made and has a lot to answer for – and that religion and what Jesus actually taught and stood for (as we read in the bible) are often very different (sadly). I believe that God gets a bad wrap – that he isn’t a kill-joy or out to get us. He loves us far more than we will ever know and delights in doing us good. I believe you don’t need to see things to believe in them.

I believe … that wars never solve anything and that love is the answer.

1607, 2013

10 powerful things extraordinary people say every day

By |July 16th, 2013|Life lessons, Miscellaneous, Success|0 Comments












As an athlete I know the power of language for affecting my psychology and then in turn my physiology and performance. But more broadly, language is around us everywhere and is far more powerful in its influence than what we often think. Certain words, or phrases, or ways of saying things can make a big difference.

So here’s a list of 10 things that you should say everyday that will make a difference. Say them to your employees, colleagues, family members, friends, loved one and so on:

1. “Here’s what I’m thinking.”

You’re might be in charge, but that doesn’t mean you’re smarter, savvier, or more insightful than everyone else. So phrase your thinking like this. It allows you to back up your statements and decisions, to give reasons, to justify, to explain … but it also opens up those decisions to discussion, and criticism, and … improvement.

Authority can make you “right,” but collaboration makes everyone right – and makes everyone pull together.

2. “I was wrong.”

Oh how right this is. How often do you someone say they’re sorry though? And how powerful is it when people do? Because the thing is, we will all make wrong decisions at one time or another. We’ll make decisions based on things that looked good on paper but in practice were a failure and caused inconvenience, pain and cost. The fact is – we’ll stuff up in some, way, shape and form as none of us are perfect.

When you’re wrong, say you’re wrong. You won’t lose respect – you’ll gain it.

3. “That was awesome. Well done.”

In many cultures (for example Asia) praise is rare. People worry about the effects of praise. They argue that it can lead to inflated egos, to complacency, to performance drops and so on. But both myself and much of the research disagrees. (Read this article on parenting for example).

In my opinion, no one gets enough praise. No one. Why else do employees consistently report on surveys that they don’t get enough recognition or praise and yet employers always feel they’re giving enough or too much praise to begin with? There are a lot of myths and excuses around giving praise as this article outlines well. Of course there are ways and means, but the point is praise should not be rare.

Praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient. Start praising. The people around you will love you for it – and you’ll like yourself a little better, too.

4. “You’re welcome.”

Think about a time when you gave a gift and the recipient seemed uncomfortable or awkward. Their reaction took away a little of the fun for you, right? The same thing can happen when you are thanked or complimented or praised. Don’t spoil the moment or the fun for the other person. The spotlight may make you feel uneasy or insecure, but all you have to do is make eye contact and say, “Thank you.” Or make eye contact and say, “You’re welcome. I was glad to do it.”

Don’t let thanks, congratulations, or praise be all about you. Make it about the other person, too.

5. “Can you help me?”

When you need help, regardless of the type of help you need or the person you need it from, just say, sincerely and humbly, “Can you help me?”. You see, as adults, we tend to frame our request for help to signal our importance (you’re smart, experienced, savvy and accomplished after all) and importantly, to protect our egos. Yet, if we just asked the simple question of “Can you help me?”, I promise you’ll get help.

And in the process you’ll show vulnerability, respect, trust and a willingness to listen – which, by the way, are all qualities of a great leader. And are all qualities of a great friend.

6. “I’m sorry.”

Just like “I was wrong” saying “I’m sorry” is powerful. And we all make mistakes and have things we need to apologise for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support etc. So say you’re sorry. But never follow an apology with a disclaimer like “But I was really mad, because…” or “But I did think you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more. Then you both get to make the freshest of fresh starts.

7. “Can you show me?”

Advice is temporary; knowledge is forever. Knowing what to do helps, but knowing how or why to do it means everything. Just as is the case for “Can you help me?”, when you ask “Can you show me?”, you implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice; you show you trust his or her experience, skill, and insight; and you get to better assess the value of the advice.

Don’t just ask for input. Ask to be taught or trained or shown. Then you both win.

8. “Let me give you a hand.”

Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness. So, many people hesitate to ask for help. But we all need help at some point. So instead, offer to help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will give you a version of the reflexive “No, I’m just looking” reply to sales clerks and say, “No, I’m all right.” Instead, be specific. Say “I’ve got a few minutes. Can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

Model the behaviour you want your employees to display. Then actually roll up your sleeves and help.

9. “I love you.”

This goes without saying. Well, not at work, but everywhere you mean it – and every time you feel it.

10. Nothing.

I think this is the biggest lesson I’ve been slow to learn over the last number of years. Sometimes the best thing is to say nothing – I never knew that could be such a powerful lesson ! Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. If you’re upset, frustrated, or angry, stay quiet. You may think venting will make you feel better, but it never does. And that’s especially true where your employees are concerned. Results come and go, but feelings are forever. Criticize an employee in a group setting and it will seem like he or she will eventually got over it, but inside, he or she never will.

Before you speak, spend more time considering how employees will think and feel than you do evaluating whether the decision makes objective sense. You can easily recover from a mistake made because of faulty data or inaccurate projections. But you’ll never recover from the damage you inflict on an employee’s self-esteem.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. (Proverbs 17:28).
Be quiet until you know exactly what to say – and exactly what affect your words will have.

2603, 2013

Are you happy ? … some keys and truths to happiness

By |March 26th, 2013|Life lessons|0 Comments

We all want to be happy. It’s natural. It’s on the top of all of our lists, no matter where in the world we live. It’s a good aim.

But many of us aren’t happy are we. And we chase after many things in life in search of it. Heck, there’s even an entire emerging branch of psychology (positive psychology) that has been coined out of the search of happiness and taking a proactive approach to fostering positive qualities in individuals.

The problem though isn’t in determining what we want, but more in figuring out how we go about attaining it.
What do we change? What will make us happy? How do we attain it?
Here’s a few interesting keys and truths around happiness to help you.


* Many things contribute to make us happy
Sonja Lyubomirsky is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California. She and her colleagues have done a lot of research into what makes us happy and strategies that can be used to increase happiness. (Sonja Lyubomirsky, David Schkade and Kennon M. Sheldon, “Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change“, 2005). According to this research, 50% of our happiness is genetically determined, 10% is determined by life’s circumstances and the remaining 40% is determined by our intentional activity ie what we think and what we do.

That a large part of our happiness is genetic is intriguing I know. (See this article in Forbes magazine for research done around studying identical twins where the common genetic factors played a large part in their happiness, not just the environmental differences in their lives. Or read more about the ‘happiness gene’ as described in this newspaper article). I guess though, that if genetic factors play a role in someone’s intelligence or athletic prowess, then it is not a stretch to believe that a happy disposition can be genetically predetermined.

But more importantly, let’s focus on the fact that a number of factors contribute to whether we’re happy or not. And

 * Happiness is not just about material possessions or conditions

If you assume the above research is true, then what is means is that all that happiness that we seek through material possessions (the better car, bigger house, more money, the new pair of shoes, that new TV etc.) or through our external circumstances and conditions will only make a small difference in our reported levels of well being and life satisfaction (Lyubomirsky, 2007). Far less than what we’ve been led to believe.

It means if you were rich, had the perfect mate, and were in terrific health, you would only be 10% happier than if you were poor, single, and in bad shape physically. 

If your genetic set point favors misery, making a lot of money or even getting a rock hard body won’t tip the happiness scales in your favor. Sure, you may temporarily feel better following an achievement or gaining some material possession, such as a house, but within a year you’ll be back where you were before the changes occurred.

Surely that can’t be true? Are you telling me that I wouldn’t be happier after becoming a millionaire? Well, research proves otherwise. According to studies of lottery winners (see this article), as well as people who became paraplegics from an accident (see here), both groups returned to their previous level of happiness within less than a year. Or see this well known study where Masai herdsmen rated themselves and had the same happiness as the Forbes 400 richest Americans – see details here). Money wont buy you happiness. And most negative life experiences likewise have only a small impact on long-term satisfaction.

Do you see the point?  If you’re already miserable, your misery will continue even if you become a millionaire but if you’re happy in general, even upon becoming a paraplegic, you’ll eventually return to happiness after an adaptation phase.  We spend our lives trying to change our conditions in order to be happy, without realizing that it’s not working.


* Following your dreams / goals is good, but stop and think about the point of your goals

Have you been putting all of your energy into setting and chasing goals that you think will make you happy, but may not do so – or certainly not to the same degree as you thought.

Instead of putting almost all of your energy into chasing things that only slightly improve your happiness,  put your energy into that portion of happiness (40 %) that is in your control (what you do and what you think), and learn to harness it’s potential to bring about a happier life.



A number of factors contribute to our happiness. But clearly not the ones we think or that we spend most of our energy on.

Like me, you’re probably surprised that your genetics play such a big part in your level of happiness. But that is not the point – don’t be a slave to your genetic set point – anything can be improved. Just as you can learn more and become more intelligent, or lift more and get stronger – you’re capable of greater, more meaningful, happiness.

So put less focus on material possessions and your external circumstances (which don’t massively affect your level of happiness) and put more focus on your internal thoughts and intentions which make a bigger difference to your happiness (and are also most within your control). Find and use strategies to increase your happiness (exercise gratitude, enjoy pleasurable activities, improve your stress management skills, manage and harness your thoughts, make sure you are striving after the right goals for the right reasons etc).

And even if you never win the award for ‘Happiest Person on the Planet’, deepening your experience of happiness is reward enough !!!


503, 2013

The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbeds

By |March 5th, 2013|A Life That Counts, Life lessons|0 Comments

I wanted to share with you a post by a woman named Bronnie Ware. She worked in palliative care for many years. Her patients were those who had gone home to die and she was with them for the last 3-12 weeks of their lives.  She wrote in her blog about regrets of the dying and I want to share them with you. They’re a good reminder of what’s important and valuable in life and what we should try to remember amidst the busyness and speed of our lives these days.


People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five: 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”


 Perhaps we should live a little more like we were dying ! With the perspective that you tend to have on your deathbed.
So are there any regrets and life lessons of the dying that you can learn from ? Are there any things that you want to make a conscious choice and decision around (now) in order to change for the better.

2012, 2012

Gratitude – like wrapping a present without giving it ?

By |December 20th, 2012|Life lessons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Someone once said to me that feeling gratitude without sharing it with someone is like wrapping a present without giving it to the person.

So with this statement in my head and Christmas almost upon us it led me to start thinking about how I could be more thankful and grateful in my life. After all, I am so blessed. Blessed with an amazing family. Blessed to live in Australia – with freedom, democracy, a good economy, no war, no famine, an incredible lifestyle and so on. Blessed to be have given my life to Jesus and to have a real and personal relationship with him. Blessed to live in the apartment that I do at Queenscliff overlooking Manly beach and living with a great flatmate. Blessed to have the great friends I do. Blessed to be fit and healthy and to have lived such an active, jam-packed life so far. Blessed to be living in a rich, western country and not be born into extreme poverty. Blessed to have travelled and seen the world like I have. And on and on and on.

I am blessed and it would serve me well to be more grateful for this.  To be more consciously aware of all my blessings and to take those moments to stop and smell the roses and be thankful for all I have and all I have experienced (and all I haven’t experienced too).



So here’s some thoughts that I’ve come up with on how to be more grateful. perhaps they’ll encourage you to do the same.

1. Give an unexpected compliment every day – share my gratitude
2. Keep a gratitude journal – I know this isn’t for everyone just like writing a personal journal resonates with some and doesn’t with others. But  perhaps I can write occasionally in a journal and list all the things I am thankful for in order to help me become more consciously aware of what I have.
3. Reframing – to actively try and see things from a different perspective. For example – what is a gift or something that I can be thankful for that has been wrapped up by punishment, hardship or pain. How can I actively take a different more thankful and positive view?
4. One vote of thanks every day – why don’t I say thanks or be thankful for something everyday. And say it out aloud to give it more weight. (Thanks for the sunrise. Thanks for the sleep-in. Thanks for the ferry ride. Thanks that I feel better. Thanks for that meal. And so on).

Don’t you agree that being more grateful is a great way to go through life.
But even more than that, feeling gratitude without sharing it with someone is like wrapping a present without giving it to the person. So let’s be grateful but let’s also share that gratitude (via compliments or other ways). It is a free gift to give and is good for both you and everyone else !

2711, 2012

The irony of judement

By |November 27th, 2012|Life lessons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

There’s a funny story to when I learnt this. I had won some money whilst working at ANZ and was able to spend it on my own self-development. I could do whatever I wanted as long as it got signed off. Well, whilst some went off and started their masters, and others did some specific courses on offer … I went ice-climbing in NZ.

Well aside from that being a life experience (and a frightening one for that matter), I also did a whole host of personality profiles. I did one called the LSI (Lifestyles Inventory) and as part of this you get your family / friends/ boss / employees to fill out a comprehensive questionnaire on you. And then you do the same yourself. You then compare the two results and low and behold others see you differently to how you see yourself.

The life lesson learnt – you judge others by their actions but yourself by your intentions.

It is said that when you point the finger you have one finger pointing at someone else, but don’t forget you have 4 fingers still pointing back at you. And the Bible puts it like this “Get the log out of your own eye before you get the speck out of someone elses”.

Before we judge others, we should first judge ourselves.
And if ever we do judge others we should never forget to judge ourselves by the same standards to avoid being hypocritical.
After all, we judge others by their actions but ourselves by our intentions.



1311, 2012

A good lesson taught by a mayonnaise jar

By |November 13th, 2012|Life lessons, Miscellaneous|0 Comments

I was watching a really interesting show on TV last night about the Amish. In the show a number of university students went and lived with the Amish and experienced their traditional lifestyle – one of simplicity; of no mod-cons such as TV, cars and phones; of family; of the bible; and of working the land. What was particularly interesting for me was to see how the students opinions changed as they understood and appreciated the Amish lifestyle, and just as fascinating was to see how the Amish reacted when exposed to things like iphones, Facebook, Twitter, shopping malls, advertising etc. Most interesting and surprising was to see how they didn’t feel like they were badly missing out. Instead they gained an increasing appreciation for the good things about the lifestyle that they lived and adopted.

And it reminded me of a good lesson taught by a mayonnaise jar and a professor in a philosophy class …

When the class began, the philosophy professor wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full … they agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full … they agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full … the students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

  • The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
  • The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.
  • The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend !

We’ve heard it before. But it really the simple and important things in life that make our world go around and not the small stuff. So may you keep the main things the main things this week !