A couple of weeks ago I decided it might be lovely to write a post about the constant battle we face with our Fundamental Darkness (FD) – the illusions and self-slander that stop us seeing our own and others’ Buddhahood (wisdom, courage, compassion and joy) and stop us achieving our goals. As a result my own negativity went into overdrive and the last thing I wanted to do was write this blog.
I then came across some super-strict (and compassionate…) guidance from Daisaku Ikeda (you may have seen it on my Facebook page…). So, are you ready for some advice that removes all your excuses for unhappiness and helps you take responsibility for your whole life? Yes? Good, here goes then:
Recently several of my clients have shared with me that they feel jealous and/or that they find themselves comparing their lives unfavourably to the lives of others.
But when we compare ourselves to others, we are ignoring our own uniqueness, as Daisaku Ikeda reveals when explaining one of Nichiren’s famous writings: “Cherries are cherries. Peaches are peaches. A cherry could never become a peach. It wouldn’t be necessary. Even if it did, it wouldn’t be happy. We should live in a way that is true to ourselves. We could not become someone else, even if we wanted to. Our lives are precious and irreplaceable.”
In other words you’re better off being the best cherry you can be rather than wishing you had been born a peach. (Or having facelifts until you look like a peach…)
Last week I had the good fortune to be training some teenagers from Southend in Essex, one of my favourite seaside towns. All of them had been excluded from mainstream schools and/or came from disadvantaged backgrounds. Luckily there are two people who believe in their potential, their teacher Rachael O’Brienand Stuart Long (of South Essex Homes), who have set up a Football Club for them, with funds they have fought long and hard to obtain. More info on Southend ATF (Achievement Through Football) here: http://achievementthroughfootball.org/
We had two marvellous days together, a mix of football plus the mindset and happiness stuff I teach on The Winning Edge personal development programme. This wonderful experience proved that with some warm but strict encouragement plus a more positive way of looking at themselves and the world, even kids who’ve had the toughest starts in life can discover a spark of hope, an inner resilience and a new sense of purpose. More about these lovely kids and their dreams at the end of this post.
How can we become happy in life and carry on growing? One of the best ways is to choose an inspirational mentor. Here are 10 tips on how to choose a great mentor, based on my experience of both business and Buddhism. Choose someone who:
1. has been and remains a brilliant pupil / follower himself
2. sees your brilliance when you cannot find it any more
3. has strong enough self-esteem and humility to celebrate your successes rather than feel threatened by them
4. will stretch you to your limits (and beyond) while supporting you to the max
5. will hold you accountable when you can’t quite find the courage or honesty to do so
[pic shows SGI’s Daisaku Ikeda with his late mentor Josei Toda]
Daisaku Ikeda wrote: “Hope transforms pessimism into optimism. Hope is invincible. Hope changes everything. It changes winter into summer, darkness into dawn, descent into ascent, barrenness into creativity, agony into joy. Hope is the sun. It is light. It is passion. It is the fundamental force for life’s blossoming. Hope is a decision you make. Hope is a flame we nurture in our hearts that must be fanned by our determination.”
Sometimes I coach people who are feeling pretty pessimistic and say to me: “I’ve lost my confidence,” or “my mojo has gone.” Maybe you feel this way sometimes? I used to take these comments at face value and see it as my job to instil belief or motivation during the rest of the coaching session. Then it dawned on me one day when I was chanting for the happiness of one particular person that this was an illusion and that I could not inject confidence into anyone.
I was coaching a company director recently who was struggling to get the best from his team. In conversation he revealed that he was worried about appearing ‘too successful’, adding that there was a “very fine line between confidence and arrogance.”
But Buddhism explains that they come from completely different places. Confident leaders want other people to reveal their talents and ultimately outperform them, whereas arrogant leaders need others to continuously feel ‘inferior’ so that they can protect their own low self-esteem (fragile ego) and hide their own deep anxiety.
In society and in our educational systems we tend to overrate IQ. To paraphrase the multiple intelligences theory of esteemed psychologist Howard Gardner, we measure how clever you are (intellectually) rather than how you are clever (which could include loads of other talents, such as fixing a car or knowing how to build rapport with people).
Someone asked me recently if I had a simple formula for success that was easy to remember and would help them get the best from the people they led.
So I went back through notes of my client conversations, looking for a pattern. I also looked back at my own failures and the blockages I was facing in my life at the time. From this exercise sprang a simple formula which I now call my ‘ABC CDE of success’:
Ability – do I have the skills and knowledge to achieve this goal?
Belief – do I believe I can do it and do I believe I deserve it? This includes having high self-esteem
Clarity – am I definitely sure this is what I want?