How to master a skill

Gemma O’Brien recently talked to us about her ambition to pursue mastery in her work. Something she touched on was the fact that mastering a skill is not, as it might initially seem, about achievement. Rather, it boils down to the experience of mastery itself. 

What is mastery?

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What does it mean to have mastered something? Does it mean to be proficient? To be skillful? And is mastery the same as success?

In a popular TED talk, Sarah Lewis suggests that mastery is, in fact, different to success. She explains that success is a time-bound event, something the world tells us we have achieved. Whereas mastery is something that comes from within, it is a constant pursuit. Mastery is in the reaching and not in the arriving. It is in “constantly wanting to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be,” says Sarah.

Why is mastery important?

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Psychologists have been talking about mastery for a number of years now. In fact, mastery is considered one of the six components that make up ‘psychological well being’. So really, experiencing mastery is an important part of living a comfortable, happy and healthy life. This is evident in the fact that the concept of mastery turns up everywhere in the study of human behaviour.

Self efficacy

We’ve mentioned Self efficacy previously on this blog, but essentially, it refers to your belief in your ability to do a task. And experiencing mastery, as it turns out, is one of the ways that we can develop our self-efficacy beliefs. So experience mastery and you’ll improve your belief in your own capabilities, which in turn, will objectively improve your performance in a task.

Flow

Ah, this is a personal favourite. First of all, what is flow? Flow is a term coined by happiness psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and refers to a state of complete immersion in an activity. It has been suggested that flow is actually the true nature of happiness. We typically experience flow when we are in the pursuit of, you guessed it, mastery.

What is cool about flow is that it suggests that doing the tasks we do, as in the process of doing it specifically, is intrinsically rewarding. Think of a time when you’ve been so absorbed in a task- reading a book, playing a game of chess, being ‘in the zone’ during a tough game of tennis, this is all flow. Csikszentmihalyi suggests that while it is great to finish the book/chess game/tennis match, true satisfaction will come from the process itself.

And the best flow experiences? These occur when the task you’re tackling is at the optimal level of difficulty, when you’re striving to improve and learn and grow, when you’re in pursuit of mastery.

Learning

Research into mastery is changing the way we go about learning and teaching in all domains of our lives. What we have found is that learning is not about competence, but rather about aspiring to master something. Students focused on learning and improvement, whose goals are to master a task, rather than those whose goals are to perform well at a task in comparison to others, have far better long term outcomes.

What can be mastered?

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Mastery can be experienced in almost any area. For example, American chef Julia Child, who has been credited as a culinary virtuoso, experienced mastery in the world of baking, broiling and simmering.

Gemma O’Brien, artist, typographer and generally all-round cool cat, similarly experiences mastery though her work. In an interview we had with her recently, she describes how, after discovering her passion for design, she found herself in pursuit of creating things she feels personally satisfied with. “Knowing deep down that what I am creating is somehow pushing myself further,” as opposed to feedback from other people, is what Gemma believes gives her the most purpose in her work.

Now. How do you go about experiencing mastery? We reckon you can do it in four steps.

Experience mastery in four steps:

1. Do lots of things

Get out there. Have you always wanted to surf? Write? Sing? Go do it. Or otherwise, consider something you’re already doing. Do you make enough time for these activities? It’s not just hobbies, it could be work. It could be becoming a better listener. Anything that doesn’t really have a ceiling. But do it.

2.  Find the thing you love

If you do enough things, and really give them your all, you will find the thing(s) you love. They mightn’t be the things you are best at. This is not about talent. But you’ll feel your brain fire as you work at this task. Something keeps drawing you back. Makes you feel curious and interested, energised and excited. Maybe this thing will help define your life purpose, something we discussed in a previous blog post, or maybe it will simply be something that is right for you in this moment.

3. Practice

The most crucial part of experiencing mastery is practice. As we mentioned above, mastery is not about success. It is not about doing well in something, and moving on from it. It is about the persistent and unrelenting drive to learn and grow from our experiences.

It can be difficult to frame things in this way, we are generally taught from a young age to work at something until we can check off that we have done it, and then move on. But consider again your motivations for doing the task. If you are intrinsically driven, you will find it easier to (even difficult not to) practice, practice and practice.

4. Enjoy the process

Take it back to what we mentioned above about Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow theory. This is about the process, not about the outcome. As much as we are taught to focus on grades and likes and pats on the back, these things do not lead to long term satisfaction. So focus on the fun and on the challenge. In this way, mastery is the secret to happiness. Do it for the process. #Doitfortheprocess.

Dating sober: how to do it

So it’s friday night and you get a text from the guy/girl you’ve recently given your number to. ‘Would u like to go out for a drink’ asks your charming suitor. But you’re not so sure. You’d love to hang out with him/her, but you’re now questioning whether this drinking and dating business is all it’s sought out to be. Maybe you don’t drink at all. Or maybe you are just taking a booze break for the moment.

Where to go from here?

Dating without drinking is hard. How do you quell the pre-date jitters that will inevitably encroach? What if your date is a drinker and feels uncomfortable? We’ve considered these issues and have a few pointers about how you can date sober, and have a great time while you’re at it.

Dating without alcohol

1. How to meet people when you’re dating sober? 

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Short answer: Tinder

Let’s be honest, Tinder has changed the way we date forever. The simple fact that you don’t need to ‘head out’ to meet people, cramped in a musty, boisterous bar, is game changing. And we’re not the only ones interested in the cultural phenomenon that is Tinder. The app is now so firmly embedded in the zeitgeist that there is both a song dedicated to it and a film being written about it.  And if Tinder is not your flavour, there’s Match.com, okcupid, Happn and a plethora of other matchmaking technologies to try out. As superficial or awkward it might feel at first, these dating apps provide you a chance to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise come across, say, at a bar. As this blog describes, Tinder presents a microcosm of what happens in the real offline dating world.

But honestly, almost anywhere else

Have you ever eyed someone that strikes your fancy while in line at the grocery store? Or when you’re on the train or at the gym. The thing is, when you start dating without alcohol you realise that you’re almost always on your A-game. Yes, it takes guts. But you’ve got them! Just go for it.

2. What to do on a date besides go out for drinks?

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While the default date might be drinks, there are actually a ton of other options to consider. The classic alternatives are of course coffee/dinner dates. Good standard date fare, you know more or less what to expect. But if you want to think outside the box, some options could include a visit to the museum, hiking, a peruse at the farmers markets or live music. Another good idea is to check out if there is anything interesting happening in your town like sporting events or film festivals.

Another date activity which seems to be gaining a bit of popularity is the active date. Whether it is rock climbing or dancing that tickles your fancy, active dates bring the goods by helping you get to know each other better. Plus there might be some advantages to getting your heart rate up when you’re courting as per the Misattribution theory of arousal. The idea is that your brain mistakenly attributes your increased heart rate to the physiological responses elicited by the body’s erm…arousal response, and as a result, both of you are more likely to find each other attractive.

3. How to deal with date nerves when you’re not drinking?

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Who doesn’t feel jittery before an exciting rendezvous? Not using alcohol to quell these nerves can feel daunting. A couple of things you can give a whirl instead:  

Relax

This may seem obvious but it is easier said than done. Figure out what works for you. Write or talk about your anxiety, maybe call a friend. Take a few deep breaths and try to get out of your own head.

Be comfortable

Wear what makes you feel the most comfortable (although maybe cover the basics like wearing shoes and having a shower) and schedule at a time that actually works for you. Some people like heading out straight after work so they don’t have time to dwell on their jitters, whereas others like to have some time to themselves beforehand.

Nerves can be good!

Your nerves could very well be indicating that there is something there. That is, chemistry. Alcohol typically dulls our sensory and emotional experience so without it we’re open to the raucous disarray of emotions that warp us when we’re under the spell of a potential new love. Of course, that doesn’t make the experience any easier, but try to reframe the experience in a way that embraces these jitters!

Go in with an open mind

Your date will probably be just as nervous as you. Plus, remember that you can’t control everything, it’s probable that throughout your lifetime you’ll have to sit through the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to dating. And the best part is that you’ll be learning about yourself all the way through . Of course that’s not to say it will go poorly! So maybe just imagine you’re going to see a mate to have a fun evening and approach the experience with an open mind.

4. How to date drinkers when you’re dating sober?

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First of all, consider why you are dating this person in the first place? If you have similar interests or values, then whether or not you’re drinking likely won’t be a concern. But it can feel uncomfortable at first. Try to consider it from their point of view too. What is it like for them to date someone who isn’t drinking?

At the end of the day, if your date is not comfortable with you declining a drink, you may want to reconsider whether you really want to spend time with them. Because, what dating sober does, is allow you the clarity of mind and sensory sensitivity to more realistically perceive the chemistry between you.

Plus if you’re in the early stages of seeing someone, know that, while it helps to be honest, you don’t owe anyone your life story or the reasons why you’re not having a drink.
And on top of all of that, you may actually open their eyes to a world of non-alcohol related possibilities. They might just love you for that.

How to deal with negativity from other people

“I was met with a lot of doubt and a lot of resistance,” Maz Compton told us last week, as she reflected on the reactions that others had when she changed her relationship with alcohol.

We often hear about the difficulties that the Hello Sunday Morning community come across when they decide to take a new look at their relationship with alcohol. The loudest of these rumblings seem to come from the same place: other people. Namely, other people’s reactions to your decision to change your drinking habits.

We’ve considered a few things you can try to tackle this doubt head-on and stay on course.

Tackle doubt

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Doubt is a slippery thing. It can begin to encroach from all angles of our social circles, arising from co-workers, family, and even from our closest friends. Often others’ doubt of our ability to succeed starts to bleed into our own confidence levels, stirring baneful self-doubt within us.

Use others’ doubt to your advantage

Our advice here is to take a leaf from Maz’s book, and use others’ doubt as motivation.

In this popular YouTube video, the narrator expresses that their most powerful motivation comes from people who told them they couldn’t do something. Because when they were told they couldn’t do it, they were bound and determined to show their doubters that they could. Use that power to prove others wrong.

This also highlights an important point about control, or rather the lack thereof, which we have over other people and their personal beliefs. Instead of focusing on what others are thinking or doing, focus on what you can control, your own thoughts and your own behaviour.

You gotta have faith

The best way to focus on things within your control? Channel George Michael and keep faith that you’ve got this. And we mean really, truly believe. As the uncontested Queen of reinvention, Oprah, proclaims, you ultimately become what you believe. And while this retains a twinge of psychobabble-self-help-guidance, the basic principles turn out to be empirically supported in the form of “self-efficacy.” Self-efficacy essentially refers to how much you believe you will succeed at a task and, interestingly, is associated with positive outcomes. That is,  if you think you can succeed, you are, believe it or not, more likely to succeed. Cool, right?

Stay social

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Now, we’re well aware that within most corners of contemporary society, the association between drinking and socialising remains pretty persistent. But just because you are taking a booze break or cutting back, does not mean you have to throw out your social calendar.  

You’re cutting out alcohol, not friends. Wine, not dinner. Beer, not footy. You don’t want to fall into the trap of resenting your decision to improve your relationship with alcohol because you no longer do the things you love

Maintain your sense of self

You’re still the same person you always were. You are still fun. You are still capable of celebrating and being joyous. And while the decision not to drink does not define you, for most of us, our social interactions (do on some level) stand to shape our identities.

You’re cutting out alcohol, not friends. Wine, not dinner. Beer, not footy. You don’t want to fall into the trap of resenting your decision to improve your relationship with alcohol because you no longer do the things you love. Of course, that’s not to say that you need to become more extroverted and social than you naturally are. If you want to go out, go out. If you want to stay in, so be it.

Relationships might change

Still, we won’t sugarcoat it. Sometimes with a lifestyle change like this, the nature of our relationships also change. These changes could stem from you, or, from your social circles. Either way they are difficult. But you never know until you’re out in there in the social wilderness.

Know your audience

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There are times when you will feel comfortable being honest to fellow party-goers, to whom you won’t need to provide any more of an explanation than, “I just don’t want to drink tonight.”

However, it is likely you’ll encounter certain situations during which you’ll feel far less comfortable with sobriety. Sometimes the pressure to drink (aka beer pressure) can be pretty overwhelming, and depending on your social environment can even feel hostile.

There are a couple of things you can do.

Play the part

Essentially, grab a booze-free bevy in a nice glass, and don’t bring it up. Chances are that people are most concerned with what’s in their own glass.

Locate comrades

At any social event, you will certainly not be the only non drinker. Others might have early mornings to wake up for, diets to maintain, children to attend to, cars to drive, or may be taking a break themselves. You could also find a sober buddy to accompany you on escapades out on the town. Sometimes it just helps to have another person by your side.

Empathise with your companions

The first step in understanding the people who are giving you a hard time, is to consider where they’re coming from. For example, it is possible they haven’t realised that the way they’re projecting doubt or pressure onto you is making you uncomfortable. Plus, it is entirely likely they themselves are assuming (along with the rest of the world) that we need alcohol in order to have fun, and their concern is actually whether you are having a good time.

That said, changing your relationship with alcohol is, in truth, difficult. Other people’s negativity and doubt does not make the process any easier. But at the end of the day, this is about your relationship with alcohol, not theirs. So do all you can to plan for and empower yourself in certain situations, and always put yourself first.

How to go to a gig sober

Historically, mind altering substances and music have gone together naturally. Alcohol in particular has such a ubiquitous presence at social events that in some of these contexts, it’s considered inconceivable to forgo drinking. So we’ve considered the challenge of going to a gig sober. 

Okay, so it sounds like a great idea but what does it take to actually pull this off? Here we have some suggestions for how to go to a gig, or any other social event, as sober as judge, and have an excellent time while you’re at it.

  1. Start small

    you can't go all-out at every one
    Realistically, you just can’t go all-out at every gig

Some might find that heading to a local, smaller gig to start with is a good way to have a solid crack at going sober to a social event. Of course, it depends on the atmosphere, but smaller venues might provide a better environment to observe your comfort level. You might realise that without alcohol, you get tired sooner, or that you need something to do with your hands. Caffeine can help and so can a glass of tonic water. Start out small to figure out what you need and what works best for you. 

2. Ask for support

Consider having a discussion with close friends or family about your decision to take on this challenge. Of course, this is easier said than done, but trust that genuine friends will want to look out for you. When Jezebel talked to author Sacha Scoblic about her book, Unwasted: my lush sobriety, one of the biggest takeaways was to talk to your friends. Scoblic suggests that your sobriety can benefit your friends, too, as you help them realise a new way of experiencing social events. You might even consider asking a mate to join in on being sober for the night. Think about the support you need to get through the evening, and then don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Plus, you can talk to the folks who are heading to the upcoming event with you. Are you feeling anxious? Excited? Either way, let them know how you feel about making this choice.

3. Look forward to the show

Go to something you actually want to see. Be it a small show at the local pub HSM gig soberor a head-banging metal concert, whatever suits your fancy. But get excited! This way you’ll be able to try focus on the show itself as opposed to the drink you’d usually be downing. 

Plus, alcohol’s depressant qualities kind of dull your senses. Without it, your eyes and ears can feast. In fact, considering the amazing way that music affects our brains, it’s not so far off the mark to describe music as a drug in and of itself (despite this fitting a painful loudmouth cliche).

4. Discover

Memories, my friends!
Discover the experience and create memories.

Discover the experience. The sights, the sounds, the whole shebang. Check out this account of a festival raver who discovered that the sober gig experience wasn’t just alright, it was better; suggesting that everyone should give it a go at least once.

Discover the power of dance. Give into the music’s unrelenting pulse of invitation. You might feel silly at first. Or afraid of how you will look. But you needn’t, and you shouldn’t. Instead, in the cheesy but true words of William Purkey (or Mark Twain, no one is really sure):

Sing like no one is listening.

Love like you’ve never been hurt.

Dance like nobody’s watching,

And live like it’s heaven on earth.
Because, really, what’s the worst that could happen?

5. Know you’re not alone

At an event like a festival, people often assume everyone is drinking. And up until now, you also might have assumed this about everyone there. But, in fact, it is becoming increasingly popular to go to social events like festivals sober.
As sobriety begins to gain a more fashionable reputation, a host of events which are structured around the burgeoning sober culture are beginning to pop up. From juice crawls to sober daytime raves, many are realising the value of enjoying experiences, alcohol-free.

Get gigging!

 

How to bring your A-game

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“It’s something I’ve got to bring my A-game to,” Peter FitzSimons says of his life now.

Over the past few years, Peter – one of Australia’s foremost cultural contemporaries – has been exploring his relationship with alcohol. He spoke with us about the mental fogginess and fatigue associated with what, for a lot of us, have been standard drinking patterns, as well as the clarity that befalls him now that he has changed his relationship with alcohol.

“The new normal,” he says, “is a clear head.”

Clarity of mind is a state that comes with a swell in your energy for life, but it’s hard to attain. Here to help you on the journey, we have considered a few ways through which you can develop a sense of clarity and uncover energy to meet every day with your A-game.

How to develop a sense of Clarity

Practice daily centering  

Take a deep breath

These days it’s easy to feel inundated with appeals to meditate, to be mindful, to be present, and so on. But despite the mantra-chanting archetypes that may come to mind, the process of centering needn’t be esoteric and weighty. There are many different techniques of meditation, all of them great ways to center yourself by bringing your thoughts into the present and decluttering your mind.

A simple illustrated guided meditation
How to meditate by Yumi Sakugawa

Other processes for centering might include deep breathing or even something like brain dumping, which involves writing down whatever is on your mind – a more active form of meditation. Whatever process works for you, take it and form a ritual to practice daily. Developing such practices allows us to find space in the day. Space that can be used for grounding, re-establishing our goals and reconnecting to our values, all functions of the frequently vacuumed and well polished mindspace. Do it in the morning, right before bed, in a lunch break, or every time you feel flustered, confused or overwhelmed during the day. And if you’re still feeling as though the contemporary preoccupation with mindfulness is just another disposable trend, try watching Carl Sagan’s renowned Pale Blue Dot lecture as an exercise in realising the sobering humble nature of our reality.

How much of our own anxiety do we create ourselves, as we trudge through our chores and duties, chanting words like ‘should’, ‘need’ and ‘cannot’? Remember that even while busy, when stripped of the superfluous wants and needs of our mighty world, you are just as you always were.

One minute reflecting on something like this can do wonders for your focus and provide you with the clarity of mind you need to take on the day.  

Take care of your body.

Take care of your body.

The age-old notion of mind-body dualism seems to be under fire today as the relationship between body and mind becomes increasingly palpable. These days, most would agree that what you do to your body will have some effect on your mind, and vice versa. Taking care of your bodily functions includes a generous array of tasks such as eating well, exercising and clocking in enough sleep.

Here you want to think about alcohol and the role it plays in your life. While you may already be asking yourself how booze affects your body and your mind, now consider the effect it has on your feelings of clarity. Do you get that sense of grogginess when you wake up from a boozy evening, feeling wine’s unforgiving nebula clenching at your temples? Maybe drinking affects your motivation and your energy as you imbibe a sense of apathy and lethargy along with your evening schooner. Think about how alcohol makes you feel and then take steps you believe are best for your bodily wellness and begin to regain a sense of clarity.

Find joy

Find joy

Sometimes the disordered fog that settles in our minds is a function of the fact that we aren’t actively taking the time to get out there and seek joy. The seemingly elusive concept of joy usually begins to peek out from all corners of the world once you start looking. Begin this quest by doing something that is of genuine interest to you, by making time for laughter and for friends. Think about what, in your average day, brings you that spark of happiness?

Having happiness and joy in your life can improve your ability to be creative, solve problems and feed your reservoir of energy for the day.

Another way to put this into action is to take a leaf from the book of Twins Peaks’ quirky Agent Dale Cooper. He emphasises, “every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen.” Finding a miracle in the mundane is as simple as finding joy in a damn fine cup of steaming hot coffee.

Take a dance break

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Or any kind of break. Considering how long and busy our days are becoming, it’s no wonder we’re hit by fatigue and foggy mind. Our pesky human brains can hardly keep up with what we ask of them; they need the downtime as much as you. So, be kind to your most valuable organ and take a break! Get outdoors, have a stretch, or maybe break your work up into smaller segments.

There are a number of great techniques available for optimising focus and time, such as the Pomodoro technique, which emphasises the importance of taking breaks between work.

Maybe going for a walk during lunch could be the thing you need to recharge before the afternoon slump? In fact, many of our great thinkers have cited walking as the very tool they’ve used to help them think more clearly. Plus, by simply heading outside you’ll be reaping in even more benefit –  just being outdoors is suggested to be good for our wellbeing (maybe Pokemon Go isn’t such a nuisance).

So, ask yourself what you need. Is it nourishment, a break or the perseverance to push through your work?

With focus, clarity and energy you will find your A-game.

Alcohol and meeting the parents

Meeting the family of your significant other is an important part of being in a relationship. That said, it is almost universally agreed that the experience can be nerve-racking. In this week’s animation we explore the experience and the roles that alcohol may play in it.

But while moderating the night before seems like an easy win on paper, it takes a lot more to make your desired first impression. We’ve put together a checklist of things to consider before you meet the parents – or any other stressful social engagement.

How to conquer meeting the parents:

Attitude

You got this!
Let’s be honest: appearances do count.

Go in with a positive and open attitude. As memorable former leader of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, once stated, “attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

Contemporary research into positive attitudes suggests that almost everything is best approached in this way, not barring meeting your partner’s parents. So even though it may be tempting, try not to dwell on things that could go wrong. Think instead of all the things that could go right! With this frame in mind, you are more likely to be relaxed and be yourself.

Appearance

No matter how superficial it seems, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves that appearances and first impressions do count. From what you wear to how you hold conversation, all of these things are open to scrutiny. What’s more, these impressions take only seconds to form. But luckily, getting in a good first impression isn’t too onerous:

  • Usually, you should dress simple and conservative for the occasion, but it may be worth asking your partner about the level of formality their family usually dines in. At the end of the day, do make sure you feel comfortable as this ease will shine.
  • Remember to bring a gift. You needn’t go overboard but it is a nice gesture, and chocolate is always appreciated.  
  • Mind your manners. While dinner table etiquette is generally not as archaic as it used to be, it doesn’t hurt to be polite. Please and thank you!
  • Stay off your phone. Clearly this is also basic dinner table etiquette, but given the difficulty of this task we thought it could do with its own bullet point.

Intention

Think about what you will drink before and during the big meeting
Plan your drinking ahead of time.

Why are you meeting your partner’s family? Of course, you want them to like you, but perhaps consider it in terms of trying to actually get to know them. Your other half has spent most their life around these folks; what are they like? You are spending time with someone you care about and their family, so while it is natural to be nervous, it could ultimately end up being an enjoyable experience. So do what you would normally do during a dinner or social gathering with people you care about; offer to help out; feed the conversation; and enjoy the food. Simply put, plan to be a good house guest.

Perspective

Finally, put things into perspective. Just like the point above, think about why you are there in the first place. In fact, try framing it as though you are finally getting the chance to meet the family. Relax. Don’t overthink it. Do it for them!

Drinking

Will you be drinking? You may be feeling tempted to use the booze to help with nerves. But did you know that alcohol can actually aggravate symptoms of anxiety? Ultimately, you are the expert on your own drinking. Whether you are having a couple of drinks or none, pick your limit and stick to it. Discuss your plan with your partner so that you are both in the know.

Considered all of the above? Yes? Then go forth, greet with confidence and do it for them!

Find your purpose

HelloSundayMorning-kayak

Masterchef winner Andy Allen took over Hello Sunday Morning’s social media accounts last weekend, and with this came a fascinating reflection on purpose and the role that alcohol plays in how we materially contend with meaning in our lives. Andy reflected on his experiences with alcohol growing up, realising that being hungover on Sunday morning often led him to miss out on experiences, like going fishing with his dad, that meant a lot to him as a person.

We can hear you saying, “not another one of those (often parodied) chirpy, self-help, motivation articles!” But all jokes aside, we know that drinking eats away at our time and can easily become a substitute for meaningful pursuits. In fact, life dissatisfaction has been found to be associated with adverse alcohol use. The more you drink, the stronger the relationship between the two. So it is unfortunate but understandable that many can feel a reduced sense of purpose after cutting back on alcohol.

To help you through this process, here we suggest a few ways to discover (or rediscover) your purpose.

How to find your purpose

Reflect, reflect reflect.

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What brings you joy? What are your values, dreams and aspirations? It’s crucial that you take the time to reflect on this. You could write a journal entry, have a good chinwag with a friend, or maybe set aside time to simply sit and meditate on these core issues. It is important to consider the bigger picture and contemplate the persistent themes and motifs in your life.

Bringing it all together, one of the best hacks we’ve found to reinforce purpose in life is to think about what we wanted to be as children. It doesn’t mean that you should drop everything and become an astronaut, but it gives you a great insight into your driving motivations. By now you may have missed the cut-off for NASA, but you will have a refreshed understanding of your innate drive to explore. Tony Robbins’ fevered motivational speaking really hit the nail on the head back in the 80s. ‘Just stop and think about what is most important’ he says, ‘think about why you are here’.  

Focus on your relationships

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From first dates to family gatherings, alcohol has long had a role to play in many of our relationships. And that is fine; we are not here to argue that alcohol doesn’t have its place. However, when it begins to overpower the connection you have with another person, the value of alcohol’s so-called ‘social lubrication’ rapidly diminishes.

In 1938 psychologists at Harvard embarked upon a 75-year-long study on happiness and fulfilment. Lo and behold, the key finding: good relationships are important. Our relationships to our friends, partners and families all stand to shape our identities, and make us physically and psychologically healthier while allowing us to live longer and more fulfilling lives. Interestingly, this same study highlighted the detrimental effects alcohol misuse can have on our relationships, and ultimately, on our lives.

But, what is that you say? How to nurture your relationships sans alcohol? We’re glad you asked! Laughter and storytelling, for example, have both been suggested as alternatives to alcohol as tools for feeling at ease while socialising. But ultimately, know that if you’re approaching your relationships honestly, you will in time find that you no longer need the veil of alcohol to cloak your connections.

Get out of your comfort zone.adventure

Part of the difficulty of cutting back on alcohol is that you are fighting your routine both psychologically and physically. So why not find a new routine and rhythm? If you decide to opt out of Friday night drinks or stick to sodas on Saturday, your evenings and mornings are no longer taken up by boozing and its aftermath. You have reclaimed the most precious of all commodities … time.

What is the idea that has long been kicking around in the back of your mind? Writing, learning a language, starting a business or practicing the guitar, maybe? Do something new, revisit something old, but whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly. These things we call hobbies are in no way peripheral to our lives, even though we sometimes see them as such. They are activities that allow us to be joyful and creative; they are crucial human sensibilities, providing a platform on which to experience mastery and create meaning.

Relax

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Right, all cards on the table. Some of us take a while to figure out our purpose. All around the world there are people at 30, 60 and even at 90 years of age who are still sort of unsure. But it is okay. Your quest for meaning does not need to be marked by a jaw-dropping epiphany. It can be smaller. Like Andy, it could be realising that family is important to you, that you enjoy writing or that you would like to travel more. Then acting on this realisation.

Stanford researchers have found that two things, passion and action, sit at the helm of purpose.

Building on this, contemporary philosopher Dan Dennett says that in pursuit of purpose, you must ‘find something more important than you are, and dedicate your life to it’. By saying hello to your Sunday morning, you are carving out time for your something. Good luck!