I can’t remember a time when I was not designing my life.
My upbringing was very turbulent and my home life left a lot to be desired.
I was always building a better life for myself inside my head… and visualisation is a key part of the coaching process.
But exercising my imagination and enriching my personal vision of my ideal self and lifestyle was only half the story.
The other half involves actually taking all those visualisations and turning them into real results.
The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters – The first book that got me into the habit of positive habit formation I read in my first year at university. Focused on screenwriting, yes, but filled with advice and tricks that are applicable to any area of life.
How I Got Started
My first self-coaching success came with my education.
I struggled when I was at school.
The first memories I have are of my parents breaking up and it was an hugely unsettling experience that went on to deeply traumatise me.
I became very withdrawn, my self-esteem was shot to pieces and I increasingly fell behind in all of my studies.
I was already in a lot of pain, the more I fell behind in my studies, the more my pain turned into anger.
It was the type of anger that would have gone on to become a very destructive force in my life, had I let it fester and grow.
But because I had been so withdrawn and had spent so much time building a better life for myself inside my head, I started to realise I was not happy with how my life was actually playing out.
So I decided to do something about it.
One of the great things about being withdrawn is it gives you an awful lot of time to become acquainted with how your mind works.
You also spend a lot of time daydreaming… and the more you daydream, the more creative you become.
Creativity is not just a skill assigned to the artists, everyone is and can be increasingly more creative.
An act of creativity can be something as grand as writing a novel or it can be as simple as changing your mind about what you’re going to have for dinner.
When you change your mind you are literally getting creative with your brain because you are reshaping the physical structure of the 1.5kg clump of neurons inside your skull.
Changing your mind is a remarkable ability because, if you can change the way you think about something, you can change ANYTHING about yourself.
That’s how you cultivate a growth mindset.
That’s how you enact positive change.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I accepted that I was not happy and I got to work changing my emotional state by changing my mind about how I was going to use my emotions.
As I grew into a teenager, I taught myself to transform my anger into fuel.
Fuel that I used for focus. Fuel that I used for persevering. Fuel that I used for courage. Fuel that I used to get my shit together… and by the time I left school at the age of 16, I had caught up in all my studies.
Best of all, I had cultivated an unlimited source of grit to keep propelling myself onto bigger and better things, which is exactly what I have continued to do.
My real education breakthrough came in my final year at university when I went for broke, used everything I had up until that point and produced a dissertation that was awarded the highest mark ever given to a dissertation on my university course!
And, again, this same approach has been employed in the making of my MTA Portfolio, as it now exists on I Built My Own Education.
The 4-Hour Work Week – I read this not long after graduating from university and it cultivated a very fresh outside of the box way of thinking about how to go about designing your life and career. It was also where I first discovered the term ‘lifestyle design’
Building intellectual frameworks and practical incubators
Fundamentally, our minds operate on two modes of thought process – divergent thinking and convergent thinking.
Divergent thinking is blue sky thinking where you let your mind explore countless possibilities without restraint or adherence to conventional practice… this is where imaginative, spontaneous, free-flowing and outside of the box cognition occurs.
Convergent thinking is focused thinking where your mind employs established rules and logical reasoning to produce a workable real-world solution… this is where ultimate decision making occurs.
Somewhere between these two modes of thinking we all manage to live our everyday lives… but we can always exploit these two modes much for effectively.
Mastering these two modes of thought and being able to utilise them to benefit my life as whole is really what my MTA Portfolio – My Master of Transdisciplinary Application – is all about.
I built by own postgraduate education in order to give me the opportunity expand and stretch my intellect to be much more versatile with my divergent and cognitive thinking.
Being able to think better was always a huge part of my life design.
Even when I was younger, I hated that there were gaps in my knowledge and in my ability to bridge those gaps… my MTA is where I have remedied that and provided myself with the abilities to continue to plug the holes in my understanding.
The construction of my entire MTA Portfolio has been a massive exercise in refining my divergent and convergent thinking.
The building of my MTA portfolio began with a lot of divergent thinking, there was never a grand blueprint for my MTA Portfolio as it now exists on I Built My Own Education, there was only ever a very broad and vague notion of building my own masters degree that was cultivated as I spent the best part of five years studying hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of online course.
That was my blue sky thinking for the design of ym MTA portfolio, the more courses I studied and the more discplinary domains of knowledge I explored, the more the structure for my MTA Portofolio emerged to bring order to my explorations.
The concentrations and the learning modules of my MTA Portfolio represent how my convergent thinking grouped all of those different courses and disciplinary explorations together into relatable intellectual frameworks.
Building on these intellectual frameworks with further divergent and convergent thinking, my final projects are the practical incubators of my MTA Portfolio in which take all of that information I have accumulated and actually do something productive and beneficial with it… in the case of my Leadership and Management concentration that process involved building my own life coaching business.
While my practical projects close o each concentration, they are also open-ended in that they have a life beyond my MTA Portfolio, that’s the beauty of them!
It’s a long drawn out process – the making of this MTA Portfolio has been a MAMMOTH undertaking – but that is how I have been bring the life design of my ideal self into actuality.
I do lots of exploring (my divergent thinking) to thoroughly figure something out and then I take what I have learned and get creative in a productive fashion (my convergent thinking).
It’s just the way I figure things out and make things happen.
Choose Yourself – The book that taught me not to be afraid of investing in yourself and exposed a lot of the bullshit we take as established wisdom.
Overcoming small-mindedness and learning to think positively
You won’t amount to much, so just get used to being miserable.
The above statement really does sum up the predominant attitude that surrounded me when I was growing up.
I don’t want to vilify the individuals who were around me when I was growing up, because, for the most part, I very much doubt that exuding such a negative attitude was a conscious intention on any one person’s part. Rather, it was much more down to the collective and confoming subconscius attitude that emboided the outlook of the somewhat downtrodden environment I grew up in.
I include myself as being complicit in that collective subconscious attitude and overcoming this deeply ingrained negative outlook has been one of the main focuses of my adult life!
I never felt comfortable growing up and I always felt like there was something deeply wrong with the world around me, but it wasn’t until I finally moved to university in the City of Bath – a very liberal and chilled city – that I started to put my finger on what had been missing from my upbringing, namely… a lack of open-mindedness and positive thinking.
It seems obvious to say it now, but when you grow up knowing only narrow-mindedness and negative patterns of thinking, it becomes second nature and your accepted reality, so it’s very hard to see anything else.
When I was growing up, my open-mindedness and positive thinking was nourished somewhat by all the films I would watch and later by all the books I would read and writing I started to do as a teenager, they were safe spaces that allowed me to escape into bigger worlds that promised greater possibilities.
But it wasn’t until I actually fully removed myself from the negative environment and became accustomed to a much more positive one, that my mind truly began to open itself up to all the possibilites available to me.
Education really was my way out. First, my resolve and outlook was strengthened by turning my learning around at school and then it was refined still further when I went to university.
University was a major challenge, I struggled to reconcile the ingrained negative minded attitude of my upbringing with that of the much more open-minded one I was exposed to at university.
It took me about three years of cultivating new habits and ways of thinking until I finally hit upon my winning formula in my final year… and produced my magnum opus dissertation.
Even then, it wasn’t until I relocated to Bristol and started building my MTA portfolio that I really started to capitualise on my new found open-minded outlook and positive thinking.
The creation of my MTA portfolio is a grand act of open-mindedness which has enabled me to study the field of Positive Psychology which, in turn, has enabled me to hone my positive thinking skills to an advanced level.
Self-coaching was never on my agenda for my undergraduate degree, I just went to unversity so I could get away from home. Yet the requirements of my studies and of living away from home for the first time ultimately necesittated the need for me to get into the habit of self-coaching all aspects of my life.
The length of time I was at university meant that I got to practice away at my new habits each and every day. And that’s the real key, practice! Day in and day out your slowly but surely ingrain your new habits and ways of seeing the world into your mind and before your even realise it… they have become second nature and your new accepted reality.
Therefore, when I was buiding my MTA portfolio, self-coaching and personal development were very consciously included in its design.
My time as an undergraduate student had shown me the real life-chainging value of deeply invested personal development and self-coaching… and I wanted to utilise it further!
My MTA portfolio is the point in my life when I consciously said to myself that I was going to start designing my life and it’s through the intellectual frameworks of my final projects (such as this one) that I bringing those designs into actuality so I can build a better life for myself.
And help others to do likewise.