05 Januari, 2009

The secret to being positive, successful and happy - by the world's leading thinkers

From Malcolm Gladwell to Alain de Bottom - leading thinkers share their secrets of success

"Take the risk of giving; something will come back"

Camila Batmanghelidjh Founder of children's charity Kids' Company

You have to think of the challenges as obstacles that you can have fun overcoming, rather than as impenetrable brick walls.

It's important, too, to have a sense of urgency: you have to work out how to get things done. If that does not happen, you have to keep the art of responding to the situation gracefully without feeling dramatic or victimised.

To have resilience you have to visit your dreadful bottom line. What's the worst thing that could happen? To face it and work it through, rather than always being scared of it?

It's a great help if you can be kind and not underestimate the energising capacities of kindness.

We're in a climate that might make you want to hoard, but you should take the risk of giving out. Something always comes back to you from it. The art of giving is to share the important things that you have, rather than just giving what you can spare.

Don't take yourself seriously: our ancestors lived in caves with little to survive on. What we're going through is no big deal.

I am going into 2009 with a totally fun attitude. The economic situation will make it very difficult for us to raise funds. My team and I are trying to think of really creative ways to do this with fun events and activities. We have many thousands of children reliant on our charity so downsizing is not an option.

You are always inspired if you are surrounded by children who have experienced huge trauma. It takes a lot for them to get up each morning and be hopeful for the next day.

If they can still hold on to hope, then the rest of us can learn from their example.

"Exercise every day, regardless of how tired you feel"

Nicky Kinnaird Founder of the British beauty chain, Space NK

Regardless of economic issues, a new year brings an opportunity to reassess our lives and adopt new lifestyle resolutions. I believe a better balance between work and play makes for greater productivity.

Having spent pretty much the past two months on the road in the US travelling from coast to coast (launching Space NK in Bloomingdale's), it opens your eyes to different ways of looking at things and to how other people prioritise in their lives.

Here are a few simple plans for 2009 that I have made during my recent journeys:

Exercise every day, regardless of how tired you feel. It gives you more energy and imparts a positive outlook.

But allow time for more meditative exercise rather than solely adrenalin-based competitive sports. Stretching and yoga make you much more aware of your body.

Forgo caffeine and alcohol, at least this month. You will be surprised how much better it makes you feel, and how much clearer and brighter your skin looks.

Be much more aware of your eating habits; the body needs a steady intake of fuel or it tends to make bad choices and few of those make us feel good. How different do we feel in the morning after a dinner of chicken or fish as opposed to red meat? Perhaps keep red meat for special occasions.

Spring-clean your closet. Anything that hasn't been worn over the past 18 months is unlikely to make another appearance. Donate it to charity and help someone else.

Invite friends around for dinner rather than go out to restaurants; enjoy your home rather than anonymous spaces. Stimulate your senses with inspirational music.

Enjoy the great outdoors - get some fresh air into your lungs and sunlight on your skin. Just remember sunscreen 365 days of the year. The sight of southern Californian skin has firmly knocked that into me.

"We must maintain direction and mission...then we can make it"

Malcolm Gladwell Author of Outliers, Blink and The Tipping Point

We have to find a new equilibrium. We are going to go through a very difficult period and a lot of people will suffer. The process of adjusting won't begin until we have found that we are at the bottom. We don't know if this thing will go away in one year or five years, whether it goes down 1 per cent tomorrow or 6 per cent. We have never been in this territory before.

You can look at it like the failure of strategic bombing in the Second World War. Strategic bombing always fails to bring populations to their knees... why? It's not the absolute level of hardship that causes people to crumble. It's the level of uncertainty that can destroy them. If we don't know what is going to happen and where it's coming from, then uncertainty is more of a hardship than hardship is.

We know we're in a terrible place, what it looks like and how we're going to suffer. But if we maintain a sense of direction and mission, and have faith in our leadership, then we can make it.

To succeed you have to work. In my book Outliers, I found that people who become remarkably successful put 10,000 hours of practice and learning into what they become great at.

The key words that the psychiatrists use are “deliberate practice” - it is careful, rich in feedback and intensive. Michael Jordan, the basketball star, was a manic practiser and incredibly self-critical. I'm talking about people who are critical so they can understand what they are good at and what they should focus on.

Developing obsessiveness is key. Being given an opportunity to channel that obsessiveness is central to success - and being in love with doing it. In fact, I wonder if the love part is the most important aspect.

"It is more important than ever not to get caught up in negative thinking"

Judy Piatkus Entrepreneur and specialist in lifestyle publishing

What people actually have to do is sit quietly and think about life in an orderly way. You have all this current whirling about you and you need to look for peace inside yourself because you are not going to find it outside. We have to be calm and in control, rather than making panicky decisions.

We can't control the world's financial situation. There isn't anything that any one of us can do about it. It is indeed global and looks very hard to fix. But there is one thing that we are all able to control and that is how we think about what is going on around us.

In these difficult times, and however hard life is and may be about to become, it is more important than ever not to get caught up in the downward spiral of negative thinking.

Because once you get caught up in negative thinking, that is what you will attract into your life.

Everything really does have a silver lining. If you are unemployed or about to lose your job or experience any other major loss or hardship, it is of course really difficult to think positively about the situation. But you do have to try - because the alternative is worse. You have to try to talk yourself into the idea that some good will come out of the current situation, even if you can't see what it will be at the present time.

For me, this year I am hoping to do some public speaking on aspects of managing companies in difficult times. I've been through two recessions, though not as bad as this one. I also want to do public speaking on managing fear.

There is a lot more opportunity next year for creativity to come through. If people want to think about what they want to do with their lives, rather than just go back into the wrong job again, it could be very constructive. It's an opportunity, if you see it that way.

These times mean that everyone will be evaluating every financial decision that they make and whether it adds to their pleasure in life. I hope that there will be a much greater sense of community because we are all in this situation together. Contentment isn't going to be about what you are earning.

For more on Judy Piatkus visit www.judypiatkus.com

"I'm a great believer in being postive"

Zita West Fertility and alternative therapy pioneer

There is doom and gloom all around. But I am a great believer in being positive. It's all you can do. Be optimistic, work hard and learn from what you are going through. What's the alternative? I think that in some ways, what is happening with the world economy is ultimately a good thing because there have been so many excesses in our society in recent years. It is now time to take stock of what we are doing. It is about pulling in our horns. I've learnt from Chinese medicine that health is a lot about balance and living within our natural bounds.

Whereas in generations past our ancestors suffered sicknesses of poverty, we now have more sicknesses of spirit - people never thinking that they have enough, and wanting to have everything now. You have to manage your mind.

A lot of what I see in my clinic is about mindset. It's what you find with women who go through IVF, give up and then become pregnant. I'm a big fan of IVF, but often the couples I see, their problem is about being impatient, rather than about being unable to conceive.

"It will be an exhilarating time"

Alain de Botton Author and philosopher

This will be the year when the question of how society should be arranged will cease to be an idle, abstract topic, dwelt upon by ivory-tower intellectuals. Everyone will become a political philosopher and all of a sudden some of the great issues facing our world will be up for grabs. It will be a frightening, exhilarating time.

A two-decade-old consensus about the virtues of individualism, liberalism and consumer capitalism is splintering beneath us. At the heart of the debate lie questions about fulfilment. We'll be asking how accurately the modern economy has been attending to our real needs.

There will be a whole new climate of scepticism about the market system - but one that will defy the old shrill labels of left and right. Expect ex-bankers to find unexpected points of agreement with environmental activists, poets and fashion designers.

Ultimately, the question will be: are our economies delivering on their promises? It'll once again be pointed out that our outer success is masking some deep-seated inner disturbances. Western society has always been an uneasy amalgamation of the values of the old Roman Empire - success, wealth and individual glory - and the values of the Judaeo-Christian world, with its emphasis on charity, serenity and love.

Those who will thrive are those who put the values of the Roman lion into abeyance and place the more compassionate lamb into centre stage again.

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