How to achieve your goals and dreams

Word Count: 1,946    Reading Time: 11 minutes

 

Do you know what you really want in life?

Do you know where you want to go, what you want to do with your life?

Is your idea a ‘life project’, a business project or a creative expression?

Will that project, business or creative outlet help you get to where you feel you want to be in life?

 

Visioning and Goal Setting

 

Answering the above questions are vital before you start any project or make any significant life choice. For the sake of this discussion let’s group them all together under the term ‘project’.

As such this can also be a way to approach a project management task, except your bosses might not be too keen on the intuition part of this post (below)!

Visioning and goal setting are extremely important first steps in assessing, planning and developing a project.

First, imagine the project complete, up and running successfully as it were, identifying all the realistically achievable parts of it.

Then define steps or goals that can bring you closer to your vision, helping you to see where you are at, relative to your vision, and what steps to take next.

Everyone involved in your project should contribute to these two steps, the more inputs you have, the clearer your picture will be!

 

Do you know what you really want in life?

Do you know where you want to go, what you want to do with your life?

Is your idea a ‘life project’, a business project or a creative expression?

Will that project, business or creative outlet help you get to where you feel you want to be in life?

 

Visioning and Goal Setting

 

Answering the above questions are vital before you start any project or make any significant life choice. For the sake of this discussion let’s group them all together under the term ‘project’.

As such this can also be a way to approach a project management task, except your bosses might not be too keen on the intuition part of this post (below)!

Visioning and goal setting are extremely important first steps in assessing, planning and developing a project.

First, imagine the project complete, up and running successfully as it were, identifying all the realistically achievable parts of it.

Then define steps or goals that can bring you closer to your vision, helping you to see where you are at, relative to your vision, and what steps to take next.

Everyone involved in your project should contribute to these two steps, the more inputs you have, the clearer your picture will be!

Step One: Visioning

 

Here you develop a vision of how you would like to see your project (a business for example) in a few years time. Choose a time frame of five or ten or twenty years in the future, trying to be realistic.

Do not spend too much time thinking about how you are going to get to the goal right now, but form a positive picture, making sure to keep it realistic.

Combine the most desired and valued outcomes of all the stakeholders involved with the project, creating a vision that addresses everyone’s needs.

This exercise can be done in writing as well as ‘mind maps’ or similar diagrams to help visualise the successful project and all its component parts. Feel free to draw and sketch your vision to make it lively and ‘real’.

The diagram can then form the basis of a written plan or project flow chart, each step now more easy to identify, and then the next, and so on, creating what becomes a coherent project plan.

Step Two: Goal Setting

 

In this step you identify concrete objectives of your project with the view of creating realistic waypoints to navigate towards.

These can also be used to help assess your project’s progression, and more easily recognise needs for adjustments and adaptations along the way.

Maybe even major changes in course, as visions and goals have a way of changing over time as you change and your project evolves, or does not.

Tip: Describe at least two goals in each of the major sections within your overall plan. Take for example an ecotourism development, it is helpful to have a balanced weighting between goals of the economic, social/cultural and environmental aspects of your project.

These should be detailed, making sure they are realistic, relevant and that can be measured. Then add these goals to your Visioning diagram and respond by adjusting your overall project plan if necessary.

Step Three: Strategies

 

Next you establish strategies to achieve each of the goals you have identified.

These are best devised by breaking down each goal into all its component parts and evaluating each of these in logical order, step by step.

Once you have mapped each step, group the steps together in logical flows and voilà, now you have a very detailed strategy.

Now For The Hard Part – Action!

 

At first, perceiving a vision and then devising a plan to achieve it can seem daunting, but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll find it becomes a creative process that can be highly stimulating and rewarding.

Sure it takes a lot of work to come up with a clear and concise plan, but in relation to the road that lies ahead, it’s a relatively short exercise and doesn’t require so much energy.

Seeing the plan through to the end and achieving your goals is by far the bigger challenge.

It requires you to work towards your goals every day, day in, day out, week after week, year in, year out.

It requires diligence, stamina, self belief and discipline. These are the biggest challenges in any journey towards a long term goal.

Especially when things are not going so well or according to your well thought out plan!

Holding the clear and unwavering picture of each waypoint you have mapped out, and the end goal in sight, as you work your way along slowly to your end goals is a challenge, a far bigger challenge than setting out on the road in the first place!

You are going to be tested often by difficult circumstances, perceived failures and unforeseen bumps in the road.

You may even come to sense that what seemed like the reason for commencing the journey towards your goal ends up being secondary, that the experience of the journey itself, and how it changes you and your perceptions, becomes primary.

Making Difficult Decisions

 

We are very selective in what information we filter out from our consciousness stream, making our awareness highly subjective.

Furthermore, most people are only able to hold a relatively small number of data points in the conscious mind at any given time.

There is far too much data streaming through your total awareness for you to be aware of it all, through all of your senses and senses most people are unaware of as yet.

In this way it is pretty much impossible for us to ever accumulate sufficient data to satisfy the rational mind that we are making the ‘correct’ decision in any given situation.

The rational mind seeks security, needs to know it is okay and that everything will be okay in the future.

It seeks safety and isn’t normally comfortable with risk, especially if it perceives risk as being threatening to its comfort and physical well-being.

So when trying to make big decisions, because we can never accumulate enough data to satisfy the rational mind that everything is going to be okay, no matter how things turn out, we have a tendency to overthink the situation, or procrastinate.

Procrastination Sucks Your Energy Dry

 

Overthinking and trying to rationalise everything out will drain and deplete your energy. It is the rational mind’s way of avoiding decisions it finds scary and potentially threatening.

You could say that this procrastination is actually self sabotage, that is, it is getting in the way of your progression towards your goals. Don’t get me wrong, considering all the angles and thinking things through is of course important and responsible.

But when you consider that there are far too many data points and streams, or to put it another way, there are just too many angles for you to be able to see them all, well you have to accept there comes a point where you have to rely on something else…your gut.

Don’t Underestimate Your Intuition

 

In the end your feelings play a huge role in all decisions, much more than many people realise or admit. The gut feeling, that inner knowing that something is right, or isn’t, or which fork in the road feels right, and which doesn’t. We’ve all been there.

If you’ve put yourself in enough situations where you’ve tested that gut feeling out, tested that inner voice or feeling, you know it plays a huge role. You begin to trust it.

When you’ve been through enough situations where you put your trust in that inner radar and things worked out okay, you know it’s far more reliable than the procrastinations of the rational mind.

You also know that how things appear on the surface are rarely how they are once you get through a situation and have the perspective of hindsight, can look back and see what ACTUALLY happened.

You know how the facts APPEARED to be, you know what choices you made and what the outcomes were.

Do this enough times and you will know that your intuition is your strongest ally, and a fearless guide.

Sure Make Plans, But Don’t Be Too Attached To Them

 

You’re planning a project, a business venture, a startup, you’re changing your life direction.

You’ve got a plan, or maybe even several. That’s cool, as we said, it helps big time to have a clear picture of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. It stimulates action.

A BIG word of advice though!

Have you heard the saying “The best laid plans of mice and men”?

“Often go awry!” is the end of that saying, adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns.

Essentially it means, that no matter how much you plan and scheme, you can NEVER know everything life has in store for you. There can be pitfalls, there can be failures and there can be catastrophes.

Guess what? There can be amazing windfalls, incredible turns in events that far exceed your plans and expectations too!

So try not to get too attached to all those plans you made, in all likelihood you are going to have to change them at some point. Adapt them, rearrange them, turn them upside down, expand them or drop them altogether.

Don’t be too rigid or too attached to your plans as rigidity and stubbornness may prevent you from realising your dreams, or recognising when your priorities have changed or when something even better has come along.

Allow For Contingencies

 

As we said you can not possibly know everything that is going to happen, you can not see around all the corners, no way. Sure, life would be really boring if you could now, wouldn’t it!

So, if you are starting a new project, something significant, making a major life choice, and you’ve got a plan devised, one word of advice is to allow for contingencies, lots of them!

For all the reasons we were just discussing above, you can’t see everything that may happen. If it’s a major project or decision, there’s going to be many potential waypoints, decisions and choices to be made.

So, when working out time frames, projecting costs, forecasting energies required to make it all happen, add extra on top for contingencies, those things you are currently UNAWARE of.

Those unforeseen things that you couldn’t predict.

But how do you allow for things that are unforeseen, you may ask?

Good point!

If you can not allow for everything, if you don’t know what they are, how can you cost them, how can you time frame them?

More good points!

You can’t, BUT you can make some guesses and you CAN decide on how much you are prepared to allow for contingencies.

As an absolute minimum, we always factor in 15% on top of whatever it is we’re planning.

That’s 15% more time, more cost, more energy required. Depending on the project, the location, the complexity, even as much as 50% contingency.

If your project doesn’t stack up financially or energetically with that contingency added on top, our advice is seriously reconsider the risks! But that’s all still being rational now isn’t it..

SO, don’t forget your intuition, even when considering your contingencies!

IF it’s telling you add 50% contingency, our advice would be go with that.

IF it’s telling you it’s too risky, no matter what the rational data looks like, then go with that.

IF it’s telling you to hell with all the risks, well……

We think you know our answer!

 

Remember this acronym:

False Evidence Appearing Real

Resources

Our experience

GDPR demystified for sole traders and small businesses: Part 1

Word Count: 2,456    Reading Time: 12 minutes

Welcome to a series of articles in which we attempt to explain in lay terms the GDPR and why it’s applicable to most, if not all of us. It’s a bit dull and soporific a subject, but hey if you’re reading it, then you probably need to know what it’s about….and might even make it to the end of the article!

What is GDPR and does it apply to you?

The General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on May 25th 2018 and supersedes the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and the UK Data Protection Act 1998. It applies to all persons and businesses that collect and process personal data within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Furthermore, it applies to data collectors and processors located outside the EU and EEA who do, or may handle personal data of EU citizens and data controllers. Therefore you could say that GDPR applies worldwide in the case of internet services and international trade.

The primary objectives of GDPR are to give control back to individuals of their personal data and to establish unified regulations within the EU for international trade, which in turn may lead to greater transparency in relation to personal data worldwide.

It is important to realise that GDPR does not only apply to data collected from websites, but also social media, email and other business processes such as paperwork, correspondence and accounts. It applies to all forms of personal data irrespective of what means of collection were used. While GDPR is obviously highly relevant to online data collection, its core principle is the protection of personal data in any format.

Many have expressed discontent with the regulations regarding them as an unnecessary layer of bureaucratic control over individual rights and trade. I understand this view but prefer the perspective that if all data collectors and processors worldwide adopted the key principles of GDPR, we would all benefit. This would lead more in the direction of a greater degree of data privacy we have not been afforded to date.

Word Count: 2,456    Reading Time: 12 minutes


 

Welcome to a series of articles in which we attempt to explain in lay terms the GDPR and why it’s applicable to most, if not all of us. It’s a bit dull and soporific a subject, but hey if you’re reading it, then you probably need to know what it’s about….and might even make it to the end of the article!

What is GDPR and does it apply to you?

The General Data Protection Regulation came into effect on May 25th 2018 and supersedes the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and the UK Data Protection Act 1998. It applies to all persons and businesses that collect and process personal data within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Furthermore, it applies to data collectors and processors located outside the EU and EEA who do, or may handle personal data of EU citizens and data controllers. Therefore you could say that GDPR applies worldwide in the case of internet services and international trade.

The primary objectives of GDPR are to give control back to individuals of their personal data and to establish unified regulations within the EU for international trade, which in turn may lead to greater transparency in relation to personal data worldwide.

It is important to realise that GDPR does not only apply to data collected from websites, but also social media, email and other business processes such as paperwork, correspondence and accounts. It applies to all forms of personal data irrespective of what means of collection were used. While GDPR is obviously highly relevant to online data collection, its core principle is the protection of personal data in any format.

Many have expressed discontent with the regulations regarding them as an unnecessary layer of bureaucratic control over individual rights and trade. I understand this view but prefer the perspective that if all data collectors and processors worldwide adopted the key principles of GDPR, we would all benefit. This would lead more in the direction of a greater degree of data privacy we have not been afforded to date.

What are the key principles of GDPR?

The most important principle is that individuals have complete control over their personal data and that their data is collected only with their explicit consent, rather than implied consent or without any consent. In addition, when collecting personal data it is essential to inform the individual who is collecting the data and for what purpose it is being used.

Simply put, you need an individual’s explicit consent to take any of their personal data and you must declare clearly who it is taking their data and for what purpose. This is at any point or step where you are requesting data, depending on your data processes and flow, you may need to gain explicit consent from the same individual more than once.

Explicit consent requires what the GDPR describes as a clear opt-in, not just an opt-out (especially as a default setting) or implied consent. If you are using pre-checked tick boxes or relying on someone pressing a send button without clearly explaining that data is being collected, for what purpose and by whom, then this is implied consent.

An opt-in is not the same as an opt-out, and is defined by GDPR as a mechanism provided for the individual to directly consent at each point of personal data collection, that is not pre-filled by default, and records their explicit opt-in consent for the data collection. Should it be requested by an individual or regulator, you must be able to demonstrate clearly the recording of the individual’s explicit consent to proceed with the data collection, at the time of collection.

Minimising personal data collection, storage and processing is another strong principle in GDPR. It requires us to evaluate how much personal data we do collect, what data is really necessary and how long data is required to provide our services and functionality to the individual. It is most important to know who we are sharing personal data with and if this is really necessary to provide services.

The aim should be to collect as little personal data as possible, only that which is essential to provide services, and collect no data at all, if possible. If you only need a first name or an email address to provide services, then take only that.

Article 25 of GDPR pertains to “data protection by design and by default”. Under GDPR organisations and businesses are strongly encouraged to design into their processes data privacy measures and safeguards from the very beginning. This is data protection by design.

Personal data should be processed with the highest level of privacy protection measures, by default. This means that only the minimum amount of data necessary should be collected and processed, with a short storage period and with limited accessibility. So that by default, personal data isn’t accessible to unauthorised data processors or any other third parties, without explicit consent of the individual. This is data protection by default.

What is Personal Data exactly?

As GDPR is all about protecting personal data, its important to understand what it is and that it includes data collected by automated and non-automated means. Unfortunately there is no definitive list of what is defined as personal data and what is not.

In reality, what constitutes personal data is subject to interpretation of the GDPR definition and how it applies in the context of the data collection, storage and processing.

Article 4(1) of GDPR defines “personal data” with clarification as follows:

‘Personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.

Adding complexity to defining what is personal data, it is important to understand that each byte of data may or may not be an identifier in itself, but may become so when combined with other bytes of data relevant to the individual. Context and setting may affect the definition of any/and/or all bytes of personal data, not least when data is involved in behavioural analysis, profiling and data breach incidents.

The clever folks over at BoxCryptor (a Cloud services company) put together a good list of identifiers from everyday life to demonstrate the potential complexity and accuracy that can be achieved in identifying an individual. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and does not include digital identifiers such as IP addresses and cookie identifiers;

  • Biographical information including date of birth, marital status, social security numbers, criminal record, phone numbers, email addresses, residential address and bank information.
  • Looks, appearance and behaviour, including hair and eye colour, height, weight and defining characteristics.
  • Workplace data and information about education, including salary, tax information and student numbers.
  • Private and subjective data, including photos, religion and political opinions.
  • Health, sickness and genetics, including medical history, genetic data and information about sick leave and fitness data.

What are the Rights of Individuals under GDPR?

Under GDPR individuals are granted certain rights that may greatly affect your business and online processes, as listed below with brief explanations;

  • The right to be informed: Individuals have the right to be informed about the collection and use of their personal data. Inform individuals of your purposes for processing their personal data, retention periods for that data, and who you share the data with. This is ‘privacy information’ and is the key transparency requirement of the GDPR.
  • The right of access: Individuals have the right to access their personal data and must be able to do so verbally or in writing, on or off-line. Requests to access personal data must be actioned within one month maximum, it is however advisable to action in the shortest time possible.
  • The right to rectification: The individual’s right to have inaccurate or incomplete personal data corrected and made complete. This right is linked to the data controller’s obligations under the accuracy principle of the GDPR (Article (5)(1)(d)). An individual must be able to request rectification verbally or in writing, on or off-line and must be actioned within one month maximum.
  • The right to erasure: The individual’s right to have personal data erased, commonly known as the right to be forgotten. An individual must be able to request erasure verbally or in writing, on or off-line and must be actioned within one month maximum. This right applies in certain circumstances only and is therefore not absolute.
  • The right to restrict processing: The individual’s right to request the restriction or suppression of their personal data. If processing is restricted you have the right to store it, but not use the data. An individual must be able to request restriction or suppression verbally or in writing, on or off-line and must be actioned within one month maximum. This right links to the right to rectification (Article 16) and the right to object (Article 21).
  • The right to data portability: The individual’s right to obtain and reuse their personal data for their purposes across different services and platforms. The individual must be able to move, copy or transfer personal data from one IT environment to another in a secure manner, without affecting data usability. This right only applies to information an individual has provided to a data controller. This right must be actioned within one month maximum, however this is extendable according to the nature and complexity of the data requested. In addition, such requests may be rejected under certain circumstances. Additional reading on this right is thus highly recommended.
  • The right to object: The individual’s right to object to the processing of their personal data in certain circumstances, and including the absolute right to stop their personal data being processed for direct marketing, on or off-line. Individuals must be informed of their right to object. An individual must be able to make an objection verbally or in writing, on or off-line and must be actioned within one month maximum. There are circumstances where data processing may continue despite an objection, if it can be demonstrated there is a compelling and legally justifiable reason for doing so.
  • Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling: As described by Article 22 of GDPR, provisions for rights in the cases of:
    • Automated individual decision-making (making a decision solely by automated means without any human involvement); and
    • Profiling (automated processing of personal data to evaluate certain things about an individual). Profiling can be part of an automated decision-making process.
  • The GDPR applies to all automated individual decision-making and profiling processes and procedures. Solely automated decision-making that has legal or similarly significant effects on individuals has additional rules to protect individuals rights. Such decision making processes can only be conducted where the decision is:
    • Necessary for the entry into or performance of a contract; or
    • Authorised by Union or Member state law applicable to the controller; or
    • Based on the individual’s explicit consent.
  • It is essential to determine if any data processing falls under Article 22 and if so, ensure that:
    • Individuals are given information about the processing;
    • Provide simple mechanisms for individuals to request human intervention in the data processing, challenge or appeal a decision;
    • Conduct regular assessments to ensure systems described above are working as designed.

Are you a Data Controller or Processor?

 

As this article is for sole traders and SMEs only, in all likelihood you are a data controller, in that in the course of your business and online activities you are collecting, at the very least, individuals’ names and email addresses. The person or organisation collecting such data is a data controller, as defined in Article 4 of the GDPR;

‘Controller’ means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data; where the purposes and means of such processing are determined by Union or Member State law, the controller or the specific criteria for its nomination may be provided for by Union or Member State law.

In most cases a sole trader or SME will be collecting data, the processing of such data is most likely handled by a third party service provider such as Google or Mailchimp for example. The GDPR introduces, for the first time, direct obligations for data processors to data subjects or individuals.

This is why big players like Google, Paypal and Mailchimp (examples only) have been working to achieve GDPR compliance. They are now subject to regulatory penalties and civil claims by individuals pertaining to data processing and protection. Article 4 describes data processors;

‘Processor’ means a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller.

What is a Data Protection Officer and do I need one?

If you are a sole trader or SME, depending on the type of business activities, in all likelihood you do not need to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). Most likely you need to designate a named data controller, possibly yourself. There are circumstances under which data processors and controllers must appoint a DPO, as described by Article 37(1):

(a) the processing is carried out by a public authority or body, except for courts acting in their judicial capacity;

(b) the core activities of the controller or the processor consist of processing operations which, by virtue of their nature, their scope and/or their purposes, require regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale; or

(c) the core activities of the controller or the processor consist of processing on a large scale of special categories of data pursuant to Article 9 and personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences referred to in Article 10.

As most people reading this article are unlikely to need to appoint a DPO we won’t go down that rabbit hole!

Okay, so you made it this far, well done…that concludes Part 1.

In Part 2 we will delve deeper into the actual things you need to do as a sole trader and SME to your website(s) and other data collection mechanisms such as social media, email and mailing lists. We will also discuss some of the technical difficulties in complying with the GDPR for small operators.