Bouncing back, naturally

Image by silviarita from Pixabay

I walked into my office and noticed one of the small diamonds from my engagement ring was missing.  I burst into tears.  This has happened before due to the design of the ring and they have been replaced, but the last time the jeweller said he may not be able to do it again as the clasps had weakened.  Then I took a call from a colleague telling me that there would potentially be a delay to part of the project I’m working on, which should have been sorted before I went on holiday.  I cried again (after the call). 

I don’t know whether I was feeling overly stressful due to project demands ahead of going on holiday, lack of sleep over the last two nights, or hormonal fluctuations because I’m a woman of a certain age.  Either way, my mood plummeted and everything that day seemed to be a disaster.

It could all have been down to a hormonal imbalance giving me a rollercoaster ride of emotions experienced by women either during their usual monthly cycle, or because they are experiencing perimenopause, or menopause.  It could have all been stress related.

In Top Sante magazine Dr Martin Kinsella offers six ways to support naturally rebalancing hormone levels:

  1. Look at diet – reduce consumption of processed and sugary foods.  Aim for five fruit and veg portions a day, batch cook healthier meals to reduce chances of reaching for junk food, reduce or cut out yeast.
  2. Get more sleep – sleep affects leptin and ghrelin which control hunger pangs.  Without enough sleep your brain produces ghrelin stimulating appetite.  Lack of sleep also affect stress levels so you wake up more irritated.  Reduce screen time before bed, make sure the room is dark to help circadian rhythm sleep cycles.  Avoid sugar and caffeine before bed.
  3. Avoid overexercising – if you exercise too much it can cause low levels of progesterone, the soothing hormone.  When you raise your heart rate a stress response is triggered.  The best type of exercise for maintaining healthy hormone levels is HIIT and resistance training.   How much exercise is too much depends on the individual but signs you’re doing too much are feeling overly tired, unable to perform at the same level as before, trouble sleeping.
  4. Reduce stress levels – stress causes release of cortisol, too much can result in imbalance.  Take up hobbies such as yoga, meditation, walking or artistic pastimes.
  5. Cut back on the alcohol – alcohol interferes with natural hormone balance by affecting blood sugar levels.  Most people experience a mood dip the day after drinking too much.  Recommended adult drink units should add up to no more than 14 units per week, that’s about six medium glasses of wine or six pints of beer.  Swap for non-alcoholic versions.
  6. Make sure you’re eating enough – concentrations of thyroid and sex hormones suffer if you don’t eat enough nourishing food.  An ideal daily calorie intake varies according to age, activity levels and gender but recommended no more than 2,000 calories for women.

As far as diet goes, I don’t actually eat that much processed food, we cook from fresh.  Sugary foods are a bit of a vice and I do have a lot of leftover chocolate treats to consume.  I batch cook my breakfasts and lunches every week, and I don’t eat that much bread, only about 2 slices a week, the only obvious thing with yeast in, apart from beer, and I don’t drink too much of that either.

I usually sleep for Britain.  The last couple of nights though I’ve either had difficulty getting to sleep or kept waking up, possible stressing about my work project. Light levels in our bedroom are quite dark since the changed the streetlights outside and I don’t usually play on my phone or tablet before bed.

Over exercising is not a problem for me, quite the opposite.  I lead a mostly sedentary life.  Apart from going for a lunchtime walk most days, I do little exercise.

I guess I’ve been quite stressed over the last couple of weeks.  I’m having two weeks off work and my project is coming to a crucial point.  I needed to make sure things were in place for whilst I was away and major expense items under control.  It was quite tight around timelines.

I have had a bit more to drink than usual over the last couple of days as we celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary but not gone bonkers.  Maybe that contributed to the lack of sleep and it was all connected.

I generally eat well.  We cook from fresh using Slimming World recipes.  I’ve got sweet treats to finish up after Valentines and birthday gifts, but other than that we don’t eat too much bad stuff. When I’ve tracked my calorie intake, I averaged about 1,700 calories per day during February.  Not that I’ve lost any weight at all, in fact I’ve actually put on.

I am hoping my two weeks holiday will help me refresh and recharge ready to return and finish my project with rejuvenated enthusiasm.  Maybe it was just a bad day.

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How to be a breath of fresh air

In the latest episode of podcast fave Tonya Leigh that I’m listening to (still a bit of catching up to do), she talked about how it is good to take in a breath of fresh air, but even better to be one.

Where there is so much darkness and suffering going on around us, we need to remind ourselves that there is light too, and if we can be that for someone it may help them out of a dark, lonely place.

When we are in situations where we hear about how depressing it can be in the workplace, or at home, or in other areas of life, we start to feel that way too. It begins to multiply and we need to decide to be that breath of fresh air in every room we enter to avoid those feelings of doom and gloom and sadness.

It requires us to shift how we see ourselves, how we see other people and how we see the world. The more we step into a loving, understanding state of being the lighter we can feel. Other people can then sense our lightness when we walk into a room.

We need to recognise that not everyone is ready for the fresh air we may bring to a room.  They may be going through something or not ready to receive out lightness, but that’s ok, we can let that be.  But sometimes there are people who just in a sad state and our breath of fresh air maybe what’s needed to lift them out of it.

There are so many opportunities for us to notice and practice this every day.  Whenever we get triggered, when we notice we start to match the heaviness of the people around us. We can choose to shift to something more airy, more light, more loving, kind and grounded. When we begin to breath in the fresh air and be the fresh air we really begin to detoxify our bodies, mind and spirit.

We can be the fresh air that is going to make other people enthralled and know that we have something they could want for themselves. We can be the kind of people that makes other people feel like they are standing on the top of a mountain when we’re in their presence.

There are times when we feel downtrodden and heavy but think about the people who bring lightness into our lives and help us be reminded that we should want to be were the love is.

Where I work is surrounded by heaviness, people work extremely hard, particularly in covid times, patients are scared, angry, anxious, suffering, so the energy can be heavy and all consuming. Its really important therefore that we find those moments of beauty and joy and to know that its ok.  Life has its ups and downs, can be amazing and sometimes terrifying, and when we fight and resist it, that’s what causes the heaviness, but is all ok.

TL has six ways she practices being a breath of fresh air:

  1. Decide to be unaffected – nothing can penetrate your spirit without your consent.  Having a mentality that all is well, and that you are unaffected by it.  We live in a time where everyone is so easily offended its as if we’re looking for things to be upset and angry about.  If that’s what you’re looking for then that’s what you’ll find everywhere.  You can be offended, or angry or upset by something but still choose not to let your feelings be unaffected by it.
  2. Look for what you want to see – whatever you seek is seeking you. If you are looking for things that will upset you and weigh heavy on you, that’s what you’ll find.  You are looking for things that feed that state of being. When you start looking for beauty and love, joy and kindness, you’re going to find that too.  Look for the kindness, the love, the good qualities in people and you will begin to draw that from them and find all those things by return.
  3. Spread love and understanding – the polarities going on in the world right now.  One doesn’t exist without the other but wrong and right are causing more divisiveness, arguing, and hatred in the world.  To heal these rifts we need to stop hating the other side and try to understand where they are coming from. We spend so much of our energy fighting ourselves and with life itself, and as long as we’re doing that we are reacting to it not creating new results.  We don’t have to agree with the other side, but can accept it for what it is.
  4. Carry yourself lightly – air is light, fluid and moving.  Our emotional state impacts our body language. If someone carries themselves with their head held high they are more likely to be confident, light, fun, excited etc.  We draw conclusions about people based on their body language.  If we start carrying ourselves as a breath of fresh air, pretend to walk on clouds and have high regard for yourself. Notice how your body language emits to other people.
  5. Keep rising – rise above negative things, be unaffected by it.  What would it look like if you practice rising above the negative vibes in a room and staying aware?
  6. Take up space – air expands.  Often we are afraid to take up too much space, we’ve always been told to be quite or had an experience where we’ve felt humiliated and are afraid to be noticed. Be willing to walk into a room and say here you are, you’re going to spread so much light on everyone they won’t know what hit them. Its scary and unfamiliar as we don’t believe in ourselves and become wallflowers, but breaths of fresh air just walk in and are willing to take up space. Be willing to be too much with the intention of your presence being a healing presence in the room.

How are you a breath of fresh air?

Little white lies

When does a little white lie become a problem?  We all tell them.  And you’re lying if you think you don’t.  It can be anything from “I’m nearly home” or “I’ve had that dress in the wardrobe for ages, I just don’t wear it that often”, or “I’ll start my diet tomorrow”. They seem meaningless most of the time and often do little or no harm generally. 

According to Emily Cronin in Red Magazine, research found most people lie two or three times within the first 10 minutes of meeting someone new. Cronin quoted Dr Emma Hepburn, a psychologist and author who says it depends on reason for the lie. Maybe someone calls in sick with a physical illness when the reality is they’re having mental health issues but afraid of the stigma that might be attached. Maybe someone underplays how much they spend on clothes to their partner to avoid any snide comments. Dr Hepburn says most little white lies stem from shame or stigma.

Sometimes we might invent a little white lie if we don’t want to participate in a social engagement and would rather be at home in our own company, so we make up another engagement that’s already been in the diary for ages. This also might be partly to save the feelings of the other person too. We don’t want to let people down, or there’s a fear of feeling inadequate or unreliable, or not a good enough friend. These types of feelings reinforce the people-pleasing and we’ll never find out that its ok to say no.

There are many types of lies. Lies of convenience, omission, politeness, lies we tell ourselves, lies we tell consciously and lies that are truths we keep silent. There’s also the childhood lies we are told and tell others in order to prolong the magic.  The existence of the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas – spoiler alert!   They don’t exist.

Sometimes little white lies have no impact whatsoever and Dr Hepburn said it was important not to beat yourself up if you’ve done it, but in most occasions honesty is best.

Martha Beck conducted research where participants in one group were told not to lie, not even a little white one for two weeks.  They demonstrated better relationships and moods, physically emotionally and relationally better, than those who didn’t promise not to tell lies. Beck is an advocate of integrity and says that committing to not telling lies, even little fibs was transformative in her life.  She realised she was gay, so ended her marriage, left her unfulfilling job, and although saying it was extremely hard, it was 1000% worth it. It was better to do that than continue living the lie her life had become in being someone she wasn’t.

Beck explains there are better ways to express yourself and be polite and loving without the need to tell lies, you just have to get creative. But its hard to get over the feeling you might be hurting someone else’s feelings.

I recall a co-worker many years ago who was on the rather large side, and we used to have some cracking conversations and could speak quite openly and honestly to each other.  One day she asked me whether I thought the outfit she was wearing suited her.  I quite honestly replied that I didn’t think it did.  She was mortified.  I was mortified that I’d upset her and followed it up with “Well you did ask”.  She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day, but we did make up the next day. 

It’s hard not to let those little fibs creep in, even if its to save someone else’s feelings, but doing in order to supress your own is not healthy.  Easier said than done though.

8 Ways to adopt a happier lifestyle from other countries

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Allie Finn recently wrote about how countries like Norway, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden continually top the list of happiest countries.  Probably no coincidence they are all near neighbours. But how easy is it change a long engrained cultural lifestyle in order to be happier.  Finn listed eight traits from these countries that we could adopt to live a happier lifestyle:

  1. Hygge – the art of being cozy.  Taking pleasure in soothing things like wrapping yourself up in a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book.  It could even look like cancelling plans and just being cozied up at home.
  2. Niksen – the art of doing nothing. The idea is to literally turn off your brain and let your mind wander through idle consciousness. This allows you to be more creative and better at problem solving and helps with reducing stress.
  3. Kosalig – Almost the opposite of Hygge in as much as its about social interaction.  Getting into finding positive ways to enjoy the harsher times (winter in particular), so you feel more positive, less alone and closer to the people you care about.
  4. Friluftsliv – again involved embracing the outdoors, particularly in wintertime.  Lean into exploring the outdoors in the winter and challenging yourself to explore.  This helps with positive mental health.
  5. Fika – taking breaks during your working day to be mindful.  Step away from the desk and the phone and actually take time to unplug from work for a short while.  Taking dedicated breaks during the day has actually been seen to improve productivity and improve focus.
  6. Lagom – not too little, not too much.  Finding balance and not living in extremes. 
  7. Sisu – perseverance, resilience.  Finishing what you started even when you feel like giving up.
  8. Coorie – actually a Scottish concept about spending time outdoors, hiking, stargazing and simply unplugging. Small, quiet and slow activities that engage us with our surroundings.

Is it that people from these countries are genuinely happier, or is it that there are just more of them that respond to happiness questionnaires?  Surely, here in the UK we have things to be happy about, even in the current situation. 

We can, if we want to, find happiness wherever we are doing whatever we’re doing.  We often see images of people in deprived areas, but they have the biggest smiles.  They make the most of what they have.  Maybe its just as we become more affluent that happiness starts to fade a bit.  We can have all the fancy houses, cars and holidays but does that make us truly happy. 

We can look for happiness in the simplest of things.  As I’m writing this a butterfly has just flittered passed the window.  That’s the first one I’ve seen so far this year and a sure sign spring is on the way.  For that fleeting moment, that butterfly gave me a sense of happiness as I thought about it dancing in the sunlight, and the sense of warmer days ahead. 

We don’t need things to be happy, we need a sense of happiness within us.  One that can sustain us and spread to others.  We can be happy if we choose too. 

What would we export as the UK’s model of happy?

Are you a borrower?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Not a tiny person that squirrels away objects and you wonder where things went, but do you borrow beliefs from other people?  Do they serve your needs, feel good and align with your other beliefs and goals? Surrounding yourself with people who have beliefs that are different but feel much better than your current beliefs.

For example, you may be feeling unwell and google your symptoms and discover that you have the same symptoms as something terrible.  That sends your mind into a frenzy of panic.  But when you speak with your GP about your symptoms, they will give you a much more levelled response based on their beliefs of what you are actually presenting to them. 

Tonya Leigh, current podcast fave, defined a belief as an acceptance that a statement is true or something exists, or its trust, faith and confidence in something or someone.  An assumption that we hold as true, imposed on us by other people or our past experience.

We may have beliefs about how much money we could earn, what kind of relationship we should be in and much more that limit our ambition. Our beliefs really shape our reality based on our behaviours, what we do and what we do creates our results in our lives. Our beliefs also create our energy and whatever we send out in the world is what we are able to receive from it. When we believe it’s normal and all we deserve to earn a pittance, or be in an abusive relationship, that’s what we get back because that’s what we are tuned into.

When we start to mix with people with different beliefs, we start to see that we can earn more money by working smarter, not harder.  We can be in an equal and non-abusive relationship because they are out there. If we don’t have those beliefs ourselves yet, we can borrow their beliefs in order to try them on to see how the fit. When we start to do that and practice those beliefs too it starts to create new experiences and opportunities, and the evidence starts to mount up in favour of it become our own belief system.

When we don’t have believe in ourselves, yet someone else has belief in us, we can borrow that to believe in their belief of us that will drive us to create the results we want. 

It can be hard to believe in ourselves because we have so much going on and so much evidence to support our negative responses.  Sometimes we need to go beyond that and go to people who have already created what it is we want to create and have the belief systems we want to emulate and borrow it from them and practice it until it becomes the norm for us.

If you hang out with a group of people who always so its so hard to do something, you are going to start believing that too because that’s the only environment you are exposed to and you all match each other. When you start to change your beliefs then others are either going to move up with you and start to change theirs, or they’ll get left behind as they are no longer a match for you.

TL suggested that to borrow someone else’s beliefs you need to think of it as a wardrobe.  You get to visit other people’s wardrobes to try on their beliefs.  Every time you try one on that you are not accustomed to it can be a bit of a shock, even though you want to like it, it doesn’t feel right, the immediate response is to reject it. Don’t immediately reject itjust because you don’t have experience with it yet. Try it on and ask yourself what if it was true for you, or what if you could do that? Notice how it feels. What if it is easy, or you could do it, how does it feel? Wear it feel for a while and see how it feels.  If it feels good, then practice embodying the belief, carrying yourself as it if were already yours.  You’ll start to create evidence for it as a fit then start to shift your behaviour. After a while it won’t be a belief you’ve borrowed anymore, it’ll be your own.

If you don’t have belief in yourself, find those who have belief in you, and believe in that.

Work does not define us

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

We may love the job we have but it’s not the be all and end all of who we are.  So many during this pandemic have worked so hard for so long, sacrificing time with their own families to put the needs of others first, working long hours and without boundaries.

I used to work for a financial services company, and I did enjoy my job.  This was partly due to the fact I also had a side role within the organisation as Charity & Community Relations Manager, which meant I got to go out and meet people, represent the company at events, sponsor both large and small things.  Often it meant attending events in the evenings or at weekends. I didn’t get paid for this job, but it came with it’s own perks. I would regularly work from 6am to 6pm, only restricted by the hours my daughter’s nursery was open, and then attend something of an evening.  My work boundary was not clear.

Sadly, this didn’t help my employment status there as when we were taken over by another company, they reviewed all the staff and all they saw was me going off to other events, without knowing anything about what I was doing or why.  I was made redundant and when I asked what would happen to the secretarial support, I had for this other role they had no clue.

From that point on I decided that work was a means to an end and that I would not let it invade my life to the same level again.

Fast forward to the construction and commissioning phases of the new hospital wing and I’d doing long hours and unsociable things, but it had a specific timeframe.  I knew it wasn’t going to be every day or week.  There would be the odd occasions where work/life boundaries would be crossed, but I also knew that I’d get that time back either in hours or cash. And once the project had finished and the new building opened, that would be it.  Since then, no role has made me feel I must be there all hours.  I know when to stop and I’m quite clear on that.  If I do extra, I take that time back.

Having boundaries helps safeguard our time, energy and purpose, and how fulfilled we are.  That doesn’t mean we don’t think about work when we’re not working, or we don’t think about personal stuff during the working day, it’s not that black and white. We can’t just switch from one thing to another.  However, boundaries help us dedicate our mind and energy to work time and gives us time to set aside to recharge.  There can be a palpable shift moving from work time to home time. 

But in a time of more working from home, it can be difficult to see those boundaries and stick to them.  Jayne Hardy wrote six ideas on how we can achieve that balance:

  1. Understand your worth – if we never feel we’re enough we can throw ourselves into work in order to gain some of that enoughness, to make us feel useful and have meaning.  In doing so though we can move further away from being enough as we tire and burnout.  Those around us will start to expect a level of output, or if you always answer the work phone late at night, the expectation is that you’ll always do that. Understanding your worth and value gives an awareness and appreciation of our achievements and what we can offer, underlining how and when we communicate, what we might be willing to do, our motivations and how we react when our boundaries are crossed. We become a bit more particular about what we taken on.
  2. Be clear and concise – when we communicate honestly and clearly, we leave no room for uncertainty about our meaning. It encourages others to do the same and leaves little room for misinterpretation. Its ok to be to the point, follow up on missed deadlines, check in and share our perspective.
  3. Manage and negotiate expectations – when we start work, we have a job description and contract that sets out the basis for mutual expectations that come with expected compensation (pay, holiday etc). If we don’t want to accept those terms, then don’t accept the job, or if we disagree there might be room for negotiation.  However, we all know that the reality is often different, roles evolved, and skills and experience draw us into other things and before we know it what we do has no bearing on our official job description.  When expectations are not met this can lead to consequences and outcomes that may make us feel threatened.  It is good to talk through changes as they arise and reset those expectations on both sides.
  4. Identify your non-negotiables – we often have to trade of a late meeting with clawing an hour back here or there, but there are things in life that should be set in stone.  My example earlier about finishing at 6pm because that’s when the nursery closed.  It could be something that takes us away from our loved ones that we are not prepared to do on a regular basis.  I make sure that any evening meeting I have during the working week doesn’t start before 8pm.  This is because I don’t finish work until 5.30pm then I have to get home (about half an hour), then I’d like my dinner and spend some time with my husband. I make it very clear that I cannot start meetings any earlier than that. Other non-negotiables may be to support our own mental and physical wellbeing, like attending an activity or club, but it could be that Tuesdays is always the day you put aside to have supper with your elderly parents.
  5. Remote work needs boundaries too – Over the last couple of years it has been difficult for many having to work from home.  Particularly if you have children or partners that were also having to stay home. Not only does it make it harder to step away, but also puts additional strain on those home relationships. 
  6. Beware of burnout – burnout is described as a “syndrome conceptualised as a result from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.  This usually manifests as loss of energy, exhaustion, increased distancing from activities, negative feelings and cynicism and reduced efficiency. The more passionate we feel towards our job the easier it is to justify long hours, because we derive pleasure from what we do.  That’s why so many NHS staff are now suffering the aftershocks of the pandemic.  They’ve been on full throttle for so long that they are quite literally worn out, and now starting to resent it.

Hardy suggested we must cultivate that laser focus, compassion, tenacity and drive but in order to do that we need something outside that we can derive pleasure from. Burning the candle at both ends is does not do anyone any favours. No one aspires to be the frazzled person who has no respite and no boundaries.  There is a need for space between self and work. Taking the breaks (coffee breaks, lunch breaks, holiday and sickness when we’re unwell) we’re entitled to is a good place to start.

This is why now, I have quite fastidious in my time keeping.  That’s not to say I watch the clock, I often do extra, may not get a lunch break if I have back-to-back meetings, but I do try to make a point of going out for a walk at lunchtime, whether I’m at the office or working from home.  I do turn my laptop and phone off at the end of the working day.  My boss is aware I have many commitments outside of work, and sometimes I have to put those first.  I will take the annual leave I am entitled to even if I don’t go anywhere or have anything particular to do.

What are your non-negotiable boundaries?

Tapping into your inner excellence

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Usually when I read articles there’s a bit of preamble that introduces the reader to the purpose of the article and what it’s trying to address or tell you.  However, I opened an article written by Brendon Burchard in 2017 where there was no preamble, no background story to get the reader to intrigued, or explanation as to why the writer felt compelled to write this particular article, or getting the reader set up ready for what pearls of wisdom were about to be imparted.  BAM! It went straight into the six steps needed to tap into your inner excellence. So here ya go!

  1. Seek clarity – on who you want to be, how you want to interact, what you want, and what will bring you most meaning.
  2. Generate energy – so you can maintain focus, effort and well-being. Mental stamina, physical energy and positive emotions are required to stay on your A game.
  3. Raise the necessity – for exceptional performance. Actively tap into the reasons you must perform well, based on cocktail of your internal standards, beliefs, values and expectations with external demands, social obligations, commitments, deadlines and so on.
  4. Increase productivity – in your primary field of interest, focussing specifically on quality output in the area in which you want to be known.
  5. Develop influence – with those around you so that they are more likely to believe in and support your efforts and ambitions.
  6. Demonstrate courage – by expressing your ideas, taking action and standing up for yourself even when things are not clear, or changing.

As you are well aware by now I am going through the process of seeking clarity on who I want to be, how I want to show up, what I want and what is important to me.  I am getting better at identifying some of that and making appropriate decisions about making it happen/not happen. 

I do struggle sometimes with focus.  I often have lots to do and can’t see the wood for the trees some days, but every now and then I get a burst of energy and inspiration and can blast through anything, even the most troublesome of dilemmas.

I try to do the best I can in everything I do, but as I wrote about receintly, I have to accept that it’s not going to be perfect every time.  There are times when good enough is good enough, but I make sure I balance that out with my values, beliefs and standards.

Again, I can get really energised about something for a period of time.  This then becomes my primary field of interest and everything I do revolves around it.  I struggle sometimes when others don’t align and I’m left waiting on responses or things to happen which delay progress and in turn starts to deplete my enthusiasm.

If I’m honest, I probably do have some influence both at work and in the #bellringing activities I’m involved in.  I can help shape the direction of a service or offer experience and insight into ringing activities.  I am not egotistical enough to consider myself as a “person of influence” though, and there are times when even my experience and insight has no bearing on anyone’s opinion or actions.

Its funny but I can stand up for myself at work, and is most #bellringing scenarios, but its personal relationships that I struggle to express things well.  All too often, I’ll go with the flow, don’t want to upset anyone, or cause an argument.  I’ll let someone else make the decisions, even when I don’t necessarily agree or want to do whatever it is they want.  I struggle to say what I want and need from personal relationships and as a result probably don’t have very successful ones.  Again, something I’m trying to be better at.

So how do you tap into your inner excellence?

Is this it?

Image by burrough from Pixabay

Or is there more to life?

There are certain things in life you may check off as achieved such as getting a good job, buying a house, being in a committed relationship, having kids, saving for pensions.  If we achieve all those things we may feel lucky, and we are certainly luckier than some who for whatever reason are not able to achieve those things even if they wanted to. But is there more to life than the merry-go-round of work, house, shopping, meetings, kids, errands? Does there need to be?

I read stories about people who have turned their back on the rat race, moved to another country, set up their own business, live off the grid, and found their purpose.  For me, I still wonder what my purpose is sometimes, and I’m not really sure where to start looking for it. I have the comfortable life, a good, well paid job, a well grounded adult child, a committed relationship, money saved for later life. But where do I go now?

In an article in Psychologies Magazine there was an exercise and ten questions to help you asses and begin to understand the changes necessary for you to build a life of meaning and purpose.  The exercise was to picture yourself as an older person reflecting on your life, then imagine you were writing a letter to a good friend, you don’t need to actually send it, but it helps to have a real person in mind when you write it. As your ideal future self, write about the lessons you’ve learned, the positive changes you have made and all the incredible things you have done in your life.  Tell you friend who you got to this point in your life now and how you cane to fulfilment and a sense of purpose.  The idea is not to replan in your mind what you are going to write, just start writing, without editing or deleting, just let the words flow. Once you’ve finished writing, read it back and realise the person you want to have come and how you want to have lived your life.  Next, consider the way you are living your life now and as what changes need to be made to experience more meaning and purpose.

Before making any changes, there are the ten questions to ask yourself:

  1. What do I want, and what will it give me I don’t already have?
  2. What could I lose by making this change?
  3. How can I make this change ad keep the good things from my current situation?
  4. How will this affect the wider system of my life and those around me?
  5. What is the reality of my life now, before I maek the change?
  6. What is the different between where I am now and where I want to be?
  7. How will I get there?  Who and what do I need to help me achieve this?
  8. Is this decision coming from wisdom and courage or fear and doubt?
  9. How important is it to me to make this change?
  10. What will happen if I don’t make this change?

I think that to do this properly would take a bit of time to allow yourself to start the writing process. It might feel a bit stilted at first, but once you make a start, it should flow and become easier to recognise those things and note them all down. 

I think its similar to considering how you want to be remembered in life after you’ve gone.  Why was she here, what was her purpose, what was the point of her existence?

When I’m feeling a bit low I do sometimes think what is the point of me being here, I’m totally ineffectual and have made no difference to anyone’s life. Not to any dramatic sense, but wonder what I’m doing with my life.  Then I realise what I have achieved.  I have positioned myself well at work in a job that I mostly enjoy, with a decent salary, which means I can buy the things I want to.  I have security, I have a solid family set up, I am safe and secure.  I have a hobby that keeps my busy, almost to the point of overload, but that’s my choice to be involved as much as I want to be. 

I hope somewhere along the way someone may have found something I’ve said helpful, something I’ve done useful and that for many years yet, I still have some purpose to share.

Have you found your purpose?  If so, how?

6 Ways to become more human

A number of years ago I did some management training at my previous workplace.  We had to do a test and determine our style, then do a series of exercises to get us all riled up, then do the test again and see what our extreme style is.  I started off quite high in the Perfectionist category.  Once riled up, I was off the Perfectionist scale.  The facilitator asked me if I’d found the two spelling errors in the booklet to which I replied I’d found three.  

I can sometimes get stuck in trying to get things perfectly right before sharing it or completing it.  This can sometime lead to delays, procrastination and huge amounts of frustration.  I have got a little better over the years of realising that I’m not going to get everything perfect every time and that sometimes it is better to do something slightly less than perfect, but good enough.  However, there are still occasions, especially when aggravated by something, that I’ll strive for perfection or go into way more detail that I need to, or challenge things more vociferously. I do still sometimes need to recognise sometimes that good enough is good enough.

Life is not perfect, life is messy, and podcast fave Tonya Leigh recommends we learn to embrace that messiness. Whether its about a work project, relationships, weight, finances etc.  It can’t all be perfect all the time. We need to acknowledge the lessons we can learn from imperfection, and not be shamed by what we see as our own faults. It’s being human.

TL said that she has more fun now that she embraces her humanness and not resisting who she is.  The people who judge her for perceived faults are not ready to learn from her lessons or not a good fit to her needs. By embracing her own humanness she can embrace others people’s as well.

If we were to embrace more of our humanness if would make life easier.  TL suggested:

  • You’re not going to feel great all of the time, you’re not going to feel joyful, excited or passionate.  The more you fight those feelings the more you are not going to notice when you do feel joy, excitement and passion.  You need both to be able to experience the other.  The more you embrace the feelings of misery the less power is has over you. The resisting of negative emotions keeps them sticking around because they have something to teach you.
  • You are going to make mistakes.  Sometimes you can be so afraid of making mistakes you don’t even try, not realising the only way to get to where you want to be is through making mistakes and learning. Embracing that part of the human experience is to make mistakes but learn and grow.
  • You are going to doubt yourself.  Just because you can be, or appear to be confident it doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts.  Confidence is about having the doubt but believing in yourself.  Prove yourself wrong, that you can do it, will do it, committed.  If its something you’ve never done before or been before, your doubt will ask if you really want to do it, but to overcome that doubt you need to see whether you can.
  • You are going to act in ways you’re not proud of.  There will be times you don’t like how you showed up, how you spoke to someone, how you treated someone. If you don’t experience those thoughts and feelings, you are not going to show you how to change that in the next experience. You tend to spend so much time beating yourself up over something instead of embracing what happened and learning what that experience has taught you.
  • You are going to disappoint people.  And they are going to disappoint you too.  You can fight it or embrace it.  You do the best you can with the tools you have and sometimes for other people that’s not enough. You don’t need to suffer because of that though.  Accept it happened and offer yourself compassion and to the other person and determine the root cause.
  • You are going to have your heart broken. It is true to some extent that no one can break your heart, its only your thoughts and feelings that can do that, but you are human and you are going to feel hurt. When you resist having your heart broken, you also resist having your heart delighted.

By embracing our humanness we become better humans; not be fighting or resisting it. Instead of trying to be perfect all the time, we should become more human and embrace all of the human experience, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Its our flaws that make us beautiful, interesting, different, and adds complexity to our lives.  You don’t have to be perfect in order for people to love you, or to be accepted. 

6 ways to upgrade our brain software

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When we were growing up there were certain words and phrases that we were not allowed to use.  These could have been swear words, phrases we copied from TV shows and others that we just were not allowed to speak in the home.

We still need to have that kind of boundary in our adult lives, what words we’re allowed to speak and those we’re not allowed to speak.  In order to determine what words we should or shouldn’t use we need to ask whether those words inspire, motivate and align with the person we want to be, the dreams we want to create, the person we want to be.  If they don’t, then they should be on the “not allowed” list. 

Podcast fave, Tonya Leigh, describes how our brains constantly filter through all the things we are being exposed to decide what’s important.  Its what allows things into your consciousness. Its like whenever you decide to buy a new car, you start seeing that car everywhere.  It’s because your brain is deciding what to allow into your awareness. Therefore, if you are not being intentional with the words you speak, you are allowing thing into your experience that really don’t support you.

For example, if you’re telling yourself you don’t want to be broke, your brain is hearing “broke”, “broke”, and starts to show you evidence of being broke because that is what you’re telling your brain to look out for. We tend to look at our current reality and circumstances and tell a disempowering story around it, the one that created it, and that’s how we expect life to change.

In order to change our circumstances, we need to be mindful of the thoughts we allow into our brains, how they make us feel, then how we speak those words.  With this new information we can consider words and phrases and whether they still belong in our life. They become the words and phrases we do not allow into our house.

TL had six phrases she used to say to herself often that she had to turn around:

  1. I can’t afford this – when we use this phrase our brain goes looking for all the things we can’t afford.  When you change the language to something like “I’m choosing not to buy this right now”, it becomes our choice (even if the underlying reason is lack of disposable cash).  Or using the phrase “I’m looking forward to the time when I can afford it” starts to tell the brain to look for opportunities for how we could afford it.
  2. I am overwhelmed/busy – we can train ourselves to feel overwhelmed using calendars and all the things you have to do to evidence we’re overwhelmed.  The way to get out of that feeling is to not to walk around saying we’re overwhelmed.  If we want to feel a sense of calm and focus we need to change the language now to reflect how we want to feel in the future. Reword phrases so our brain shows us exciting projects to work on, what’s next, what do we need to focus on right now, how can we bring more ease to it?  Then our brain will start to show us how to make it easier, in turn helping us feel less overwhelmed.
  3. I am confused – when we claim confusion, that’s what we receive.  We cannot get to clarity through confusion, so we often blame confusion on lack of decision making.  When we start to make decisions, and they may not always be the right one, we can move forward.  Clarity comes through action. A decision will either lead us to where we want to go, or give us something to learn from. 
  4. Its hard / I’m struggling – not everything is easy, but does claiming how hard everything is, or how much struggle we’re facing, serve us?  Does it inspire and motive us?  If we’ve already decided something is going to be hard, chances are we don’t even show up for it. If we’re saying its going to be hard, our brain will look for all those reasons why it’s going to be hard.  Instead, turn the dialogue around to acknowledging something is a challenge and ask for help figuring it out. We don’t have to take on a truth that something is hard.  Ask how we can make it easier, more fun?
  5. I have to – there are things that we have to do but is there any freedom in walking around saying we have to do this, or that?  What we do is a choice, we don’t have to do any of it.  Everything we do is a choice and we get to decide to own that choice. When we decide to choose to do something on purpose is so much more empowering. 
  6. I wish I could do that/be that/have that – when we say this we are just creating experiences of always just wishing.  Our brains will look for things we wish we could do, be or have, instead of finding opportunities to actually do, be or have. Again, it’s a choice we can align to by asking ourselves how we can do that, be that, have that.  Start telling our brains to look for evidence to support all the reasons on how and why it could happen. To experience feelings of envy or jealousy is human, but its our brains telling us what we want, but start to ask those questions about how can we be that person.

Its like upgrading our brain software by changing from wishing about things to commit to achieving it.  Reprogramme our brains to work for us to filter through the things in our environment to show us what’s possible by changing the language and phrases we use in everyday life.