#lifelessons101- the stories we tell are the legends we become

Before schools and tutors and universities there were stories. Stories that shaped our beliefs. Stories that taught us right from wrong. Stories that moved us, inspired us to be brave, to follow our dreams.  For me stories have been and are the school for the human soul throughout the history of humanity. This week I had a powerful reminder of this at the Viborg Animation Festival.

Now I have always loved stories, I actively collect them.  I love the folk tales and the legends of times gone by. And in a brief conversation with one of the writers of the Song of the Sea. I remembered something I had forgotten. That these legends, these tales that I love, are all somewhere once rooted in reality, in a real history, with real people, that have long been forgotten as the legend has grown and developed for new audiences. And that got me thinking.

We (as humans I mean) still love to tell stories today. We love to tell stories about ourselves, our adventures. We tell our children stories about our own childhoods as teaching tales. We love also to read about other people’s lives. And we love to share those stories, to the immense satisfaction of the tabloid press who would be out of business if we did not enjoy gossip. My point is that even though we have other institutions of learning stories are some of our prime fountains of learning. And equally, they define us.

They define us in the eyes of others. The stories we tell about ourselves are the people we become. And the legends that we pass on. Just take my Grannie for example. An amazing woman that lived to 103. She traveled the world throughout her life and had hundreds of tales to tell about the places she’d traveled, the people she met and often the food they had eaten. As a child, I would have sworn she knew the world not by a map but by restaurants. She drove through Barcelona in a taxi whilst Franco captured the city. Encouraged Portuguese women to be independent at a time when that was not the done thing. All of this made her to me and my cousins a fabulously elegant and interesting person with a kind of glamour about her. That is the legend we tell about her today. However, I wonder if that’s how she saw herself? I wonder if that was the truth she lived. I know for example that the death of her husband was something that affected her strongly. Yet as she chose to not share that tale, even that is shrouded in some mystery. She chose a way to present herself to the world and in our memories, that is who she became.

Now at the moment, I think alot about the legacy I will leave behind in the world often. (The after effects of hitting 40 and recently being dangerously ill in hospital). What will I leave behind me when I decide to shuffle off this mortal coil? What will my legends be? And as I was coaching a client today, who has a strong negative dialogue about himself, I remembered that it is actually up to me. Just as my Grannie created her legend through the stories she told about her life, I have the power, well we all do; to create the life and the legend through the tales we tell about ourselves.

Take my client today. He really believes that he is a bad person because he is “wasting his time and being nonproductive”. His entire narrative described him as a lazy good for nothing. And yet I know he is not this at all. He is a person who constantly seeks to improve himself, to get the best out of and enjoy the experience of life. Yet in his opinion that couldn’t be further from the truth, because of the stories he tells himself and others.

You see the stories we tell about ourselves are not just the anecdotes from our past. It is also in how we refer to ourselves and most importantly in the stories we tell ourselves. I can remember for many years I would call myself dumb and silly. I said it to myself. I made jokes at my own expense around other people. And sure enough years later those people remember me as a silly person. (I think the exact description was about as grounded as Phoebe from friends…) However, after working on my internal dialogue, changing it, that is not the way I refer to myself today and it is not how people see me either.

And it is equally the same with the anecdotal stories we tell from our past. I am, in many respects, like my Grannie. I have 40 years of a life with rich and varied experiences. Not all of those are good. Not all of those are terrible. Yet in my past, I have often told the stories of my troubles, the things that I have been through. Until the day that someone pointed out that it didn’t portray me as a strong person rather it often made me seem as though I was trying to make people seem sorry for me. Now not that I don’t think we should share our sad stories. I think it’s unhealthy not too. However, there is a time and there is a place. The point is to not allow yourself to be caught in the trap where all your stories flap out of your mouth without a thought.

What I mean is that you can, through the stories you tell, create the life you want and the person you want to be. Whether it’s through the stories you tell yourself or the stories you tell others, you can choose what bits of you that you want to have woven into the story of the life you are living now so that these become legend of who you are and one day of the person you were.

Personally, I want my life and legend to be one of growth, strength, adventure, inspiration and abundant happiness. These are the stories I choose to tell. Take some time to notice the stories you tell yourself and others this weekend and ask yourself ‘Is this the legend of me I want to leave behind?’ And if it’s not, start telling yourself and the world a new story and watch how the power of a story will transform your world.

Have an amazing weekend <3

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How to have an Abundance mindset during the dark times

As autumn draws in and the storms begin to rage, we begin to draw ourselves in. To prepare for our winter hibernation period. This weekend past marked the autumn equinox a time where the sun and the moon, day and night are equal. A point in our calendar that marks clearly the entrance into the darker half of the year. Most people don’t realise that this natural phenomenon affects humans on a genetic and biological level. Not only do we feel the change in the weather, we also slow down mentally and physically. And something often unspoken is that our survival instincts turn on to alert.  In days gone by survival during the winter was an uncertain and precarious thing. In Fact, it wasn’t all that long ago. It wasn’t until the 16th century that art depicting winter began to be seen. And surviving through the winter has only really been a reality within the latter end of the industrial period with the invention of electricity, major medical advancements and industrialised production and distribution of food.

Now, what has this got to do with abundance mindset I hear you ask? Bear with me, I am getting there. The point is that our survival instincts have not, as yet caught up with the extreme advancements that have made our lives easier and ultimately safer during the winter. And it is partly our survival instincts being aroused in the autumn and winter that can affect our mental health and make us more susceptible to depression and to a “poverty mindset” or a lack mindset. Basically, because we unconsciously think we are going to be in danger and not survive we begin to feel like we don’t have enough. It’s a form of panic mode. Ergo it can be harder to have an abundant mindset in the darker times than it can during the spring or summer. Especially when we are also lacking the vitamin D from the sun too.

And the irony is that having an abundance mindset during the darker times can actually be the very thing that makes those seasons easier. If you have heard of or worked with abundance mindset before, you will know that having or not having enough is not a matter of how much you actually have.  It is a matter of perspective. It is a mindset. There are plenty of people in the world who have all of the luxuries possible, yet they can’t stop buying and possessing more. Oprah said

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

So if you feel like you have nothing and never have enough that’s exactly what you have. Equally, if you feel that what you have is already enough, then anything you gain in life will always be valued and appreciated, which in turn leaves you feeling abundant.

So the challenge for us during the darker parts of the year is basically to hijack our survival instincts that are trying to tell us we don’t have enough by practicing an abundant mindset.  Which in turn will bring light into your darkness and more beauty into the colder, harsher times. Just follow this step by step guide to forming an abundance mindset and set yourself up for a beautiful autumn and a content winter.

Focus on the good rather than on the bad

Now I know this can be a challenge. However, when you really look at it in any situation there is really a silver lining. My diabetes started only 10 years ago. Not exactly something I wanted in my life. However, the silver lining was that I began to take of myself and view my life even more as a precious gift. Looking for the good and focusing on that is like turning on a light switch in the darkness. The more you look the more you find.

Appreciate what you already have

No matter what is going on around us there are always little things that we can be grateful for. Even if it is your morning coffee, the seat on the bus after a long days work or the happy greeting you get from your pet. Life is made of small beautiful moments which we often fail to notice. By practicing gratitude on a daily basis you cannot help but see how rich your life is in the simple moments that make life wonderful.

Give more of what you want  

As I write this I am sitting on a train sharing a booth with two strangers. Now I had in my bag three sweets. I took them out intending to eat them all myself (and then of course take some insulin). However, I noticed that one of the ladies looked at the sweets. And I thought to myself maybe she would like one too. So without speaking to them (it’s a quiet zone) I shared my sweets. They both smiled and that was my reward. A feel-good moment on an otherwise grey and miserable day. I would love a stranger to offer me a sweet on a long haul journey and who knows maybe one day they will. Like attracts like. So, if you treat the world the way you want to be treated sure enough the world will start to treat you that way.

Enjoy whatever you’re doing for the true purpose of enjoyment

When we depend on our outside world (such as other people and things) to fulfill us and make us feel a certain way, good or bad, we become very attached to how this outside world “behaves.”  The challenge with this is that when we cling to something so much, we lose the ability to enjoy it. We get overtaken by expectations of how something needs to be in order for us to be happy.  So even an enjoyable act as posting a happy picture on facebook becomes joyless when your happiness is dependent on the reactions of others and the likes that picture gets. Can you see how this dependency makes it difficult to enjoy the day to day processes of your life?   Make sure you check in with yourself when you don’t feel happy about something you are doing and ask- Am I doing this for the purpose of enjoyment or am do I want this activity or thing make me feel and seem better than I do right now? If you are not doing it for enjoyment then stop doing it.

Affirm your abundance daily

Around my home I have small hearts in strategic places. People often assume that this is from me to Mr T or visa versa. However as lovely as that would be, they are not. These hearts remind me everytime I see them that “Life love me and I am blessed”. A practice from Louise Hay’s book Life loves you.  It always generates a feeling of satisfaction and contentment when the words pop up into my mind. Try it and see for yourself.

Celebrate moments

As I said earlier life is made beautiful by small moments. But how often do we celebrate them ? Taking the effort to make a small moment seem even more beautiful enriches your life. Small acts such as lighting candles while you watch tv or laying the table nicely even when eating alone will make you feel abundant in your life.

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If you don’t look for the abundance in your life you will never feel it. As Wayne Dyer said “Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune in to” Take some time to tune into your own abundance this autumn, enrich your journey and you will find your life is full of beautiful moments that will warm you no matter how dark it is outside

Have a wonderful week <3

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#lifelessons101 – Get more time in your day by simplifying your eating routine (3 min read)

Recently I gave a workshop about habit forming and how forming a routine in life can both give you more time and lessen the effects of decision fatigue. (Mental fatigue from having to make too many decisions). Now as this workshop progressed I noticed something. No matter how much I encouraged or suggested different ways of minimising decision fatigue (such as capsulizing your wardrobe or limiting your options, eg give yourself three options no more) they kept returning to the ides of food. Be it food shopping. Food preparation. Food planning.

Now, this could have been for three reasons.

One they were hungry. (Well it was a morning workshop so possible.)

Two they were unimaginative. (Considering that I was in one of the most prestigious creative companies in the country this is doubtful.)

Or three, that changing our approach to eating, to shopping and food preparation is actually one of the best and easiest ways to give us more time in an overwhelming busy day.

When you think about it. It makes sense one of our primary basic biological needs, (as described at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid of needs)  is one of the easiest to create a system from. (I guess it’s a survival thing.) Now think about it.

How much time and energy do you use on food in your life?

There is the planning of the shopping list, the actual shopping, always harder and more expensive when you do it hungry. Then there is the choosing of what you want to eat, deciding how to make it, maybe having to shop for the thing you forgot for that recipe, the prepping, the cooking. Then, of course, the best part, the eating. And then the worst. The cleaning up. And this is something we do every day. At least 3 – 5 times a day.

How much time in your day is that?

What if you shop every day?

Cook something different every night?

Honestly, when you think about it, it’s a mental exhausting list. All those decisions you have to make, often on autopilot. And all the time that gets used. Now I am not saying you should eat less often to get more time. That would be dumb. If the body doesn’t refuel then you can’t do anything properly or well and the extra time would become useless. What I suggest is changing the way you approach your food making process, change your habits (a little or a lot depending on what works for you) and give yourself less mental fatigue and more time.

Sounds great! I can hear you asking how? Well, the honest answer is there is no one fix solution for everyone. However, here is a few suggestions on how you can condense your food habits based on my own and my client’s experience. I recommend try 1 or 2, and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t come back and try something else. And if you get a genius inspired idea that is not mentioned here please post it in the comments so we can all be inspired by you!

Meal Plan

I cannot recommend this enough. I don’t have a meal plan for every meal of the day. (You will see why below) However, I do make a weekly meal plan for dinner. This is practical as Mr T is not vegetarian and I am so there is always 2 different versions of a dinner to cook. Having a meal plan means we can simplify that process. So we are having the same type of dinner on with meat and one without. One of the great thing about having a meal plan is that it makes your grocery shopping list easier to follow and you have fewer decisions to make in the supermarket, so your trip is quicker. Saves time, money and stress. How many things can you say that about in life!

Favourite Food/Meals list

This is a great idea. Especially for people who get caught up in projects or have a low appetite under stress and cannot think what they might like to eat. The basic idea is to write a suggested list of the meals you like to eat. You can do this for every meal time if you like. Then you use that list to help you decide what to eat. You can also use it conjunction with your meal plan. I have done this when I wanted to change my diet to be more healthy so I had suggestions for wiser choices but were still in the realms of food I liked. I also used this when I have to find diabetic friendly versions of the foods that I wanted to eat when I got diagnosed with type 1. It makes the whole process of decision making easier and gives you a chance to check in with your eating habits.

Cook bigger portions

Don’t just cook for one night cook for 2, or three or even the whole week. It depends really on your food storage facilities. Now, this does mean that you will eat the same meal at least twice a week. ( So make something you like) However, it means you save time and can enjoy life more it’s a fair trade. Reheating something often takes less than 10 mins. Think 10 mins food prep instead of an hour. Wow! The great part is that this works really well for healthy meals like soup, casseroles, curries even chilli and spaghetti bolognese. So this can actually improve your eating habits too! In our house, we eat pretty much the same thing each weekday and then have something different or special on the weekend.

Designate a serve yourself /leftovers night

If you make bigger portions chances are you may have leftovers in the fridge. A great way to use them up and minimise food prep time. One of my clients has a serve yourself dinner each week. Basically, everyone in the house eats whatever they can find in the fridge. A genius way of clearing the fridge, not wasting food and keep food prep to a minimum.

I would recommend trying these nights at the end of the week when you know you have low energy and need more time to recharge your batteries than you need to stand in the kitchen for 45 mins making food.

Minimise your shopping trips

Shopping less saves time.  I shop once a week, many of my clients do the same. It frees up a massive amount of time. And if planned properly you can reduce your waiting time by avoiding the typically busier times in the supermarket. Make a list before you go so you know what you need. When it comes to grocery shopping I prefer the in and out attack plan, others prefer a more leisurely trip. Some prefer to shop twice a week. Or do a big shop and a quick top up shop.  

Try one new recipe a month

I love this one. As we often eat a lot of the same meals I like to try something new to spice it up. I am an avid collector of recipes books that used to collect dust on the shelf and do little else. Now each month I try and find something new and introduce this to my menu plan. It breaks the same old, same old rhythm, and means that I get a boost of productive energy by trying something new and creative,

Systemize breakfast and lunch

Breakfast and lunch are meals that you can make habitual. Mr T changes his lunch menu 4 times a year, yet has the same thing for breakfast every day. I like more variety and tend to go through phases of eating the same type of meals for lunch and breakfast. So for example at the moment I have toast for breakfast and as often as possible avocado, tomato with olive oil, salt and pepper for lunch. A  month or so ago I had omelettes for breakfast. On the weekend when I have more time I like to throw in something different and a little more time consuming but fun. The habit of systemising breakfast and lunch really reduces decision fatigue right at some of the busiest points of the day. Freeing your energy up to use in a more beneficial way.

Have a regular eat out day

Some of my clients have a regular eat out day. Either in the evening or at lunchtime. The same day every week at the times where they know their energy is low or their lives are busy. Eating out saves time as you don’t have to prep or wash up and gives you the opportunity to feel like you are spoiling yourself. A great energy booster.

It’s not always your job to cook

This one is really important. It really is not always your job to cook. Often when we live with other people we naturally fall into the role of who cooks and who doesn’t. In my childhood it was my Dad, these days it’s me. However, cooking 7 days a week is not fun. It’s work. (well for me it is). So we have made a fixed schedule in our house where we both know who is cooking and when. Now Mr T is not the most skilled cook in the world (he can seriously mess up egg ’n’ chips.) So to get around this challenge I taught him to make one dinner we both love. We have it every week on a Thursday. And the free time it gives me is a blessing. If scheduling who cooks when doesn’t work for you, you can share the cooking together. If I have to make a big portion of food on a Sunday Mr T will do the chopping, peeling and prep of the veg. We are both involved and  it saves us both time and energy.  

Now if you live alone it can be challenging to not be the one to cook. So I suggest finding someone to visit on a regular basis for dinner. Mr T goes to his Dad for dinner once a week. They have a great time catching up together and it’s one less dinner to cook. (I also get the house to myself – bliss!) If you don’t have parents you can or want to connect with what about making the arrangement with a friend. You could take it in turns each week. Freeing time and getting some social contact at the same time. And it is completely ok to get take away once in a while!

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When you put your mind to it there are many ways you can free up your time and mental energy by systemising and structuring your eating habits. The possibilities are endless and with a little effort, you will find a structure that fits your lifestyle. Take 15 mins this weekend to give your eating and food habits a quick overhaul and see how much time and energy you can gift to yourself in the coming week.

Remember to share your ideas in the comments below

Have an amazing weekend <3

Give yourself more time, more energy and save yourself money at the same time - The easy way to simplify your food routine (1)

5 steps to reassess your life and live with integrity

 

There are moments in life that make you reassess everything. Moments that throw a spotlight on your reality. A disaster that reminds you that you are alive, This last week I have had one of those moments. 3 days ago I was rushed to hospital suffering from ketoacidosis ( a horrible side effect to diabetes). And now I am sitting here writing to you. Now if you are not initiated in the school of diabetes type 1 ketoacidosis is pretty serious and can be fatal. So for the last couple of days, my medical team and my body have been fighting to keep me out of the danger zone and on this planet.

I feel very lucky and incredibly grateful. Grateful of course to the amazing medical team who have looked after me but also to Mr T, my friends and family who from near and far have sent me so much love and caring. However, I also feel incredibly grateful for my life. When this stuff happens I feel it is a kick from the universe saying “Hey! You! You are alive. What are you doing with this gift?” Bad health, with a reminder of our mortality, is a great lesson, if a somewhat badly wrapped gift. For me, it has shown me what I value. What I am doing in my life that is me really listening to my soul and what I am doing that is me lying to myself. How do I live with integrity? And how do I not? It’s a hella important process. I mean we only have one life in this body, as this person at this time. Wasting this amazing gift is more than criminal, it is arrogant and spoilt. And so many of us to waste this gift by not living with accordance to our own values. So I have welcomed this opportunity to really look into my life and find my truth. What do I value and how am I living that each day? How can I live with more integrity?

Then it struck me. Why has it taken a medical disaster to make me look at this? Why do we only get motivated to check in when things go horribly wrong? Wouldn’t it surely be more beneficial to do this process on a regular basis? Would it not be more respectful to the gift of being alive, not to mention be incredibly beneficial to ourselves, to check in and see if we are living in accordance to our own values on a regular basis. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”. And I agree.

If I had died this week would my soul have been happy with the way I live? Would I have felt that I have lived a life of integrity? That I have walked my talk? To be honest not really. I mean I would be able to acknowledge the efforts I have made but in truth, there are some things in my life that I do that in no way shape or form, fall in line with my values. And there are things I really want to do that I have never done, or put off constantly. What is the point of that?

So I have decided to set some time aside each month to take a 15-minute check in with myself. It’s now scheduled in the diary as my Life integrity check-in. A 15-minute recess to reassess my life*,check in with my values and to make sure I really am living a life of integrity. What about you? When did you last check in with your values? When did you last reassess your life to see if you are prioritising or ignoring the things that are most important to you? Do you know if you are living a life of integrity?

I invite you to try the following process. It will take you 15 mins max and will help you to really see where you are, how you are living and if this really is the way you want to live. Without the bother of having to have a horrible disaster in your life!

Life Integrity check

Step 1: The question to ask yourself is this: What is truly important to me in life?

Brainstorm a list of your values as your answers to this question. Be specific. So some of my list looks like this (In no particular order of importance):

  • Mr T
  • My brother
  • My cats
  • My Parents and family
  • Mother Earth and Paganism
  • Community and friends
  • Creativity- Writing -Drawing and painting – colouring
  • Laughing
  • Dancing
  • Making memories and having adventures
  • Viking
  • Good food and wine
  • Coaching and Teaching
  • Playing and having fun
  • Good health and happiness
  • Me time
  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Inspiring work
  • Love and being loved
  • Safety
  • Acknowledgement and respect
  • Honesty

There’s no hard rule for how long your list should be, however, a list in the range of 15 – 25 values is easier to work with.

Step 2: Ask your self what is a real priority for you on your list?

The next step is to prioritize your list. This is the most difficult step because it requires some intense thinking.

Identify the top value, then the second highest value, and so on until you’ve rebuilt the whole list in order of priority from the top to the bottom. So you may begin by asking yourself these questions: Which of these values is truly the most important to me in life? If I could only satisfy one of these values, which one would it be? The answer to this question is your number one value. Then move down the list and ask which remaining value is the next most important to you, and so on, until you’ve sorted the whole list in priority order.

Step 3: Now ask the question How much are my values prioritised in my life?

We may have these values but do we prioritise them? Go through your list. Put a smiley 🙂 next to those that are visibly prioritised in your life, an uncertain emoji for values you sort of prioritise and a sad face 🙁 for values that are not prioritised at all.

It’s quite interesting to look at. I found that I was only prioritising 14 of my values in my life. 9 things that were really important to me were only semi prioritised and somethings that I thought very important were not prioritised at all.

Step 4: Now ask yourself How would I like to prioritise my values in my life?

Now you can see what matters to you and what you are and are not prioritising, ask yourself “How would I like to prioritise my  values in my life?” We all do only have 24 hours in a day and of course, we would love to fill every moment of the day as we liked. But this is not always possible. So you have a choice of daily, monthly and weekly. Assign this to each of your values. Basically, you are choosing how you will prioritise your time according to your values.

Once you have assigned Daily, weekly and monthly to each of your values rearrange them in the order of daily, weekly and monthly. This gives you a new and unique perspective on your values and what is important to you.

Step 5: Now ask yourself What can I do to make this a reality in my life?

In the last step, you created a wish list of how you would like to live with integrity. Now you need to plan your action. Make a practical mini goal for each value of how you will prioritise this daily, weekly or monthly in your life. So, for example, I have ‘Making memories and having adventures’ as something I value and wish to do on a monthly basis. So I have to make sure there is a time in my calendar every month for an adventure day with Mr T, or a good friend to have an adventure and make a memory.

For the last time prioritise these goals in the order you would like to start introducing them into this month. Don’t try and do everything at once. Choose a few  (maybe one monthly, one weekly and one daily) and start to create these fantastic new habits that mean you are living a life of integrity.

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Put this month’s goals somewhere you can see them. Now, book in your calendar next month ’s life integrity assessment. Remember your values change. Maybe next month you would like to focus on something else. For example, I know that my health and Me time is high on the list this month as I need to recover. However next month it might be spending time with my Mr T. You may just choose new goals to start to fulfil from the list you make today or you may find that you make new goals. This system is as flexible as you and will change with the ebb and flow of your life keeping you true to yourself always.

Have a wonderful week <3

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind

 

 

 

( *try saying that fast it’s full of s’s!!)