Knowing where you are going starts by knowing where you come from (The gift of Halloween and Samhain)

With the pumpkins in the supermarket, the skeletons, witches and ghosts decorating every shop window, it’s hard to not have noticed that on Wednesday it will be Halloween.  Now I know a lot of people get frustrated at this commercialized holiday. I get that with all the hype and merchandise it can be difficult to remember or see the deeper meaning and teachings of Halloween. Yet if we don’t look past all of that we can miss one of the most important life lessons we need in order to grow and develop. Let me explain…

Way back in time, before Christianity took root in the Celtic lands, Halloween was celebrated as the festival of Samhain. Samhain was an incredibly potent time for our European ancestors. Not only was it the ending and the beginning of the Celtic year. They believed that at this point of transition in the year the veils between the worlds, between the living and the dead were thinnest. (As do many people who celebrate a pagan spiritual path, or the Celtic wheel of the year today). Samhain was the night where the spirits of the deceased could walk amongst us once more.

To our modern mindset, this may seem morbid. However, for our ancient ancestors, this time was a time of celebration. A feast of the dead. A time to honor those who had gone before. At this time in history know who you were and where you came from was culturally significant. Back then people knew who their ancestors. They knew their lineage, they could name them. For example, Welsh people used the word ‘ap’ meaning ‘of’ to connect your name to your lineage e.g “John ap Bernard” John son of Bernard. (The Welsh, in fact, could often be linked through their “surname” to 7 generations “John ap Bernard, ap Peter, ap James, ap william etc etc etc).  A far cry from us. How far back do you know in your family? Your grandparents ? Maybe if you are lucky your great grandparents? This connection to our ancestors, to those that came before us who we are connected to by our DNA contains, in my opinion, the gift of Samhain/ Halloween and one of the most important keys to our personal development. The gift of knowing where you come from.

As the legendary Sir Terry Pratchett so accurately said “It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.” Our ancestors, our loved ones who have passed over gave us in our DNA our skills, our personal qualities, our talents and our vulnerabilities, the code that makes us. Our nearest and dearest, taught us lessons in life, whether through actual lessons or the example of their lives. And it is by connecting with both these lessons and our genetic code we can get a better understanding of the root of who we are, which in turn gives us insight into where we are going.

To re vist these teachings at Samhain it is not only a powerful way for us to both reconnect with this understanding of ourselves but also a powerful way to honour the lives of those who have gone before us.

Each year at Samhain I take time to go through the family album. I choose one picture of a deceased relative. Sometimes one I knew, and sometimes one I have only heard stories about. I spend time with Mr. T or friends, or in a circle, sharing stories of their lives, sharing how this person affected my life and looking at what they taught or showed me in or by, their lives. Each time I discover something new. Even if I have chosen the same person a few years in a row.  I can highly recommend this process. Especially for the ‘a, haa’ moments of understanding it brings.

Sometimes this process can be a little painful. Of course, we feel sadness that this person is gone. Often it is simply that we cannot thank them for the amazing gifts they gave us. So the other half of my Samhain process is to find a way on that day to celebrate them. So, for example, this Samhain I am celebrating the life of my Grandma, Christian Dean. She loved to make things and inherited from her a copious sewing, knitting and crochet equipment. I have always wanted to crochet but always been scared of trying (I am a bit dyslexic when it comes to making things). However this year with a cup of tea, and a cigarette (My Grandma smoked like a chimney) I am going to start to crochet. It’s a little thing that I think she would have loved to see me do. I am also going to be having a proper English breakfast as I remember the smell in the morning at her house was always full of tea, bacon, and eggs. These little things I know will make me feel closer to her, but instead of making me sad will make me smile (and probably swear with the crocheting!) And in that smile I will be celebrating her life.

There are many ways to connect with your ancestors as Samhain. You can meet up with members of your family to stories of their lives, or tell the stories to the new generations. You can visit their graves, or even visit a burial mound if you want to connect with the generations who came before that you didn’t get the chance to meet. You can bring out pictures of your family, or make a family tree. Or in the Celtic style, you can have a feast of the dead by making a meal with an extra plate at the table, for the person/people you are thinking of, symbolically sharing that meal with them.

Amidst the trick and treating, costume parties and pumpkin carving this Halloween take a moment to However you decide to do this check in with your ancestors this Samhain. By honoring and remembering them and their lives, you will also be honoring the roots from which you grew. And by connecting with your roots you will begin to understand, appreciate and value of the person you are today. And I know from experience that you will find will make your way forward in life a lot easier to see.

Have a beautiful week – Happy Samhain <3

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#lifelessons101 – How to help a friend without getting caught in drama

Humans love drama. We do. Our entire entertainment system is built upon that fact. On the big screen, in the tabloids, we revel in emotionally and intellectually demanding situations and stories.  We indulge in the details, the ups and downs of other people’s lives. The most enjoyable part in this is that we can disengage, we are not emotionally invested. No matter what happened in that last episode of Game of Thrones, or the details of the latest celebrity break up we can walk away unaffected. We can easily follow the Polish Proverb “It’s not my circus, not my monkeys”. Basically, it’s not my drama so I am not going to stay engaged.

However in our own lives. When the situation is about people we care about, not being engaged becomes much more difficult.  I find it extremely difficult. When a friend of mine is a situation filled with drama, which hurts them it is impossible for me not to want to help. However, it can be really difficult to help without being drawn into the drama and usually getting caught in the crossfire. Recently life threw this kind of situation at me. Someone I care about is in a horrible situation, one I have been in myself and wanted my help. It is a very volatile situation and has the potential for drama written all over it. I knew this drama would be harmful to me emotionally, especially because it was so close to the bone of one of my past traumas. But I still wanted to help. It might not be my circus, but it sure as heck has one of my monkeys in it. I felt stuck in the dilemma of how could I help without getting caught and burned in the drama myself?  Have you been there? If you have you will know how hard a situation this is. How do you take care of yourself and help someone else in a drama situation?

So I took a step back. I know from working with distancing myself from drama in the past, that the most important thing I could do is create firm boundaries. And from my work as a coach I also know that when helping others is that we are all responsible for our own decisions, and our own outcomes as are they for theirs. With that in mind before I helped I made myself some guidelines of how I could best serve my friend and myself. Honestly, it’s been a lifesaver. By having these guidelines to keep me true to myself, take care of me and my friend I have been able to keep both my sanity in the situation, keep myself free from negative drama and help her at the same time.

And to help if you are in the same situation here are some tips for you to create your own guidelines that will help you decide how you can help without getting caught in the drama yourself.

Is this your circus?

First and foremost take a step back and have a good look at the situation. Is this your circus (situation) or theirs? Does it affect you, your life? Ask yourself why do you want to help? And ask yourself is my help necessary? Do you really need to get involved? We all love to help people we love. But sometimes they don’t actually need us to jump in and fix things. Decide if you want or need to be involved and if you want or need to help.

How can you help?

Looking at the situation objectively how can you help, really? And equally important how does your friend want you to help? Identify what you can and can’t do. Keep in mind this is your friend’s situation to fix. You are in a support role. So unless its absolutely necessary (in a life or death type emergency) don’t jump all in as the knight in shining armor. Merlin was just as much help to King Arthur as an advisor as his knights who went on quests for him. (Sometimes more of a help actually) Outline what help you can give and are willing to give.

Look for personal triggers

If your situation is similar to mine, there may be elements of the situation that trigger you personally and emotionally. You are not going to be able to help your friend by reacting from your past situation and projecting it onto theirs. You need to know what will affect you in the situation personally and how to deal with that. You will probably need someone outside the situation to talk to about your own feelings. Remember to explain this to your friend and to choose support in someone you both trust. Preferably someone who is not involved and can be neutral and there for you.

Set the boundaries you need.

Know your boundaries. Are you willing to rehome the person if needed? Are you willing to spend your energy helping them if they are not willing to change the situation they are in? Best-selling author Dr. Brene Brown teaches the importance of setting boundaries when helping others. As she says “The most compassionate people I know also have the most well-defined boundaries,”. Before you jump in know how far you are willing to leap.

To help you check in with yourself and stick to your boundaries you can make a mantra that you repeat to yourself every time your boundary is tested to help you stick to what you can do and not overstretch yourself and your resources. Remember to let your friend know your boundaries in a gentle and caring way.

Remember this is not your journey

This is not your life journey it is theirs. Remember that in the end, as invested as you are in someone else’s happiness and success, it’s not your journey. Don’t take the situation personally. Similarly, don’t take it personally if they reject your help. People have to find their own solutions and live life at their own tempo. If you have done your best to help them from a place of love and caring you have to accept they have the right to live their life the way they live it. You can intervene but ultimately as a friend, your job is to be an honest supportive guide that is there to help them make the right choice for them.

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Helping a friend who is in a challenging, or in a potentially harmful situation is a precarious business. As Dr. Kaplow a known therapist says “Always remember that it’s very easy to project your preferences, your thoughts, your values on to your friend…Our natural tendency is to look at a relationship and say internally, ‘If this were me…'” he adds. “The problem is that no matter how well you know your friend … you are now distorting the relationship dynamic.”  You have to think before you speak. Keep it simple and honest. Speak from the heart, but choose your words carefully. Keep yourself strong by setting boundaries so you can truly be the best help and maintain your own strength. And know that even though you have done your best your friend may reject your help or advice.

This is their journey,  you have your own. You can only be responsible for your choices. So choose to help in a way that best serves you and your friend and leave the drama to someone else.

Have a great weekend <3

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How to live a life less ordinary :Prioritise doing more of what you love

I am very fortunate to have created a life I love for myself. However, at this time of year when the pre -winter blues echo in the back of my mind, I often find that I am disgruntled, less than satisfied with my life. When this niggling feeling started to get the better of me I decided to step back and take an objective look at what was going on. What I found, and the answer to my problems what both shockingly simple and easy to fix.

I wasn’t doing enough of what I love in life

You see on paper, at first glance it was hard to see. Because if you look around online the “do more of what you love” theory relates to work life. And sure enough, my work life contains many elements of the things I love. Coaching clients, teaching, writing even creativity in my weekly inspirational quotes, learning, and research. On paper, I am doing it right. However, I had fallen into the classic entrepreneur trap. I wasn’t applying the same principle to my own life, my life outside of work. To be fair it’s easy to do. Even if you are not an entrepreneur. Life sometimes just feels like all work and no play. And isn’t it funny that in a society today that recognizes work/life balance as incredibly important, that all the advice out there to re-address the balance in your life is geared only to one side of that equation. Doing what you love at work.

 

Now I know that there is little time in the day what with work, kids, shopping, washing, social commitments etc. However, if you want to have less burnout, more energy and a better quality of life it is seriously important to prioritise doing more of what you love in life. And I mean on a weekly basis. The key here is that with the limited time available (depending on your life) to prioritise doing more of what you love has to be qualitative focused rather than quantitative. Basically prioritise by doing more of the things you love that really boost your energy in a focused manner, rather than doing lots of things you love in an unfocused way.

Take these two examples and you will see what I mean:

Fiona is a working mum with 2 kids and a large social circle. Fiona loves to see her friends regularly. So 3 times a week she meets for a quick lunch with a friend during her break or for a coffee after work before picking up her kids. Now even though this is making use of her time efficiently the quality of the time spent with her friends is low. She often finds herself during these times thinking about the next thing she has to do and is not really present. As a result, friendships decline and she finds the times she spends with friends don’t really satisfy her and have become a chore.

 

Rebecca is also a working mum with 2 kids and a large social circle who she loves spending time with. To ensure the time she spends with her friends is qualitative she cuts down on how often they see each other and prioritising spending more time together where they can really enjoy each other’s company. She will sometimes invite her friends to spend the weekend away together with their families or arrange childcare to have an evening out together. She dedicates one hour a week to call a friend when she does not have other tasks in the way. As a result, friendships strengthen and she finds the times she spends with friends satisfy her and enrich her life.

Qualitative wins over quantitative. But how to implement this in your life? I found that a few simple questions helped me to step back and make the adjustments I needed to enrich my life by prioritising doing more of what I love. It will take you 5 minutes tops and both save and give you the energy you need to enjoy the coming darker months of the year.

  1. What things do you love to do? Brainstorm a list
  2. Which if these things truly enrich your life? Candy crush and Netflix may be fun, but do they truly relax or recharge your energy? Eliminate from your list all the activities that don’t really give you energy.
  3. Identify which of these things you want to do on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis
  4. For each item on your list workout how you can prioritize this in your life. This includes what will you have to sacrifice or delegate in order to prioritize doing what you love.
  5. Accept you can’t do it all. So refer to your list each month and choose one thing you will prioritize in a day / week and one thing you will do for that month.  

 

This month I am prioritizing my self care by making sure I do something creative (which is not writing) each week, stretching out before bed each night and having an adventure weekend with Mr T. In order to do so I am sacrificing my Netflix series binging, pre-bedtime social media trawling and some money to pay our cleaner so I can have a guilt-free adventure with the man I love. How will you prioritise doing more of what you love this month?

Have a wonderful week <3

 

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#lifelessons101 – How to cope when you have to be around people you just don’t like

At some point in time, we all have to spend time with people we just don’t like. Whether it’s a family member, colleague, in-law, best friends boyfriend or even that toxic person you really can’t drop due to circumstance. It’s crappy and it is a fact of life. I recently spent some time in this situation with not one but many people I don’t like, click with and/ or generally bore me beyond the point where pulling out teeth without anesthetic would be preferable. It happens.

However, this last session really got me wondering how the heck am I going to continue to cope with this. Because of the circumstances, I cannot simply drop these people.(Even though I know that is the best and safest policy with toxic people). So I have to put up with these occasions resurfacing, and I simply can’t play the sick card too often. So what to do? How do you cope when you have to be around people you just don’t like? How do you keep both your sanity and integrity in these situations?

As always I turned to the internet for support. And as usual, it gave me the objectivity to remember and find, the inspiration I needed. I imagine I am not the only person in the world with this particular issue so here for your sanity are the gold nuggets of the vast amount of advice out there that has either worked for me in the past or I intend to try out in the future.

Accept that you don’t have to like everyone

You don’t have to like everyone and vica versa. It really is ok not to like your husband’s sister, the colleague that shares your cubicle, or your Auntie Ida for that matter. We all waste a lot of energy beating ourselves up for things we perceive ‘we should’ be doing. Tell yourself it’s ok and move on.

Find the why

There is a reason you don’t like a person or persons. Find out what it is. Often when we don’t like someone it is because that person reflects back a part of personality we don’t like or are ashamed of in ourselves.  This is a great place to do some self-development. However sometimes we just plain don’t like them. If we know why it’s easier to deal with and do damage limitation so you don’t place yourself in a situation where those irritation buttons are likely to be pressed.

Vent in the right places

Now when you don’t like someone you often will need to vent and do an emotion dump of the frustration and irritation that person’s presence creates in you. You need to do something with this emotion and that needs to be in the right place. No bitching to your co-workers about your toxic colleague, or your husband about his Mum. It’s gonna create issues and generally will not improve your life quality or people’s perceptions of you. Have a neutral friend who you can vent these emotions with. Get it out, whether through talk or type, release these emotions so they don’t eat you up from inside.

Find the game

There is always a game. You just have to look for it. One of my favorites around toxic people is to use language to deflect their passive aggressive or manipulative comments. So if for example, they refuse to come to a social gathering because so and so has been invited, I will respond by saying something like “that’s a shame. However, I am sure you will enjoy the pictures”. Ping! Emotional blackmail deflected. There is always fun to be found if you look for it.

Boundaries and Breaks

Boundaries are really important when it comes to having to spend time with people you don’t like. So choosing how often you have to do this. For example, do you have to go to all of your partner’s family gatherings or can you limit it to the major ones?  Plan a strategy for visits. Let’s say it’s a member of the family you can’t get out of seeing who drains you. Invite them over for a cuppa, but make sure you have an appointment you have to go to so that the visit is naturally a short one.

Equally, make sure to give yourself breaks. Especially after you have spent time around these people. It is energy draining so give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries. Of course, this can be more challenging if the person is someone you see on a day to day basis, say at work. However, even in a busy office, it is possible to plan some breaks. So you can keep your interactions on schedule as a part of a time management and productivity strategy.  

Choose your battles

Some battles are not worth taking. Some are. If the people you don’t like are related there are potentially many different battles that can pop up daily. Do you need to take all of them?  Check in with yourself before you push back in the fight and see if this is really important to you, or are you just being caught up in the drama of it all. If it doesn’t affect your core values, the things that are really important to you in life is it worth using up your energy on a conflict. Remember fire needs fuel to burn, if you don’t feed it will go out.

Take the conversations

Sometimes, however, you do have to take the conversation with the person/people you don’t like. Boundaries get crossed. So instead of letting it fester and rot, take the conversation. Work out what you want to say before it. And say it carefully in non-accusatory language. Try this combination: When you do X it makes me feel Y and could you do it (this way) in the future. Talking about the issues however hard will dust out the cobwebs and you may often find out that your assumptions about a person’s behavior were actually completely wrong.

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We all have a limited amount of energy. And spending time with people we don’t like does hit that I could be doing something so much better with my time frustration button. So to avoid feeling like a trapped victim when you have to be around and interact with people you don’t like, take charge. Choose where and when you use your energy, how you will use it. Trust me you will feel 100% better if you do. Why? Simply because you will be more authentic in how you are using this time. The falseness of spending time with people we don’t like is often the most draining part of the whole business. Taking conscious action about the situation removes the false factor and that in itself will bring a form of peace.

Have a great weekend <3

Conserve your energy for something worthy of it

#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!!)

How to fit fun into your busy life

I have a tendency to turn everything into work. Even the things I love to do. Just like posting on this blog. I love to sit and write to you the great and wider world. I love to spill out my thoughts and have people comment and be inspired by my words. Yet if I don’t write it on my to do list I forget to do it and make it important. The catch 22 is that as soon it’s on my list it becomes work. A chore. Now I know this is partly due to my own attitude to the to-do list but I think it is also that in a day where there are many things to do and have to be done life tends to feel like a chore. There is a distinct lack of fun in a busy every day.

I am not alone in feeling like this. There are many of us out there that have busy lives that without considered thought and a little focus can just feel like funless constant work. That is er…. No fun. (Apologies for lack of vocabulary. It is Monday). So what to do about it? Because at the end of the day the reason your days are busy is that there are so many things that have to be done and you want to do. How to find the balance between that and having fun?

Prioritise

Firstly in order to have more fun, we need to decide that fun is equally as important as work, housework and all the other things we have to do/want to do. If we don’t prioritize fun then we won’t get it.

Attitude change

Now as I said my challenge is that I tend to think of everything as work. And to be fair I have a lot of work. However, it’s as  Thomas Edison said “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”  Now that doesn’t mean Mr Edison never worked. He just thought of it as fun. I find the art of thinking something is fun without analysing it difficult. So I have looked at my daily weekly and monthly activities and identified which of these I find fun. Even though its a purely theoretical exercise, it has helped me to see that I do actually have more fun than I thought in my life.

Leave work at work

One of the greatest tricks I have found as an entrepreneur is to leave work at work. I have a signpost on my office door that I turn around for when I am working and when I am done. I have strict office hours and when it is 5 o’clock the day is done. I also do the same thing with household chores if it is not done by 19:00 then it is not getting done that day. The last 3 hours of the day are for fun, however, I need it at that time. Some evenings include no chores (apart from clearing the table). Mentally or even physically leaving your jobs in the jobs time means that you get to fee and experience having more time.

Find ways of making chores fun

Now there are not many people in the world who enjoy household chores (my mother in law is the exception). So a great way to have more fun is to find ways to make boring things fun. A friend once told me that when she scrubs the toilet she scrubs it with love. It always makes me laugh as I do this now. I have an upbeat cleaning music playlist I use to dance around in the house as I clean. Singing whilst driving to work is another great one. Or simply using your commuting time for the game you love on your phone or reading.

Give yourself time for daily fun

Set aside at least 10 minutes to have fun. I like to try and include something fun or silly on my to-do list every day. It helps me keep the fun in my life a priority.

Start your day happy

Starting the day badly can affect every moment of that day.  Make a conscious effort to start the day in a way that makes you feel happy. I use the time to do my gratitude practice and read one chapter of whichever personal development book I am reading at that particular time. It combines two of my favourite activities of writing and reading. Mr T the health nut starts his day with training.

Schedule pleasure

In a 14 day period schedule some pleasure time to do a fun activity that fills at least an hour. You can schedule a free evening if you want just to do something spontaneously fun or you can decide beforehand what would be fun to do.

Create a play box

I love this idea. As a child we have toy boxes so why not have an adult play box. Put in things that are fun activities you like to do. A play box is a go-to resource for those days where you need a fun boost. Another way is making playlists of things you want to watch on youtube or on Netflix.

On a bad day vitto a chore and do something fun

Having a bad day? Then look at your todo list and vitto something not fun for a mood-lifting fun activity. It doesn’t have to take long. 20 mins fun can turn your motivation and mood around so that a rubbish day becomes fantabulous!

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If you feel like you are not having enough fun in your busy life. Choose one of the above and make it important to do in the next 3 days. Actively seeking and having fun will make life more enjoyable not just for you but for the people around. No matter how demotivated you feel, have a go. I promise you that by making yourself have fun, life will start to feel fun once more!

Have fun this week 🙂

 

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#lifelessons101 – Frustrated? Try the healing power of whimsy

Under a fair amount of stress at the moment I am finding many things frustrate me. This week I had one particular incident with a company who has provided me with bad products and bad service. Now normally that would annoy me but in my current frame of mind, I exploded with frustration. It was like some hidden cave troll boiled up from the deep recesses of my soul and even with using anger management techniques,I could not let it go.) Until that is I stumbled upon James Veitch’s video “The agony of trying to unsubscribe” and got a great reminder of the perfect tool to stop feeling frustrated.

Whimsy

Seriously whimsy. Jame’s video advocates instead of being frustrated and annoyed with the bane, pointless, or boring points in life, that you find the game. Find the fun and whimsy and focus on that. So I tried. And instead of being p*ssed off I took the Veitchian approach and found the fun. Which actually resulted in me making myself laugh as I delighted in wasting the time of the people at the printer company who had frankly been mucking me about. (I mean who sends a printable return label to a customer you sent dysfunctional ink cartridges)  It felt great. So I thought this whimsy thing. Maybe I can apply it to other annoyances in my life. That led to an exploration of whimsy that is turning both my life and my stress around.

You want to try it? Of course, you do! I mean who wants to be annoyed when you could be smiling and light-hearted right? I adopted what I call the Vetchian Principle which is

Annoyed? Frustrated? Look for the game and bring whimsy back into your life!

Ergo whenever something really annoyed me, I would look for a fun way to turn it around. (Similar to the way the Riddikulus spell works in Harry Potter where you have to turn a fear into something funny.)  It Is BRILLIANT and IT WORKS. Here are a few of the whimsical ways I have been turning around my frustrations this week I hope they inspire you to your own ways of using the healing power of whimsy and basically having a happier existence.

Handling the illogical and frankly stupid bad customer service by turning into the stupid naive and illogical customer wasting their time and giving me a great laugh. (This one is pure Veitch!)

Making a pyramid of finished cardboard toilet rolls that Mr T leaves consistently in the bathroom to remind him of the need to take them out.

Incorporating stupid insults and gestures into arguments. So instead of yelling at each other, an argument became a Monty Python-esque battle of stupid insults and much blowing of raspberries.

Equally starting a pillow fight mid row to break the tension.

When my patience is tried by other people I have been responding to their pure idiocy with nonsensical sentences (Fry and Laurie are great for inspiration here).

Finding random and bizarre gifs to respond to annoying facebook comments.

Working in a pillow fort rather than at my desk to prove I can be both childish and a proper grown up

The ultimate thing with this principle is that it makes you laugh and diffuses tension.And we all know that one of the best stress relievers in the world is laughter. Try a 7-day whimsy challenge. Look for the game in the irritation and you will find that you, your life and your stress load is lighter. In the comments please, please inspire me by telling me how you turned your frustrations around this week by introducing whimsy into the situation.

Have a wonderful whimsical weekend <3

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