Friday, 26 December 2014

Reflecting on the year that was

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus  a two head god was the god of beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January in his honour. December 31st became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past. People all over the world have followed this tradition by setting goals for the future year but few have spent the time to reflect  on the past year.   I believe that reflection on our past achievements and challenges provides direction for our future.  

I am starting out this year with a series of three (3) blog posts that will assist us to develop meaningful, achievable goals for the coming year.  I will explore the following concepts:

Who was I?
Who am I?
Who do I want to be?

Who was I?
Yep!  Today lets look back on the year that was 2014.  Last year I set myself a number of goals for self - change.  I set them out in a Going for Gold in Goal Setting.  I also outlined my struggles in achieving these goals in a number of other posts including Staying on Track with  your Goals. Laura King and Joshua Hicks in the research paper "Narrating the Self in the Past and Future: Implications for Maturity suggest exploring and elaborating on lost goals  - a future self we did not achieve - reveals a capacity for self development, maturity and tolerance for our own vulnerability.  Remember goals represent an individual's hopes for the future - so a future self.  

In January 2014, I saw my future self  being 55kg and able to jog 10km in an hour in December 2014.  This future self was thin and fit.  I will now admit that I have imagined this future self for many years - probably since I gained weight and lost my fitness - 10 years ago. Research on goal change has tended to show that when individuals are confronted  with failure they tend not to change their goals but rather to redouble their efforts. Other research suggests that persevering on unavailable goals is not likely to bring fulfillment.  

What were your goals in 2014? Did you achieve those goals? Have you set these goals before?  What was the future self you were trying to create?  Are these goals still relevant or achievable?  

Unfortunately I did not reach my goals for weight loss or achieve the fitness level I had aimed for.  Was I a failure at achieving these goals?  I guess you could say that,  given I did not reach the stated target in the given timeframe. I am sure there are thousands of people out there who are in the same boat as me who are telling themselves a story about how they are hopeless at staying focused and committed to their goals or they might be blaming others or life circumstances for the short fall.  I know I certainly have trotted out  this well worn story for many years.   However, this year I am going to examine an alternative narrative (story) that I think will be more helpful to my present and future self.  

As we look back over the past year we have two alternatives – an abundant mentality (glass half full to over flowing world view) or a deficit mentality (half empty world view). I prefer the former view, directing my energy and attention to the positive outcomes, progress or learning I have made during the year.  I want to focus on what worked, what I have learnt from  the challenges I have met and how I could improve on went well. I've discovered that this strategy is critical to building my emotional resilience and motivating me forward. If I create a story that is one of learning, growth, and empowerment, I feel motivated to imagine my best possible future self and meet the associated challenges. Which story do you prefer? 

Self Refelction
Here are a list of self reflection questions you might find useful to explore your past self:
  1. What did I learn? (skills, knowledge, awareness, etc.)
  2. What did I accomplish? A list of my wins and achievements.
  3. What would I have done differently? Why?
  4. What did I complete or release? What still feels incomplete to me?
  5. What were the most significant events of the year past? List the top three.
  6. What did I do right? What do I feel especially good about? What was my greatest contribution?
  7. What were the fun things I did? What were the not-so-fun?
  8. What were my biggest challenges/roadblocks/difficulties?
  9. How am I different this year than last?
  10. For what am I particularly grateful?

This is also a time to consider all those things in your life you would like to let go - this includes de-cluttering and giving the boot to your fantasy selves (lost possible self) and all its accessories.  For me, this includes throwing out the images of a super fit and thin smooth skinned woman that no loner has a place in my life.  What "lost possible self" are you going to give the boot before the New Year?

Activity: Letting go of "Lost Future  Selves"
  1. Create the most vivid image (picture) of your lost future self - the one you not longer have the opportunity or inclination to achieve.  Describe this person in every detail including looks, thoughts, behaviours etc.  What do they do on a daily basis? Where do they live?  The greater the detail the better.  Use whatever medium you like to create your image - draw, paint, collage or write.  
  2. Now it is time to put this Possible self to rest.  Light a candle and burn your picture. Grieve for what might of been.
  3. Expect to feel sad after this process.  Seek professional assistance if you become depressed . Letting go is part of moving forward. 

In 2015, I encourage you to step into a new way of living by relinquishing cherished goals that are not loner available and reinvest in new goals. To be happy and avoid regret it is best  to relegate lost goals to"what might have been" and move on.  A person can not persevere on old goals and maintain happiness. Rather the pursuit of happiness requires a central change in one's motivational system - relinquishing one's previous sources of meaning and embracing life's second chance.  Also remember that growth begins at the end of your comfort zone.  Not only is it important to accept the discomfort of taking steps forward, it is also necessary to let go of comfortable routines and situations from the past.  Holding on to the way things were, prevents you from growing into who you are now, and who you are capable of being.

I hope yu have some time to spend between Christmas and New Year reviewing your life to date.  Perhaps you might find some time to do the activities I've listed above. 

I would be grateful for any suggestions on moving forward after  you have had to let go of a dream or goal.  

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Home Alone at Christmas: Survival Guide

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year—unless you're spending it alone (not by choice) or don't celebrate it. Then you're stuck with a world mostly shut down and seemingly nothing to do. It can also be lonely and depressing.  You can get through Christmas by making the choice to develop some rituals and routines of your own to not only survive but enjoy the  "festive season". Check out my Home Alone at Christmas Survival Guide.  
  1. Plan Ahead

·         Decide if you are going to go the whole hog and host your own Christmas Day Dinner (for one) with all the trimmings or down play the day and pretend it’s just like any other.  I prefer the first option myself but will give  you some tips on how to survive both choices.  I highly recommend you put together a basic timeline for the day - this not only ensures you don't end up missing a movie or lose any reservations you may have made but it also adds to the excitement.

·         Plan out the menu and purchase the ingredients. Why not try something new and exotic. If you're not confident putting a menu together, check out the Christmas menu plans collection. Here you'll find 30+ menus, most with time plans and tips, ready to roll.

·         If you don’t want to cook then think about making a booking at a local restaurant. Finding a Chinese restaurant that's open on Christmas doesn't take much work. A few phone calls should find you a meal pretty quickly. If you're in a larger city with a large cluster of Chinese restaurants (e.g. Chinatown), look in that area as well. Don't forget to make a reservation even if it's just dinner for you as popular restaurants sometimes receive so much business on Christmas day that they can't accommodate everyone.
·         The day before, find all the serving dishes, plates, cutlery, glasses and table linen and make sure they're clean and ready. 
·         Purchase any drinks including alcohol prior to the day
·         Ensure you make any other purchases including decorations, gifts, etc prior to the day.
·         Make any reservations at restaurants or theaters early on so you aren't disappointed. 

2. Deck the Halls
Christmas is a great time to spruce up the place and give your home a joyous feel – remember Christmas is about birth, renewal – peace on earth and joy to the world.  There are numerous sites on the internet that can help you out with ideas for decorating, not only the inside, but the outside of the house.  Some ideas are based on DYI and craft while others require a trip to the store.  

As you are hosting your own Christmas Party for One, I highly recommend you decorate the table.  

 3.  Start the Day with a Home Spar (Spoil Yourself)
Every woman likes and deserves to be pampered. So why not give yourself a treat by bring out your do-it-yourself spirit and treating yourself to a home spar.  Again there are lots of sites on the internet that can supply cost effective tips on creating a home spar. Check out these home beauty treatments at HuffingtonPost. 

4.  Dress the Part
There is a lot of fun in dressing for Christmas Day. Generally speaking the gift I’m most likely to buy myself at Christmas is something to wear on Christmas Day. What about you? I recommend that regardless of whether you intend to party at home or go out to a restaurant or movie you want to make the most of the opportunity to dress up for the day. Get out of those PJ”s and put on something  that makes you feel good about yourself.  

 5.  Prepare the Feast (Food and Drinks)
·         Put drinks in the fridge
·         Prepare the food - Follow the recipe
·         Set the table

6. Music Mystro
Christmas carolling is an easy way to get in the holiday spirit, whether you sing carols in your home or house to house. We have the Christmas lyrics to all your favourite holiday music, such as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Deck the Halls," "Jingle Bells," "O Christmas Tree," and more. Learn the words to these Christmas carols and sing them while you decorate the table or play a Christmas Album while you have your meal. When it's time to sing, you'll never forget the words to all the classic Christmas songs with the printable (and free!) Christmas Carols list download, a cute mini book with lyrics to more than 25 holiday songs listed in alphabetical order at Better Homes and Gardens. 

7.  Take some Photos
All your efforts to make this a day to remember should not be lost simply because you are on your own.  Remember to crank up the camera battery or charge the phone or Ipad and get snapping.  Just about everyone is an expert at Selfies but if you’re not one of those (like me) then check out the hints at Shutterfly

Exposure Guide provides some tips for Christmas photography that can enhance your Christmas album by showing you how to photograph Christmas lights, trees etc.

 8.  Entertainment/Activities

·         For your entertainment, movies are the traditional choice. Several come out on Christmas day because theatres attract both people who celebrate the holiday and those that don't. Google Movies can quickly tell you what's playing in your area (as you probably already know), and FirstShowing can tell you what's going to be out on Christmas Day. If choosing this option check online and book ahead. Christmas at the movie theatre is very busy and you don't want to get stuck in the front row or behind someone who blocks your view. Regardless of assigned seats, however, you should still arrive a little early. People traffic and parking can make you late on a busy day.
·         If going out sounds like too much trouble, then why not buy or hire a DVD and kickback on the couch for the afternoon.
·         Settle back and get into a good read – this might mean a library visit or book shop purchase prior to the day unless like me you have a home library.
·         Other options include the following::
a)      Pretend to be a Tourist: Some tourist attractions stay open on Christmas, especially in larger cities. Check out online what’s on in your city over the Christmas period. Of course, many tourist attractions don't have to remain open for you to enjoy them. If you go check out a monument or historical landmark, they're around on Christmas and cost you nothing.
b)      Volunteer: Not having anything to do on Christmas isn't exactly a big life problem that needs solving. Other people have nowhere to go and nothing to eat. If you've got nothing to do, use that time to volunteer and help people who need it. Check your local homeless shelters and non-profit organizations for possibilities.
c)      Church: Check out the local paper or online for the church closest to you.  Every church will have a service at some time on Christmas Day and might even have a morning tea to share with new comers. 
d) Drop in on a NeighbourA combination of the ageing population and the fact families are dispersed across the country - and abroad for that matter - means it is not always easy to get together.Age UK estimates about 450,000 will be spending this Christmas alone. Perhaps you are not really alone after all - just look about your neighbourhood - there could be someone who would appreciate a  visitor. 
e) Host an Online Christmas: Do you have some online friends? Do you have long-distance relatives? Host an online Christmas by setting up a Skype chatroom or Facebook group. People can drop in and out as they please, and you don't have to cook, clean, or even get out of your pyjamas.
f) Gratitude - Take the time to appreciate what you do have in your life, be it good health, a place to live, or a job.

 9.  Go for a Walk
According to a new study from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, a 75kg (11st 11lbs) woman would need to walk 6.2km (nearly 4 miles) to burn up the calories found in a single 360 calorie mince pie.  If you do eat a large meal high in fat, the best thing to do for yourself and your arteries is to go for a 45 minute walk.  Even if you've put counting calories on the back burner during the holidays, you should still try to keep your health in mind.

Apart from the calorie burn walking has significant other health benefits.
  So put on the “tracky dacks” and runners and get outdoors Christmas and do a couple of laps around the block.  It will clear your head and heart.

10.   Reflect on the Reason for the Season (Meditate)

Christmas is a time of pausing and pondering, at least that is what it is meant to be. Christmas can be a feast of peaceful awe and joyful meditation. At the end of the day why not stop and consider the meaning Christmas has for you and your life.  A comprehensive scientific study  by researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that yoga and meditation provide ''disease-fighting genes'' that protect from disorders such as pain, infertility, high blood pressure and even rheumatoid arthritis. The changes, say the researchers, were induced by what they call ''the relaxation effect'', a phenomenon that could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects.

My daily provides a short meditation to help distress at Christmas.

Reach Out
If you are feeling really down about being alone at Christmas and can't pull yourself out of it, reach out for help. Call a friend, family member, or a helpline. You don't need to be alone.  

Monday, 1 December 2014

Thanks Giving or Giving Thanks?

In today’s materialistic world we sometimes get a bad case of the “poor me’ and “I want” syndrome which I think is a real deficit mentality. Like the common cold it won’t kill you but it sure gets you down.  I’ve suffered from this syndrome myself in the past and know I’m bound to catch it again in the future.  Not sure if you can develop immunity to the condition but there are ways to decrease your susceptibility and its negative impact.

In the United States they have just celebrated Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, and has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well. I think this is a great idea and we should all take it one step further.   I think that every day we should “give thanks” and be grateful by showing appreciation for things both great and small in our lives. 

What does this look like in every day terms?  Well, this is how it played out in my day today.

As another school year comes to an end, my daughter decided she would like to thank her teacher for all her hard work and dedication throughout the year.  Being an avid scrap booker, I decided I would make her a “Thank You” card.  So this morning my daughter took the card to school so she could get all her class mates to sign it before giving it to her teacher.  She felt the teacher might like to keep it as a memento of the time she spent with the students.  Nice idea hey!

 Image my surprise, later today when I opened my e-mails to receive a Digital Card from my daughters teacher ‘thanking me’ for all my support during the year.  I was delighted and gob smacked.  I felt a bit like a member of a “mutual admiration society”.  In addition, I saw this as a possible opening to pursuing a closer connection - with the view of forming a friendship with her (especially now my daughter will no longer be in her class and my exploration of a closer relationship could not be misconstrued as wanting favoritism for my child - brown nosing as we call it in Australia). 

The blessings on this day just kept coming.  Yep more “thank yous’ were delivered to my door, via the mail man.  I received a card from my friend and colleague Merna who is also the co- founder of Soul Sister Circles. 

I felt appreciated and appreciative at the same time.  Thank You Merna for making my day even more special.  Who could ask for more than a good friend who values you and is prepared to be your cheer squad? 

You might not think the day could get any better, but it did.  My daughter came home from school with a report card that shows she is excelling in all areas.  In addition, she was named next year’s School Captain and will be in a class with her best friend.  I am so proud of her and her achievements.  Yep. It certainly has been a day of recognition and appreciation for me.  What about you?  How has your day/year been? What are you Thankful for?Would also love to hear about your own challenges and management of the "poor me syndrome" .