Monday, 24 August 2015

A Remiedy for The Daily Grind

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the daily grind we forget why we are doing what we are doing in the first place. Everything becomes a drudgery and it feels like we are wading through mud and getting nowhere. More of the same day in day out. Getting nowhere. If that's how you're feeling then perhaps you've lost sight of the BIG picture - your goal/dream. There is an old saying "can't see the wood for the trees".
  1. Meaning: If you can't see the wood for the trees, you can't see the whole situation clearly because you're looking too closely at small details, or because you're too closely involved. For example: If everyday you focus on the small things you do without associating it with the larger goal then you can get lost in the micro ecology of your life. (Ooh that sounded profound even for me). 

    So I recommend you look up occasionally, not only to check your bearings and ensure you're still on track , but to enjoy the view and contemplate the endless possibilities that are open to you.

    Stop, look up and take a breather - even for one moment - it will revive you.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Art of Being Youself

As a child I can distinctly recall my mother offering the following advice to me as I set out on my first day at a new high school - "Everything will be O.K. Just Be Yourself".  This line was suppose to make me feel reassured that by the end of the day I would be surrounded by friends and accepted as a part of the class group.  Did I feel reassured - Hell No.  "Just Be Myself when I felt fat, had pimples galore and was not even dressed in the right uniform".  I'd stand out like the proverbial 'dog's balls'.  I was certain to spend the day alone - a social outcast.   Everything was wrong about me. My mother was obviously delusional.

Even as an adult I can still fall into the deficit thinking trap - wasting time thinking about the things I should do or worse should be - I should exercise more, I should ear more healthy, I should stick to a budget, I should be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend.  I should be more generous with my time, I should be more patient or I should be more grateful.  The list goes on.

However I have come to realise that a preoccupation with what we should be distracts us from the things we are and prevents us from valuing ourselves.  Always wishing or trying to be something we are not also prevents us living to our fullest and having authentic relationships with others.

Guidelines for accepting yourself as immeasurably, utterly and completely fine as you are - warts and all:

  1. Accept Yourself Body and Soul -
    Do you look in the mirror and compare yourself to a younger version of yourself? Well STOP that right now.  Instead take a Good Look (positives and negatives) and make a real appraisal of how you look now.  Be realistic. Look at your list. Now you have a choice -  If you are dissatisfied with the way things are then you can either accept them or take action to change them. Recently, I decided that keeping all my old size 10 clothing (in case I lost weight) was in fact weighing me down and holding me back from being who I am now.  Not only was I never going to get back into them, they no longer suited my style.  What is holding you back from being the CURRENT you. Spend some in front of a mirrortime reflecting on all those 
  2. Know your Own Values -
     Our values guide our action and choices. If you know what is important to you and stay true to that then you will feel more satisfied. . In addition, you are more likely to connect with other people who have similar values to you.  This often leads to long term friendships and greater satisfaction within the relationship.Steven Hanel, The Emotion Machine , provides a  5 minute activity to help you determine your most important values. Give it a try. 
  3. Don't Pretend to Be Something You're Not  (or like something you don't) -
    Keeping up with the Jones is an exhausting game for anyone to play.  If being part of a crowd requires you to ACT a part, then get out of the play before you are caught out as a fraud.  There will be no applause, only tears if that happens. Focus on your own dreams and goals. Think about what is important to you and where you want to go.
  4. Know your own Strengths and Stretches -
    We are all comprised of an alloy of our merits and our imperfections. Acknowledging our liabilities without blaming someone else leads to acceptance and capacity to grow. Equally important is the identification of our strengths.  I don't mean bragging about how good we are at something but knowing what skills we possess.  A quick way to discover your strengths is to take the “Brief Strengths Test” created by Martin Seligman.  This test takes just a few minutes to complete and measure 24 different strengths. 
  5. Be Aware of Your Own Thoughts-  
    We can all get caught listening to the little devil on our shoulder telling us that we just aren't up to scratch.That we just don't cut it. We should be more or less than we are.  Being aware of these thoughts and more importantly know how to respond to them.  If that inner voice is telling you your 'not good enough' - what do you do?  Well, you can try and ignore it - but if your inner voice is anything like my kids, the more I try and ignore their harping, the louder they get. Alternatively you can test, challenge and change your self-talk. You can change some of the negative aspects of your thinking by challenging the irrational parts - take the inner voice to task and question the validity of what it is saying (Is it true? Does it make me feel good? Does it help me reach my goals?) Or try replacing them with more reasonable thoughts. Doing this will enable you to feel better and to respond to situations in a more helpful way.  Ben Martin in the article  Challenging Negative Self Talk  provides a list of  challenging questions to ask yourself. Free Self-Esteem Worksheets  can be downloaded Self -Esteem School.

So while I didn't believe it when my Mum told it to me all those years ago, with the benefit of hindsight and the experience of years, I now know it's true. "Just Be Yourself"  because the people who know and care for me will LOVE YOU just the way you are - warts and all.  

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Getting the Most out of Your Day

Too many of us throw planning out the window when we retire or reach a certain age and just let our days wash away with the fading of the evening sun.  A recent incident with my mother -in- law who is in her mid 80's and lives alone reinforced my belief that life is short - and we should, not only plan our day, but focus on putting joy and meaning into everything we do - no matter how menial a task is - as it gives life meaning and brings us closer to achieving our dreams.

So what happened with my mother -in- law? Well, I went early to visit her as she was having trouble getting her newspaper. The delivery boy was throwing the paper too close to the road and she had been unable to collect it.  It was about 8.30 am in the morning. As I walked up to the front door I could see her sitting in the lounge chair and I thought she had seen me, but as I approached the door she did not move.  I knocked on the door lightly and she still did not move, so I knocked louder. I could see her eyes were closed and her mouth was open so I thought perhaps she was asleep.I tried the door and it was unlocked so I opened it slightly and said "Hello Mary". She still did not move, so I shouted louder.  When she still did not move - I started to get really worried - you can imagine what I was thinking. As I walked towards her she awoke and sat up straight.  I blurted out "Thank God, I thought you were dead".  She just smiled and said "I must have dosed off. Can't think why when I have only just gotten out of bed. Still I don't have anything to do today anyway". After sharing a coffee, I went home.  This incidnet go me to thinking about how important it is, no matter how old we are, to make the most of every day. As a baby boomer, I know that my time is limited so I need to make the most of each and every minute.

While there are a myriad of posts about this very thing, I figure I have some additional pointers for people in their prime who may no longer be in the workforce full time or are not quite as directed as they once were when family commitments dictated the daily schedule. I know that when I became redundant in my early 50's, I initially struggled to find a reason to get our of bed early or plan my day . Since then I have reclaimed my day by utilising the following simple self-coach tips.

Self-coach Tips to Making the Most of Your Day

  1. Starting the Day right the Night Before: Get a good nights sleep
  2. Create a Morning Routine - Your routine will vary from mine but it might include rising at a regular time,getting some exercise like going  for a walk or doing some yoga, eating a healthy breakfast, meditation or prayer, perhaps reading the local paper and getting up to speed on what's happening in your community.
  3. Plan your Day - spend  15 minutes checking your diary/calendar and making a "to do list".List the most important 3 tasks for your day - must be done. If you get on to the other items on your list it's a bonus. 
  4. Going for Your Goals - Don't let the dream get lost in the nitty gritty of the daily grind. Allocate some time each day taking a step towards achieving one of your life's larger goals. You might have a couple of these so choose one for the day and go for it. I have a dream board and a Ready Set Goal Chart above my desk to remind me of where I'm heading. I can already cross off one of my big goals - to complete a through walk. Yeah-ya.
     5. Do Something Enjoyable - In the hub hub of the day we can often fall back into "accomplishment mode" where everything is about getting things done as opposed to just doing something for the "fun of it." If you forgotten what that is - spend some time reconnecting with the inner you and find out what that "thing" is. I love to garden and scrapbook.
  5. Get Together with Others - Go for coffee with the girls or hang out with your mates for an hour.  Connect with a family member.   Have lunch with a work colleague. If you are house bound then pick up the phone or get online (yes even us oldies can Facebook). Connecting with others improves our health and makes us live longer.  But don't make it all about you.  Ask questions and listen to the responses - become fully engaged with the other person and their worldview.
  6. Be Grateful - It's good for the soul to remember our blessings. No matter how bad our situation is there is always something to be thankful for.   I like to jot down a couple of things that I am thankful for each day (see tip 9) as it helps me put things into perspective and think positive.
  7. Manage Your Energy - find your Prime Time - the time of day that your have the most energy and set the most challenging task for this period.  Also identify the time of day where your energy levels or concentration drops off choose activities accordingly. 
  8. Review Your Day -  Create a simple routine for the end of the day. I like to look back over my to do list and see what is left to be done.  I also like to journal about the my day recording the highs and lows. This reflection process enables me to plan for tomorrow and keeps me on track towards achieving my bigger goals. It's a bit of a brain dump which clears my mind of all the task orientated matters of the day so I can start to relax before the evening meal. 
  9. Unwind-  Before bed (actually when I am in bed) I like to read. At the moment I am doing a 90 devotional for women "Daily Steps for god Chicks by Holly Wagner.  My husband likes o read the National or Australian Geographic.  He generally falls asleep mid article.   
The University of Washington have created a quick tip that also includes a couple of additional hints like : 

  • Make use of waiting time - How much time do we waist in a day just waiting - waiting for the train/bus, waiting at the traffic lights; waiting at the doctors; being placed on hold while on the phone etc.  Instead of getting impatient use this time for a mini meditation session (hum a tune or take some deep breaths or do some stretches).  Alternatively do some small task or take a book to read.
  • Unplug - in an ever increasing "screen scene" society it can sometimes feel like we can never disconnect. But hey, why not set some boundaries around when and how long you or family members will use computers, mobile phone, ipads and even the plasma.  We are at the moment trialing a 3 months T.V free week -week-ends only.  It's amazing how a good old game of cards can be loads of fun. 

Enjoy Your Day
While none of these ideas are earth shattering, I hope you can make use of some of them to help you bring a little more sunshine into your day. Have a good one.