Just being Honest.

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“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom”.

Thomas Jefferson

To me being honest is not just about calling a spade a spade and to hell with the consequences. For some people it is but I do not believe that is necessarily the best or the kindest way to behave or the most productive and motivational. For the small percentage of people that a direct and blunt approach works, I find that there is a far larger percentage that it will fail to achieve anything at all helpful and in many cases actually causes more harm than good. There is no doubt that being honest and fair is the best way to live life but what you say and how you say it can be done gently and with kindness rather than with a sledgehammer and still have a powerful and motivating effect. And, it is the same when you are being honest with yourself. There is seldom any good positive motivation received when you criticize yourself and tell yourself how wrong you have got it or how badly you have done. I find that when people adopt that approach to try to motivate themselves it often has quite the opposite effect and will in fact demotivate and make them feel even more useless  and miserable ,resulting in more bad choices and poor strategies.

Yes, we need to learn how to be honest with ourselves and to stop making excuses for making poor life decisions or for holding on to strategies or behaviours that obviously do not work for us. If we do not reassess our choices and take personal responsibility to make positive changes to improve when we get it wrong, then we are unlikely to feel as happy or even as stable as we ultimately could feel and we will really just be surviving life rather than thriving in life.

To make it easier to adapt and learn new ways to behave it is important to look back objectively at the areas in our life where we feel we could do better and could improve upon. Stop looking at them as our failures and see them more as lessons we need to look over again in order to get a better understanding of them. Using the benefit of hindsight we can look back on them and decide how much better and differently we would handle it now and by figuring that out, we have also established a new and more positive strategy for ourselves.

A short sharp shock of truth can change lives but frequently that change doesn’t last. As soon as the initial shock wears off old habits can creep back in. Being straight and honest with ourselves can bring about very important life changes but I believe that by doing it gently and with kindness it will help us to maintain these changes and provide us with long term benefits.

Self sabotage or self support?

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“If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated.” Victoria Moran, Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul for Lifelong Beauty

Usually the voice we listen to the most is our inner voice. It is the one which urges us to go for it or to hold back and reflects how we are feeling. It should be positively working in our best interests but all too often we are actually sabotaging ourselves by allowing our inner voice to sound negative and disparaging towards us. It becomes not just our inner self talking to us, but all the negative people we may have had in our life who have held us down or belittled us and occasionally it might even begin to sound like them. Listening to that is never going to give us the confidence to achieve what we dream of and worse still we it may well impact negatively our behaviour and actions making feel insecure and doubtful and that in turn will in turn reflect outwards potentially causing others to doubt us too. We all need to regularly stop and listen to what we are saying to ourselves and if we find that we are always being harsh and unsupportive in our self-talk we must take the time and make the effort to change it. Every time we are faced with a choice, an opportunity or a request, in fact any time that we engage our inner voice to give us help, motivation and support, we need to stop and listen to what we are actually saying to ourselves. Is it supportive and encouraging or are we putting ourselves down and making ourselves feel insecure and even insignificant. If so we need to change it and simply start by thinking how we would want someone we love a lot to be spoken to and then use the same tone and the same words that we would like them to hear to motivate ourselves. Often we find that learning how to do this has a double benefit for us as if we can be kinder towards ourselves it makes it much easier to feel more kindly towards others and that in turn is how we enrich our life. Have a great day, Karen x

Taking control of Fate.

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“I have noticed that even people, who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
Steven Hawking

Isn’t it funny how we can all too often decide to abdicate our own responsibility, our own power to change things and hand it over to Fate? Is that not just a bit of a “cop out” an easy way of giving up or giving in and not just making that little bit extra effort to get it right and make it work?
Don’t get me wrong I honestly believe that if you have given your all and did everything you possibly could to get something to succeed and it doesn’t then the chances are there is a good reason for that and something else may well be coming along that is much more suited to meet your needs. It may sound glib but I base that belief on looking back at past experiences in my life that have not worked out as I had hoped or planned .However instead of being sad and disappointed about them when I look back I can clearly see that there was a good reason for them not to work and that what eventually replaced them was infinitely better for me in the long run. Yet, despite knowing that, I would never advocate not trying to change your life for the better or not focussing on your dreams or suggest that you leave your life to see what fate has in store for you. To me that is foolish and will more than likely leave you with a very negative and frustrated outlook on life. I believe that fate needs a helping hand, yours. The initial effort and desire to achieve something has to come directly from you. If it doesn’t you are simply unable to recognise the opportunities that arise around you. These only become visible to you when you actually start to look  out for and expect to find them. And ,you expect this  when you are actively pursuing your dream and your awareness is raised. If you are simply sitting back and waiting on life to suddenly start for you without making the effort to start it yourself, then opportunities will pass you by and you will be simply not aware of them passing. By switching on your brain to look for positive ways to help you to find whatever it is that you are looking for, you also send out a signal to the universe that you are ready to receive.
In life seldom do we get what we want handed directly to us on a plate and that is not a bad thing as part of the pleasure we can all get from life is achieving something we have worked hard for. Working hard for something and succeeding makes us happier and keeps us healthy, as long as we make sure we balance our life and it is not all work and no play of course. So today my advice is simple, instead of waiting for your life to change for the positive, change it yourself. Make the effort to start taking the action you need to turn your life in to the one you have always wanted it to be. No more excuses, just positive steps towards a new you and give your fate a helping hand.
Have a great Day. Karen x

Adapting to Change

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I have always had dogs and cats living with me. A short while before going on holiday our elderly and last remaining cat passed peacefully away. We were all heartbroken as he had been such a little character, always chatting to us, sitting on our shoulders as we worked at a desk or the computer and lying next to the dogs in the family room or standing waiting on them or us to dry him off when he came in from the rain. As he had such a strong presence our home seemed very quiet without him and the thought of bringing in another little cat did not seem very fair or right at that time.

By a strange coincidence the house we had rented for our holiday had living right next door to it a caretaker and he had four quite young cats. Initially the cats were shy and quite aloof and we were not really aware of their presence but as curiosity soon got the better of them they quickly began coming round to visit us and sit beside us as we sat and read or swam. By the time we came home we all had decided to get another cat. I had anticipated no problems with the dogs as they were so used to cats and had such sweet natures that they would accept anything. So, shortly after we came home we got a little black kitten and almost the day after I received a surprise with the gift of another little kitten, this one grey and white. The kittens were both fortunately males and luckily almost exactly the same age. It was no surprise that they got on really well and almost immediately began to play and sleep wrapped around each other. Our surprise came when some of the dogs who had always had a cat living with them in the house, actually found it really hard to adapt and cope with the new arrivals. Strangely it was my three biggest dogs that seemed to be the most affected, the others being neither up nor down. They were not aggressive, simply afraid and their fear manifested itself in different ways. One seemed to decide that if he looked up all the time and never down at the floor then they didn’t exist and he walked around staring at me or the ceiling with the kittens chasing around his feet. The second appeared to think that if he stuck his head under a cushion he would instantly become invisible so spent his time doing just that every time the kittens came near to him.The third and youngest  of my Golden Retrievers elected to mimic a parrot, when either of the kittens made any move towards him, he simply would get off the floor and quickly climb on to my shoulder as I sat on the couch. Of course the kittens absolutely loved this game, it was amazing ,they knew they had power and were loving being able to use it. They would try and scramble under the cushion to see Alfie, run around Teddy’s feet and trip him up and try to use my legs as a climbing post to get to Bruce. We were all amazed, after all our dogs loved cats what on earth were we going to do? Well, fortunately we did not need to do anything as all it took was a little time, time for the dogs to get used to the size of the kittens and time for them to realise that the kittens were just trying to play and have some fun. As soon as they recognised and accepted that, it took about a week, they became happy to lie on the floor and allow themselves to be used as climbing posts and now they are simply delighted when one of the kittens decides to lie cuddled next to them and purr happily away until asleep. The kittens have learned too. They know that the dogs will walk away if they try to chew their feet or run up their backs so they have stopped even trying. They want the dogs to be there and to play with them but have learned boundaries. The dogs have taught them those simply by withdrawing from play and moving to another room, anytime they felt the kittens were playing too roughly for them and the kittens have been astute enough to pick up on those signals and adapted their play.

In hindsight it was a bit unfair of me to think that the dogs would have no concerns about me introducing something new in to their environment, their home. Milo, our old cat had been their friend for many years. He was a certain size and behaved a certain way. The kittens are much smaller, faster and something quite new .But, by giving them all time and space, letting them each adjust to the new arrivals in a safe setting they have quickly recognised that there is nothing to fear and have been flexible and willing to adapt to the change. Now, looking at them all as they play and sleep together, it seems as if there has never been anything other than complete harmony.

Watching them learn and adapt and become good friends has strangely made me rethink what I expect from myself and others. We all take time to adapt to new circumstances and events, even if we have had similar experiences in the past we may need to allow ourselves a little more time to accept and become comfortable with any changes, even positive ones.

We need to take personal responsibility to set our own boundaries, ones which make us feel comfortable and make them clear to others. We should not just expect them to know what we want or need from them as that is simply unfair. If others make clear to us what their boundaries are we must respect them and not try to foist our own beliefs or strategies on to them, even if we feel they might be of help. We can explain how we feel and why we think it may help but still back off and let them come to terms with any issues or circumstances in their own time and at their own pace.

We are all different and as unique individuals and when faced with something new we each will have our own way of handling things. Some people find it very easy to adapt to change and others much more difficult. Knowing what makes us “tick” as an individual lets us develop a strategy for coping with change and helps us to manage it and make life easier.

For certain people fear is sometimes a normal response to being asked to face something new and different, before they have had time to adjust to a situation. If this is how you feel ,know that you  do not need to respond angrily or aggressively to new things, as that sort of strategy will never improve a situation or clear any issues, in fact almost always all that will do is make everything worse. Instead acknowledge that you have a need to get used to new circumstances, whatever they are, good or bad  and then take time to gather more information to enable you to adapt more quickly, make better decisions and be flexible enough to cope with and accept change.

Generally, when we show people close to us and even those a little more distant, respect and give each other personal space, we find that we can usually resolve any problems or issues and create an outcome that we are all happy with.

The right attitude gives the best experience.

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One of my daughters is getting married and we have been shopping for “the dress”. I rather naively thought this was going to be a straightforward, simple, nice experience for us all to do. I had not realized how times have changes since I went looking for my own dress, many years ago. Nowadays there appears to me to be a lot more pressures on the bride to be than ever before, a whole lot more pressure. Today because of the new celebrity culture that seems to be around, the internet and movies, all manufacturing an image and a perceived standard for the potential bride to be and her friends and family to meet, the pressure is on before you have even ventured out to the shops to look. There is a certain pressure on the shops too as image appears to be everything. Although we found out that even a good external image can be deceptive as I will later explain.

My first surprise was that the present system requires any potential bride to book an appointment to go try on dresses. I thought my daughters were kidding on when they advised me of this. When I was younger (and clearly I am giving away my age now), you just went to look at the shops you wished to look at without having to have pre-arranged your appointment. That doesn’t seem to be possible now and so it was the bridesmaids jobs to phone ahead, weeks in advance to book the shops (bridal boutiques) that my daughter had selected and then having successfully done that, they had to create an online calendar which notified all the relevant parties to save the times and dates .It was done with military precision and required a lot of effort from the girls involved to make sure it all worked and allowed everyone time to get from one place to the next and have lunch in between. Given that we had several hills to climb and were all varying ages and fitness levels that was harder to do than you would think, yet somehow my daughters wonder team managed it.

Our first weekend shopping was done locally and I began to realise why an appointment had been required. There was a huge choice now available and not just in design but in colour, texture, pattern material and accessories. At first my daughter was a bit like a child in a sweetie shop, she wanted to try on everything and had absolutely no idea of what she liked or disliked. Had they not just given us an allotted hour we could have stayed lost in there for days. All thoughts of time went out the window. We all felt rather overwhelmed by the huge selection available and with few exceptions, thought every dress she tried on was lovely but none amazing. Since it was amazing she was after we moved on to shop number two. Shop number two fortunately did not have the layout of number one. You selected from books the dresses you wished to try on and as there was not as much choice we quickly calmed down and were able to focus on the designs and shapes we had liked on her in the previous shop. As there was still no “amazing “feeling we agreed to move on to the next on the list. Shop number three was arranged for the following weekend .It was one my daughter was quite excited about visiting. The dresses were displayed in a way that made them look both glamorous and exciting. We arrived five minutes before our appointment, which was the first of the day. The rain was pouring down as we rang the bell for entry. After a moment the impressive door was opened by the owner who advised us that we would have to wait for another 4 minutes before she would let us in. Attitude is everything as they say so when the door was opened again four minute later and we were allowed in, there was simply no dress in the world that could have made any of us want to purchase from her store .As it was we were not even tempted as most of the dresses my daughter tried on were rather grey having been tried on by many excited brides to be before. Who knows if we had been met by a smile and asked to wait inside in the foyer how differently we might have felt, but, the negative and unfriendly start made us all see every fault there was to see. The stop had lost its sparkle for us and so we moved on to shop number four There we were so pleased to be met by a friendly and helpful owner that we all once again fell in love with nearly every dress she tried on. However, this time one dress stood out and so we went off to lunch to discuss it more fully before making a final decision.

As we sat enjoying our lunch we wondered if we had just seen the perfect dress none of us were completely sure and so we decided that after shop number five, the last on our list for that day, we would go back and ask to try on the dress again and see then how we all felt .

The next shop was like something out of a movie. We were met by a very beautifully dressed, friendly member of staff. She directed us to a waiting area and went off to get our bridal consultant. My daughter whispered to me “Mum, this is going to be too expensive, let’s just try on a few and then leave”.At that moment and before I could reply, the bridal consultant arrived and we were ushered through to the area where we would see her in her chosen dresses.

All around us sat other brides to be with their families and friends along with their consultants making choices. Each of us in our own beautifully laid out area, in a huge room. We all sat looking at each other were all thinking the same thing “expensive”. After making her selection from a computer my daughter was ushered in to the changing room. Her consultant sat with her and went through her selection and asked her why she had chosen each dress, what she had liked and why. Then she suggested that whilst they wait for her dresses to arrive from the storeroom, she would bring her a dress that she thought she might like based on their discussion.

When she stepped out from the changing room I felt a surge rather like an electrical charge go through me, I later found out that we all had felt exactly the same, and suddenly we were all feeling quite emotional. She had found “the one “.What were we going to do, the place looked and felt ridiculously expensive, we had a budget, doesn’t everyone? No dress was ever going to make her look or feel the same. My daughter was smiling from ear to ear as she read my thoughts. ”It’s okay”, she said “we set down a budget before I selected the dresses I was going to try.” I was so pleased that both the shop and my daughter had been practical enough to consider this. Had they not, the chances are that I would have felt I had to try to get her what she really wanted. That potentially could have caused problems and all of that was avoided by common sense and good communication.

So my daughter has her dress and I have had reinforced to me the things that we should always try to remember. Have a plan, know your limits when it comes to financial matters communicate clearly with those around you, never judge a book by its cover, be flexible enough to listen to what others have to say and how having a good attitude and the right experience always counts. All of this I knew, yet had simply let fly out the window as I got drawn in to and carried away by the whole finding the perfect dress experience. Thankfully, my daughter, her sisters and friends managed to get it right. Fortunately, thanks to them I found that I had been wrong about it being a nice experience. It was a really wonderful experience and one I was truly grateful to be able to partake in. Now all we need to do is find the bridesmaid dresses.

Listen and Learn.

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I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I am going to learn, I must do it by listening.
Larry King.

We all like to be heard. What we think and feel we want to be able to express to others and when we can do it freely we feel better and happier. We all recognize this and appreciate how important it is, so why when we have all this understanding and insight do we frequently fail to truly listen to what others want to say?
Perhaps it is because we feel that we are too busy or under too much pressure to waste time listening to what someone else thinks as we believe we already know the best decision or outcome? Or perhaps, we are too focused on what we need to do next that we simply do not take the time to listen before moving on to our next task or job. We just want to be able to tick off that we have dealt with the matter and move on.
The problem with this strategy is that more often than not we haven’t dealt with anything successfully. All we have really done by communicating in this manner is to potentially create more stress for the future.
Too often when we think that we are communicating we are in fact just barking out orders to others or we are defending ourselves from perceived criticism from others. This sort of communication can end up with us going round and round in circles trying to make our point and failing to do so. All that happens is that we end up feeling more and more exasperated, fed up and no further forward.
We are all guilty of doing this at some point in our lives and the solution to all the frustration and angst that this type of behavior causes us it really simple and straightforward. If we feel that we are not being heard rather than shouting louder and louder we need to stop and listen to what those around us are saying before we can then calmly answer them and express how we are feeling. Good communication requires all parties to be silent at some point and listen to what the others are saying before they actually respond. If we try to get our view over without paying attention to their views we are simply wasting our time. Seldom has anyone ever personally achieved anything constructive or made themselves feel better just by overriding the views of those close to them and imposing their own on any situation.
If we want to be happy, successful and content then it is simply essential to be a good listener. When we spend time listening to others they respect us more and will in turn spend time listening to us when we need them to. We can learn so much from hearing what those close to us have to say and that can help us to grow closer to those we love and to grow stronger as a person. As American psychologist Karl A Menninger once said:
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Sometimes when we feel that we are not being listened to, we ourselves are also not actually listening. The only way to resolve or at least attempt to resolve this type of situation, is to stop trying to get our own point across and spend time hearing what those we believe are ignoring us, are really saying .If once we have listened to them we still feel they are not letting us respond or take our view in to account we need to make a decision about whether they are the right people to surround ourselves with. Either way just by listening we gain knowledge and that always makes us stronger.
If we find that we are the ones who have allowed ourselves to get in to the bad habit of not truly listening and communicating well to those around us, we simply need to decide to stop and change how we have been responding to others and handling things.
It is not difficult as we all have the ability inside us to be able to make such positive changes when we can see the benefit of doing so and know that by changing we will feel better and more in control. We all must learn how to make positive choices in life if we desire happiness. None of us should stick with bad habits or poor strategies that do not work well simply because they take time and a bit of effort to change. That is simply daft and most definitely not a recipe for success. Being able to be flexible enough to adapt and change makes life happier, as we learn what works best for us and for those around us. As I always say though, the choice and the power to make positive life changes lies solely within ourselves. No one can do it for us and we can hold no one responsible other than ourselves if we don’t change when we need to. We all need to learn to make changes today, even if only small positive, ones for a happier tomorrow.

Decisions,Decisions.

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Sometimes we can all find it hard to make a decision about something and we can go backwards and forwards in our thinking process and feel we are getting nowhere. This can make us feel stressed and uneasy and can cause others who are waiting on our decision to get frustrated and upset by us. There is often a very practical reason for our minds to vacillate, it is simply seeking more information and whilst doing so is going back and forth trying to check it against what it already has had experience of and the past consequences from that. We can however train ourselves to make it a more efficient and faster process and in doing so avoid any unnecessary stress.
If you are being asked or need to make a decision about something and are finding it hard .The chances are as I have previously mentioned you actually just need to get a bit more information before being able to make your mind up. To simplify the process ask yourself what is stopping you from agreeing to do it or saying no? Has there ever been a time before you have had to make a similar decision and if so what did you learn from that? Use the answers to those simple questions to hone in on the specific areas of information or answers required to provide you with a clearer picture of what is the best thing for you to do. If it helps you to think more clearly simply write down your reasons before seeking the answers to them. Gather the information you require by doing a little further research and by chatting to people. Often these simple steps provide enough feedback for you to feel confident about saying yes or no.
However if you still feel uneasy about something after reviewing all the facts and information possible then simply do not agree to do it. Never allow yourself to be pushed in to agreeing to do something that does not sit comfortably with you. Sometimes it is fear that prevents you from trying something new and if that is the case seek help to get rid of it. Many times though your unconscious mind has picked up something negative that your conscious mind has not even seen yet. Too often I hear from people if only I had followed my instinct and not agreed to this or that .Your instinct is there for a reason. It is telling you that something is not quite right and asking you to pause for a short while to find out more. Overriding that is to me the equivalent of ignoring an amber light. Sometimes when you do that you escape unscathed but other times you will find yourself in trouble. So pay attention to inner feelings. If you have made a decision that you later regret do not avoid thinking about it. Take any learning you need from it by looking at how it happened and how best to prevent it happening again.
At the end of the day we have to accept that we all have different personalities. Some people can go through life and fling themselves fully in to everything without apparent care and others hate to do anything new or take any responsibility. Most of us are somewhere in between both of these. Learn how you function best and allow yourself any necessary time without being stressed to do what is right for you and what you feel comfortable with.