“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom”.
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.
A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.
I often tell people it is not what happens to you but how you handle what happens to you that determine how happy you are in life. Quite often I am told that it is easy to be positive when nothing is wrong but natural to feel negative when faced with adversity. I agree initially, it is quite natural to feel angry, sad, frustrated and hurt when life presents us with a problem or an issue to deal with that we would really rather not have to. However it is not good or healthy for us to remain feeling that way for any length of time. It most certainly will not help us to cope better with any adversity that we may be faced with and is in fact far more likely to add to our misery. So how do we change our attitude and see the positive when feeling only negatively? There is no magic wand to wave that can do it for you it requires conscious effort continuous hard work and determination but the results are well worth it. You will be happier and you will be in charge of your life. How do I know ?Well I live with someone who decided to do just that and I can daily see the positive benefit to his decision as can everyone around us.
My daughter’s partner was just like any other normal active young man until through no fault of his own he was injured in a car accident. Sitting in a queue of cars waiting to get out at a roundabout he looked in his rear window and noticed to his horror another car approaching at speed. With cars in front of him and at the side of him there was nowhere he could go and no action he could take to get out of the way. He braced himself as the car hit his car from the back and pushed him forward. He felt the pain in his knee immediately as the brake pedal he had his foot resting on came up with force. Although in pain and shocked he thanked his lucky stars that no one else was injured and all he appeared to have was a torn cartilage in his knee but that was just the start of his problems. Following surgery he began to develop pain and swelling in a lot of his joints. His knee wasn’t working properly and coming downstairs painful. Further investigations revealed that he had rheumatoid arthritis. He was just 23 years old and suddenly he was no longer able to do the sports to the level he had previously enjoyed and just walking was painful. Various medications were tried all with varying results. His hair began to thin and joints became deformed. Now many people would have felt pretty down at this stage and many might have thought quite naturally “why me?” He could have done that and we would have had every sympathy with him if he had but it would not have done him much good and would more than likely have added to his pain. Instead, however, he chose to tackle what was happening to his body head on. He read all about it and had long conversations with his specialist to determine the best course of treatment for him. He couldn’t play rugby anymore so he decided to take up cycling. He decided to focus his attention on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t do and he found that it began to make his body feel stronger again and reduced the pain he felt in his joints. He got his work place to get him a chair that made his posture better and helped him be more comfortable. He took up photography and goes for long walks. Now, twelve years after the accident which triggered the whole thing off no one would ever guess there was anything at all wrong with him. He never complains not even when teased about holding his little pinkie finger up when drinking a cup of tea or having a beer. He actually can’t put it down; it is molded to that shape due to the arthritis. He doesn’t care it is a quirky part of him now. He cycles to his work which is many miles away as often as he can and has cycled a long distance over three days for charity. His new medication means new hair not that I think anyone noticed the previous lack. We were all too busy looking at his pictures or having fun. He has chosen to not let anything stop him from being the person he wants to be. He is in charge of his life not the arthritis. He has a positive attitude and it is infectious. He is happy with his life and those around him are positively impacted by him. His attitude is not unique as there are many people who face difficult and challenging life events with the same positive determination. They all teach us that by adopting a positive attitude and approach to life we can make it better. We do not need to sit down and feel sorry for ourselves. We can all change things for the better if we are determined and focused on what we have and want to have rather than dwelling on what we do not want and do not have. The power to do so comes from our attitude to our circumstances rather than the circumstances themselves.
Self-Pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.
Helen Keller became blind and deaf at the age of two and yet she still was able to go on to become an author, political activist, lecturer and was the first blind person to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree. She could have allowed her disabilities to restrict her life but she chose not to and decided instead to push herself to lead as full a life as possible. We need to recognize as she did, that the key to living life fully is not being able to avoid negative life experiences; we can’t really do that no matter how safe we try to stay, but to choose no matter what life flings at us to embrace it as fully as we possibly can.
Too often when the going gets a bit tough and even sometimes just when feeling simply frustrated we can indulge ourselves by allowing our minds to become filled with self-pity. The trouble with this is that these destructive and weakening thoughts can then creep up and take over and completely affect negatively how we see the world. When we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves we forget to be grateful for all the things we have around us to be grateful for. We simply cease to be able to see the positives and focus only on the negatives. The shocking thing about this is that the trigger can just as easily be something trivial and yet we allow it to become a big deal and to grow out of proportion in to something we then falsely feel incapable of handling.
So what am I talking about? Surely it is normal to feel a little down at times, everyone can and does indulge a bit in this type of self-pity and occasionally, if it is brief, it can be a good catalyst to help us move on and to shake ourselves down as they say and start all over again. The problems arise when people get stuck in the habit of feeling sorry for themselves and then forget to move on or chose not to. For example relationships can and do break up and obviously that is painful ,but whilst sitting feeling sorry for yourself may feel quite good for a short while and is normal, if allowed the feeling of unhappiness can grow out of all proportion until it becomes all-consuming and can make you feel completely vulnerable, weak, unloved and bitter. When negative thoughts are allowed to grow out of proportion like this you are in fact digging a deep hole which is hard to then get out of. It is not impossible to get out of but it does make it much more of an effort to do. It is far easier to not allow it to take over than to rectify it when it has, so always, no matter what your life circumstances are or how down you feel, practice finding the positives in your life. Concentrate for a while on what you are grateful for. If you are breathing you should be grateful so no one should say ever that they are not grateful for something. If you have life you have the ability to change it. Perhaps not immediately but a day at a time is all any of us can really take. We need to choose to be responsible for our own happiness and to make decisions to change the things that pull us down. If we can’t change what has happened we can change how we look at it and how quickly we enable ourselves to move on. To live life we can choose to capitalise on our strengths or focus on our weaknesses. It is our life and our choice but only one will bring happiness. What would you choose?
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
My Mum has lived for over twenty years in her much loved, large traditional flat. It has huge bay windows, large airy bright rooms and a view that is spectacular, over countryside with a distant view of the sparkling lights of the city of Glasgow. She is physically fit and active but now eighty. Her home is on a steep hill with stairs up to her front door and again to her back garden. Not a problem twenty years ago but becoming one now. She also has two much loved dogs that she takes out four times every day ,probably why she is so fit, but that is now becoming a problem as the stairs and hill become harder for her to manage. Even more of a problem if the weather is bad.
Very reluctantly and after a fall last year, when she fractured her arm, she has come to the realization that she must move and has started looking for a suitable new home .Despite her deciding to look for another house every house we have seen has been compared unfavorably with her own. Rooms too small, corridors too narrow, no view, the list could go on. Each time after we had viewed a place we would go through the same depressing discussions.
We all felt a little sad and a bit despondent because we have not really known what to say or do to help her adjust. All of the family was very aware of the huge changes that she needed to go through to adapt to a different way of living. The acceptance of these changes had to come from her and we felt powerless, unable to help her come to terms with things.
Then help came from a very surprising source indeed, her solicitor. During a discussion about selling her home and buying a new one she spoke about how miserable it was making her feel to have to move. The solicitor looked at her and said “why, would you rather stay in your gilded cage?” “You have the potential to have a new and much better life adventure in more suitable surroundings and remember it will only be a bit strange for a very short while before it too becomes home. There are many, many worse things that could be happening in your life. This is something nice”. I sat in stunned silence waiting on my Mum’s reaction. It seemed to me that the solicitor had been truthful and clearly well-intentioned but a little too direct and I wondered how Mum would feel. I shouldn’t have been worried as it turned out to be exactly what Mum needed to hear. She was laughing as we left the office and has since decided that she will look on it as a new life adventure. She acknowledges that it will be a bit sad leaving her old flat and moving to something new but feels that her attitude to it now has changed. She is looking at the advantages rather than the disadvantages and she says that she feels so much better.
It is certainly true that in life if we dwell on the negative and sad then we are not going to feel very strong or happy. Life presents us with choices and challenges all the time. We can’t avoid them if we want to live life fully and part of living is accepting that things change. Being able to adapt to those changes and go with them to create something new and positive is the best way to succeed.
How to live forever
Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything. It is the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.
My Aunt died this week after a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s. It is not her death that we shall remember though it is the full and wonderful life that she led and shared with us which will stick forever in our minds. It made me think about what we consider as successful? Is it achieving our dreams, making lots of money being very intelligent? Or, is it what we leave behind in memories when we go?
It is long been said that you can’t take money with you when you depart this world so the making of it here must surely be to make yourself and those you love comfortable. My aunt and her husband worked hard to provide a comfortable life for their family. They used their earnings to provide essentials but also to ensure that they had many happy holidays together and were able to do a lot of fun things as a family. The money was not put in the bank for a rainy day it was utilized every day to make life happier. Quite late in age my aunt decided to do an Open University degree to challenge her mind. She had not had the opportunity to go to university when younger as money was tight and she did what was expected and left school going straight to work as a typist then later as a private secretary. She studied for this whilst working and caring for her family. Proving to us all that if you want something enough you will find a way to go get it. She passed with flying colors, as we all knew she would. She had a quiet determination to achieve without fuss or drama in a practical hard working way. We can all learn from that. Anything worthwhile takes application and effort but if we want it and believe enough in ourselves, nothing should stop us from getting it.
When retired she moved with her husband and youngest son out to Australia to live near her eldest son who had recently been widowed. She never believed home was a particular place but rather it was wherever the people you love were. She embraced the Australian life with vigor doing things she had not had the opportunity to do back home when working. She went horse riding for the first time and learned how to make the most amazing 3d cards. She began to dressmaker and learned embroidery. Presents sent home were always beautiful, thoughtful and just perfectly suited to the recipient’s needs. She traveled back to Scotland several times and despite her age was never put off by the exceptionally long flight. She was someone who didn’t just talk about doing something, she went and did it. We had many long conversations through the help of the amazing Skype application. We would have tea and cake and feel as if we were actually sitting in the front room having a chat and not thousands of miles apart. When I would say I am thinking about doing this or that her advice was always the same “life is too short to waste too much time thinking about doing something. If you want to do it go do it, stop talking about it and if you don’t let it go and move on to the next thing” .I would laugh and make excuses “it’s not that simple or I don’t have the time, money etc.” She would simply smile; shake her head and say again “if you want it enough you will find a way, there is always a way if you have enough desire”. Of course she was right and sometimes all I needed to hear was her quiet conviction that I could do it and that I wasn’t daft thinking I could.
Her physical passing is a huge loss to her family of that there is no doubt. Her presence in all of our lives though is too strong to ever truly be lost. Now that is what I call being a true success.
Like for most people the run up to Christmas in our house is a very busy time with lots of different things seemingly requiring immediate attention to make sure everything is organised in time for us all to relax and really enjoy the holidays. To add to our fun we also have two birthdays to arrange, as one of my daughters was born on Christmas day and another two days later. Both naturally like to have their birthdays kept separate from the festive arrangements to ensure that they are personal for them. Obviously this means that I have to work from many lists to ensure that I get everything done on time. I pride myself on being able to accomplish this and resolutely stick to my set programme.
We share our home with our family of dogs and a cat and to make sure they are not left out I also need to factor in to my schedule time for their daily play and exercise. One of our dogs had been very ill and had eventually to be put on steroids to control his condition. One of the side effects of these are that he has gained quite a lot of weigh. To ensure that this is kept under control and to give him some fun, especially as we are so grateful to still have him here with us, I make sure that included in my daily routine as well as normal exercise periods there are several play times for him to chase his ball around the garden. Yesterday I was busy as usual and on checking my watch noticed it was time to take him out to play. As I stood in the garden mechanically flinging the ball for him I was mentally planning what I had to do next. Suddenly I became aware that he was not coming back up with his ball as normal and when I looked I saw that he was half hidden in the bushes. Well his head and shoulders were hidden but his rear end was still sticking out for me to clearly see. Teddy though was unaware that I could see him. In his world because he couldn’t see me I obviously couldn’t see him. For a moment I was puzzled and wondered what on earth he was doing. Then when I shouted his name, I noticed that his tail was wagging and the more I shouted and pretended not to see him the happier and more excited he became until it all eventually became too much for him and he bounced out and ran up to me. His tail was wagging furiously and his face beaming with such joy that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Then I could have cried as the realisation came to me that Teddy didn’t just want to play ball. That was not the main source of his fun. The “fun” was clearly he and I playing, engaging in having fun together and when he realised that I was not having any fun he had decided to create some for me and bring me back in to the game which was why he had hidden. It got my attention and brought us both back to sharing this time together and mutually benefiting for it. This made me feel a bit emotional because it made me realise that somehow along the way I had lost the meaning. It was not about arranging everything perfectly it was about participating in something together, sharing and really interacting not just going through the motions as a means to an end. Life I think can be a bit like that and sometimes we get so lost in existing that we forget to live and life can pass us bye at a tremendously fast rate. As John Lennon said “ Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” After playing for a while longer I went back in and sat with my lists. I prioritized by keeping the essentials such as food and gifts, I would feel a bit mean if I didn’t provide these, and ripped up the rest and wrote spend quality time with the family. Today we had a lovely trip out to see some beautiful decorations in a local garden center and my eldest daughter, who was sensibly born in August, and her partner treated us all to a lovely coffee and cake. We sat and watched the world go by, chatted and had fun and thanked our Teddy for his little lesson.
Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
I find that nowadays it is easy for a normally rational person to become anxious and irrational in minutes just by watching the news, reading an article or even simply reading the possible side effects of bog standard medication. It seems sensational scary headlines and information disguised as informative but often quite misleading, is the order of the day. They give us bite sized facts but do not give space for the more reassuring explanation of these facts which might actually take away the fear. The effect of this is that we are all left feeling various degrees of anxiety and fear. Emotions which can overwhelm and trick us in to believing that we are quite powerless and just have to sit and await our inevitable doom. Well, that is until the next scare changes our anxiety from one direction to face another and the whole cycle starts again.
I experienced a variation of this first hand following the birth of my youngest daughter. All my girls were born by caesarian section as I had as it turned out what the consultant kindly called an “incompetent womb” it seems that my womb tried hard to work properly, too hard, but was in fact pushing the baby out in the opposite direction to where it was supposed to be going. Not particularly comfortable for me and actually quite distressing for the baby. So when their heartbeats dropped dangerously low both my first two children were delivered by emergency caesarian section.
My first C section received few comments but after my second I received a lot of sympathy from well-meaning Mums who were sad for me not being able to have a natural birth and angry for me that the doctors had interfered with the whole process! My second birth was on Christmas Day. At the time there was a huge movement towards promoting natural births and lots of literature was about that suggested Doctors were delivering babies by section in order to keep to their own timetables. Whether this was the case or not I can’t say, it could have happened, but and it is a big but, each case is different and caution should always be used when trotting out information indiscriminately. In my case their facts were fiction. The same as my first delivery, progress was slow and I was wired up to show my baby’s heartbeat. The wires showed when my daughter’s heartbeat dropped from 140 beats a min to 60 and then 40.She was delivered by section less than 5 minutes later.
Fortunately the senior registrar who was in charge of my delivery had been on for the birth of my first daughter 18 months previously. He had witnessed everything that had happened and the speed of the problem when it occurred. The consultant however, who was in overall charge of my care only read the notes, which apparently showed no obvious reason for my previous failure to deliver. At this time ,coincidence or not, there was a group of pro natural birthers looking at the hospital c section figures and it was suggested to me that the hospital wanted to please them by giving them as many “natural” births as possible. The Consultant had decided that I should be managed as a natural delivery. Had I not had a section my daughter would not be here. Of that there is no doubt. When my third daughter was due to be born there was no question that it should not be by any other method than elective caesarian section. After a smooth and successful delivery we were now confronted by another anxiety inducing situation.I was immediately asked to sign a form giving permission for her to receive a vitamin K injection. This form advised my husband and I that a small study had shown a potential link between giving vitamin K and early childhood illness. However, it also pointed out that failure to give this could lead to bleeding on the brain. I was really upset. We gave permission because we felt that we had no choice. When I came home I couldn’t sleep worrying about what we had done. I saw my GP and she shook her head and gently explained to me that both of my previous daughters were given vitamin K injections as soon as they were born as it was essential. I just hadn’t been asked because at that time there was no protocol for asking. She looked up the study concerned and pointed out to me that there was little if any link with cancer found and in her opinion this should not even have been mentioned. When I went home I did my own research and finally was able to sleep at night. It made me mad as well as scared that they would present me with such a tenuous piece of information just to self-protect, regardless of how worried it made me and other parents feel who were asked to sign.
From then on I developed a pattern. If something scares me I do my own research. I tell my clients to do the same. Do not look at terrifying headlines telling us we are all doomed and go away scared to live. Research it and take action to change if you need or dismiss it as you need. Some people thrive on being the prophets of doom. It gives them energy, yours. Sometimes it is simply stupidity in that they repeat what they have heard without thinking of the consequences of what they are saying and without checking the facts. Do not hide your head in the sand, be informed, but be correctly informed and for that you need to recognize that not all learning and information comes from the one source. Take charge of your life and your emotions and you will be less anxious and happier for it.