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.

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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.

Learning how to react positively to stress.

 

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In life our reactions to everything can be improved upon the more we learn about ourselves and our ability to handle situations. Nothing is worth making yourself ill over and without putting in to place some sort of structure and strategy to deal with stressful situations people can and do get ill by allowing daily issues to overwhelm and control them

Every day in life we all can be faced by situations that could be considered stressful. Partly what enables us to be happy and relatively stress free is learning how best to distinguish what really is a priority and therefore needs to be dealt with and what can be left until we have more time or energy to deal with it. By consciously making decisions to prioritize the importance level of daily events we can in fact learn to control our stress levels. If we believe everything has the same high importance and must be dealt with immediately then we are creating a very high stress level situation for ourselves to have to cope with. That inability to distinguish between important and not so important can easily cause us to go in to overwhelm and then nothing really gets done. Things start to pile up and before we know it we feel close to a complete meltdown as the pressure to act builds.

So how to decide what needs to be dealt with first? I usually make my decisions based upon the likely impact that taking no immediate action would have and whether I feel comfortable enough delegating it or leaving it until later? I make daily lists up and number in the order in which I consider I need to get things done. Where possible I will delegate tasks that do not necessarily need my particular attention alone to others who may be free to help. It is also important to take time during the day to try to have at least five minutes peace. To be able to sit, have a drink to rehydrate, eat something, take a good few deep relaxing breaths and then start again. I have found that having short breaks actually helps me to be more efficient and effective in dealing with any issues that have need of my attention. A short break often allows me to get a different perspective on a problem and enables me to tackle any issues with renewed vigor. If I don’t fully understand something or I need a different opinion I ask someone I trust for their views  as that can often help me to clarify my own thoughts.

Despite all our best efforts at the end of the day there are sometimes some things which are not fully resolved, some things which need more time and effort to sort out and we just have to learn to be able to accept that too. Fretting and fussing about those types of issues will not alter how quickly they can be effectively dealt with. Some things just need time and patience and it is important to learn how to recognize when you have done as much as you can and then to decide to stop worrying and, just wait and see what if anything is required next.

All of these techniques take conscious effort and practice but the end results are well worth it. As Hans Selye rightly says “It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”.

Feeling sorry for myself ?

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Self-Pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.

Helen Keller

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?

Stuck ? A technique to help you to move forward.

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Sometimes life hits us with an experience that can stop us in our tracks and freeze us. We can forget how to move forward and for a while do not know which direction to take. It can be a horrible feeling of being stuck and lost at the same time. Most of us recover from this sort of experience naturally and after a period of time has elapsed. We begin slowly to find our balance, having learned what we need to learn in order for us to and get back on our life path again and once more start to move forward. Occasionally, there are times however, when we can feel totally stuck and cannot seem to find our way out of the situation that we presently find ourselves in. For these times ,I suggest trying a little visual technique, used in NLP(Neuro Linguistic Programming) and  there is a variation of it used in a very good book that  I would recommend  called “The Invisible Path to Success: Seven Steps to Understanding and Managing the Unseen Forces Shaping Your Life” by  Robert Scheinfeld

It is a useful technique to use if you have spent too long waiting on things to change in your life or have been unable to find a solution or a way out of a difficult or confusing experience or situation.

I use it with clients and myself often, as I find that it frequently helps obtain a clearer picture and can be a useful tool to teach us what it is that we need to know in order to get out of a stuck state and move on.

It is really very easy and can be quite relaxing and fun to do. We are going to pretend to make a movie or story about your life. Firstly you have to think of a person you know, that has the sort of qualities to be able to deal really well with your present situation. It can be a real person or a character from television/film or a book that you know well. The important thing is that they must have the qualities/strengths that you feel would be able to handle your part, should this life experience/situation actually be in a movie. They must have the emotional capability and strength to know how to deal with this appropriately. Someone you look up to or aspire to be like. You may have many people you like and respect but I want you to pick the one that would best suit your life right now. Whose knowledge do you wish to have right now? Who would have the ability to easily deal with what is going on in your life? That is the person I want you to cast in your movie role. So for example you wouldn’t pick Arnold Schwarzenegger to deal with a spiritual or emotional dilemma. He doesn’t portray the qualities on screen capable of teaching us in that way. Rather you might pick a spiritual leader you admire and respect or an actor who has played a lot of emotional parts very well. Someone you believe has the qualities that you presently need.

Once you have decided on the character playing the main role close your eyes and imagine that you are watching them on a television screen playing your part. You are sitting in the projection booth right at the back of a movie theatre and are watching a story of your present situation being played out on the big screen. It is in black and white. Everything that you have gone through and are going through is being played on the TV or film. But, it is not you it is them so you can relax and just watch and learn. What does your stronger character do? What action do they take? Given the strengths that you know that they have, which is why you have picked them to play you, what would they do different to what you are doing now? Most importantly how would you want this movie to end? Take your time; play out different scenarios if you need to, until you find the one you feel the most comfortable with.

Then end the movie on a positive, successful note. We all want an ending when the main character positively learns what he or she needs to move on and forward with their life.

How much better do you now feel? Can you now see a positive way forward?

Is it now possible for you to use this new and positive learning to help move you out of your present situation and on with your life?

What I often find, after doing this myself and with clients, is that the path ahead is always clearer. My guess is that the reason for this being so is that we are often more able to get the positive learning from an emotional situation if we can somehow detach ourselves from the emotion in it. This way is one of the methods that can be used successfully to do that. Try it and see.

Strategic Dreams

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Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from pain and treasure the most precious gift I have-life itself.

Walter Anderson

It is crucial to be aware that no matter what you have in your life, the very fact that you are here and making plans means that you can change whatever it is that you do not like.

Life always has its shares of ups and downs; the secret is learning how to move on from the painful things that happen in life. To be able to push yourself forward from them, to get to a happier more positive stage, instead of remaining trapped in the negative. To be able to do that successfully we need to have goals, a purpose, something that helps pull us forward when we feel stuck. It could simply be a determination to do better for yourself or for those you love or it could be because you have a passion about a particular thing which drives and motivates you. When deciding on a life goals or aims a good strategy is to make it as real as possible. Imagine what it will feel like when you have achieved it. Write down how you will recognize when you have reached it? Will it be a bigger house, more money in the bank or something more personal such as finding a life partner? Whatever it is that you wish for, in order to make it a reality, you must have a clear idea of what it is before you set about trying to obtain it. The purpose behind being so specific is that it gives you a very clear picture and by writing all the small details down you engage your brain in being able to start looking for ways to help you to achieve it.

It is also important to remember to be flexible in how you go about finding the path to achieve your dream. In simple terms you may have seen a house with a picket fence in your vision for your future and instead find one with a walled garden. Does it matter that much? As you learn and grow so might your dream and vision. Do not be afraid to adapt your goals. Often what we wish for when we are young changes ,as we mature our values and belief systems may change. Being aware of any changes in what you now consider to be important and incorporate these changes into your goal in order to fully get what you want.

The most important part in being able to achieve your goals is to be bothered about it. You must care about the outcome and be
able to recognize that your own actions and not the actions of others are the keys to achieving what you are aiming for. No one else is going to put the effort in for you; no one else is going to change your life until you start making the effort yourself. Others may then help you when they see how committed you are to achieving your dream but not before you lead the way.Recognizing this enables you to cope with whatever life flings at you, allowing you to take responsibility, adapt and change whatever way you need to stay on track and stay positive.

66 Days to a New You

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Generally speaking nothing we ever do to ourselves is done with a negative intent although it may result in a negative habit or behaviour pattern being developed the original intent behind it was probably positive. It was believed that you could develop any healthy habit within 28 days. Recent research disputes that and  suggests that it actually takes us 66 days .I am inclined to believe that the longer number of days is what is required for us to develop a positive new learning after a negative habit has developed. By giving ourselves this extra time it should ensure that the change is permanent and established making it therefore less likely to dissolve back in to previous “old” ways.

So, if all habits start with positive intent, as I believe, how do they turn in to unwanted negative behaviours or habits? To me understanding the value or need behind the action helps us to make a change to a positive choice. If we consider someone who overeats and struggles with trying to eat sensibly but fails time and time again, the chances are that originally they overate to meet a value or a need that wasn’t being met. Perhaps it was to be sociable, to be able eat out with friends, to feel happy, to feel loved, comfort, the list could go on. Most people do not set out to become overweight .That is the end result of a negative habit which would have started out with a positive intent. It is the same with nearly all bad habits. Why do people smoke? Does it meet a social need or value such as it calms them or supresses’ appetite and so prevents overeating. Is it a de-stressor? When people drink too much, why? Before it became an addiction what did it bring to them? Was it that it helped them to feel calm or helped them to relax? Were they able to socialise more because they believed it gave them confidence? Whatever the reason the original intent would have been positive. With smoking and alcohol there is also the addiction aspect that kicks quickly in after the original intent and often the initial benefit gets lost in the  physical need  to have the nicotine or alcohol  boost.

So in order to be able to change negative behaviour back to positive we must first establish the basic positive need it was designed to meet and then find a way of getting this need met in a healthier more positive way. Some people believe that once you decide to let go a negative habit you can just let it go. It is as simple as that. My experience with this is that certainly deciding to let it go is the first step to success but dogged determination and repeatedly reminding yourself what positive things you now want to bring in to your life ,is the key to  permanently establishing a new better  behaviour.

If we take smoking as an example, by first establishing what it is, apart from nicotine, that smoking gives you, you can determine what need or value you will still have to meet, to successfully give up the habit. Nicotine patches will probably not be enough on their own. It requires a change of attitude and direction to be able to maintain new behaviour. If we fail to decide how to replace the original positive intent, then the first time stress or whatever need it was arises, the first thing that will happen is that the person will reach for the old familiar way of getting it quickly. This is in my opinion the reason why people who have managed to stop smoking for a prolonged period can suddenly start again. They haven’t recognised what it has truly initially provided them with when they it gave up. So, if smoking was a way to help someone relax, finding another way of feeling relaxed and establishing this new way as part of a daily routine, alongside the nicotine patch or whatever it is you choose to help, will make it easier to permanently change this habit. This same principal, establishing the basic need being met can be used to help you get rid of any behaviour or habit that you now wish to change.

That is the first part and the second is attitude. How much do you really want to let go this habit? What benefits will it bring you to change? By writing the answer down to both of these questions it will enable your conscious mind to have something crystal clear to look at and to help motivate you during times of temptation.

Then as a visual aid take it one step further and write down what it is that you initially wanted to achieve by the habit on a stick it notes, and put these notes in places around you such as your wallet/purse, the visor in your car, the mirror in the bathroom, anywhere in fact that you will see them and remind yourself of what it is you want. These notes help to act as an emotional boost and can increase motivation. A daily note to self, written in a diary or on your phone to tell yourself how much better you feel and how proud you are of getting one more day closer to your goal of better health or whatever your goal is ,will also keep you motivated.

To help me stick to a healthy eating plan, I have a message that greets me on my phone in the morning. It directs me to do energetic things, such as going a walk and to eat healthy energy foods, as I previously had habitually ate sugary snacks as a way of providing myself with energy. This message is designed to encourage me to switch on my brain and to help me look for the ways to meet my daily goals. This in turn prevents me from snack eating and nibbling. Try it you may find it as helpful as I do.

Finally alongside the four previous steps we must recognise that we need time to fully develop new ways of thinking, new routines and new habits, we should not be too critical of our daily efforts .If we set each day up to have small, easily achievable steps forward we are much more likely to succeed and by keeping notes of what we want to achieve and by giving ourselves time to achieve we will easily learn healthier habits and have sustainable success.