Action is the antidote to despair

Sometimes I feel like I could live my life by the cliches that have proven so true.  “You get what you settle for” is another one, but that’s a whole other story.

Whether at work or at home, the scenario is often the same.  What one small step can you take that will make a difference.  Then take that step.  And then another.  And at the end of the day, you might be surprised what’s been achieved, or at the very least, you’ll be able to take satisfaction in a sense of progress.

Everyone has days when they feel overwhelmed or not motivated at all.

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Some years ago I started in a new position, as an executive in a large organisation.  There was literally so much to do, that I couldn’t process it all.

Some days I would sit at my desk, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and then when I opened my eyes I would take up the first job that came into my head.  Seriously, that’s how scientific my prioritisation was some days.

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Sure, I planned and had priorities, but sometimes it just all went to hell.  The key really, is to stay calm, consider the real implications (usually no-one is going to die) and just take the next step.  It’s also important to build a team around you who know what they are doing – but sometimes that also takes time

So whether you’re in overwhelm or just can’t be bothered, forget about the obstacles.   Find a vision that appeals to you of where you want to be.  Hold that vision in your mind, and don’t worry about how you’re going to get there.  Just trust that you will.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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As one of my coaches said to me “all you need to do is show up, and trust that whatever you need to do next will be shown to you”.

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Tiny massive miracles

We often hear a dialogue in the modern first world… life is fast paced, people don’t have time for (insert your cliche), people are tired, depressed, stressed, or going 100 mile an hour happily pumped on caffeine and adrenaline … until they crash.  “Suddenly” marriages break down, people get sick, or other major interventions may change the established routine, albeit briefly or permanently.

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I googled “symptoms of lack of sleep”.  You can do this for yourself and fill the page, but here’s a snapshot of things it might contribute to:

Moodiness, weight, health issues, skin problems, libido, immunity, heart disease, temper

So why when, in Australia at least, we live in one of the most rich and free countries in the world, are so many people sleep deprived.  Why are we seeing headlines like “insufficient sleep is a public health health epidemic” and “the toll of sleep loss”

Have we lost the plot.

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Here are a few of the crazy reasons some of us don’t get enough sleep, and cause ourselves a myriad of other issues to exacerbate the problem.

Alcohol.  Just a couple of drinks affects your sleep quality.  Google it. Not to mention the stress on your liver. And that alcohol is a depressant

TV.  Turn it off.  If you “have” to watch any show after 9 pm, record it. Simple.

Partners.  When you fall in love, you have to sleep together, right?  WRONG.  Ask around how many people have their sleep disturbed by their partners. Different bed times, toilet breaks, snoring, moving around.  If this is an issue for you, have an adult conversation with your partner and consider sleeping in different rooms.  The difference may astound you.  It doesn’t say anything about the quality of your relationship, and you can still cuddle in the evenings and in the morning.  Think quality not quantity.

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Study.  I have friends who have done their masters (in whatever) that study until all hours of the morning.  I put in a fraction of the time and get the same results.  Why?  Because I get enough sleep, healthy food and hydration and I only study when I feel good.

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Kids.  Probably the toughest one.  But set some rules, make some agreements with your partner, and make sure you both get a reprieve for the sake of the whole family.

Stress, worrying about work, family, money etc.  Ever realised it doesn’t help?  “Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want”.  Find something that works for you.  Exercise, meditation, yoga, daydreaming about your perfect life, music. Not television or alcohol.

So I implore you, if you’re as lucky as I am to live in a land of opportunity, make the most of it and do the basics.  Loving yourself first is ok.  More than ok.  It’s critical.  You should do it for yourself, but if you can’t, do it for everyone else. You can’t offer your best self to the world if you’re always burnt out.

So please try it.  Trial it for a month and see the difference.  Sleep – how hard can it be?

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Be You

In the first day of year nine high school, “Jennifer” (not her real name), after a few tumultuous years of family difficulty, is excited to learn she’s been placed in the top class for two of her subjects.  Then what happens?  A chorus of objections from her friends… “so you think you’re too good for us now” and “just bomb out so you can stay in our class”.

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This sad scenario carries through our entire lives, and the advice I give is the same.  Decide what kind of person you want to be, and don’t let the opinions of others sway you.  Your real friends will always support you, and you will attract friends, colleagues and lovers who appreciate the real you.

I couldn’t even say I did it and had a good outcome… because at that age I was academically gifted and did hide it.  Deliberately used smaller words and didn’t achieve what I could have.  My circumstances were different, but the outcome was the same.  I didn’t have the courage to just be myself.

I was 35 years old when I finally got the message.  Until then, although I was generally considered intelligent, self assured and successful, I had routinely smothered my opinions and behaviour to appease certain other people.  Accordingly, I stayed in relationships that weren’t healthy for me, I didn’t retain some friends I really would have liked to, I didn’t make the life choices I could have made.

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So at 35, I embarked on a journey to work out who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to be in the world.  It was awesome.  All of a sudden everything became easy (well, after a tumultuous year where many familiar things fell away) and soon I had a life full of joy, freedom, friendship and opportunity.

So I’ll keep encouraging this impressionable 13 year old, knowing that like us all, she’ll make some good and bad decisions, but hoping that somewhere always in the back of her mind that little voice will echo. “just be yourself” “you are loveable, you are loved”.

If you’re 15, or 55, or 105, it’s always a good time to be comfortable in your own skin.  You can’t give people the opportunity to love you for who you really are… if you’re not who you really are.

I’m all for change.  Anyone and everyone can strive to be a better version of themselves, but make it YOUR version, not someone elses.  Make considered choices about how you want to be in the world.  Write it down!  It can be as simple as key words.  And you can change it whenever you like.  It’s like dreaming up your own fantasy world and then watching it all come true.

And finally, if you need any convincing to be yourself and not be discouraged by other people, please watch this youtube clip

Stresssssed Out???

Are you STRESSED out?!

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 “You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

 Everyone has stressed out days, right?  Work, study, kids, responsibilities… argh.  But there are some simple things you can do that, done regularly, will make a massive difference.  Take hold!  Don’t sit around waiting and hoping for things to change.

 This information from the Victoria government website at http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Work-related_stress

Work-related stress is a growing problem around the world that affects not only the health and well-being of employees, but also the productivity of organisations.

Work-related stress has many causes, including long hours, heavy workload, job insecurity, the threat of job loss or redundancy, and conflicts with other workers or bosses. Symptoms of work-related stress may include depression, anxiety, a drop in work performance, feelings of being overwhelmed, fatigue, headaches and an increase in sick days or absenteeism. Companies and employers should recognise work-related stress as a significant health and safety issue.

I’m sorry?  Companies and employers should recognise it?  Well yes they should, but I say we ALL should recognise it and play our part in improving the lives of our colleagues and ourselves.  Companies and employers are not for the most part, people, and whilst their policies are important, they are only as good as the people administering them, and they’ll only be as effective as the combined efforts of everyone in the organisation.

That’s a bit like a population that keeps demanding the government to provide more services, and better services, then be shocked when taxes rise and demand the government do something about it.  But that’s a whole other post. 

Back to the topic.  Our environment today is faster paced than it has ever been, with technology and communications changing so fast that if you’re not constantly upskilling you’re already out of date.

In the office environment, the constant flood of emails and other electronic media alone is exhausting.  For people working in technical, production or service provision areas, the plethora of policy, legislation, technology changes, global competition, rapid market change… the list is endless. And you’re constantly told you have to be more efficient or someone else will do it better.

 But in my experience makes the difference are two key things:

  1. Our own attitudes and perspectives
  2. The people around you

1 can be controlled and changed with a little practice and 2 is also more manageable than people realise.

Here are some of the things that work

  1. Keep it in perspective.  If you live in Australia or another first world country like I do, seriously, many of us need to get better at this.  Australia is one of the richest and safest countries in the world.  Why then are we becoming one of the most stressed out?
  2. Turn off the TV and other other media.  If you take notice, a lot of media is negative, negative, negative.  A break from the news will do you good.
  3. Look after your body.  How often have you heard “I’ve had a shi* day, I’m going to go home and have a few drinks”. Sure, I’ve done it too, but alcohol does awful things to your body, reduces rem sleep, and makes you feel worse the next day.. then you have another crap day, and around we go.  Also … alcohol is a depressant, if you’re feeling down a lot, you should not be drinking alcohol regularly. Period.  Also, if you’re putting crap food in your body all day every day… don’t be taking it out on your colleagues or your family that you feel awful all the time.
  4. Try feel-good alternatives – to both get over a bad day or celebrate a good one.  Book yourself a massage, a haircut, a show or some indulgent treat instead of spending your money on something that’s bad for you and makes you feel worse later.  Go to a movie, take the dog for a walk, rent a comedy film, it could be anything – you could even make a list of stuff you love ready for just such an occasion, and tailored perfectly to your own tastes
  5. Take your holidays.  I know people who are so wedded to their jobs, or so much saving up their leave for a rainy day, they are completely strung out and have lost all perspective (see # 1!).  Take your leave, get rest, and do something you love.  Don’t spend your whole holiday looking after everyone else.  If you’re a boss, do yourself and everyone else a favour – make your bloody staff to take their holidays and have a good time doing it J
  6. Have some fun at work.  We all know this can make an enormous difference, and “fun” to be well intentioned and reasonably universal.  You probably won’t feel better if there’s harassment claims going around the office.
  7. Start a gratitude journal.  Oh I know it’s wanky and new age but it works.  If you start focusing on things you are grateful for, you’ll find more and more, and start feeling a lot better, then the cycle perpetuates.  Nobody has to know about it, lock it in a cupboard or a password protected file somewhere but five minutes spent every day on this activity will have most people feeling heaps better within a couple of weeks. 
  8. Notice nice things about people.  This is easy with people you like, or are neutral about.  But they will notice that you take the time to notice, particularly if you make the occasional comment.  It’s tougher with people you don’t like, but if you can find one thing to like about them… notice how different it feels to think of that, than when you are noticing all the things you hate. “If I want to be loved as I am, I have to love others as they are” Louise Hay
  9. Let of the stuff you can’t change.  Simple 😉  Also, everyone’s entitled to a bad day… moods change, feelings change, just let tomorrow be better

10. Honour your own achievements.  This may be easier to do if you start by noticing other people’s first, even if they are totally anonymous to you.  Be grateful to the people who built the roads you drive on, the car you’re in, or the building you live in.  To the guy who made your coffee, cleaned your office.  You see how this works?  No matter what you do, chances are you’re providing a service to the community.  Be proud of the service you offer, and have some thanks for those provided by others.  Understand that the fabric of our life is only possible through what we all do.

11. Be nice to your boss.  We all want our bosses to make us feel better and show gratitude for the work we do.  Do you return the favour?  By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day. Robert Frost

12. Give yourself a break. You don’t have to be perfect all the time, there will always be more work than you can do, you are not responsible for other people’s decisions, lives, circumstances, you don’t have to fix everything for everybody.  Look after yourself first!

13. Do the basics. Eat, drink (water), sleep, exercise

14. Tell a new story – yes that situation or person may drive you crazy, but you’re better off distracting yourself and focusing on something else than going on and on about it.  Have your two minute vent if you need to then move on.

15. Spend time doing things you enjoy.  Listen to music, chat with a positive friend (stay away from those negative people!) spend time in nature, with animals, play sport, practice your art, read a book.  Make a list of things you enjoy doing and do them!

Think happiness and business don’t go together? Think again, check out this article from Forbes – Happiness Is A Choice http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemaddock/2013/06/04/happiness-is-a-choice/

Good luck!

Quinoa quest

Recently I was advised to eat less refined grains due to the inflammatory effect they have on the body.  I hadn’t realised how much grain had snuck into my otherwise pretty healthy diet.  Organic porridge, vegie wraps, rice, pasta…. so now I try to limit refined grains to one meal per day.  Then I discovered Quinoa.  It’s a yummy alternative with lots of nutritional benefits.  Seen here as a porridge alternative with coconut, raisins, yoghurt and banana (all organic)

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I’ve tried the white and the tri-coloured grain, which was used in today’s breaky.  It can also be used in salads, as a rice alternative, and I’ve also put some in stuffed, grilled mushrooms mixed up with other ingredients.  So it’s really versatile.  Easy to cook – takes about 15 minutes in simmering water, similar cooking method to rice.  Use about twice as much water as Quinoa (ie, one cup water to half cup seeds) and I simmer with a lid on the pot to reduce evaporation.  Its a great way to warm up the kitchen on winter mornings!  You can also toast the seeds to increase the nutty flavour in salads and other meals.  Some people rinse the seeds as they say there is a salty flavour, but I haven’t found that so far and don’t bother.

So if you haven’t tried quinoa yet give it a try!  It’s much kinder to your body than a lot of grains, particularly as many are highly processed and from genetically modified crops.

There’s heaps and heaps you can research on the internet… but I’m too lazy to write more so, over and out…

The small things

I have a busy career in an office, so on most Saturdays, it is a delicious treat to wake up and not have to hurry off anywhere.  This weekend I was craving sunlight as I hadn’t spent a lot of time outside, so I sat out on the lawn, soaked in the sun’s warmth, and allowed myself the luxury of taking in the details of what was going on around me…

The colours and scents of the plants in the vegie patch, like the bright yellow marigold flowers and the deep green of the spinach

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The sunlight shining through the flowering sugar cane in the paddock next door

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Green ants busily going about their business.  The universe must look so different to them.

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And our friendly magpies always drop in to say hi and share their every expanding songlist

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It’s so nice to stop and feel the breeze and the sunlight on my skin, hear the chatter of the willy wagtails, the grass under my feet and just be.

So to top it off, I went to the beach with my family, where I curled up with a good book for a few hours.  There’s no better therapy!

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I hope you can take the time today to slow down and enjoy the everyday things of life 

Any Other Day

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Today is like any other day, right?

As to most things that may have a thousand answers, but today is the first day that I’ve posted on this blog.  It may be the last or the first of a broadcasting mecca.

So what’s in store?  A plethora of ideas on life, career, people and the universe in general.

They may be funny, insightful, useful (or just full of ….) but they will be mine at a given moment of any given day.  Or I might just present a contrary view because I can….

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you enjoy the journey 🙂

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