Tag Archives | personal development

ACCEPTING WHO YOU ARE

It is very easy for us to identify what’s wrong with us, what we don’t do well, what we fail at – we’re well trained in that! And we can try to counteract that by things like affirmations: I am beautiful; I am a good person, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I’m never quite convinced by that. So I tend to give up on affirmations quite quickly, and I needed an alternative approach.

I think there are three things that need adjusting for this to work.

  1. Don’t counteract, have both sides

By this I mean that we can have a list of our ‘failings’ and a list of things we do well. The first stage of acceptance is admitting to all of our strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Add in some qualifiers to make it easier.

The statements we make about ourselves tend to be all or nothing statements: I’m moody; I’m useless at being consistent etc. And we have the same problem with affirmations: I’m a good person will almost always bring to mind the examples when we’re not being a good person!

The qualifiers are words like: usually; sometimes; at the moment; often; mostly; occasionally; just for today. They allow us to acknowledge what we’re like without over-exaggerating it.

Examples would be: I’m usually kind; I sometimes have a bad mood; I mostly eat healthily; I occasionally have a bad day; at the moment I’m feeling miserable.

The qualifiers require us to look beyond the immediate feeling and assess ourselves on a longer-term basis, which gives us more perspective.

  1. Allow for progress

If we want to get better at being a certain way, we need to give ourselves a chance to develop it.

‘I’m beginning to..’ ‘I’m learning to…’ or ‘I’m starting to..’ will allow us to count those first steps towards improvement.

‘I’m getting better at..’ ‘ I now more often…’ allow us to recognise that we’re moving beyond first steps and towards habit.

These then become more realistic statements as well as being kinder to ourselves.

With these adjustments, we have a much better chance of accepting how we are, whilst helping ourselves to be more how we want to be.

I want to be more of who I can be, and this helps me to not get stuck on my failings, but instead build on what I have already. It also helps me to remember that it’s OK to not get it ‘right’ all the time – being human is different from being perfect!

So next time you decide to beat yourself up for being crap at something, have a go at this approach instead and see what happens.

 

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TAKING TIME TO REFLECT

It is easy in our busy world to just keep going, with that feeling that we never quite catch up. Yet taking time to reflect can help to make that constant activity more purposeful and productive.

The first thing that some time for reflection can give us is a reminder that we are doing some things well/right. We often don’t notice when we’ve set a ‘new normal’ for ourselves, because we haven’t perfected it.

I may be better at giving myself a break, even though I don’t always do it. I may be good at noticing the little everyday pleasures, and forget that I didn’t used to do that very much. I may occasionally go for a walk in the fresh air, and just criticise myself for not doing it more often.

Noticing our own progress in improving our lives matters. We are always developing and growing, even if sometimes the pace of it seems slow. By acknowledging our progress to ourselves, we encourage ourselves to do more of it.

The second part of reflecting is to set some intentions for the next period of time. Rather than beating ourselves up for not getting to where we wanted to in some areas of our lives, we can choose what we want to pay attention to, to take it to the next stage.

For example, I may want to pay more attention to eating good food, or I may want to focus on doing more things that make me feel good, or I may want to get better at stopping when I’ve run out of energy. By setting ourselves four or five intentions, we give ourselves a good chance of applying them, and thereby enhancing our own development. It also reminds us of what’s really important to us, so that we adjust our busyness to include things that really matter, and feel OK about not doing some of the stuff we just do habitually.

Most of us have a bit of time over the Christmas period, where we could allow ourselves to reflect. Why not have a go at it, and see what comes up for you?

(I’ve put some beginnings of sentences below that you may find helpful in this.)

my progress                                    My intentions

I’m better at…                                           I want to pay attention to…

I’m good at…                                              I want to focus on…

I’ve started…                                             I want to get better at…

I now sometimes…                                       I’ll have a go at…

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REAL CONVERSATIONS

If I had to choose one thing that I couldn’t do without in my life, it would be real conversations. Depriving myself of that would reduce my quality of life immeasurably.

Etymologically, conversation means we turn with each other. It is where we follow the thread the other sets up and then see where it leads. It requires a curiosity about another’s world and a desire to share. It is so much more than talking or even listening.

There is an inevitability about it leading to more than facts or information – it is always going to be philosophical. By that I mean we will pick up on attitudes to and beliefs about life, work, the world, because we are sharing who we are, not just what we know or do or have.

It has nothing to do with intellect – it is about following our native intelligence, and being prepared to share our hearts with another. It is opening ourselves up and encouraging another to do the same.

These conversations are a part of friendships and close relationships for me. I am lucky to have quite a few people who are always up for a real conversation, and indulge my enjoyment of it.

And then there are those moments when we can also share a real conversation with a stranger, and bring something different into our world. We discover shared passions or interests, and we also explore our differences and gain a greater understanding of different attitudes, cultures and backgrounds, that are not part of our world. It is such a lovely way to learn and grow!

I have recently had two wonderful conversations in this vein with two very different people: one with a very bright successful businessman, and one with a delightful wine grower. I may not ever meet them again, but they have enriched my world by sharing something of themselves with me.

Next time you have the opportunity, prompt a real conversation: offer your stories, talk about what you love, what matters to you, and ask them for their stories in return. People are pretty amazing when you engage them in real conversations.

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THE RICH TAPESTRY OF WHO WE ARE

We live in an age where people work even harder to present a certain image of themselves to the world. Social media encourage people to show only those parts of themselves they think are impressive/interesting /better than others. What a shame!

The delight of human beings is that they consist of a rich and varied mixture of traits and interests and behaviours, even appearances – after all, none of us look good all of the time!

I love being that mixture – it makes life so much more interesting and enables me to relate to lots of different people. I am clever and stupid, organised and chaotic, silly and wise, fun and serious – and these apparently contradictory qualities create the warp and weft of the tapestry called Di.

Only ever allowing others to see the more ‘acceptable’ qualities would make me very one-sided and boring. It would also put me under enormous pressure to keep hiding those other qualities.

We all need to learn to enjoy and celebrate the unique mixture that makes us who we are. By allowing ourselves to show our different facets, we make space for others to do the same, and be more comfortable with themselves. I remember working with young people who were ‘failing’ at school. One afternoon, they asked if we could go to the park and play football. I agreed and joined in with gusto – and absolutely no skill whatsoever! They all thought I was very funny and enjoyed taking the piss out of me for and hour or so. And as we were going back to the centre, one of them said to me: ‘I feel so much better now that I know you are crap at something that I am good at! It makes it a two-way street, when you are stupid sometimes too.’

Let’s love the unique blend of flavours and colours that make us who we are, and not try to appear perfect to others. Come on; let’s enjoy our rich tapestries.

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HAVE ANOTHER GO

Happy New Year! I was thinking about resolutions – and the ‘re’ piece means again or back to. And for most of us, any resolutions are another attempt to make a change for the better, usually ones we’ve had a go at several times before. However, if we do what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always got. So the most important thing about having another go is to make sure that we learn from previous failures, and do it in a different way.

Life is one long experiment for finding out what really works for us, and we’re stubborn creatures – if it didn’t work for us before, it’s unlikely to if we adopt the same approach again.

So do have another go, but do it differently!

  • Make the goals smaller, easier to achieve – we are more motivated to build on a success.
  • Do the steps towards it in a different order, or using a different motivation
  • Find a different way of measuring your progress
  • Find some way of encouraging yourself to keep going

If you look back, you will realise that most positive changes in your life have come about gradually – some of mine have taken years to become habitual!

So do have another go – this may be the time that makes the difference, and the experimentation can be fun!

 

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WHERE AM I UP TO?

It is common for us to get caught up in our lives, swept along from one thing to another. We don’t stop to consider, we just take the next step, do the next task, follow the routine.

It makes a significant difference if we take stock now and then.

On a daily basis, taking 5 minutes halfway thrugh our day, and then towards the end of the day to just ask ourselves, ‘Where am I up to?’, gives us a chance to assess our energy levels, what would be good use of our time next, what our priorities are, what really matters.

Then, on a monthly basis, we can take stock at a higher level: what have we done well or achieved, or made progress in; how well have we taken care of ourselves. And then we can look at what adjustments we would make for the next month, see what it is important for us to consider or make allowances for, and look at how we can make our next month easier and more enjoyable for ourselves.

And I also like to do a 3-monthly ‘review’. (I’ve always thought that the once a year version that produces New Year resolutions was too long – if I’ve gone off track, I want to catch it sooner, so I don’t have so much ground to recover!)

So at three months, I ask the bigger version of where am I up to:

In what ways is life going how I want it to?

Am I heading in the right direction?

Am I making it work for how I am now?

Is there anything I could do with increasing or decreasing in my life?

The answers to these sorts of questions then lead to a broad plan for the next three months: what I want to maintain, build on, leave behind, introduce, have more or less of.

None of this is hard work – in fact it’s best done gently, allowing answers to pop up intuitively, rather than doing it like an exam that you have to get right. What it gives you is the guidelines for those daily and monthly stock-takes, and a gentle reminder that as we continue to evolve in our lives, some of the priorities and concerns may change.

So where are you up to in your day right now? And in your life?

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IS IT UNCOMFORTABLE OR JUST UNFAMILIAR?

I was talking to someone the other day about changes in their life, and they said that they were feeling pulled out of their comfort zone. It made me think about the distinction between uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I was given this distinction many years ago, and have found it to be a really useful guide to where change could be positive for me and where it isn’t.

I find the metaphor of clothing useful to clarify the distinction: there is a big difference between the feel and look of a suit which fits properly and one that doesn’t. We may not be used to wearing a suit, so both may feel a little odd to us, but we know if that’s because it’s just unfamiliar, or if it’s because it doesn’t fit us properly.

So when we are facing some change in our lives, we need to ‘try it on for size’. Imagine yourself being in that new circumstance, and see how it feels. Your body will tell you if it fits or not. If you find that you want to immediately get out of it, the likelihood is that it is uncomfortable, a poor fit for who you are – our gut reaction tends to be accurate.

If you are tempted to give it a twirl, view it from another angle, or you smile as you try it on, the chances are it’s just unfamiliar. If you take notice of your body’s reaction, rather than letting your mind over-ride that information, you will begin to get the distinction.

And even if your mind does over-ride, just notice what language it uses to do so. If there are should’s and ought’s involved, you know it’s uncomfortable. ‘This should be fine’, or ‘I ought to be able to handle this’. On the other hand, if your mind is saying, ‘I don’t know how this will work’, or ‘I’m not sure how I will handle this’, it’s just unfamiliar, and you are identifying that you haven’t got a ready made formula for dealing with it.

What if it’s going to happen anyway?

If we realise that it doesn’t fit for us, but it is not something we can just avoid, then we have the opportunity to ask ourselves, ‘What would make it more comfortable for us, a better fit?’ It may be that we need to declare our discomfort beforehand, saying that it doesn’t feel right for us. Or we may realise that we would find it more confortable if we had some overt support while we were experiencing it. Or perhaps we can make some small change to the circumstance that would make it feel a better fit.

And if we’ve established that it is unfamiliar, we may still feel we would find it easier if we have some form of support/encouragement, or suggestions for first steps into it. We also need to allow ourselves a bit of time to get used to it.

As a small child, you encountered the unfamiliar all the time – that’s how you developed, by gradually assimilating new things. But you needed reassurance, help, encouragement, and time to do the assimilation.

You also knew instinctively if something was uncomfortable for you, spitting out the food you didn’t like, yelling when you were being left for a while with someone you didn’t like being with.

You do know the distinction – use it to make life easier for yourself.

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BREAK THAT SPIRAL

Do you have any of those thoughts that spiral round and round in your head? You know the ones I mean: the ones that make us feel bad about ourselves. ‘I’m looking awful these days’, or ‘I always get that wrong,’ or ‘I’m not very good at…’ they can be like a stuck record, only worse, because they don’t just keep repeating, they seem to collect extra debris on the way, and add to their weight and criticism or fearfulness! So ‘I always get that wrong’ collects things like, ‘and I get this wrong as well, and oh this too..’ and after a while, we begin to believe we don’t get anything right. What’s more, we think that ‘everyone’ must think we’re an idiot!

It’s like having a computer virus in your head, gradually infecting your thinking until it seems to have taken over.

Well, the good news is that it is easier to tackle than a computer virus, because it isn’t really infecting anything. It would be more useful to view it as a vacuum cleaner. It’s collecting some of the crap you’ve got lying around in your thoughts, and if you were to empty the dust bag, you could get rid of some of the thoughts that are no longer useful to you, and have more space to notice the other, more useful thoughts that have been hidden by that carp!

So next time you notice that you’ve got one of those spirals going on in your head, empty the dust bag and clear them out! Write them on a scarp of paper and put them in the waste bin (not the recycling!). And remember, you’ve probably got quite a few similar bits of crap floating around somewhere in your mind – we collect a lot over our lifetime – so you may need to repeat the process. And each time you do, your mind has a little more space to put useful thoughts in. so remind yourself of some of your lovely qualities, and store something more useful in those spaces!

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LOWER THAT BAR!

Every so often I realise that I’ve started evaluating myself against a set of standards that a saint would find it hard to match – and I’m no saint! I don’t think I’m unusual in this. We all fall into the trap of expecting ourselves to be perfect – whatever that means for us – and then berating ourselves for not matching up to that ideal. It’s very unfair – we wouldn’t do that to a friend.

There’s nothing wrong with having high standards, an ideal of how we would like to live our lives, how we’d like to be. In fact, it is part of how we motivate ourselves, and clarify whether we are making progress in our lives. The ideal picture gives us something to aim for and helps us to know what we really want life to be about.

However, it is not motivating to criticise ourselves for not being there yet, and anyway, if we were, we would disappear in a flash of white light, because we would have reached perfection!

The measure of our progress is not in what we haven’t yet achieved, but in what we have put into our lives that moves us towards that ideal. What encourages us to keep going is the recognition that we are gradually making progress, rather than noticing where we’ve slipped or failed or got stuck.

That means that we tell ourselves that we’re pleased with ourselves when we do those stretching exercises, rather than berating ourselves for not doing it today. And we don’t expect ourselves to do it every day, if we are having a go at doing it more often. We start with being pleased at once a week, and when that has become habitual, maybe three times a week. It means we give ourselves credit for all the times we deal with others and their moods compassionately, instead of beating ourselves up for a moment of temper or meanness with someone.

The question is not, ‘Have I done it perfectly?’ it is, ‘Am I doing a bit better on this aspect of my life than I was?’ or ‘What have I done well today towards my ideal picture?’ And if you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, then maybe you need to lower your expectation of yourself for a while, to begin to make progress – you’ll move more easily then.

This approach is not only kinder; it’s also more effective. None of us respond well to being criticised or made to feel like a failure, so why the hell would we do it to ourselves? Give yourself credit for what you do well, according to your own standards, and it gets easier to bring more of it into your life.

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MAKE A REAL RESOLUTION FOR 2017

Happy New Year!

This is when we make those New Year resolutions – again! So how about doing it differently this time. I was wondering what the etymology (original meaning) of the word resolution is, and it comes from the Latin word solvere, which means to untie or loosen, with re- which means again. So a resolution is really having another go at loosening one of the ties that bind us: habits and behaviours that aren’t useful to us.

Now if this were easy, we would have done it the first time we had a go. So let’s tackle it with the recognition that we may need to just release a few of the knots, and use a different method to the ones we’ve tried before.

If we feel that more physical activity would be good for us, because we have become rather sedentary, how about choosing something easy and pleasurable to do, so it’s achievable and is an improvement we can easily make. If we feel that our eating habits could be healthier, we could choose one type of food to drop from our normal diet, and one to add, for interest. Do you get the drift?

This is supposed to enhance our lives, not make us feel like we’re punishing ourselves for our failures! And if it’s easy to achieve, we’re more likely to stick to it.

Finally, let’s continue the process of improving our lives and loosening the ties that bind by choosing s resolution that isn’t about correcting something that isn’t ‘good enough’. Let’s have one that is just about making life feel even better: maybe experiment with that dance class you’ve always fancied but not got round to, or book that return trip to Italy that you’ve thought about so often, or just have a go at cooking that meal you’ve always meant to have a go at.

We so often make resolutions we don’t stick to. Make 2017 the year when your resolutions really do make a positive difference in your lives.

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