Tag Archives | perspective

THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE

I was feeling pissed off with myself for not fitting in as much pilates practice as I intended – somehow five days had gone by and I hadn’t done any at all. I finally got round to doing it, and as I did so, I remembered that twenty five years ago, I didn’t do any pilates at all – it wasn’t even on my radar. And ten years ago, I rarely practised at all between lessons. And five years ago, I might do one practice in between lessons. Yet now, the new normal was practising three or four times a week, which is why I was disappointed with myself. Sod that! I’ve made lots of progress!

Most of us do not take great leaps forward in our evolution into being who we really are or how we want to be – we take two steps forward and one step back. So it’s easy to notice the step back, and forget to count the step forward we made anyway, and then we are discouraged.

So I think it’s time we noticed the overall trend, rather than the slips that happen along the way.

It’s as if we have a combination of the tortoise and the hare, from Aesop’s fables. We have a hare that rushes forward, and then gets tired and falls asleep, or gets distracted and goes in another direction, while our tortoise just plods along, slowly but surely covering the ground.

In order to recognise our progress, we need to pay attention to the tortoise rather than the hare, even though the hare is far more distracting and obvious, with its rushes hither and thither, and its frequent collapses!

Over the years, we get better at some things without necessarily realising it, because it happens slowly, small steps at a time. I know I am better at recognising reasons to feel good about myself and my life than I used to be. I am better at finding fewer things to worry about unnecessarily, and at getting past that worry when I do get caught by it. I am less prone to bad moods or being upset or miserable, and more prone to laugh at the absurdity of some aspects of life here on earth. And I’m better at Pilates!!

This form of progress is only really noticeable when you look back over years, if not decades – day by day it’s hard to notice because that tortoise of ours moves slowly!

So pay some attention to your tortoise: what progress has it made over the last five to ten years? It deserves that recognition, and will gradually help you to grow into who you really are.

1

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.

 

0

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…

0

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

So much in our world at the moment seems to be doom and gloom: our politics, our ‘news’, the lack of compassion for others. It is hard to break out of the predominant zeitgeist sometimes, and remember that this isn’t the only human condition.

Yet in amongst this, there are always reminders that there is so much more to being human. I was reminded this week in a way I wasn’t really expecting. I went to see “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again”. I don’t really like musicals or Abba’s music, but I sat and soaked up the atmosphere it created: warm, funny and joyful. It made me laugh and cry, engaged me totally, and left me with a feeling of hope and optimism. Why? It told the other side of the story of being human.

Most of the people I know and meet are kind and friendly. They are not selfish or greedy. They may worry about things, but they find their way through it. It’s time we boosted these aspects of being human and began to offset that unpleasant version that seems to infect everything.

If we’re going to change the zeitgeist, we have to start with ourselves. We can be the role modes and demonstrate the best of the human condition.

So let’s start by refusing to take on the story:

  • Let’s find the reasons to be optimistic rather than despairing
  • Let’s notice the good in people rather than what’s wrong
  • Let’s be kind and compassionate rather than critical
  • Let’s find reasons to laugh rather than be miserable
  • Lets appreciate what we have rather than wish we had more
  • And let’s enjoy all the good moments in our lives

It’s time we all told the other side of the story by how we live our lives, and that way we can remind even more people that life can be good.

0

WHAT WE CAN ACCEPT

Recently, I’ve become acutely aware of how we all get sucked into accepting or ignoring things which go against our personal values, because of the selfish gains we have from doing so. We have some very astute organisations out there that create for themselves a place in our lives and become almost indispensable. And then they stretch the boundaries of decency to suit their own ends – usually good profit margins – and we go along with it because they do make our lives easier.

This can range from banks – ‘too big to fail’ – that helped cause the financial crisis ten years ago and still behave in similar ways, to companies that exploit their workers to offer us cheap products and services and avoid paying fair tax, and even to the organisations we work for – we have a job so accept the bullying, over-stretching, the drive for profit at all costs.

I don’t say this from a place of moral high ground. I still use Amazon, Sky, and no doubt other organisations whose behaviour I would object to if I found out more about it. I’m just raising the question, because it bothers me.

After long conversations around it, I have decided to delete my Facebook account, as has my son, and our company page as well. The description, in the TV programme Dispatches, of their acceptance of groups with extreme views, and those who post extreme cruelty and violence, because such things are supported by a lot of people who stay on for long enough to make the advertisers add to the company profit – that was a step too far for me. But it is relatively easy for me to do – they don’t have me pulled in as far as they have with many. I don’t have much of a presence there anyway. I don’t use it to advertise my wares, or to keep in touch with people.

So I’m left asking myself to what extent I am willing to do without the convenience of using organisations whose values I regard as unethical, in order to maintain my own values. At the least, I hope I can be conscious enough of the issue to avoid any more of them sneaking into my life and becoming too useful to let go of.

I want to play my part in helping to make this world we live in a better place and I’ll keep having a go. It’s all we can do I guess – take the steps we can to challenge the norm of accepting compromise on our values for the sake of convenience.

0

USEFUL DISTRACTIONS

I used to think that distractions were a bad thing. If you were distracted, you weren’t paying attention to what was immediately in front of you. And that is true – that’s exactly what a distraction is: something that pulls you away from whatever you were attending to.

And sometimes that can be really useful:

  • If we’re caught up in feeling a bit under the weather in some way
  • If we’re feeling fed up
  • If we’re feeling agitated
  • If we’re feeling irritated
  • If we’ve got stuck with something and can’t see how to sort it out
  • If we’re feeling overwhelmed by what we have to do
  • If we’re berating ourselves for something we’ve done or not done

In all these situations, it’s easy to get caught up into a negative spiral. We all know that an insect bite can become all-consuming, that someone’s irritating behaviour can remind us of everything they’ve ever done to annoy us, and we can convince ourselves that we’re really stupid because of one wrong move.

When we pay attention to something, it takes centre stage and starts collecting more evidence that it should be there. It’s like a magnet for more of the same sort of thought or reaction. Now that’s great if it’s something positive, but when it is something that is not useful to us, we need to be able to distract ourselves – pull ourselves away from its magnetic charm.

Being distracted allows us to regain some perspective, sort ourselves out a bit, and then approach whatever it is differently.

If we’ve already thought of some useful distractions, we are more likely to use them before we get too caught up in the negative spiral.

They need to have a strong ‘pull’ to break us out of the trap, so just switching on the TV or radio probably won’t work. We want things that take over our attention and occupy our minds.

Some examples might be: listening to some music we love, linked to happy memories; or watching an enthralling movie; or going in the garden for an hour; or going on a bike ride. If you have a particular hobby or interest, a bit of time spent on that helps, and so will a short walk, where you literally move away, and consciously pay attention to your external surroundings.

You will have your own set of useful distractions, so make a note of them, and next time you realise you are getting caught into one of those negative spirals, distract yourself!!

 

0

‘IF I DIE TONIGHT, WAS IT A GOOD FINAL DAY?’

I know it sounds dramatic! My friend Lynn gave me this question a while ago, when I was describing a list of to do’s that was pretty tedious, and I loved it – it changed my view of the day.

It reminds us that we none of us know when our final day in this life may be, and that every day counts. It makes you stop and think about what a good day in that context is.

For me, there are several elements to that good day.

  1. I did something I love doing
  2. I appreciated and enjoyed the taken-for granted’s around me
  3. I connected with people I love

What? Every day? It can seem hard to apply it to some days, I know. Yet in fact, those three elements need not be time-consuming.

It only takes a few moments to notice the spring flowers, the taste of your food, the feel of fresh air on your skin. We don’t have to spend a lot of time with someone to connect – just a quick phone call or conversation where we really pay attention to them and show our love. And something I love doing can be half and hour in the garden, watching a good film, or juts making and enjoying a decent dinner.

We so often fill our days with stuff we feel needs to be done, and put off what really matters to us, because we’re too busy. How about making every day count, every day a good final day?

I certainly have taken it on as my ambition, and it feels like it makes life even more worth living – thank you Lynn!!

0

IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!

I have needed my own reminders over the last couple of weeks! The double whammy of snow in March and a stinking cold took me to that place we all experience sometimes: it’s not fair, everything is awful, I’m always coming up against obstacles etc.…

I do know, however, that when I start using words like always, never, everything, nothing, I have lost perspective. My focus on feeling rough and hating cold weather had coloured my view of the world and of my experience in it. It’s as if we put on a lens that only highlights those particular colours and ignores everything else.

So I have had to apply my own teachings to myself. This means consciously adjusting that lens. Firstly, we need to widen the perspective beyond the immediate. In this instance, I am reminding myself that most of the time, I am healthy, and most of the time, it is not that cold.

Secondly, we need to consciously pay attention to those elements of the immediate that have been ignored by that restrictive lens. After all, I have a lovely warm home, and my milk and groceries are delivered, so I don’t have to go out in the cold very often. And although I’ve felt a bit ‘under the weather’, I’m not bed-ridden, and I’ve caught up on some good movies. And friends and family have shown concern and distracted me from my miserable state.

Finally, I came back to the realisation that it’s not the end of he world!

The snow has gone now, and spring is showing itself in crocuses and daffodils, just a few days later. The cough and cold are on their way out, and I’m feeling much better. It was only a temporary blip, and life is back on track.

We all lose perspective sometimes, but we don’t have to stay in that place – we can adjust the lens to something more useful. Most of the time, life is pretty good, isn’t it!

0

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.

0

THE CHRISTMAS STORY

Those who know me will know that I’m not much into Christmas – it’s surely not my favourite time of year. Yet each time it comes around, I appreciate the reminder that Christmas – and maybe life in general – is not really about presents and food – it’s to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And that story is a story about miracles, angels appearing, kings and shepherds being equally welcome, compassion, and love.

Whether we believe it or not, it is a story of the potential we have as humans, and calls out to us each time, to live up to our potential. It’s not difficult to be compassionate, to treat everyone equally, to love others – it comes naturally to us. And if we choose to, we can notice the ‘miracles’ in our world, the synchronicities and coincidences, the gentle touch of angels, and the fundamental call and support to the best in ourselves.

This Christmas, let’s remember that love comes first, that miracles can happen, that there is more to being human than the news would suggest.

May your Christmas be joyous and loving!

0