Tag Archives | useful thinking


 I was clever as a child. It meant that I did well in tests and exams, teachers liked me, and I was seen as destined for ‘great things’. Then I went to university and studied a mixture of subjects. One day, when I was debating with my tutor about the beliefs that influenced Dicken’s writings, he turned round to me and said, ‘The trouble with you is that you are intelligent rather than clever!’ Up till then I had thought that clever and intelligent were the same thing, but now I had to check it out.. I concluded that I would rather be intelligent, even though it might not lead to the ‘great things’ predicted for me.

This sounds boatsful, but it was a big turning point for me. Up till then I’d believed the hype that some people were bright, and some people were stupid, and most fall in between. But exams and grades don’t measure intelligence – they mostly measure rational understanding and memory.

Intelligence is the ability to see connections between different things, to make decisions based on a blend of feelings and thought, to take account of the wider context. I see it as a mixture of common sense and creativity. And it may not be intellectual. – we do now talk about emotional intelligence for example.

I believe strongly that we are all intelligent in some ways. It is our inherent way of assessing things. But formal education tends not to help us explore our own version of intelligence – in fact it may suppress it.

If you want to identify your form of intelligence, look at what you’re good at, you love doing. Can you create a great meal out of bits and pieces? Do you use colour in a different way? Have you found the way of being active that really works for you? Do you ‘know’ when someone else isn’t quite right?

All great innovation starts with intelligence – being able to see connections between apparently unrelated things. And we all have those moments of inspiration – don’t let others put you off by poo-pooing your idea. It is what makes you the unique human being that you are.

(And I am forever grateful to Krishan for encouraging my intelligence, even though he knew it would make an academic career unlikely!)



It’s many years since I first came across the concept of positive thinking, and I was reminded of it again recently, reading a book by Wayne Dyer. As with so many things, it’s easy to forget, and important to remember!

When we get caught in those negative cycles where our emotions make us miserable and colour everything, we are literally weakening ourselves. It affects our immune system, our physical strength, and our energy levels adversely.

On the other hand, our positive moods improve our health, our strength and our energy, which is great. The problem is, we can’t force ourselves into positivity – that just doesn’t work. Nor can we pretend everything’s okay and put on a positive face – that doesn’t have the same effect.

So what can we do when we hit the difficult times, when things upset us in some way?

Well, firstly, we can acknowledge it. When we recognise that we are feeling negative in some way, we have to step to one side of the feeling a bit, and observe it. This gives us the first step towards doing something about it.

Then we can identify whether we have a good reason for our feelings or if we have got something out of proportion. To do this, we need to weigh up the good and bad things in our lives, or our behaviour, or that of others.

For example, I may be miserable because I have a stinking cold, but when I consider it, it’s not my usual state – I’m relatively healthy – and it won’t last for long. Or I may feel bad because I snapped at someone unnecessarily, but this isn’t my habitual behaviour with them or anybody else, and I can just say sorry. Or someone may have been unpleasant with me, but they are not someone whom I count as a close friend, so sod them! These are all examples of getting it out of proportion, and we can reduce their effect just by noticing.

On the other hand, we may realise that there is something which we have been pushing to one side in our thoughts, yet which does have a negative effect on our lives. Examples might be: we’ve gradually developed bad eating habits, or we’ve become rather critical of others, or that friend or relative is always putting us down. In these cases, we need to do something about it.

Firstly, we need to imagine how we will be when this is no longer part of the story. It’s not enough to go: ‘I’d be feeling better without this.’ We need to make it a really good picture with lots of ideas about how it would have a better effect on us, on our relationships, our energy and our actions – all the knock-on positive effects. This gives us a compelling reason to make a move.

Often we haven’t tackled it because it looked too big or difficult to handle. If this is the case, we need to identify some simple small first steps we can take towards rectifying it. For example, I may decide to make my own fresh healthy dinner once a week, or buy one less chocolate bar. Then we can feel a sense of achievement, however small. This leads on to another small step, and helps us to gradually work our way through the issue.

Sometimes what we really need, in order to do something about the negative effect, is an ally – someone to encourage us, praise us for the small steps we make, someone to help us keep going. This is why people go to that gym session or painting class with a friend. And most people love playing this role of ally – it’s positive for them too.

Life is too valuable to waste on negativity. You are too! If something is bringing you down, it’s time to turn it around, and make your life feel good again.



I was picking beans and tomatoes yesterday. I have had a good harvest, although there are always some things that don’t work, and some that I forget to pick until they’re past their best.

As I was doing it, I was thinking about the biblical quote I’ve put as the title. It’s a useful analogy in many ways.

Firstly, it’s about the process of sowing. As any gardener knows, you put care into the sowing of seeds and nurturing of young plants, with the knowledge that not all of them will grow and thrive. It doesn’t matter, you still do it, and have another go if it doesn’t work. Similarly, we do kind things and treat others well without the expectation of reward.

Then we have the process of growing to fruition. It takes a long time with most plants, and requires attention: watering, weeding etc. Again, our relationships are built when we make the effort to keep in touch, show care.

And the harvest is a lovely reward. We are given something delicious which delights us. It’s not guaranteed, so it always feels special when it happens. And when it doesn’t, we shrug our shoulders, and say we’ll have another go next year, and maybe try a different approach. Or else we conclude that our soil is just not right for that particular plant and take it off our ‘menu’. Doesn’t that sound like what happens with relationships as well?

Of course, if I’d chosen to sow weeds, or even just let them run riot, it would be a different matter. They spread like mad, and use up all the goodness in the soil, starving the other plants, and I would have very little harvest at all. Again, being neglectful of our relationship with others, or scattering our negativity around us is a great way to kill off any fondness people may have for us!

And for me, one of the other ways in which the analogy works so well is in the unexpected lovely bits. If you take care of your plants, nature often gives you extra treats. You find tomato plants or flowers that have seeded themselves and grown without you trying. Or something you thought had died off despite your care comes back to life the following year. Similarly, when your overall intention is to show kindness, you often receive kindness from unexpected sources or from people you thought had moved out of your life.

Now we all sow weeds sometimes, or neglect our relationships with others. Do something about it, so it doesn’t spread. And we all feel disappointed sometimes because we have made an effort and it doesn’t seem to be appreciated or reciprocated. Just let it go, and delight in the ones that do grow. Just by having the intention to care for others, we are enriching our own lives – being kind always feels good – and we also receive delightful surprises where we receive kindness we weren’t expecting.

Be aware of what you are sowing in your life, and appreciate whatever harvest you receive.



When we were kids, I remember my mum shouting at us every so often: ‘Can I just have a bit of peace and quiet!’ We got to know that it was the warning that she was reaching the end of her tether with our noisy play, so we’d better get out of earshot.

Now I realise that it was more than that – we were just the icing on the cake, so to speak. We all need some peace and quiet, both from external stimuli, like children playing noisily, and from our internal emotions and thoughts.

Since then, the external disturbances have increased significantly. Mobile phones, tv, cars and lorries, are all much more prevalent. Once upon a time, someone walking down the road talking to themselves was a bit disturbing. Now it’s normal, and it’s loud, so that the person at the other end of the phone can hear them over everything else around them!

And 24-hour news and social media constantly bombarding us add to the stress of our own emotions and thoughts, as we try to get through our busy lives.

If we don’t stop and give ourselves a bit of peace and quiet, we become overwhelmed with all that’s going on, and can easily end up in a negative frame of mind that affects everything we do or say.

Notice that peace and quiet doesn’t mean silence. Its implication is that we can just be calm and regain perspective by having a quiet mind. We can find peace and quiet through a lovely piece of music, or by being in the garden, or a park or woodland. Sometimes reading something inspirational or gentle can have the same effect.

However you find your peace and quiet, it needs to be a vital part of your day. Just 15 minutes is enough to reset the buttons and enable you to reduce the effects of modern-day living.

Make your life a bit easier – give yourself a bit of peace and quiet.



Have you ever met a ‘successful’ person? You know what I mean: good job, big house, nice car etc. I have met quite a few in my time, but very few of them were happy or content.

It makes me wonder whether we need to look at our own definition of success rather than that imposed by society. After all, if so-called success doesn’t make us happy, what’s the point in all that striving? It’s a bit like struggling to climb a high hill and then finding the view is disappointing and wasn’t worth the effort.

I think that at different stages if our life, we may have different definitions of success, but wherever you are up to, you need to check out that you’ve chosen the right hill to climb for you.

It is good to continue to work at being better at whatever it is: becoming complacent leads to entropy, and we slip and slide instead of making progress. We just need to ensure were making our effort in the right direction.

At this stage in my life, the hill I’m climbing is all about feeling good. For me, that means looking after my physical, mental and emotional state.

My success is when I have balanced my differing needs well: been creative, active, kept calm, felt happy. Obviously, I haven’t achieved this 100%! And sometimes it is really hard to even get close to it, when something throws me off balance. I suspect I’m going to be climbing this particular hill for the rest of my life, but that’s OK – it’s an enjoyable climb most of the time!

So just reflect on your own story. How would you define success for you at this point in your life? There are no wrong answers, but do make sure that you’re climbing the right hill for you, and that the climb itself is mostly enjoyable.



I like the expression ‘common sense’. It says two things:

  1. We have it in common – it’s a shared knowing.
  2. It’s about sense, which is a word used for our awareness, not our head-centred ideas or rules.

What I find sad is that we’re generally not either taught or encouraged to use it or develop it.

I think the confusion and frustration about our ‘rules and guidelines’ for the pandemic illustrates this perfectly. Our common sense tells us that they don’t make sense. For example, if it’s not ok to be in our homes with more than a certain number of friends and family, why is it ok for us to be in a store with many more strangers?

There is an assumption that we don’t use our common sense written into all the guidance we’ve been given. Either they assume we have none, or they assume we won’t use it to question the rules.

And this is not the only way in which our common sense is ignored or repressed, by any stretch of the imagination. We all know we’re not robots, that we have a natural flow to our energy, and it isn’t consistent. Yet we are taught to work past this knowing and to be consistently busy and productive, resulting in burn-out for many people. (By the way, burn-out as an expression comes from machines that are pushed beyond their capacity – a telling metaphor).

Over the years, we learn how to habitually ignore our common sense. We stop listening to the inner voice that says, ‘This is not right.’ And each time we do this, we are repressing our own wisdom.

So come on, let’s start encouraging our own common sense instead. Begin to hear the ‘this is not right’, and take notice of it, act on it, whenever we feel we can. And let’s encourage others to follow this common sense as well. Talk about it. challenge the nonsense. Open the conversations about our knowing, our shared sense of right and wrong.

Maybe then we would have governments we could respect, better relationships with others, and enjoy our lives more.



Sometimes I am what my mother called ‘a forgetter’ – I forget to do things that really work for me. Over the last year, I have got into the habit of planning what I’ll do in a day and forgotten to start by setting an intention for the day. Fortunately, I have a friend who reminds me of things I forget – thank you Rebecca!

Setting an intention for the day makes a difference to how our days go, because it gives a bigger context for the plans – it flavours the activities, if you like. Rather than just doing stuff, it makes you aware of how you’re doing them, and prompts you to add in or take out of your plan, in order to fulfil your intention.

A simple example would be to say to yourself: ‘I will have a good day today.’ This prompts you to think about what a good day means to you, and to make sure you give yourself the chance to put the right sort of mix into the equation. It might mean adding in something you enjoy doing, or taking out one of the tasks you had set yourself because it would be one step too far.

Setting an intention for the day gives you something more satisfying to assess your day against. It’s taking it beyond what you did and into how you did it. and it gives you back control: even if we can’t always choose what we’re going to do, we can always choose how we go about it.

So, what’s your intention for the day? Is it to have a good day, a productive day, or to give yourself a break? Make it into a day with a flavour that suits you by just deciding you will.



Most of us are struggling somewhat with what feels like never-ending restrictions, cold grey days, and a lack of ‘normal’ highlights in our week. We miss spending time with people we love, being able to go for a coffee or a pint with friends, having any social life.

And we can get quite miserable, but also somewhat critical of ourselves:

‘I’m not ill, so I shouldn’t complain.’

‘I’ve a home and family, and food on the table – what’s the matter with me?’

‘Others are much worse off than me – why am I being a miserable cow?’

That’s pretty mean to ourselves! How about turning it around and being proud of yourself?

You have got through nearly a year of unusual and difficult circumstances. You have adapted your normal way of life in the best way you can. You have managed to have moments of laughter and joy despite the dire circumstances. You have achieved some things you wouldn’t have done otherwise: maybe cleaning out some clutter or redecorating something; maybe reconnecting via zoom or phone with old friends; maybe pursuing an interest or hobby further.

We have all done some of these things, and anything we’ve achieved deserves congratulations – it’s happened while we have a dark cloud called a pandemic hanging over us!

So you have some bad days – that’s to be expected. But you’ve also had some good days – now that’s something to be proud of.

It’s not fun, living our lives with a black cloud hanging over us. And it makes it harder to deal with the normal ups and downs of life, because there’s a negative energy around before we even start to add in the problems we come across.

But we’re doing a pretty good job of dealing with it aren’t we? So be proud of yourself for your endurance, your resilience and your ability to find some positives in all this – congratulations! You deserve a treat today!



We have spent a lot of the last year under a cloud of fear and it feels like it’s time to change the story. Normally people make resolutions for the New Year, but I suggest we do something that’s more gentle and hopeful – we make a wish or two.

We need to dream of a more hopeful and improved future and believe again in the possibility of a world we want to live in. so let’s all put our wishes in the wishing well of the universe this year and between us create the version of a better world at every level. It is a powerful way of beginning to change the story, because we need to have an alternate picture, before we can begin to turn it into reality.

This is not an ‘if only’ – when we try to wish away how things are- that only confirms the realty we have. It is a dream – how I wish things to be – a vision for the future – that is what makes it powerful. Remember Martin Luther King: ‘I have a dream..’

So I think there are three l levels of wishes to put in that well:

  1. My wish for my own life
  2. My wish for the lives of others
  3. My wish for the world we live in

As examples:

  1. I wish that I may live life to the full, with big doses of joy and laughter, friendships I value and enjoy, and a sense of fulfilling my purpose in being here in this incarnation
  2. I wish that every human being may have shelter and enough to eat, be valued for who they are and feel loved
  3. I wish that we may all rediscover ways of caring for each other and the planet we live on, using common sense and compassion as our driving forces rather than greed or egotism.

I don’t know what your wishes might be, but I’d love you to put them in the wishing well with mine – it’s time we created a brighter future for all of us.

May your 2021 go well for you..



I began to write this, and my cat, Smokey, jumped on my lap and pushed the pen out of my hand. He had come for his morning cuddle, and nothing was getting in the way of that. No matter what, he insists on his 10 minutes of fuss – and it’s good for both of us: soothing, warm, a bit of love.

It struck me that we all need to put feeling good as a priority at the end of this year. Everyone I know has had it tough in one way or another, and it isn’t over yet. We all need to refresh ourselves. Cats know instinctively how to do this. Small children are similar: they can be really upset about something and then recover instantly when offered something that pleases them.

So let’s be childlike and actively seek out the simple pleasures for ourselves over this holiday period.

Enjoy the taste of good food, the smell of a scented candle, the twinkle of fairy lights, the cosiness of a favourite sweater, the sound of laughter.

Indulge yourself with a favourite movie or book, a soak in a scented bath, an extra helping of that dessert.

Appreciate the winter sun, the birds singing, the peace of a walk in the park or country, the beauty of nature even in its dormant period.

And delight in that close contact with those you love: give them an extra hug or video call, laugh with them, remind them of fun times you’ve had together, tell them you love them.

It would be lovely if the problems we have had through this year were over, but they’re not, so let’s concentrate on what we do have in our lives that’s good and leave the problems to one side for a little while.

Have a happy Christmas and refresh yourselves, ready to make a difference in 2021. Take a break and enjoy some simple pleasures.,