All posts by Di Kamp

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Those of you who know me will be aware that I am very interested in politics, and although I will confess to a bias towards the left, I do give credit where it is due – difficult to do with our previous government here in the UK, as there was very little that felt right about their approach and policies, not to mention their delivery.

We now have a new government, and immediately they have given me hope. They didn’t crow over their victory, or slam their opponents. They made small promises in their manifesto and have already started working on those things. The prime minister has made it clear from the start that his underlying intention is to unify the country rather than play partisan politics, and to regain the trust of people in the government, and he is already acting on that intention. And we are only 3 days in!

I have seen a lot of new governments in my time and none of them have impressed me as much. They have done their preparation, they are realistic and thoughtful, they are being honest – if they keep this up, we might actually have a country we can be proud of!

I will be watching – there has been no euphoria or honeymoon period, but the question is: can they maintain their honest and action-oriented approach in the face of all they have to deal with – let’s see…

Meanwhile I am glad to have some optimism restored, finally!

WHO DO YOU FIND INSPIRATIONAL?

I was watching a documentary about Maya Angelou not long ago. I am completely gripped when I see her talking or reading her poetry. What wonderful use of words and gestures to convey the complexities and simplicities of life! What a beautiful, modulated voice! What a lovely sense of humour and humanity! She inspires me every time I see her or read her work.

Being inspired means you relate directly to the spirit within someone, and it prompts you to want to be more like them. It is an active reminder of how we can be. It makes sense that Maya Angelou inspires me – I love writing, using words well, and always want to be better at communicating.

Those who inspire us embody qualities and values that we hold dear and make us want to develop them further in ourselves. They are the models that appeal to us because we can relate to their way of being in the world.

Who is inspirational for you will depend on your existing tendencies. It may be someone who creates great art; it may be a gardener, a teacher, a chef; it may be someone who dares to speak out for truth or justice. There are so many possibilities for us – and we’re not limited to one.

It is important that we identify and use these role models, those who inspire us. They help us to connect to and develop the same qualities inn ourselves.

So, think about it: who inspires you?

THE BEATEN PATH

How much of your everyday life is just following the beaten path: the automatic pilot of habit, where we are not even aware of our own behaviour? I was made to ask this question by reading a book recently called ‘How We Are’ by Vincent Deary, where he talks about how and why we are creatures of habit. He also talks about how it can be hard to change, until we form a new habit and go back to automatic pilot again on a new beaten path.

It is not that it is wrong to function like this, but sometimes it is worth noticing that the beaten path you are walking is not really a useful one. For example, we may ignore signs of hunger in ourselves until it is becoming urgent and then snack because we can’t wait to make ourselves a proper meal.

Or we may always try to finish a task even though we know really that we need a break – and then we become clumsy or mess it up and it takes even longer.

We do know if we have a habit that’s not useful to us because we will say to ourselves: ‘Damn, I always do that!’, telling ourselves off after the event with the wisdom of hindsight!

And we can pick them off, one by one, (most of us have lots of them), by consciously choosing to deliberately change the habit to something more useful, forming a new beaten path.

It would be impossible to live our lives if we had to think through every action and behaviour – we’d never get anything done! But the more beaten paths we have that are useful to us, the more we free ourselves for a better life.

WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?

Most people have some form of wish list, covering all sorts of things from the trivial to the fundamental. What we often are not aware of is the driver behind this wish list.

We all have a basic desire to feel good, to be happy, to be valued in our lives. The wish list is intended to bring us that good feeling. However, there is a big difference between the temporary feeling of pleasure when we get what we thought we wanted and the more solid sense of feeling good and happy most of the time.

Buying ‘stuff’, getting likes on social media, may fill a gap for us for a little while, but it will never provide us with what we really want. Even being successful in your career, having lots of money, will not give you that feeling of contentment with your everyday life, despite what our culture seems to suggest.

So we need to stop and consider that fundamental question of what we really want our lives to be like. This requires not just thought, but also imagination: what would it be like if I had what I want?

For example, if I geta new job, how will it affect my life? Will it enable me to spend more or less time with family and friends? Will I come home pleased with my day or stressed and exhausted? By imagining how your everyday life will be affected, positively and adversely, by adding or subtracting something from your life, you have a fuller picture of whether you really want whatever it is.

And it is important to realise that we can often make small changes to improve our everyday lives and feel happier, more content. Small changes can add up to a big difference in how good you feel. Whether it be going for a walk in the fresh air, or having a proper breakfast, or arranging to see a good friend more often, we can improve how we feel about our life with little effort and for free.

So next time you tell yourself you want something, just check it out: will it give you a momentary pleasure? (And that’s okay so long as you realise it). will it enhance your everyday life, or will it bring more negative than you want?

Appreciate what you already have  and look to continue to make life better – isn’t that what we’re here for?

BEING ORGANISED

We think of being organised as being tidy, disciplined, but what it really means s having a system that works as a whole. I find this reassuring as I’m not the tidiest if people and I’m certainly not very disciplined!

It’s about keeping important documents where you can easily find them, making a note of what you’re running out of, ready for when you go shopping, having a list to remind you of birthdays, planning ahead for holidays or visits – all those things thar make it easier to live your life rather than waste time searching for things or feeling bad because you forgot something important.

Your system of organisation has to suit your needs. No-one can tell you how to do it in a way that works for you. I remember, years ago, going on a training course for time management. It included the Time Manager file and numerous specially designed pages for different purposes and looked very grand. But it was far too complicated for me. I spent half my time trying to work out where I should put what and ended up mostly using it just as a very expensive diary. We don’t all organise our clothes in the same way, but sort them in a way that suits us. The same thing applies to everything else.

And it’s not enough to set up a system that works for us. We also have to have a system for maintaining and updating our system. For example, when we get something out to use it, we need to have a way to get it back to where we keep it when we’re finished. Or when we receive a new annual policy, we need to get rid of the old one that’s now out of date and replace it.

I’m lazy: I have an upstairs, downstairs system for putting things back where they belong. (You know, the little piles of things on the stairs for when you have to go up or down anyway), and then a room system (putting things in the right room), followed by placing them where they belong when there’s a few collected. Like I said, I’m not particularly disciplined or tidy!

I learned the hard way when I was younger: spending ages searching for things amongst piles of paper, or for a specific sweater through drawers full of jumbled clothes. Now my system works pretty well for me and leaves me time to do more pleasurable things.

Have you organised yourself in a way that suits you? And have you updated/ maintained it recently? It’s spring, so have a spring clean, sort your system out and make life easier for yourself.

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Many years ago, I ran a programme at Land Rover called ‘Do Something Different’. It was for all the team leaders, shift leaders, managers and directors, and was deliberately provoking them to think and act in novel ways – not to cause chaos, but to encourage them to realise that they could improve their work and lives if they extended their ‘toolkit’ of techniques to deal with their own reactions and to work with others effectively.

It’s still a phrase that I need to remind myself of every so often. We all have a tendency to repeat behaviours or ways of thinking about things even though we know they don’t work for us.

We complain about stuff, but it doesn’t change what’s happening. We tell the kids off for their untidy bedrooms but the bedroom doesn’t stay tidy. We put a task off because it looks too big to tackle and it never gets done, or we do it reluctantly and prove to ourselves that it’s hard work.

Our minds are terrible masters but wonderful servants. They will send us into automatic repeating patterns even if we know they don’t work for us, but they can also look for answers to questions we ask them. If you ask the right question, it’s amazing what answers you can find.

So the simple solution is to go away from the situation that’s not working and ask yourself: ‘ How could I tackle this in a different way?’ or ‘How could I make this easier for myself?’

Just the act of moving away from the situation starts to give you some perspective and breaks the repetitive pattern. And I can still be delighted by some of the answers I get to the questions.

So next time you feel stuck or realise that you’re just repeating a pattern that’s not useful, do something different.

REDISCOVERING THINGS

‘We all spend our lives rediscovering things – often the same things over and over.’ (Paul Williams)

I find this statement reassuring somehow – it’s not just me then! And once we accept that this is just how we work, it becomes a delight. My blogs are called ‘Ways of Remembering’ for a reason: it’s so easy to forget and we need constant reminders.

A lot of the things we rediscover are simple acts of self-care: I feel better if I get some fresh air every day; it isn’t hard to make a meal from scratch and it tastes better; relaxing in a bath calms me down; wearing a favourite top instead of scruffs cheers me up; music makes chores seem easier.

Some of the things we rediscover are about catering for our individuality rather than following the norm. For example, we don’t like noisy pubs, however good the company may be; or we thrive on the adventure of trying something new or visiting a place we don’t know.

And some of the things we rediscover are those which just dropped off our radar at some point in our lives, when other things took priority. These are often hobbies or interests we once had: bird-watching or dong crosswords or reading or going to art galleries. Or they may be places we used to like to visit or people who drifted out of our lives.

Most of the time, we are not learning something new, we are rediscovering things and learning to re-apply them. It is a way to grow into who we really are. So delight in your rediscoveries, and the adventure of becoming more and more true to yourself.

DO UNTO OTHERS…

There is a very simple principle to guide us in our behaviour and it appears in some form in every religion in the world: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

If we all followed this tenet, the world would be a very different place. No-one would choose to be ignored, condescended to, dismissed as worthless, shouted at unnecessarily, mocked, abused, left without food or shelter.

I can’t change the world, but I can ensure that I remember this principle in my own behaviour. It isn’t about being a ‘good’ person, it’s about remembering the differing effects on me when I am treated with respect or disdain.

It is much easier to treat someone else well if they do the same to you. And treating someone well often provokes a similar response, even if it weren’t their original intention, so in a selfish sense, I am more likely to have others do unto me what I would choose for myself.

I don’t always get it right – it’s only human to sometimes inflict your own bad mood on others, but I can apologise for it, and make amends.

Does this sound preachy? It probably is! There are many things I dislike about organised religion, but this is so easy to use as a guide to how we live with others.

So take a breath before you dive in and have a go at someone, and just imagine yourself in their shoes. How would you want someone to react if you were them?

THE COMMUNITY OF HUMANKIND

Once upon a time we lived in small tribes. Others, not of our tribe, were genuinely alien to us, and we would fight with them over land and resources. Why are we still doing the same thing?

We may not, mostly, be fighting wars, but we still tend towards an ‘us and them’ mentality and the war of words is fought constantly: against foreigners; against those who support a different political party; against those who do or say something we don’t agree with.

Yet we now live in a world where we can know about most aspects of the rest of the inhabitants of this world. We know more about different cultures: most of us are from some form of mixed heritage in our past, and we take it for granted that we eat ‘foreign’ food or use ‘foreign’ phrases,

We are also aware that what happens anywhere else in the world can have an impact on our little patch, because it is all interconnected: climate change is a prime example, as is commerce.

We may not agree with other people’s values or opinions, but we certainly won’t change their views or attitudes by being hateful towards them.

Isn’t it time we looked for what we have in common with others, rather than why they’re not ‘one of us’?

We all need food and shelter, a way to earn our living and a chance to have some dignity, to feel valued. We all face the same doubts and have similar hopes.

And no, I don’t claim to love everyone, and I don’t agree with what some others do or say but condemning them or hating them doesn’t make any positive difference.

We are all human beings, doing our best to make it in this world. We live in a global community. Let’s find ways to work together instead of separating into warring tribes – it’s time we grew up in our human beingness.

CHANGE YOUR INNER CRITIC

We all have some form of inner critic, but many of us have let that inner critic get out of control. When we were young, that voice could be useful. He/she took on some of the things our family would get cross about, and remind us before we got into trouble. The critic helped us to navigate the accepted behaviour of the world.

However, they didn’t stop there at collecting reasons we might be considered a failure or badly behaved. The critic took up any and every reason they came across and set a higher and higher bar for our behaviour and attitude.

Consequently, most of us are pretty harsh with ourselves, never quite doing enough to be pleased with ourselves. We wouldn’t treat anyone else this cruelly!

What we can forget is that this voice is our own creation and in our control. We can change it to something more useful, by making that inner voice a critical best friend.

A best friend will support you, encourage you. They are honest but not unkind. If you’re way off the mark, they will tell you. If you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, they will tell you. If you’re being daft, they will tell you. And if you’ve done well, they will praise you.

Next time your inner critic gets going, ask him/her to be a critical best friend instead. Imagine it’s your best friend you’re talking to rather than yourself. Gradually, the voice will change its tone. You’ll hear, ‘well done’ more often and at worst, ‘you silly thing!’ instead of, ‘you’re useless’. Give yourself an inner best friend.