Tag Archives: improving life

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 Or when we receive a new annual policy, we need to get rid of the old one that’s now out of date and replace it.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.

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.

IT’S YOUR ATTITUDE THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE

We rarely stop and consciously think about our intentions before we act on something. We may think about what we’re about to do, and we’re usually aware of our attitude towards it: I’m looking forward to it; I’m going to do my best; this will be difficult; I wish I didn’t have to. What we do less often is recognise that we can actively change our attitude to make a difference to what happens.

Have you noticed how often our expectations are fulfilled? If I think it is going to be boring, it usually is. If I am looking forward to something, it’s usually fun. We conclude that we were right. What we don’t notice very often is how we affected what happened.

If my attitude is positive, I go into whatever it is with a lightness of spirit which changes my body language, my tone of voice, how I greet people, and they tend to respond in kind. Even if no one else is involved, that positive attitude changes my energy levels, my way of thinking about what I’m doing, and helps me to make a good job of it.

Of course, a negative attitude has the opposite effect on my behaviour. If I’m fearful or reluctant or expecting it to be hard, I have a completely different way of behaving, and others will again tend to respond in kind. It is really easy to provoke negative reactions from others – we can all make that argument happen if we want to! Again, even when no-one else is involved, we drag ourselves into the situation, and we will drop things, make mistakes, run out of energy quickly.

What we are underestimating, in both the positive and negative, is our own power. We play a major part in creating the situation in the way we expect. If we realise this, we can make life easier for ourselves by consciously changing our attitude.

We don’t have to pretend to be jolly about something we’re not particularly keen on – that doesn’t work. What we can do is focus on what will make it easier or less boring. We can look for a more useful expectation for ourselves.

For example: I’ll listen to some favourite music while I do this; I’ll remember that the other person would prefer the meeting to go well; I’ll find someone I like to talk to at this party.

There are enough stumbling blocks in life without us creating even more by expecting the worst. Consciously changing our attitude can make life easier for us. This year, let’s do it more often

LET’S BREAK THE SPELL

2023 seems to have been a year of doom and gloom: cost of living crisis; an incompetent and uncaring government; institutions we depend on like the NHS and education all feeling broken; awful wars; extreme climate events – you name it, we’ve got it – and that’s without all the personal hardships people have faced.

It is really easy to lose any hope we have and think that things will only get worse. Happy New Year sounds ridiculous.

But that lack of hope doesn’t help – in fact it makes things worse. We stop noticing any good things that are happening to us or in the world. We simply confirm our belief that everything has gone to the dogs.

So let’s break the spell in 2024.

I believe that the vast majority of human beings are kind and caring, and want to do their best. Let’s notice evidence for that.

I believe that the increase in exposure of unjust and corrupt behaviour by those in power will lead to people asking for their leaders to behave with integrity and fairness. Let’s look for evidence of that refusal to accept bad behaviour.

I believe that there will be more and more activity to improve the way we treat our earth. Let’s look for evidence that the climate crisis is being taken seriously.

And I believe that if enough of us say: ‘No more! We don’t accept this’, we can change things. Let’s play our part in making this stand.

When people choose to hope rather than despair, there is an increased possibility of not just surviving but thriving. Let’s break the spell and demonstrate by our own behaviour and attitude that things can get better for all of us.

BE HAPPY

I wanted to write something inspirational to end the year, despite all the problems in the world. Then my friend Rebecca sent me a copy of this speech by Pope Francis from several years ago. I can’t better this!

‘You may have defects, be anxious and sometimes live irritated, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can prevent it from going into decline. There are many that need you, admire you and love you.

I would like to remind you that being happy is not having a sky without storms, or roads without accidents, or work without fatigue, or relationships without disappointments.
Being happy is finding strength in forgiveness, hope in one’s battles, security at the stage of fear, love in disagreements.

Being happy is not only to treasure the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not just commemorating the event, but also learning lessons in failures. It is not just having joy with the applause, but also having joy in anonymity.

Being happy is to recognise that it is worthwhile to live, despite all the challenges, misunderstandings and times of crises. Being happy is not inevitable fate, but a victory for those who can travel towards it with your own being.

Being happy is to stop being a victim of problems but become an actor in history itself. It is not only to cross the deserts outside of ourselves, but still more, to be able to find an oasis in the recesses of our soul. It is to thank God every morning for the miracle of life.

Being happy is not being afraid of one’s feelings. It is to know how to talk about ourselves. It is to bear it with courage when hearing a “no”. It is to have the security to receive criticism, even if it is unfair. It is to kiss the children, pamper the parents, have poetic moments with friends, even if they have hurt us.

Being happy means allowing the free, happy and simple child inside each of us to live; having the maturity to say, “I was wrong”; having the audacity to say, “forgive me”. It is to have sensitivity in expressing, “I need you”; to have the ability of saying, “I love you.”

Thus your life becomes a garden full of opportunities for being happy…

In your spring-time, may you become a lover of joy. In your winter, may you become a friend of wisdom. And when you go wrong along the way, you start all over again. Thus you will be more passionate about life.

And you will find that happiness is not about having a perfect life but about using tears to water tolerance, losses to refine patience, failures to carve serenity, pain to lapidate pleasure, obstacles to open the windows of intelligence.

Never give up …. never give up on the people you love. Never give up on being happy because life is an incredible show.

And you are a special human being!’

Have a peaceful and happy Christmas.

COINCIDENCE OR SYNCHRONICITY?

The other day, a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while was on my mind when I woke up, so later in the day, I gave him a call. He burst out laughing when he heard my voice and said: ‘I was thinking about you this morning, and was going to call you this evening.’

I find that my life has lots of examples like this of so-called coincidence. We think nowadays that it is purely by chance when there is a coincidence, that it has no particular meaning. Yet the word, in its etymology, was originally used in astrology and means that the planets or stars are in alignment. This was seen as a good omen; it was the right time for something special to happen.

I choose to believe pretty much the same thing: that there is a good reason for a coincidence happening, and it is up to me to follow it through. Whether it be bumping into someone in town that you haven’t seen for years, or wondering if you should visit somewhere, switching on the tv and seeing a documentary about that place, I assume that there is something here for me to follow through.

I can’t prove that this isn’t just a coincidence, but I can enjoy following the thread, and it has led to many lovely things in my life.

We may dismiss things like astrology because we don’t believe it’s factual and want to make our lives follow a logical course. By doing so, we miss out on some of the magic and wonder that being alive can bring. What a shame!

Maybe one day our scientists will prove that coincidences aren’t an accident, but a message to help us on our way. Meantime I will continue to delight in the stars aligning to introduce something different into my life, should I choose to take notice of it.

A SPECIAL PLACE

Everyone deserves a special place. I am lucky, I have three: being on Maui; my garden; and my comfy chair in my living room. Having been on Maui recently, I was reminded of how important it is to be somewhere that feeds your soul, makes it easier to find calm, feel at home, relax.

When we go to Maui, the effect of the place is a major part of the purpose in visiting, and I sometimes forget that I have that same possibility at home as well.

What do I mean by a special place? Somewhere where you automatically relax and feel safe. Somewhere that helps you to find your centre, find some perspective, forget worries and troubles and busyness for a while. A place to recover yourself.

It is a place that has good associations for you, reminding you of happy times in your life, with a sense of familiarity and comfort. Does this sound grandiose, out of reach much of the time? It needn’t. We can create such a space quite simply.

It can be a corner of our garden where we can see favourite plants, be sheltered by a tree. It can be space in our living room where we can sit and look at things that remind us of good times -photos, books, objects we love – rather than staring at the tv. It can be a particular bench in a local park that has an air of quiet about it, no matter what’s going on.

By choosing to make it our special place, we begin to create the atmosphere of repose around it and this will grow eery time we use it for that purpose.

You may, like me, have a place you visit for holidays that is special to you. But we all deserve a special place in our everyday as well, where we can take a break and recuperate.