Tag Archives: useful thinking

LOOKING FOR THE CHINKS OF LIGHT

We are living in tough times. There is far more bad news than good – one thing after another seems to pile on the agony, in the world, in our country, even in our own lives.

It is easy to feel despair, but that doesn’t help anything. We need to look for the chinks of light. And in the midst of all this, they do still shine through.

In the world, the West is still supporting Ukraine, which may be politically motivated, but is better than has been managed in the past, when countries under attack have not been helped in any significant way. And the problems with gas supply have pushed many countries to move more quickly on installing renewable energy, which will help our planet.

In this country, the government is doing some terrible things, but at least it has stepped in to help with the cost of living crisis. We may not agree with their method or their philosophy, but it will help people to have more of a chance of paying their bills.

And above all, individual people bring chinks of light into our lives, with their kindness and thoughtfulness, their sense of humour despite everything, their warmth and affection.

Let’s keep looking for these chinks of light, and giving them to others whenever we can. It’s what will bring us through

DISRUPTION AND DISTRACTION

I am in the midst of disruption in my personal life – having a new kitchen fitted! It has made me think about what disruption is. The word originally means something that breaks you away from your normal patterns and routines.

I am not good at dealing with disruption, and I don’t know anyone who is, but on reflection, I realise with hindsight that often a disruption in my everyday life has had some positive outcomes, breaking some of my less useful patterns and making me reconsider what really matters.

A good example of this would be the lockdowns during the pandemic, when all our lives were disrupted. At the time it was difficult for most people, but it certainly made us aware of how important our connections with others are, and of the simple things in life we can get pleasure from.

On the other hand, there is distraction. I have been using distractions to help me cope with the disruption. Distraction means originally something that pulls you away from whatever is going on.

I have done jigsaws, worked on the garden, watched movies, because they all take up my attention and give me space from my busy mind. So distractions can be very useful for alleviating the effects of disruption and it is worth having that list of what works for you.

And of course, they can also have a downside. Sometimes we use distractions to avoid things we know we need to confront or get on with.

At present I am using distractions to help, and I hope to find the positive outcomes – besides a new kitchen! – in the coming weeks. I also hope that I will remember the plus’s and minuses of disruption and distraction so that I use them well in the future.

What about you? How do you manage disruption and use distraction?

LETTING GO

My friend Rebecca sent me a copy of a poem by Safire Rose called ‘She Let Go’.

https://safire-rose.com/books-and-media/poetry/she-let-go . As I read it through I could feel the relief, the lightness of being that just letting go creates.

It is not easy to stop worrying something through. We go backwards and forwards in our minds, we may talk about it with others, we allow whatever it is to affect our behaviour, our mind. Yet at the same time, this poem reminded me that we can just let it go: say ‘Oh well,’ and let go.

It is easier to do with something in the past. After all, there’s nothing we can do about it now, so revisiting it in our mind changes nothing except our own mood and behaviour.

Letting go of something that’s in our present reality, or that we are predicting in our future is harder. Yet if we think about it with a form of logic, it becomes easier,

If it’s in our present reality, then it’s here, so the best thing to do is accept it, and decide what we can do about it, or at least how we can alleviate the situation. Wishing it away just doesn’t work!

If it’s future and certain, we can plan what we will do to handle it. If it’s not certain, we need to recognise that we don’t know if it will turn into reality, and that worrying about it now may be an unnecessary weight.

It rarely helps us to sort something out when we worry at it like a dog with a bone, and we all have evidence of that truth!

From now on, I’m going to see if I can emulate the ‘she’ in the poem: ‘She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go… It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.. In the space of letting go, she let it all be’.

THERE ARE REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC

In amongst all the depressing news last week, the UN gave an award to David Attenborough – Champion of the Earth. It was a lovely recognition of all that he has done to advocate caring for our environment, and in his acceptance speech, he talked about the resurgence of whales, as an illustration of the value of continuing to campaign to reverse the damage we have previously done.

He pointed out that the population of whales had been devastated by hunting, yet now there are more than there have ever been in our lifetime.

It reminded me that we need to find reasons to be optimistic, and that things change for the better over a long period – it doesn’t happen overnight as a rule.

So, reasons to be optimistic:

  • We have all got better at recycling and re-using
  • Many have reduced their meat eating and turned to vegetarian options
  • The war in Ukraine is forcing countries to look at becoming more self-sufficient in energy, and work harder on developing green energy options
  • Younger generations are more aware of environmental concerns than most of us were when I was young
  • And on a different note, our governments may not be good, but their behaviour is now exposed for all to know

And I know there are more!

So let’s keep doing what we can to keep these trends going, and encourage others to do the same, because change for the better does happen.

When so many dire things are happening right now, it’s vital to find reasons to be optimistic.

IT’S ALL WRONG – WHAT CAN I DO?

Everywhere we look at the moment, things are going wrong: the war in Ukraine; climate change; the continuing spread of Covid; the problems with the NHS and many other institutions; the supply chains; the mess called our government; the rising cost of living – not to mention all those other things we all have to deal with in our everyday lives, whether it be illness in our families or failing to get hold of someone on the phone, etc, etc.

Distress, upset, delays, frustrations, doom-laden predictions – they seem to have become part of everyone’s life. It can leave us feeling powerless and miserable. And that doesn’t help.

So what can I do?

Well, it’s the actions of people that change the world, for better or worse, so I have decided to do something each day that makes a small positive difference, hoping that they all add up to something that helps.

At the macro-level, I can write to my MP, I can donate to a charity that is helping those who are suffering most. I can make my voice heard in protest against wrong – as Amnesty International say: one extra may be what tips the balance.

At the micro-level, I can continue to wear a mask in crowded places, I can ensure that I recycle as much as possible, use less plastic, waste less food. I can live my life as ethically, ecologically and caringly as I can.

At an interpersonal level, I can listen to and sympathise with other people’s issues and frustrations, without judgement or interruption, allowing them to express their frustrations so they don’t just go round and round in their heads.

At a personal level, I can tackle one of those frustrations at a time: keep making that phone call until I get a result or whatever it is. And I can take care of my own physical and mental health, and use things that bring me joy to lift my mood. I’m not doing all of this all of the time – that’s too much and would just send me into despair again! But if each day I do something, then at least I’m doing my bit to right all this wrong. And if we all did…

A GLIMMER OF HOPE

I’m finding it hard to be positive or optimistic at the moment – there’s so much wrong in the world.

So I’m actively looking for the glimmers of hope, to lift my mood. And when you look for those glimmers, you find them.

In the current awful situation in Ukraine, amidst the destruction and heartbreak, there are the amazing acts of kindness, generosity, and care: ordinary people responding from the heart to other ordinary people in distress.

And the level of worldwide condemnation of Putin for his behaviour is enormous, whilst remembering that it is not the Russian people who are behind all this. It is good to see that we haven’t turned them all into the ‘red under the bed’ of the past.

This is also making many governments look more seriously at the potential for developing their own renewable energy sources, to make it possible to be self-sufficient – that will help with climate change more than any agreement or promise will.

At the same time, Volodymyr Zelensky is setting an example of true leadership. He hasn’t run away – anything but – and he is proactive in asking for help and encouraging his people. (Wish we had someone like him!)

And at a simpler level, I see all the spring flowers in my garden, and the new shoots and buds on the perennials, and I am reminded that nature goes on doing its cycle, no matter what we are doing, and that it is natural for things to restart, to flourish again.

Good things are going on, big questions are being asked – our job is to support both these things, help keep them going when this particular crisis is resolved. A crisis means a crossroads, a choice point, so let’s grow the glimmers of hope, and believe that the world can be a better place. We can take the right road at this crossroads.

DO YOU FEEL LUCKY?

I’ve rarely ever won a raffle prize or a lottery – but then I don’t buy tickets for them very often either! Yet I consider myself to be lucky. Do you?

I have met some amazing people who have helped me to live my life better, and given me new perspectives on things. I have some lovely friends who liven up my life. I’ve had homes I love, with great neighbours. The jobs I’ve had have mostly been enjoyable and fulfilling. The list of the reasons I feel lucky go on and on.

Of course, there have been some periods in my life where things didn’t feel great, but as I look back, I can see how they led to life improving in some way.

I was prompted to write about this by re-reading ‘The Luck Factor’ by Richard Wiseman. He is a psychologist who did research on people who considered themselves exceptionally lucky or unlucky. His conclusion was that it mostly depends on your attitude, unsurprisingly.

The ‘lucky’ people actively followed up on possible opportunities, and used their intuition to make decisions. They also believed things would work out, so approached them in a positive way, and they were proactive in moving out of bad situations and turning them round. And, guess what, ‘unlucky’ people had the opposite approach to life – passive victims of circumstance.

So the question heading this piece is the right one – it’s all about how we feel. And feeling lucky is so much better as a way to live our lives.

So look at your life, and count all the ways in which you are lucky. Do you feel lucky now?

DON’T LET AGE DEFINE YOU

It is easy to get caught by the story that getting older means that you slow down, are bound to have things physically wrong with you, and you lose your ‘bounce’.

There may be elements of truth in this story, but it is far from a necessary reality. Of course, it is unlikely that we will become great athletes in our 60’s and 70’s, but that is true of most of us in our 20’s and 30’s!

However, there are many areas where we can excel, and use our experience of life to help us to be creative, active, interested and interesting. I read a great line the other day: “ You can age or you can decay’.

Ageing means adapting to the part of the cycle of life you are in, and making the most of it, as opposed to bemoaning the fact that you have moved on from previous stages.

There are grand advantages in getting older, in my experience. I worry less; I am able to do what I want instead of being driven by the need to earn a living and look after my family; I have a clearer perspective on things; I can experiment with finding things I enjoy doing, rather than just a list of what I should or must do; and I care less about what others think of me.

All these advantages give us the scope to develop and shape our everyday lives to suit us better. We can bring out the best in ourselves and be the role model for ageing in a different way. It is a time in our lives when we can truly be the best of ourselves.

So don’t let age define you, don’t ‘act your age’. Be who you really are, and love this part of the cycle of life.

MAKE IT RELATIVE NOT ABSOLUTE

It’s a new year and that time when we review the last year and think about how we want this year to be. The trouble with New Year resolutions is that they tend to be absolute, i.e. they tend to be goals that we attain or, more often, fail to attain.

I don’t know about you, but, in the past, mine have tended to be pretty repetitive – same old goals, same old failing to reach them! And I’ve learnt to do it differently, in a way that makes me feel I’m making progress instead of failing. My New Year resolutions are relative.

What that means in practice is that I look at where I’m up to in how I want to be, and then ask myself:

‘What would I prefer to do more of, or less of, or the same as, last year?’

‘Is there anything I’m ready to leave behind, or add into my life, to make it how I want it to be?’

It’s a kinder approach because I’m working on progressing to how I want to be, not how I should be, and I don’t specify how much, just some progress. It also allows for where I am now, so it isn’t a pressure to make radical change, it’s a refinement to make my life a bit better, in ways I’m ready for.

So this year, set some resolutions that are about some more of this, and less of that; ones that add in a bit of new, and leave behind a bit of old that is no longer right for you. Make them something you look forward to, rather than fail at.

Happy New Year!

YOUR INTELLIGENCE

 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!)