Start. Anything. Just start.

I voted Remain and I don’t agree with Trump. I also don’t feel very connected to many other Remainers or anti-Republicans. Why? Because right now I’m seeing a lot of cheap insults from both sides (and a lack of independent journalism) and so I really don’t want the “Remoaner” or “never-Trumper” label. Or the “ignorant elitist”. Yikes.

What I really want is an action list. So I’ve made one. Feel free to follow it, ignore it or criticise it. But it made me feel less defeated.

UK:
  1. 1. Sign the petition for electoral reform. End the oppression of First-Past-The-Post.
  2. 2. Follow the plan to introduce associate membership of the EU. You take the UK out of the EU, but you can’t take the EU out of the 48%.
Everybody:
  1. 1. Join your local electoral reform group (UK, US, and I’m sure many other countries have their own groups). Yes, that includes you too, Aussies. Your voting system may be better than many others, but it could do with some tweaking.
  2. 2. Pick the one thing about the world today that depresses you the most. Support a group that’s trying to fit that. It’s hard when you start thinking “I want to help refugees, but what about all the homeless people? And how can I help the disadvantaged access the opportunities that I have had? Oh god, what about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and all those fish eating plastic, and all the people with cancer or dementia?!? THERE’S TOO MUCH HORRIBLENESS IN THIS WORLD!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!”Don’t get overwhelmed by everything that’s a mess right now. Pick the one issue that makes you the most angry/queasy/depressed. Don’t feel guilty if you’re helping trees instead of people. The point is that you’re helping.

Start today, and you’re already doing more than you did yesterday.

Start. Anything. Just start.

I’ve started giving free jobhunting help. Doing something starts now.

Which items on your list need to kick the bucket?

I often think about what I want to achieve in life. I also like to think about soulful things that hubby and I can do together. So I was very excited when he got on board the idea of creating a “40 before 40” list. I’ve come up with 20 so far, hubby is already at 30. I decided to tap into a former version of myself for inspiration.

10 years ago, a friend and I were emailing each other at work. Not sure what her office thought about that, but my office was very chilled. The actually said “once you get your work done, you can just sit on MySpace for the rest of the day if you like”. Yes, that chilled. Yes, that long ago.

At some point my friend and I got to talking about bucket lists and we each came up with 100 things to do before we die. That list still sits in old email account and here are the highlights:
1. 23 year old me was kooky. The list included “Shave my head” and “Convert a 1983 Nissan Bluebird into a fish tank”.

2. In 10 years I have ticked of 19 goals, including 3 career goals (e.g. “Become a manager”), 1 family goal (“take Mum on a holiday”) and 15 personal goals (“Live on my own”).

3. Some of the goals on the list weren’t mine.

This is something many of us struggle with – knowing why we want something. Maybe it’s because others tell you should want it because they do, even though you’re not interested (“Steal a street sign with my name on it”). Maybe you think that a particular achievement will increase others’ opinion of you or respect for you (“Have a job that pays at least 70k”).

Sometimes it’s because we’re not sure that we know everything there is to know about ourselves, so we want to try somebody else’s experiences and find out if we feel the same way they do. It may not be your own goal, but at least you know that you’re borrowing it.

“Learn Latin or Salsa dancing”  was on my list for that reason, and I might still keep it. What’s on your list? What goals have you taken off your bucket list?

 

CC0 image from Pixabay

Moody, broody and refreshing

Hubby was in a bad mood over the weekend and I ended up feeling good about it. That’s not as evil as it sounds!

Hubby and I deal with bad moods in different ways. I like the deal with my issues myself; I analyse and weigh up options and, if all else fails, demand cuddles like a puppy. Hubby prefers to nudge me – physically and psychologically – to gently interview him until the root cause is drawn out. I completely understand this, sometimes I need this too. It can be difficult to articulate a bad feeling, especially if it’s something intangible, like a subtle sense of unease.

This weekend has been generally pleasant, but hubby had moments of sudden snappiness or unexpected lectures, so I knew there was something on his mind. Then I played a kind of “sore-spot bingo”, randomly talking about a variety of topical subjects until he finally interrupted, saying “Sit , let’s talk”.

We found the subject area. Check!

The conversation started with concerns about the venue for his upcoming party, but ended with something deeper – a current lack of life purpose. Checkmate.

I was so happy! Not because my husband was unsatisfied, not just because he had identified the feeling and been able to express it. He’s generally pretty good at that.

I was happy that he was able to admit the problem to himself. As a bonus, he had chosen to come to me to explore these thoughts and address them.

My suspicion is that hubby is coming to the end of a bit of a drift zone. Our first few years together were high pressure – lots of fun, travel, excitement and adventures, but also deadlines, arguments, all sorts of battles with bureaucracy, family and overwhelming multitasking feats.

Despite me just changing jobs, this is the most stable our lifestyle has been. Ever. Everything right now is very comfortable. This means that nothing we are doing day to day has any point to it. Yes, we’re saving money to possibly buy a house. Yes, we’re exercising more, but it will take time for results to show. Daily life has finally become so routine and comfortable, the sense of an inevitable deterioration to being dull and boring lingers just around the corner.

Again, I think this is fabulous.  We are now in a place where we can really plan for our future without being distracted by more immediate concerns.

So, what can we do that will give both immediate satisfaction and long term purpose?

My first stop on this will be Do-It.org, to find some volunteering options in our area. Teaching English would be ideal, but let’s see what our local area needs the most.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

Cover Image: Cloud Phunk by A Jain

 

THINK… or just be an introvert, it’s easier

Hubby sometimes thinks out loud and thinks it’s a conversation. This week it was about exercising. The “conversation” started as “let’s join a gym” and ended with “gyms don’t work for me”. I wasn’t actually in that conversation at all!

I know that he will do this, and that the true topic of conversation won’t appear until the end, so I often don’t say much. Usual introvert habit. But the downside is that sometimes hubby thinks I’m not interested, not paying attention or not being helpful. Not the case! I’m Just in the habit of not getting involved until I need to.

I think it’s a good thing. It worked for me, otherwise I would have either said “YES, I’d love to join the gym”, or “Why on earth would you even suggest that, you’ve told me so many times that you hate gyms”. Neither would have fit the ol’ “THINK” mantra:

Before you speak, THINK…

T – is it True?
H – is it Helpful?
I – is it Inspiring?
N – is it Necessary?
K – is it Kind?

True, yes. None of the others. Sometimes the introversion saves me from pointless attitude. Sometimes it’s just a case of riding out the conversation. I won in the end – we got a shiny new rowing machine!

Cover image from Pixabay.

Procrastination Obliteration

I don’t understand myself sometimes. For example, I’m currently feeling enthused and motivated to throw myself into my new job. At the same time, I’m also feeling overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. I have work in front of me that makes me feel excited, but I’m not doing it. Why?

The reasons why people procrastinate
  • Poor time management – you’re just not aware of how much time you have in relation to what you’re wanting to do
  • Boredom or disinterest – avoiding doing the unpleasant
  • Being lost or feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start
  • Negative brain images – perfectionism, fear of success/failure, negative and “all-or-nothing” thinking
  • Lack of experience in the subject, or lack of experience in managing oneself

There are techniques of combating procrastination, but I even delay treating my procrastination because it has such a good side effect.

I get so much other stuff done!!

During the time in which I should have been reading a policy document and creating a flowchart to match, I finished two blog posts, sent out quote requests to a bunch of party DJs, read the news headlines, took a brisk walk in the sunshine and booked myself in for a lunch date with a friend. I did all those tasks quickly and vigourously. However, now I feel like a nap, it’s been an hour and I still haven’t read the damn policy.

Ideas for procrastination obliteration

Any other recommendations? Add yours to the comments.

Cover image from Pixabay. It has awesome cat pics.

Why you aren’t achieving your goals

How many goals have you set for yourself at the one time? How many did you achieve? All of them, thus giving you a massive sense of accomplishment and the head size to match? Or none of them, resulting in an entire weekend on the sofa, sulking, with reality TV and a bucket of ice cream while you wish you never set goals in the first place.

The most I’ve ever set at once was about nine and I can’t recall whether I achieved any of them. But I never stop setting goals, because some I do manage to achieve and that feels pretty good. So why do some work and some fail?

After some experimentation of methods for maintaining motivation towards a goal, these are the two things most likely to throw me off track: the process isn’t fun or the goal isn’t a priority.

Tweet: Identify why you’re losing motivation towards you goal: either the process isn’t fun or the goal isn’t a priority

Exercise isn’t fun, I have more important things to do than finish that project, learning a language is frustrating. Some goals might fall into both categories. No wonder we keep failing at them!

How to find the fun when working towards a goal

It’s about the journey, not the destination, yada yada yada. How do we actually do that?

Try taking a step back from the goal. What are some activities that you do that make you feel good? What activities do you enjoy freely, without any thought to achievement?  Can you combine one of these activities with a goal?

Thinking of two of the most commonly broken New Year’s Resolutions, losing weight and saving money, how could we combine fun with these?

Exercise equipment in front of the TV is a popular idea, but what else? There are all sorts of developments in the exercise-powered electronics range, but for something more simple, how about a Walking Book Club?

Saving isn’t a fun process, but instead of focusing on how to spend less (boring!), thinkabout how to have more fun at home (yay!). Learn some new recipes, binge-watch some quality shows online, fall back in love with actually calling friends on the phone and having a good, long chat! Actually, invite them over to enjoy your cooking! Spending less and saving more will become a side-effect of your in-house entertainment.

How to prioritise your goals

In order to be motivated enough to achieve a goal, there has to be a good reason for having it in the first place.

Ask yourself “Why do I want this?”. If the answer is along the lines of “because it would be cool”, this is not your goal. You’ve set it for people other than yourself.

Tweet: Ask “Why do I want this?” – If the answer is “because it would be cool”, it’s not your goal. You’ve set it for people other than yourself.

Let that goal go, it’s not yours.

If your answer relates to self-ownership and personal growth and satisfaction, that’s great! You just need to work out why you’re not prioritising it. Why are you undervaluing something that is important to you?

I set a goal to read more. I used to read novels but I haven’t done in years. I would see sites like GoodReads or hear friends talking about what great books they’ve read lately and I would feel like I’m missing out or being left behind. I was adding a strange competitiveness to reading, which I knew was ridiculous. It meant that reading wasn’t my goal and that it was a frivolous activity that wasn’t worth prioritising. I had to rethink why I wanted to read more. The real reason was that I wanted to write a novel. Completing even just a first draft would be a great personal accomplishment and also be a gift to those around me who have inspired it. I am more inspired to write when I’m reading. I want to read more to fuel my writing. I realised that reading wasn’t frivolous, it was a fun way to inspire my writing. That made the goal mine, and a higher priority, and a lot more fun!

So really think about your goals. What’s getting in the way of accomplishing them: are they not fun, not yours or not a priority?

 

Cover image from Pixabay. It has awesome cat pics.

 

The 3 Words That Got Me Happy – and Keep Me There

Do you ever feel afraid that depression is hunting you down?

I used to hate myself. Although I would occasionally feel as though there was something in me of value, it was so deep inside an internal vat of muck and self-loathing, it was never reachable. I am a fortunate one who came out the other side and now I’m living a wonderful life. But there are moments when I feel the darkness is lurking, ready to dissolve all my hard work and return me to the barely functional state I in which I previously existed.

If you’re clinically depressed, there is help out there in many forms. But what if you’re not? What if you feel yourself teetering on that edge, afraid of falling into a pit of despair, but also afraid or reaching out because you don’t want to be dependent on drugs or therapist, and think you should be able to manage it yourself?
Let me tell you what three words got me on the right path – and keep me there: Logic, Influence and Oops.

 

“Logic”

When debilitated with depression, logic serves no purpose. You can’t reason with a depressed person, because the logical component of the brain is no longer functioning normally. But if you’re on the edge you should still be able to do some basic mathematics.

Quantify your life. How many pieces make up your life? Does that number sound right to you? And how does each piece fit?

A few years ago, I logically examined my life in this mathematical way, because I figured that “numbers don’t lie”, so I should be able to see if things didn’t add up. I divided my life into 4 pieces: Career, Family, Social and Soul. Under “Soul” was my work with the community, and it was 10 out of 10. It made me very happy. But the other three pieces didn’t fit right. I felt that each piece was pulling me in different directions and that I was slowly losing control. Scores for Family and Social had been slowly creeping down over time and the end of a fulfilling secondment had seen my Career score take a major nosedive. A massive 75% of my life was not up to my own standards. No wonder I was feeling so uncomfortable!

 

“Influence

I realised that the reason why I was so happy in my Soul activities, and why I usually had a high Career score, was these were the environments where I felt safe to be my authentic self. Over time, I had allowed myself to be negatively influenced in the other environments. I had tried to adapt to every single comment, critique, request and demand in order to feel comfortable in that environment, and instead I was feeling crushed by expectations. Worst of all, they were expectations I didn’t want for myself in the first place!

This meant I had a choice: I could be myself and be happy, or be designed by others and be unhappy.

To achieve this meant that I had to not be influenced by the opinion of others, and that meant accepting that my choices may negatively impact others – if they chose to respond that way. This wasn’t me being uncaring – I still cared about my family and friends – I was simply choosing to care about myself as well.

Since my life was 75% out-of-whack, my decision was to restart my life. I would live overseas for a while, away from the people I’d inadvertently given too much power, so that I could rebuild myself as someone who was strong and authentic across all elements of my life.

Immediately, my strength was tested as I faced the response to my decision. I embraced the positive responses and refused to be influenced by the negative responses. I explained my actions to those I wanted to share with, and simply stood my ground with others. My honesty, strength and authenticity surprised some people, and to be fair, it surprised me too!

Some were shocked (“How can you quit a permanent job?!?”) and labelled me as irresponsible. But I stood up for my own opinion: I valued the comfort of inner contentment over the comfort of security, and now someone else would be lucky enough to have the job I once loved and had now outgrown.

Many shared their concerns. Yes, it’s a sudden decision, and I might get homesick, and I might struggle to find a good job, and it’s going to be hard. I could have let these thoughts stop me, like such thoughts had done to me hundreds of times before. But I distanced myself from the emotion. These were fears that they had, not me. I was feeling extremely positive about my decision, I had researched and planned for the potential hazards and saw no need to let others’ fears intervene. I finally owned my own life.

 

“Oops

Having freed myself from being negatively influenced by others, there was a greater challenge to face – the negative influence of myself. I had to make sure I didn’t derail my own success. I knew such a big change wasn’t going to be with hiccups. My suitcase broke. I locked myself out. I got trapped inside a men’s toilet cubicle (yeah, that was particularly embarrassing!). The old me would have felt crippling disappointment and shame after any of these events. The new me adopted a different approach.

I don’t even know how it came about, but I started saying “oops” when something didn’t go to plan. It was remarkably liberating! Instead of self-deprecating statements such as “God, I’m stupid”, “How could I do that?”, or a defeatist sigh, I just said “Oops” instead. Mentally, it was like scrunching up a piece of paper and throwing it in the bin. I acknowledged the mistake, dismissed it and moved on.

I say “Oops” to forgive myself – instantly.

 

3 words = 3-Step action plan

It can be damn hard work to maintain happiness. You’ve got to break old habits, retrain your brain, eat well, exercise, think positively, live in the moment, plan ahead and think about yourself while caring for others. Some days it just feels like too much effort! Why do all that unpaid work when you can just cruise meaninglessly through life, like so many people appear to do?

Because life can be more enjoyable than that.

Logic, Influence and Oops: Analysing your life, choosing who influences you and accepting yourself for who you are. These three words led me to the best decision of my life, and when I stray too close to the canyon of depression, these words work act as a three-step action plan to steer me in a better direction. Or, more accurately, they are motivation to give myself a kick up the butt and fix my concerns by myself.

How do you take control of your life?

 

Image copyright AJ Jain.

Identifying my purpose from the floor

As per my lazy exercise regime, I was doing a little yoga after work and was looking for a YouTube video to play.  I came across “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes“, a short video with a softly spoken gent who went rather briskly through his hypothesis. Spoiler alert: 5 minutes is irrelevant, it’s the 5 questions that will give you an answer. Apparently.

These are the questions to ask yourself:

1. Who are you?
2. What do you love to do?
3. Who do you do it for?
4. What do those people want or need?
5. How do they change as a result of what you give them?

Then, when someone asks you “What do you do”, you answer with your response to question 5.  Intriguing for me, as I don’t like telling people “I’m a PA”, because that’s nothing to do with who I am, that’s really just how I feed and clothe who I am.  I would like a better answer. Starting at the beginning, I’m Ellie. I love making people feel good about themselves. I do this for people who are feeling bummed or stuck in like. Those people want to feel that they are in charge of their lives. As a result of what I give them, they feel motivated and empowered.

“Nice to meet you, Ellie. So what do you do?”
“I motivate and empower people”.

Bleh.  Sounds too fluffy and still doesn’t sound like me. Let’s try again.

I love inspiring people. I do it for people who feel trapped or stagnant. Those people need to be encouraged to believe in themselves. As a result of what I give them, they are empowered to make positive changes to their lives.

“So what do you do, Ellie?”
“I help people make life-changing decisions”.

Oooh, I love that.  But I feel it’s a little focused toward life coaching, which is something I am definitely very interested in, but it’s not all of me.  What about my writing? My love of radio and online media? What about travel? Let’s try one more time.

I love expressing myself creatively. I do it for people who are looking for inspiration. Those people want to take ownership of their own lives. As a result of what I give them, they feel motivated to make changes towards living with positivity and autonomy.

“Yo, Ellie. What do you do?”
“I inspire self-ownership in others so they can make positive life changes.”

Bingo.

How about you? Can you boil down what you do into one marvellous sentence? Give it a try and add it to the comments!