Why not have a go this month?

Motorcycles with learner plates

Did you know that September is the Festival of Learning’s ‘Have A Go’ month?  In celebration of lifelong learning and self development, it’s encouraging people to try new things.

I have long been an advocate for lifelong learning and I believe that our education shouldn’t stop when we leave school.

And whether you consider learning to be education in the formal sense, such as gaining qualifications etc., or whether you are interested in learning more about yourself and how you can get the best out of life, education and evolving is key.

Just as the world around us evolves, so do we. So should we.  We’re not the same people we were when we were younger.   Situations and experiences shape us.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

We are constantly evolving.

The positive side of that is that we have the opportunity to choose what we become.  Our resources may be limited at times and we may need support to do it, but ultimately, we have the power to change our experience.

And without learning, we stagnate.  Physically and mentally.  We lose motivation and desire quickly if we’re not stimulated and engaged with the world or the people around us.  And it can be difficult to get it back.

Trying new things brings novelty, and our brains love novelty.

Research has shown that we are much more likely to stick at a new habit or skill if it involves something new.

During lockdown, many people have struggled with motivation, and after months of being stuck at home without routine or structure, it can be hard to get yourself back out there again.  So trying something new could be one way to take small steps.

Whether it’s a new activity we’ve never tried before, or perhaps doing something familiar in a different way, we can build our interest back up.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to have a go at?  Perhaps a new skill or ambition, or just greater awareness of self?  Something to improve your health or wellbeing, or open doors to new opportunities?

Sign up for a class, join a group, try a taster event…you never know where it might lead!

Photo by The Ride Academy on Unsplash

The Joy Of A Blank Page

An open notebook of blank pages

 

 

 

 

 

Do you feel joy at seeing a blank page?

The start of September is traditionally time when we start thinking about going back to school or back to work after a summer break, and its often associated with the desire to get back into a routine, or start something new.

The feeling of a new year is strong, and after being (hopefully) refreshed after the holidays, there can be a lot of pressure to launch back into the day to day treadmill of activity that we were used to.

But I’m not feeling it so much this year. The summer has indeed been lovely, and it’s been great to meet up with people again and get out into the world, but I can feel the busyness and the pressure building back up.  And I for one would like to put the brakes on a little.

Because over the last year or so, I’ve learned a lot from slowing down.  At first it was enforced because of lockdown, but I soon realised that my mind worked a lot better when it was slower.

My brain started to come up with way more ideas and creativity than it ever did in the time before.  And certainly, more than sitting at a laptop, willing the ideas to come ever could.

We’ve come to think of ‘slowing down’ as being lazy or unproductive, but there is a big difference between doing nothing and doing things more mindfully.

When we begin to become aware of how our lives are playing out day to day, then it’s much easier to recognise when things are out of balance.  And the quicker we can take remedial action, the lesser impact these imbalances can cause.

And we also invite in more possibilities when we think slower.  We don’t automatically do things because we feel we should, or because we think we know the best next action to take.

If we allow more creativity in to our thoughts, then we can think up new possibilities.

It’s like sitting with a blank notebook, and no expectations.  

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard about the ‘morning pages’ idea from Julia Cameron…the practice of sitting down with a pen and paper first thing in the morning and letting everything out on the page.  Ideas, rants, nonsense…whatever comes.  Just allowing your brain to empty what it needs to, can allow space for better thoughts to come.

However, you’re feeling this September, embrace the joy of the blank page.  Whether you see it through the lens of exciting new plans or possibilities, or a chance to empty out what’s been cluttering up in your head.  Sit for a moment, and allow yourself time to see what comes next.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The savvy girls guide to giving good energy

A person offering a gift

Don’t adapt to the energy in the room.  Influence the energy in the room – Katie Rollins.

I love this quote from Katie Rollins so much, I could have just left it there.  Because it pretty much says it all.

Life throws us enough curveballs without having to deal with bad energy.  From ourselves or other people.

And the energy that we give out, and with which we approach our interactions, will always influence the outcome in some way.

But, as the quote above says, there is a way in which we can not just accept, but influence, situations by the way in which we present ourselves.

Rule number 1:  Own Your Own Shit

We all have a responsibility to be aware of how we show up.

If we’re approaching life with an expectation to be hurt, disappointed or let down, then we may as well just welcome it in.  Because it’s likely that this is what we’ll get.

If we’re not giving our best effort – to ourselves as much as others – then we’re doing ourselves a disservice by restricting our opportunities to be happy, to have fulfilling lives and meaningful relationships.

And if our energy is low because we’re not taking care of ourselves, physically and mentally, then it’s going to be hard to exert positive influence and energy when we’re out in the world.

Anticipating the fight

There are some situations that you just know are going to be tricky before you even step into the  room.  Difficult conversations, setting boundaries, calling out other people’s bullshit.  We know we might already be on the back foot if we’re dealing with this sort of scenario.

So how do you approach someone if you’re already expecting a negative response?

Well, you could take the ‘rise above it’ or ‘be the bigger person’ line.  But I always sense a slight sense of arrogance or entitlement when I hear people saying things like this.

Because :newsflash: It isn’t all about you.

Influencing isn’t steamrolling.

Neither does it mean having an opinion better than someone else’s.  And it certainly doesn’t involve discounting the other person’s experience.

There is a fine balance between exerting your influence, and thinking your better than the other people in the room.  Because you don’t know what’s behind someone else’s behaviour.

If someone often presents as challenging or negative, it doesn’t mean that they are automatically a bad person.  They could have insecurities or hang-ups that they are trying to mask, or maybe they’ve learnt to use aggression or pass-agg, as a defence mechanism.  You’ll see this a lot in work situations, especially where people are in positions of authority but don’t necessarily feel they belong there.

Here’s some tips that can help if you need to inject a bit of calm or perspective into your interactions with others:

Be aware of the energy you’re bringing to a situation.   If you’re walking into a situation and it already has your back up before you begin, you might not even be aware of it.  Expecting a battle (even subconsciously) can put you on the defensive before you even start.  Take a breath, practice what you want to say to get your point across, and try and include factual rather than emotional language.

Be conscious that you might not know the full story.  Try not to make assumptions about people, especially if they’re being difficult or negative.  If they are disrespecting you, of course you can stand up for yourself.  But if it’s not personal, don’t take it personally.

Know your limits.  Be aware of how much energy you have to give something.  If you’re passionate and want to jump headfirst into a project, then great.  But if you’re not feeling it, or you have other demands on your time, be honest.  There’s nothing worse than half-hearted effort.  You won’t enjoy yourself, and other people will pick up on it too.

Be willing to walk away.  There will always be another job, friend, relationship etc.  If you find that a situation or relationship has run its course, then be brave enough to leave.  Staying anywhere where you don’t belong is the quickest confidence-crusher ever.  And it will do more harm than good in the longer term.  You might have all sorts of doubts and fears, but you owe it to yourself to be happy.

Photo credit:  Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.com

Energy zappers – and how to deal with them

Image of an overwhelmed person

Energy zappers.  We’ve all experienced them, but how can we deal with them?

Energy is expressed and felt through our emotions and our choices, and it is affected by how we fuel ourselves – physically and mentally.  And so, the way in which we fuel ourselves will affect the energy that we feel.

Fuel goes in, energy comes out.

If we don’t have enough fuel, or when don’t have the right kind of fuel – e.g., its toxic, unfulfilling, harmful even, then obviously our energy is going to be negatively affected by that.

There are a number of things which can influence our energy, and generally these can be broken down into internal and external factors.

We are probably all well aware of the effect that too much low-nutrient foods or alcohol or late nights have on us. We feel sluggish and dull afterwards.

But there are also some less obvious influences that we might not be giving a lot of thought to.

Outside influences

One of the most important influences on our energy is the environment we spend our time in. 

This includes how we live, who we live with, where we spend most of our time and who we spend the most time with.  And if this is an environment that isn’t supporting our wellbeing and growth, then our energy will suffer.

And we might not feel as though we have a great deal of choice – especially if we’re in a job or a family situation which is causing an imbalance.  We may well know that we’re in an unhappy or unfulfilling situation that we know isn’t helping us, but it’s not always as easy to get out of them.

But we can try and be more conscious of the effect the situation is having, and try and minimise how much we are affected by it.  You might want to ask yourself:  Are there situations in my life now where I feel ‘less than’, not good enough, or on edge?  Do you notice that you’re changing how you present yourself so that you fit in?  Do you feel that you can’t be yourself around certain people?

Noticing how our energy shifts, for better or worse, when we’re in situations and around particular people can be really telling.

Of course, every relationship that we have with another person will involve give and take.  There will be times when another person needs our support and their needs will take priority, and vice versa.   The whole point of inviting people into your life is to share experiences and support each other.

But when a relationship or friendship feels as though it’s only ever one-way traffic, or the conversation is often negative, then we need to ask ourselves whether this is the right fit for us.  If the other person is blinkered to what is going on with you, how you are feeling, what you’re excited/worried/nervous about, and the focus is only ever about them, then that’s a good indicator of where the energy isn’t balanced.

I’m sure we can all recognise times when we’ve felt like that, whether we’re experiencing it now or not, but when this type of situation goes on for some time, it is so draining.

And it will have a big impact on our confidence, our motivation and it will become really challenging to change, the longer it goes on.

But there are also things that we can do ourselves to make sure that we fuel our body and mind with enough of the good stuff, to counteract what comes at us from outside.

Healthy inside

We all know what energy feels like within our own bodies.  We know when we feel happy, excited, raring to go.  And we also know when we feel depleted, tired and lethargic.

Our bodies are finely tuned machines – and they have an in-built alarm system to tell us when something is out of whack.   Listen to your body and what it is telling you…if it needs rest, better nutrition, hydration, it will let you know.   And it will keep letting you know until you listen to it, usually!

It is really difficult to give our best efforts with something, or even just go about our daily tasks if we have consistently low energy.

But it’s not just about our physical wellbeing. We also need to be aware of our mental fuel.

One of the biggest energy drains on our mental health these days is social media.  Love it or hate it, the messages and energy we consume by watching other people living their lives is immense.

And it can affect even the most grounded of people.

We all have insecurities and self-doubt, but these can become magnified when we flood our brain with images of other people. We imagine other lives we could be living, or worry about things we ‘should’ be doing.  The comparison trap is one of the most harmful things to fall into – we compare how we look or what our life looks like, with images that are carefully curated and filtered and well, fake. We trick ourselves into believing they are real, and it’s so easy to start comparing ourselves against impossible perceived benchmarks.

If social media and FOMO is something that triggers you, then try and limit the amount of time you expose yourself to.  Have allocated time for a digital detox – set an alarm or limit on your app. Or switch your phone off completely, and put it in a drawer for a while.  (If this idea brings you out in a cold sweat, then it’s a good indication you might just benefit from it!).

And there are a range of other negative emotions that, if left unchecked, will drain our energy. There are the obvious ones such as anger, resentment, or regret, that may have stemmed from a specific experience, but there are also the more subconscious ones like fear, uncertainty, or jealousy.

Listen to what your emotions are telling you.  Where are they holding you back?  What are you missing out on or avoiding?  We may feel triggered in certain situations, or by people, without knowing why.

In summary, our energy isn’t just something that we need to function and progress, we can also influence how much of it we have.  By identifying such energy zappers and being aware of what we are consuming, physically and mentally, and when we are feeling triggered, we can start to bring more balance.

And in next week’s post, I’ll be switching the focus to looking at how we can bring better energy to our interactions, so stay tuned for more.

Photo credit: Luis Villasmil on Unsplash.com

What gives you energy?

 

 

 

There is no fast track to anything.  We need energy to stay consistent, focused and in the game.  But what gives us energy?

Without it, or when we have consistently low energy, we’re not giving our best. And no one feels good in that scenario.

It would be great if we could wake up one morning and all of a sudden, our goals and dreams had come true.  But we’re all wise enough to know that its not going to happen, and we have to put the work in if we want results in anything.

And even if everything could change overnight, would you want it to?

Isn’t half the fun (or sense of achievement) found in the ‘getting there’.  Overcoming the smaller obstacles.  Growing in confidence.  Continuing to show up when we’re struggling to see the point.

Knowing what it is that gives us energy is what keeps us going.

Positive Psychology.com share a brilliant exercise, where they ask people to think about playing a game of basketball.  To imagine yourself playing each shot, envisaging yourself and your team-mates working through the game and eventually hitting the winning score.  You can see the scoreboard, and your winning shot puts your team in the lead right at the last minute.

Then they ask you to consider how you would feel playing the game, if you knew what the outcome was going to be.  If you knew the score would be in your favour at the end, would you still play the game with the same amount of energy?

It’s a great example highlighting the difference between goals and values.  The goal might be to win the game, but your values indicate how you play the game; being a team player, giving your best, and the way in which you approach it.

Goals can be achieved, but it doesn’t happen without consistent effort.  And the amount of energy that we bring in achieving our goals is what really counts.

Knowing when to work hard, knowing when to rest, knowing how to pick ourselves up after disappointment, knowing not to get too complacent when things are going well.

This is what gives us the energy to keep going.

But it also highlights how important it is to choose goals that are in alignment with our values.  We need to have something to gain, to make the work worth it.

So, if you are struggling to find or maintain the energy you need to persevere with something, ask yourself why you’re doing it.  Why is it important to you?  And how important is the way in which you’re going to achieve it?  What other things are you going to gain, in addition to the positive outcome?

Photo credit: Carl Nenzen Loven on Unsplash.com

Avoid Summer Burnout (And Get More Good Stuff In)

Relaxing beach scene

Being a Summer baby, this is one of my favourite seasons.  But how can we avoid Summer burnout?

You see, I’m also one of those people who gets ill on holiday.  Was the same when I was at school too.  Fine all year, then as soon as I have time off, it hits me.

Summer months tend to be busier, as we enjoy getting out and about more, and want to make the most of our downtime.

But it can mean working extra hard in the run up to those precious weeks of annual leave, so how can we avoid hitting the metaphorical wall, and enjoy more of the good bits of Summer?

Planning Is Everything

Sounds an obvious one, but if you usually leave all the household tasks and life admin to the weekends, changing up your routine can help free up your free time.  Can you use your lunch break or weeknights instead, to avoid the Sunday night panic of trying to find clean clothes after a busy weekend.

Don’t Set Yourself Unrealistic Ambitions

If the weekend or holiday itinerary looks jam packed, remember you don’t need to fit in all the things at once.  If you need some chillax time, factor that in.  Often it takes the first few days of a holiday to feel the tension leave our bodies, so try not to overwhelm yourself.

Time off is time off. Period.

Be as precious with your time off as you are with your to-do list.  If you’re planning to spend some time with your loved ones, give it your full attention.  There’s nothing worse than being there in person, when your head is somewhere else.  You won’t enjoy it, and people around you can pick up on that energy too.  Switch the phone off.  Block out the time in your calendar.  Be present.

If You Don’t Want To Go, Say No (…but thanks for the invite!)

Its lovely to spend time socialising and catching up with people,  but you don’t have to accept every invite.  If you’ve had more BBQs than early nights recently, then it’s ok to take a time out and recharge.  Burning the candle at both ends can leave you feeling grotty, fuzzy headed and low in motivation, not to mention the overindulging!  Enjoy the events that you do go to, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to attend everything, if its impacting day to day.

So there you go, some quick ideas of how to add more of the good in to the Summer and avoid burnout.

Enjoy the rest, I think we’ve all deserved it this year!

Photo credit :  Yoori Koo via Unsplash.com

How Happy Are We Really?

How happy are we really?  And, how happy are we meant to be?

There’s a lot of talk about finding our joy, or happiness, just now.  We’re told to look for the good in the every day.  We must seek it out, in case we forget what it looks like.  Or in case we forget how to find it.

Which in itself can just add even more pressure.  Am I happy enough?  Am I meant to be this ludicrously smiley person all the time, and never get upset, scared or lonely?  And if I’m not happy, will people think I’m miserable, and does that make me a bad person?

The truth is, none of us can be happy all the time.  Of course we can’t.  But that doesn’t mean we should put up with situations that are making us unhappy.  Nor should we feel that we’ve got to settle.

What’s happy for you, isn’t for me

And it’s also good to remember that what happiness looks like to me, will be different for you. Our happiness thresholds aren’t set in stone either, and what made us happy yesterday, can bring up very different emotions today. Because it’s all about context.

Some of the simplest pleasures in life can make us the happiest we’ve ever been.  Finding something that you thought was lost.  Mastering something for yourself without having to rely on anyone else.

Waking up next to someone gently snoozing on the pillow next to yours can either be one of the best feelings, or the loneliest, for example.  I’ve known both sides, with the same person.  Again, it depends on context.  There’s no one state or another that is the right fit for everyone. And what’s right for us today, may not be tomorrow.

And it’s not just the small things.  Even the biggest achievements or successes can leave us feeling deflated.  Years of effort and hard work, and yet we don’t feel any different or better for it.

Working towards something, assuming that it will bring us automatic happiness, is a sure way to cultivate more of the unhappiness.

But by being aware of what makes us truly happy – big thing or small – we can start to follow it, and seek it out.

We need to create our own definition of joy. No one can explain it to us, or tell us what we need to do.

So yes, go find your joy.  But do it just for you, no one else,

Photo credit:  Simon Maage via Unsplash.com

‘Find Your Spark After A Breakup’ Guide Out Now!

My latest downloadable guide called ‘Find Your Spark After A Breakup’ is now available in my online shop!

Following on from ‘The Weekend Project’, this e-book is designed for people who may be experiencing a transition or shift, and are looking to regain their confidence.

This guide is for you, if you recognise any of the following:

  • You are emerging from a difficult situation and need a boost to get yourself back into the world again
  • You’re feeling a bit stuck at the moment or are struggling to find your direction
  • You feel flat and uninspired, and are looking to find that spark and bring joy back into your life
  • You don’t have the time or money to spend on in depth coaching

What this guide is

Using tools and techniques based in cognitive behavioural therapy it walks you through the process of identifying where you are now, what’s important to you, what may be standing in your way, and how to create a plan for moving forward.

It is a 28 page pdf guide, packed with hints and tips.  You can work through the exercises at your own pace, and begin to build a more positive outlook…and regain your confidence too.

What this guide isn’t

I should say it isn’t a guide to dating or finding your ideal partner – it’s about helping you to get your life back on track, and setting your intentions for the future.

For more info, and to download your copy of ‘Find Your Spark After A Breakup’, head over to the online store here.

Am I Living My Best Life?

Living my best life.  It’s become the antithesis of having a good time, right?

That’s usually the sort of thing we say when we’re doing anything but living our best life.  Usually on a bad day. Or even worse, a mediocre one!

But are we at risk of standing in our own way sometimes?  When do we encourage ourselves to have the best that we can have, or are we always waiting for something else?

We’ve all been guilty of that at times. I’ll be happier when I’ve lost weight, got a new job, achieved x/y/z…

We put constraints or conditions on our happiness by thinking we need to ‘earn’ it.  We need to earn time off, we need to earn indulging in a little shopping spree.  How often do we leave our ‘best’ clothes in the wardrobe and wear the same old things.  Or wear out old boots until the sole is hanging off (especially guilty of that one!!).

I’m not going to go down the obvious line of ‘life’s too short’, but it really is.  It’s true.

What are we waiting for?

If we’re always waiting for something to be different before we allow ourselves a bit of happiness, we could be waiting a long time.

And what messages are we giving ourselves? I’m not worth it. I don’t deserve it.

If you can imagine the advice you’d give to a friend who was saying these things about themselves, what would you say? Buy the damn dress. Go on the damn date. Life’s too short?!

Thought so.  Go give yourself permission to live your best life too.

Photo credit:  Austin Schmid via Unsplash.com

What Makes You Happy?

Happy little boy laughing

When was the last time you were as happy as this little guy?  Like, TRULY happy?

Children have some obvious advantages over us stressed-out adults…

They can find the simplest things hilarious.  They haven’t got the fear of laughing at themselves (or us!).   And they have a brilliant ability to be completely in the moment, without worry about tomorrow, or next week, or ‘am I good enough?’

As we get older, we lose connection with the things that made us happy as children. Life takes over, and we see ‘play time’ as an indulgence. Something we probably only get to experience on our holidays. If we’re lucky.

Time to reconnect

But what if we could make more time to allow those things that brought us joy?

Is this something you intentionally plan for in your week? If I’m honest, I haven’t planned in fun stuff for a while.  It’s the once in a while, a luxury or a treat.

And mixing the ‘working from home/living at work’ scenario of the last year, mean that the kitchen table now probably looks more like an office, rather than a home for messy play.

Making time for joyous activities should be as much of a priority though.  It allows us to reconnect with ourselves and wind down our body and our mind.   It bolsters our connections with others when we participate in things together.  The act of carving out time itself for fun stuff, means that we see ourselves as important, and not just here to run the treadmill of necessary tasks.

Design Your Summer

If there’s one thing you could take away, think about what you want to remember about this Summer.  Do you want to remember get togethers, days out in the sun, or lounging with a good book?  Do you want to look back in the Autumn with fond memories of happy, sunny (or rainy!) days?

We get to design our lives how we want them, in general.  Yes, we have obligations and priorities.  But we all have free time. And how we choose to use it, is up to us.

Enjoy the sunshine whilst it’s here.  And create memories for when it goes.

Photo credit:  Ben White via Unsplash.com