Where Is Fear Leading You?

Do you feel that you are being led, rather than leading?

If so, this could be an indication that fear is running the show.

Sometimes we’re aware of it, but often we’re not.  There are so many fears that can impact on how we feel, without us knowing.

Fear of failure, fear of getting it wrong, fear of looking silly or incompetent. These are all quite common.

But so is a fear of being stuck, a fear of not reaching our potential or getting left behind.

Fear in that sense can be helpful. Because it highlights what will happen if we don’t act.  In other words, we’ll stay exactly where we are.  And that can be the scariest thought of all.

Fear is there to teach us something

So don’t be scared of fear.  Fear can be good.  Use it to motivate and move yourself.  Use it to make positive changes towards the life you want. Not the life you feel stuck in.

As Susan Jeffers famously wrote, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

 

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Don’t allow self doubt to hold you back

One of the most common, but unhelpful, thinking patterns is self doubt.

When things go wrong, or don’t go to plan, it is so easy for us to look within ourselves as the first point of blame.

Once we get stuck in that cycle, it can be harmful and upsetting.  And we can become fearful of putting ourselves out there again.

If you recognise that self blame is something that you notice in your own thought patterns, try asking some reflective questions:

Is what’s happened within my control?

What did I do, or not do, that affected this outcome?

What could I do differently next time?

Do I need some help or practice in order for me to do that?

Learn to coach yourself

Any good coach would take you through this process of reflective learning, in order to help you grow and develop.

By being able to practice this kind of reflection on yourself, you can take back control over how you react, and how you will act in future.

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Great expectations

It’s great to have an active and positive imagination. But at times, we can also be our own worst enemy.

We build up ideas and expectations of how things should be. Either from putting unrealistic pressure on ourselves, or by judging our abilities in comparison to someone else.

If we’re planning to make changes or work towards a goal, we need to make sure that what we’re reaching for is achievable for us, given the time, resources and ability that we have available.

Setting ourselves up to fail

One of the biggest ways we sabotage ourselves is by having unrealistic or unachievable targets. And so it’s no wonder we feel disheartened. And then we can start looking for faults within ourselves to blame when things aren’t going to plan.

That’s why it is much easier to set small incremental goals – so that we can adjust and adapt accordingly. If we set out to do too much too soon, or set ourselves deadlines or end goals that are not going to happen, then we risk giving up altogether.

Also, being honest with ourselves and our current ability can help. If we’re trying to learn something new, or overcome a habit that has become stuck, then it will take work. And we will get things wrong.

So before you start something, get really clear on your expectations. Yes, set yourself challenges or look to stretch yourself, but be fair. There are enough people in the world who want to see us fail…don’t let yourself be one of them.

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What are you thinking?

How often do you think about your thoughts?

It probably isn’t something we think about very often, is it? If anything, we’re probably too busy trying to work out what someone else is thinking, rather than ourselves.

So, I have a really simple exercise for you this week.

Set yourself a timer for the same time every day this week, where you know you can take a few minutes out of your day to ask yourself this question. “What are you thinking?”

You don’t have to spend a long time on it, but just get a general feel of what takes up space in your head as you go about your day. If you can, write down a few notes or record a voice note for yourself.

The things that come up might feel surprising or informative. You might be particularly stressed about something you’re doing at that moment, or you could be pleased and excited, thinking about something good. You might be running over a list of things to do, or worrying about something. Your mind might be peace and at rest.

By keeping a daily track like this, it might give you some interesting insight into the things that go through your mind. And if there is a similar theme cropping up, that can be really helpful too.

We often have a narrative running through our heads, and this can often be negative. “Why did I do that?”. “I bet they think I’m useless”. “I always get things wrong”. Recognise any of these? We’ve all been guilty of this self criticism at times.

But when this narrative is playing on repeat, it can have a really harmful effect on how we feel and how we behave. We might stop putting ourselves forward for things, or we become more withdrawn, out of fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, for example.

The sooner we’re able to identify some of the more negative or unhelpful thought patterns, the easier it is to challenge and change them.

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The downside of reaching up

An image of someone writing at a desk

January has been a busy month, as I’m preparing to start a new Post Grad course soon.  I love learning and am excited to be moving on to a new chapter,  but getting ready for it has taken priority in the last few weeks.  Which also means that my usual routines have gone astray recently,  and this got me thinking.  How do we deal with the downside of reaching up?

In an ideal world, we’d be able to do all the things in ample time. But in reality, juggling work and family commitments leaves us with little spare time as it is.  So when we add in another big project, whether it’s studying or working on another personal goal, somethings gotta give.

And for me recently, it’s been the time I would usually spend on myself, whether it’s exercise or meal planning or self care.  The things that can be put off in other words.  But until we stop doing them,  we don’t realise how important they are.

And another thing we don’t factor in is the sense of frustration and confusion we feel at not being able to get everything done. (Or done as well as I would have liked, should I say).

When did we start putting so much pressure on ourselves?

We all know that we can’t do everything all the time, and we know that we “have to be a bit kinder to ourselves”.  This is exactly what we’d say if we were talking to a friend. But doesn’t that make you want to throw up when you’re saying it to yourself?!

Its often much more difficult to take our own advice, for sure.

But this is where the change happens.  When we push through or make changes.  When we notice the pressure and actually do something about it, rather than let it go on until something gives.  Usually it’s us, falling into a heap or quitting.

So if you’re struggling to find that balance, stick with it. And know that this is part of the process.  It isn’t the just the end point that matters, it also matters how we got there. And stayed (hopefully) sane and resilient.

We can do hard things friends, and we can do them whilst being kind to ourselves too!

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Busting the Blue Monday myth

Cute dog with a sad face

Apparently tomorrow is ‘Blue Monday’.  A phrase coined to describe the midpoint in January where we should all be feeling a bit meh.  Like we’re given permission to feel like crap.  Gee thanks.

However, the factors involved in this descriptor are based around some pretty innocuous things such as;

“It’s Monday, and everyone hates Mondays”.  Not entirely true. If you woke up next to the love of your life who brought you tea and almond croissant in bed,  then your Monday could be starting pretty well.

”It’s cold and dark and ruddy freezing”.   Yeah, it’s Winter. Not everyone hates it. And we get through several more miserable weather Mondays in December, or February.

”It’s ages until payday”.  We reach a midpoint of every month, so we should be used to the length of time between paychecks by now. Of course, we all have times where our finances have been stretched a bit too far,  but generally we know how much we have coming in and how much needs to go out, and we can plan from there.

In other words, there are a stream of reasons given as to why people should dread this time of year.  But when we look at those reasons and start to question how true they are, we may actually find that those same excuses could be used at other times, rather than pinpointing why one particular day is so special.

Isn’t this also true when we’re trying to look for reasons not to do something, or thinking of ways that something won’t work.  In other words, if you look for a reason to be blue, then you’re likely to find one.  But that doesn’t make it true.

And sometimes it’s easier to give off an excuse, rather than look at our own shortcomings.  Because that might involve some work.  Or we might find that actually we could be productive or successful at something, but right now we’re just too lazy or unmotivated to try.  Ouch, right?

So next time you notice that your thoughts or language are veering towards doom and gloom, ask yourself ‘how true is this really?’.  And if those thoughts are stemming from the noise that surrounds you, consider whether you want to listen to it.

Be brave enough to ask yourself the uncomfortable questions.  And certainly don’t allow other people to dull your mood, life’s challenging enough!

However your Monday turns out…just don’t call it blue.

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What Will Light Your Spark This Year?

A close up image of a lit sparkler

What will light your spark this year?

You may still be working your way through the remnants of the Christmas chocs, and haven’t got a clue what you want this year to hold.  Often we don’t.

We might have vague plans or ideas of what we want to do (or need to do!).  And that’s absolutely fine. Give yourself a break if you have got everything mapped out.

One idea I really like is the yearly list that writer Gretchen Rubin advocates.  The plan is that you write a list of 22 things for 2022.  This can be as big or as little as you want, and it can be a mixture of really important ‘must dos’ and fun things too.

The little niggly tasks that you need to get round to, or appointments that you’ve been putting off.  Specific events that you want to attend. Books you want to read. Places you want to visit. Experiences you want to have.

It like a mini bucket list, with some accountability thrown in.   It can be a good place to start if we want to get more organised.  You might want to add a month or year next to each item.  Or get specific things booked in your diary now.

And if you’re struggling with getting motivated, try a couple of the fun ones first and feel the flutter of achievement as you tick them off as done.  Or book something fun in after you’ve completed one of the more challenging ones (love a bit of habit stacking!).

Whatever you choose, I hope that this year sparks more creativity and fun in your days.

Photo by Wout Vanacker on Unsplash

 

 

How To Have A Happier New Year

An image of a calendar page for the month of January

Firstly, Happy New Year to you all!  It’s that time when we sincerely wish each other all the best for the coming 12 months.  And you may be feeling some trepidation about what’s in store, after the last two years.

Here are some ideas of how to have a happier new year.

Firstly, take stock of how the last twelve months have been for you.  For lots of us, 2021 was another challenging year and the thought of turning the calendar page may be welcome.

But if we’re feeling uncertain or anxious about the future, it can be helpful to give a few moments thought to remind ourselves what we’ve gone through.

Secondly, be patient with where you are right now.  New Year is traditionally a time for resolutions and goals, but if you’re feeling depleted and exhausted, then this isn’t the time to make any life changing decisions or set yourself huge challenges.

If you know that there are some changes you want to make in the coming year, start to think about what that might look like.  Why are you wanting to make those changes? How do you want to feel? Focussing on the general ‘big picture’ can help to clarify our goals.  For example, if you’re feeling really frustrated and stuck at work, do you need a new challenge or project rather than making a career change.  Or could you investigate starting a potentially profitable hobby or side hustle whilst you’re still working, to test out how your idea of being your own boss would feel.

Starting small is a good way to go at this time of year.  It’s a lot less pressure than going all-out on something, and you’ll still be making progress.

Likewise if you want to make some lifestyle changes, such as exercising more or eating healthier.  Start by making small incremental changes each week, commit to doing 15mins exercise a day for example, so that you get in the habit of working out at a certain time and then increase it gradually.

It’s estimated that up to 80% of New Years resolutions fail, and that is mainly due by people trying to do too much too soon, and becoming despondent when they can stick to the strict routine or cut things out too quickly.

Taking some time during January to get really clear on how you want to feel by 31st December this year, can help to cement that vision and give you the motivation to get started. And keep going.

Be good to yourself this year, there are still 11 months left to fulfil those New Year wishes!

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Ready to get cosy?

Who’s ready to get all cosy?!! Except, there’s a million things to do first….

If this sounds familiar, then hopefully these tips will help you to create a little more comfort and joy in the run-up to the festive season.

Plan a festive bucket list.  Before the calendar gets too busy, have a think about the experiences that you want to have this year, and what memories you want to make.  It could involve taking in a Christmas market, or festive afternoon tea with friends.  Or a special date night somewhere cosy, or where you can get glammed up.  Plan the date in the diary with those involved so that you have something lovely to look forward to. 

Don’t feel you need to say yes to every invitation.   We are still all getting used to socialising again, and perhaps some of us are still cautious about gatherings, so plan your diary carefully.  If there is an event coming up that fills you with dread rather than excitement, consider whether you really want to go.   There are often events that we feel obliged to go to, particularly around work or with family/in-laws, but if you know it’s going to be particularly stressful or difficult, make a polite excuse and take some time for yourself instead.  

Use the quiet times wisely.   You might want to make a head start on some planning, before things get really busy.  Start your wrapping early. Write shopping lists for food and/or presents, or start buying a few bits to get ahead.  Doing little and often will buy you a bit of extra time and avoid any last minute panic.

Take care of yourself.   Try and get into a good routine now with healthy meals, plenty of water and regular exercise.  Sounds obvious, but taking care of yourself can help to boost your immune system and reduce the risk of feeling run down, or picking up a cold or bug.   I’m a big fan of homemade soup, and usually make a big pot which lasts a few days – it’s also a great way to get some extra veggies in too. 

Do something the ‘future you’ will thank you for.  If you know that you have a particularly busy week coming up, or maybe you’ll be working right up, or over Christmas, book in some self-care now.  Block out some time in your calendar that you’ll commit to keeping free, or book an appointment for some pampering.  Often we forget to do things for ourselves at this busy time of year, so planning something for yourself now will make future you very happy.

Start daydreaming for 2022.  It’s probably not the time for a big goal-setting session with everything else that you’ll have going on, but you might want to start thinking about what you want the next year to hold.  Holiday, new job, fitness goal?  Starting to imagine what you want to achieve is the first step in making dreams a reality, so allow yourself a few minutes to daydream.

Photo credit: Dan Gold via Unsplash.com

Add Yourself To Your Gift List!

How’s the Christmas shopping going?  And did you remember to put the most important person on the list?

That would be you!

It’s unlikely that many of us do add our own name to the present list, but this can be a really good time of year to remember a very important lesson.  That we need to invest in ourselves too.

I bet you’ve put a lot of thought into what gift to buy your nearest and dearest. Whether it’s something useful, extravagant or just plain heartfelt, we want to show our love and appreciation to those who mean a lot to us.  And it’s only right that we should show ourselves that same consideration too.

Investing in ourselves doesn’t mean splashing out on something lavish.  It can be as simple as buying something that will add value to our life, or booking in for some self care, or learning, or fun.   Spending money on a training course might seem unnecessary if you’re lacking in excess funds, but if it helps you to progress in your career or start a new venture, then looking on it as a long term investment makes sense.

Sometimes we feel stuck in a situation or are unhappy with something, which could be improved by investing some extra time or attention to.  So it doesn’t have to be about spending money, either.

And if we’re feeling low in confidence, wearing old clothes that make us feel drab, or living in an environment surrounded by things that have seen better days, can lower our mood too.

So when you’re spending out on other people this year, ask yourself what gift would truly light you up this year?  And if it isn’t under the tree at Christmas, you have permission to invest in yourself instead.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash