On our journey to change our lives two things strike me as so very fundamental to achieving the outcomes we are looking for.
We are overwhelmed with change in our current style of life. If we look back on how the world was when we were children, the amount of change has been enormous. If we consider the styles of lives that our parents had we can see that the amount of change has been enormous.
Sometimes the change that get the most attention are the big changes. The new home - a big visible change. We lose sight of the fact that this big change was actually achieved through the implementation of many small - incremental - changes. The steps a person has gone through to be in a position to enjoy a new home have been many and varied. The one constant is taking incremental steps that ACCUMULATED to become the one big change that we see.
The second thing is - don't stop taking those incremental changes. If we stop taking those incremental steps that we don't achieve our goals. Taking these incremental actions also helps embed the change into our psyche. The change becomes a part of who we are so that when we achieve the outcome we don't let it slip away. It sticks because it is us.
I found an article in a newspaper a couple of days ago discussing the book "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. Written in 1937 it talkes about changing your mindset to achieve the outcomes thatyou seek. "Rich" can be defined in any way you like - it could be financially rich for some, it could also be rich with beautiful fulfilling relationships for others. But the book doesn't stop at just changing your mindset. In the detail is the necessity to continue to take action. To continue to make incremental changes towards that which you seek.
For me, it is the combination of the changing mindset AND taking action that rings true.
What did you do to change something in your life today?
Stop living in the past is a key theme in my life. We spend many hours a day ruminating over events that have happened. Something thoughtless said during a meeting at work. Something unkind said to a child while rushing to get out the door in the morning. But does thinking about it over and over changing anything?
Not so much. I used to wake up during the night in a sweat thinking about that unkind word that came out of my mouth during a stressful time during the day. I used to drive in a daze of rumination going over and over an event that I didn't handle well. That behaviour never helped me resolve my inner conflict, it left me feeling worse and worse about it.
Forgive others, grow from it, and then let it go. How beautifully simple. I forgive what others say when they say something careless that did hurt me but was clearly an outburst from the emotion of a stressful moment. I know it's not what they think of me or what they mean to say. I don't hold a grudge against them for days, weeks, years even. I forgive them and let it go. Sometimes I think about the situation and consider if I may have done something differently which may have reduced the stressful situation for all involved. I learnt how to learn from the experience. I commit to handle the situation differently next time, and then I let it go.
By spending my time ruminating about the past I am taking time from creating my future. I am not making the best use of my time. It makes incredibly good sense to extend my forgiveness to myself when I am the one who has made the mistake. For isn't it from our mistakes that we learn? To learn I must forgive myself. I must consider the situation, learn from the situation, commit to to better next time and move on.
So often I don't give myself this luxury. I punish myself by thinking about the situation and making myself feel bad about the situation over and over. I take my focus from my future and dwell in the past - achieving nothing.
I have found two reason why I do this which may be relevant for you.
Firstly, I have not been self aware enough to even realise that I am punishing myself about something - I don't realise that I need to forgive myself. This lack of self awareness doesn't relate to saying an unkind word to the child, it goes deeper than that. For example, my children are on their way to growing up, finishing school and moving away from home. I haven't been the best parent that I wanted to be. I have needed to learn so much about myself that I punish myself for not being there enough for them, or supporting them as well as I would have liked.
I have come to realise that actually, I AM the best possible mother that they could ever have. The greatest mistake would be to never have taken the time to learn the lessons in the first place, and now - as they begin to navigate an adult life - now they need my support and guidance as much as they did when they were younger. I forgive myself. Everything that happened was the right thing to happen for me to learn the lessons I needed to learn.
I forgive myself. It even feels good and freeing just writing it. These are the types of lessons and forgiveness's that can truly change your life and can open you up to great learning and lessons. This is what we need to teach our children.
Secondly, I didn't learn how to say sorry as a child. I have struggled to acknowledge my mistakes that have affected others because I'm just not good at saying sorry. Saying sorry - I believed - draws attention to my mistake. It makes me take responsibility for my mistake when it was easier to lay responsibility in front of someone else. But saying sorry has the completely opposite effect to what I thought. It doesn't make the person think badly of me - it allows the other person think well of me! It make me vulnerable and allows us both to learn from the mistake - and move on!
I say sorry as often as I can now. It seems to help in the process of drawing the lesson from the mistake, forgiving myself and moving on. I am learning how to be free of my rumination because the bond between the person and myself is intrinsically stronger. We achieve the thing so many of us seek - human connection.
Here for you,
What is Conscious Thought?
It's a tricky concept - are we not conscious when we are awake? Well, yes we are. But the concept here is to be aware of our thoughts - maybe mindful - of our thoughts. Learning to drive a car is a great analogy to explain what I mean here.
When we first learn to drive a car we have to focus very very carefully on all the actions that we need to be doing. Turning on the car, accelerating, gear changing, indicating, watching for other cars, pedestrians, road rules. There is so much to be aware of that we focus on this activity and nothing else.
As we become more confident and practiced the action of driving a car becomes quite automatic. We don't have to think about every single component anymore. I often find myself arriving at a destination and becoming aware that I have arrived and haven't really been aware of much along the way. I can't get in a car without putting on a seat belt. All these actions have become automatic and somewhat unconscious.
It is this automated approach to live that the concept of Conscious Thought is looking to focus on. In the automated patterns that we have developed along the way we may have inadvertently started to build patterns that aren't working for us anymore (if ever). We automatically come home and turn on the TV rather than having a cup of tea with our partner and giving them our attention. Or we don't stop to play with the kids, or go to the gym, or do some study, or talk to our family about our dreams.... You see how this can happen.
Recently I challenged myself to do a daily vlog for 30 days to increase my focus on conscious thought. You can listen to the series at my YouTube channel. Each vlog is usually less than 5 minutes. I discovered so many things about myself and my behaviours during the 30 days.
The biggest observation for me is that it is the accumulation of the small things that ultimately create the change. For me, a change theme is about connecting with friends and family, feeling connected, taking action to be connected. Making small changes each day - checking in with a friend by sms, arranging to meet for a coffee - taking the time to take these actions, all contribute to a bigger change around living a more connected life. During my 30 days I was more mindful of spending a little extra time each day to connect with friends. The little time made a big difference.
This weeks challenge
Your challenge for this week - spend more time every day being more conscious of your behaviours and thoughts. If you feel inspired please send me an email and let me know how this feels for you as you practice it.
You are awesome,
When I start a coaching relationship with a client we stocktake how they feel about the components of their life. One question is to understand how they feel about the relationships. I have noticed a tendency to answer that question in reference to either our romantic relationship (if we have one) or our relationship with family members, next we may consider friends.
Interestingly, when I ask if a relationship with self has been factored into the response often the response indicated that a) self hasn't been considered and b) relationship to self is not a comfortable topic. This rings very true for me also. Often we are influenced to feel that having a relationship with ourself is maybe a bit selfish, or even a bit weird - we need to put others first.
In fact, we are learning that our relationship with self is the most important one of them all. It all starts with self. If we are kind to self we can be kind to others. If we love self, we can love others. If we treat self well we can treat others well. If we look after self we can look after others.
So, we must look after self and we must have the most fantastic relationship of them all with self. The aeroplane safety message illustrates this for me – put on your own oxygen mask first, then look to help others. Without oxygen we will die and then we just can't help anyone else.
Caring for self comes in many forms. Our needs are as unique as we are. For me, it includes activities like my daily exercise and my morning meditation – even if it is only 10 minutes of meditation and a 15-minute dog walk. I allow myself the flexibility to reduce the time to the smallest amount I am far more likely to achieve that goal than miss it.
Also included in my self-care routine is seeing a naturopath regularly, catching up with my best friends, eating well, thinking supportive thoughts about myself and taking some time out of my weekly routine to just sit quietly and look at the sky.
I encourage you to think about the actions that you take each day, week or month to take care of yourself. Have a think about where changes may be helpful, test out a new strategy or improve the variety of activity. Do something different – a change is as good as a holiday!
However, you do it, give yourself permission to look after yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will be better able to spread that kindness everywhere you go.
Reduce melodrama - respond differently.
I experienced a technical hiccup with my digital business which kept me busy problem solving for three days. It became about the problem. I became angry and frustrated because I couldn't resolve the problem in the timeframe that I wanted. I made this into a big melodrama. I found people to blame, I found a way to make the problem someone else's and I could hold them responsible instead of holding myself responsible.
The impact of this approach is that I was focusing on the negative - I made it way bigger than it really was. This caused the negativity to impact more broadly throughout all my life. I find myself talking to friends and family about it. Talking about it helps me to hang on to the problem. And I find myself spending more and more time focusing on the problem and not very much time talking about how about how I am solving the problem - what are the steps I am taking, what's the approach to resolve, who am I asking for help.
Upon reflection - I have become addicted to melodrama. I tested my new theory about myself by listening to myself when I met with my girlfriends for our regular Friday night drink - one glass of wine only but that time with friends is priceless to me. I found that when I actively resolved to not speak about the problems I have been experiencing during the week I didn't have much to say!!
That's not good. I concluded that I have become addicted to melodrama and it is building the presence of melodrama in my life. I reflected on how others - say senior managers or politicians - are surviving their incredibly stressful days and I concluded that it is all about how they approach the situation. They approach the situation in a calm and considered fashion - just like it is a situation to be worked through, not like it's a big drama
I applied this new approach to my technical situation. For all three days I worked hard to contain my emotional response. Day 3 I took a whole day off from the problem. In reality, there are no life-changing consequences of the fix not being found for 24 hours. Day 4 I sat down with a good night sleep, a clear mind and a coffee. I worked my way through the problem again. I researched and found a new source of knowledge. Before that source of knowledge had time to suggest a fix I stumbled across the fix myself.
I now apply this approach (sure, I'm practicing always) but I apply it as often as possible and over time the sense of melodrama in my life is reducing and calmness and achievement is growing and growing.
Contain melodrama - choose to not respond that way.
Have a calm day,