5 Tips for When Sh*t Happens

I have said it before and will probably say it again,

Sh*t happens!

Life will always throw “slings and arrows” at us yet we can deal with them rather than let life dictate to us.

In my own life, this week, the place I work is now scheduled to close, so I will have to find a new employment soon (unfortunately blog writing does not pay the bills!). It is something completely out of my control and something that I, and those I work with, will have to deal with over the coming months.

It is not just employment that can cause sudden change, our health could suddenly change forcing unwelcome change in the way we live, change can be forced on us by others close to us for any number of reasons and just the world in general can impose on our lives in ways that force us to do things differently.

There are, however, a few ways we can come out on top rather than let the world drag us down.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1) OWN IT

Us humans are fickle creatures, we do not like change. More precisely we do not like change that is forced on us.

If though, the change is our choice, we are always much more enthusiastic about it.

So, if circumstances in your life change beyond your immediate control, embrace the opportunity and take ownership of the change you can control. Why waste your time, energy and sanity worrying about things you have no control over? It is far better to  focus  on the things you can control.

As I am writing this the London Marathon is happening and you can see many of the wheelchair athletes and individual runners who have had to face life changing challenges yet still have found ways to succeed in completing the 26-mile course. We should all be inspired by the way they have grasped their futures despite what life has thrown at them.

2) WALLOW IN SUCCESS

It is very easy, when sh*t happens, to wallow in negativity, “why do these things happen to me” “there is nothing I can do” “things can’t possibly get better” etc.

Yet throughout our lives there are ups and downs.

Take some time to think about those “ups” in the past, the times when you did somethings you felt really proud of, the times when you achieved something that you had worked hard for, the times when you felt fantastic.

Write all those goods things down so if you feel the weight of what is happening pressing down you can fight back with those positive things you know you are capable off.

3) FORGE YOUR PATH

Having reflected on the successes and achievements you have an excellent base to start planning where you go next. Your future is always in your own hands so it pays to plan the way forward, especially when you have been forced to change from the path you thought you were on!

Start by having a bit of a brainstorming session. Write down everything you want, it does not matter how outlandish or impossible they may seem, it is about stretching your mind to explore possibilities and, what may seem outlandish or impossible right now, may, in years to come, become achievable eventually.

How many of those “ups” you wrote down would you like to do again or pursue further?

Once you have done that, sort the list in the order of which are the easier things to do to the hardest.

Begin to build ideas about where you want to go in your life and develop goals that are about you.

4) TAKE ACTION

What was the easiest thing to do on your list?

DO IT

Maybe it is writing/updating your C.V.. searching out courses to further your education, or seeking out ways to improve your health and fitness. Whatever it is, make the effort.

That aside, it is about taking control when faced with dealing circumstances beyond your control. I am sure we can all think of times when we allowed circumstances to take control of our lives, as we were thrown around by waves of change feeling completely at the mercy of others and the world around us. We soon become lost, which in turn, affects our mental well-being.

By taking action we stop that, we start to focus on the direction we want to go. Our energies are used positively, and for ourselves rather than battling against the sea of change.

5) IT’S GOOD TO TALK

While these tips have focussed on how we react and what we do with our own lives, we do not live in isolation. Others may be in the same situation and we, hopefully, have others around us who will provide support, if we let them know we need it.

Sharing our hopes and plans for the future will help our focus and also provide a chance for us to hear what others think. Their views can give our own ideas more shape.

Talk to those who you know will be supportive and, if the same circumstances, who you know you can support. Just be a little wary because we humans can easily descend into negativity when chatting, so always keep it positive.

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Sh*t happens all the time, much of the time it is beyond our control.

But rather than let it drag us down and drift aimlessly hoping that something good will happen we can take control, be positive and make the good things happen.

It may not always be an easy or straight forward path but when we take charge of our lives it gives us a sense of power and enhances our ability to ultimately succeed.

You Can Overcome Your Obstacles

Imagine that you are on a journey and the route to your destination is blocked by a huge, intimidating brick wall.

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Photo by ShonEjai on Pexels.com

What do you do?

You could go and get yourself a ladder or some climbing equipment and clamber over the wall. You could get a shovel and dig a tunnel under the wall. You could take a diversion and walk around the wall. You could, perhaps, get a sledgehammer and bash a hole through the wall.

The point is there are many different solutions to the problem.

Unfortunately, when faced with real life obstacles, we are often stuck in our ways and we constantly repeat the same actions over and over again even though those actions don’t actually help us overcome the problem.

It is like constantly hitting our heads against that brick wall in the hope in gives way before our head does!

Sometimes (as the headache gets worse!) rational thought disappears and we start to hate the wall, we blame the wall for getting in our way. We curse the builder of the wall, without thinking that, perhaps, there was a reason for the wall being put there in the first place. No, we think, the builder deliberately put the wall there to thwart our journey, it is a blatant attack to stop us moving onward with our lives.

Our righteous indignation makes us more determined to keep hitting our head against the wall because we believe the harder our head hits, the more likely we are to succeed!

The reality, though, is we start feeling worse. In the real world that frustration turns to despair, and has a serious impact on our mental health. The more we pointlessly hit the wall, the more our self-confidence and self-belief becomes eroded and we end up just slumped against the wall, unable to move in any direction.

To avoid this happening to us we need to develop flexibility in our thinking.

If you come up against an obstacle and your initial way to overcome it fails, step back quickly, before that righteous indignation sets in and think of the alternative ways that you could use to move forward.

Take time to think of different actions, and the possible consequences of those actions. Weigh up all the possibilities before picking the best alternatives for you.

If we go back to our imaginary wall, climbing over the top may not be the best option if you are afraid of heights, tunnelling underneath may not be the best option if you get claustrophobic, and hitting the wall with a sledgehammer may just bring the whole thing down on the top of your head!

It is about finding the solutions that work for you.

YOU being the most important aspect of achieving your success.

We cannot dwell on what others may or may not have done to deliberately thwart us. We cannot dwell on how others may or may not have caused our dilemma. We cannot dwell on what others may or may not have against us.

We can only focus on what we need to do to move on toward what we want in life.

That is best achieved by reflecting on our own actions, beliefs and strengths.

You could, perhaps, take time to consider why the wall is there in the first place. Imagine getting a chisel and removing just one brick and peeking through to the other side. The could be nothing but the road onwards but maybe there is a huge chasm in the road or a sabre-toothed beast prowling and the wall has been put there to protect travellers on that path!

Stepping back to consider overcoming obstacles requires deliberate, rational thought but that does not mean we need to be completely sensible!

Perhaps we could imagine building a giant catapult and throwing ourselves over our wall! Perhaps we could take a bit of time out of our journey and decorate the wall (I am not advocating becoming a graffiti artist though!).

Engaging our creativity and imagination can often lead to new, different and exciting ideas. History is full of stories where things we take for granted today were created by accident, where people tried to do one thing but realised, they had come up with something else.

The story of the post-it notes says the inventor was actually trying to develop a strong adhesive but failed, luckily, they had the ability to realise the weak solution had a use.

Viagra was initially a failed heat drug, it was the reported side-effects that led scientists to realising they had stumbled on to something else that could be developed, they could easily have just dismissed the trials as a failure.

Creative, imaginative thinking can lead us on new paths which allows us to avoid the wall altogether.

It is not the walls in our lives that are the obstacles, it is our reaction to them. By developing better flexible and creative thinking the walls will come down or simply become irrelevant.

Flex your thinking muscles and the paths onward will soon materialise.

Find Your Motivational Motive

If there is a goal you want to pursue or something you want to change in your life to improve it, once you have narrowed down the specifics, the next important thing is to think about the reason you want to do it.

This is because if you want to succeed you need a strong reason to succeed.

As strong reason helps you leap the inevitable hurdles’ we all face in life. Where as a weak reason will make failure the much likelier outcome.

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Imagine you have your goal in mind and the reason you are doing it because “everyone else is doing it” or “I’ve heard it’s a good thing” or “Her on the telly said everyone should do it”. Then, a few weeks down the line this are not going to plan, you are much more likely to give up and you mind will justify you giving up, “everyone else doing this is mad,” or “I must have heard it wrong” or “Her on the telly doesn’t know what she is talking about”!

We humans are creatures of routine and habit and it is often easier for us to fall back into familiar routines rather than make the effort, both physical and mental, to pursue change and difference in our lives. Perhaps you can think of a time you or someone you know has started a programme of change, probably it started off well but then faded away as old habits and routines returned.

Very often this is because we start off with good intentions, unfortunately though, good intentions on their own do not gives us the push to go beyond the initial steps. They do not get us past that difficult patch where relapsing into the familiar is such an easy thing to do.

A strong motive for succeeding can push us through that almost inevitable stage because that reason pulls us toward success.

A strong reason starts with you as an individual. What is it that YOU want to achieve from your goal or life change? Trying to do something because someone else wants you to do it or because it is the socially popular thing to do has inherent problems because your unconscious knows that what you are doing is not actually what you want therefore there is always a degree of resistance. It may be okay for small, less significant things in your life but for longer term, more substantial change It has to be for a reason YOU have.

By using YOU as your starting point you can develop your motive and, therefore, the motivation to get you started and keep you going.

Picture yourself having achieved your goal or life change. What are the benefits in your life you picture then, what are rewards you get from that success?

Remember it is all individual, it could be you want to be healthier, for example, the rewards then could include such things as being able to enjoy time with grandchildren without getting so tired, or being healthier could prepare you for embarking on a bigger challenge such as marathon running, or being healthier could allow you to lead a better lifestyle. Perhaps you want to learn or develop a skill, it could be that it earns you more money, it could be it allows you to change jobs or it could even be that you gain that sense of personal achievement which raises your self-esteem.

Before you start on any significant change in your life, take some time to think and reflect about why you need that change, list the rewards and benefits that change will bring you. Yet there is a need to be totally honest with yourself, list the things that the change could impact negatively on your current life e.g.- taking up a new hobby could take time and money away from other areas of your life.

Then, assuming the benefits out weigh the negatives, you can see the overall benefits to you can add and the greater rewards these benefits will bring to your life.  You build your reason for succeeding and, as you fix those reasons in your mind, any time you begin to doubt your success you have the motive and motivation to carry on.

You can succeed, and you strong motive for that success will help carry you along the path to that life you truly want.

 

Problematic Personalised Truths

As promised, more on Personalised Truths, those pesky, sometimes damaging, ideas we have about ourselves that we believe to be true even when there is absolutely no evidence that they are actually true!

These ideas may have been created by us or they may have been put in our heads by others, but whichever route, it is because we believe them to be true they become a part of our unconscious thinking and, therefore, impact on our feelings and actions.

If you think about a time when you have met someone whose life or behaviour you really could not understand, for example someone obsessed with changing how they look through excessive dieting, excessive exercise or excessive plastic surgery or maybe someone with an addiction which is obviously detrimental to their well-being yet the continue to do it or, perhaps, someone whose lifestyle involves risky behaviour. Behind all such behaviours a personalised truth can be found.

There are two types of personalised truths that burrow their way into out psyche, those that we believe about ourselves and those we use to justify things that affect our lives.

The first, what we believe about ourselves, are those ideas about our bodies, our intelligence, our capabilities etc. for example “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure”. Naturally these truths are not always negative, some people are perhaps too positive and over confident and many of our thoughts are quite balanced. Yet where we have a negative belief about ourselves it can far outweigh any of those balanced ones.

Especially where those personalised truths can never really be true in the first place!

Take, for example, “I’m ugly”. Ugliness and beauty a wholly open to interpretation, ideas of beauty depend on individual taste and, on a wider scale, ideas of beauty vary from culture to culture and vary over time. Would Titian’s 16th Century vision of Venus, goddess of love, beauty and desire, make it to the front cover of a glossy fashion magazine today?

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Another aspect of problematic personalised truths is that we will ignore any evidence that contradicts them, the person who believes “I’m always unlucky” will dismiss any good fortune that happens to them or believe that a small piece of luck will be balanced by greater bad luck! A person who believes “I am a failure” will dismiss successes as mere flukes and believe that any praise they receive is just other people trying to be nice!

The other type of personalised truths are those we believe justify our actions. At a simplistic level remember those times when you have bought something you really didn’t need but justified the purchase by saying to yourself something like “I had to buy it because it was half price” or “I had to buy it because I haven’t got one that colour”!

On a more complex and problematic level people will justify staying in toxic relationships because they believe “it’s my fault” or “things will change soon”. Or people will justify addictions such as gambling with beliefs like “it is the only way I can become rich” or “my luck will change soon”.

The real challenge with uncovering and resolving problematic personalised truths is identifying them in the first place, they operate at an unconscious level and influence our behaviour automatically. If we spend a bit of time thinking about our behaviour at the end of the day we can begin to unravel those personalised truths that hold us back. Alternatively, if we are brave enough, we can asked friends and family what it is they least understand about the way we behave, that will give us a good route to uncovering those underlying beliefs.

Once we have identified them we can begin to really question them. What evidence is there that they are true? What evidence proves them untrue? We need to be fully critical here as we will, if not, just dismiss that contrary evidence. We need to engage with the process logically and rationally so that we can begin to believe those personalised truths are, in fact, untrue.

It is not an easy process but one we need to undertake as it will improve our lives and our well-being as we move forward to success and happiness in life.

Flex Those Motivational Muscles

What is your motivation for change?
We may dream of changing our lives but unless we have the motivation to make that change it will remain just a dream. To help us find that boost which gets us to our goal it is useful to understand what actually motivates us.
On a basic level there are two motivators, “away from” and “toward”, sometimes known as pain and pleasure or the carrot and the stick etc.


The “away from” motivation comes from our desire to leave or get rid of something. For example, we might want to lose weight to escape a negative body image, join the gym to escape health problems or join a group to escape loneliness. It is not just goal is our life that the “away from” motivator works, it is there at a basic level. We eat to get rid of hunger and we run away when we sense danger. The “away from” motivator is a part of our fight or flight response.
On the flip side the “toward” motivator takes us toward pleasure and success, again it works at a base level, those times we eat, not because we are hungry but because we are seeking the pleasure of eating something that ignites our pleasure hormones. The “toward” motivator is about adding something to our lives, making ourselves feel better, losing weight because you have an event where you want to impress, joining the gym for the buzz the feel of exercise gives you, joining a group because you want to expand you existing network etc.
Both forms of motivation are equally legitimate yet both can sometimes lack something in getting the change we want.
When the motivation to achieve something is “away from” we can have that initial push to get us going but once we a sufficiently far away from what it was we wanted to escape our momentum can falter. Think of it like using your feet to push you off in a swimming pool, the push itself will only get you so far, without any other action you will just be stuck mid-water.
With “toward” motivation we may gain momentum as we close in on our goal but it is getting started in the first place that may be the issue. Imagine you want to drive somewhere where you can really enjoy yourself, you won’t get there though until you turn the key in the ignition and spark the engine into life.
The real key is to use both methods in order to succeed, push and pull to get you where you ultimately want to be.
Start by thinking about what it is you want to change in your life and why you want to achieve that change. Is your primary motivation “away from” or “toward”?
Be honest with yourself. We can sometimes fail to recognise our true motives, hiding them behind things we prefer to believe.
Once you have figured out what it is that is motivating you move to the other end of the goal and find some motivating factor there too.
So if your initial motivation is “away from” think about what achieving you goal will gain you, what is waiting for you when you get to the finish line, what will success bring you. Say you want to join a group, evening class or such because you feel an element of loneliness in your life, you know your “away from” but what is your “toward”. Imagine the possibilities developing that new skill or knowledge will bring, the focus on the one possibility that really ignites your imagination.
If, on the other hand, your primary motivation is a “toward” one, what is it that is going to ignite that engine and get you moving. Perhaps, you want to be a great dancer, writer or something similar but what will that move you away from? If you are looking to achieve success it does, to a certain degree, mean you are feeling unsuccessful now so use that as you push forward.
Some things automatically lend themselves to having a push and a pull but others we need to dig deep to find the other end of the line that we will be travelling. By finding our “away from” and “toward” motivation we double our chances in succeeding in achieving change and success.
So flex those motivational muscles and head confidently toward your success.

Putting Off Procrastination

Procrastination: The action of delaying or postponing something.
In other words deliberately avoiding doing something. We all do it, we put off doing certain things for a variety of reasons yet, often, doing this ends up creating more problems than it solves. So we have to learn to first recognise procrastination and then take action to overcome it and move on with our lives.
The first thing to understand is that while we put off doing things deliberately, that does not necessarily mean we are doing it consciously. Our minds are very good at twisting the facts sometimes and while, on one level we are deliberately avoiding doing something, we are telling ourselves that we are not doing it for a variety of other reasons. Reasons that try to convince ourselves that whatever it is we are putting off is not our fault and we are not doing it deliberately.
“I haven’t had the time.” “Life is too busy at the moment.” “I have more important things to do at the moment.” Etc.
So whatever reason it is you are giving yourself for not getting on with your goal in life, or not making that change in your life or even just not mowing the lawn, it is probably not the true underlying reason.


One reason for procrastination is a lack of self-confidence or self-belief. We don’t think we will be able to do that thing either at all or particularly well. For example we may believe we lack the will power to diet or we may believe we are just to unfit to start exercise. Perhaps we believe we are just not clever enough to learn something new. In all such cases where we are not confident to get started try falling back on the old saying “you never know until you try”.
If you are putting off doing something because you lack confidence or belief in yourself, start in a small way. Build your confidence and belief gradually. If you want to diet start by cutting out one thing at a time, if you want to get fitter start by walking before you run, if you want to learn something new start by reading a book about the subject before signing up for a course.
Another reason for procrastinating is that we are not fully engaged with the thing that needs doing. We have all had times when we know we should be doing something but we just can’t get ourselves enthusiastic enough to undertake the task. Again we all know we should be fitter and healthier but it can all seem like to much bother to make the effort.
If you are feeling like this, take the time to write out the pros and cons of whatever it is you’re putting off. For example getting fitter, pro: being healthy con: being unhealthy (obviously there’s a lot more you could write). Doing this will help build that much needed motivation to start that thing you know you need to do.
We can, sometimes, be guilty of putting things off simply because we are not interested enough in the task. If this is the case we need to revisit why we are thinking about doing it in the first place. It may be social pressure – everyone else is doing so we suppose we should. It may be a relationship thing where your significant other feels something should be done but you feel less enthusiastic – in such cases remember everyone has a different way of looking at things in life so just because you don’t think something is important it does not mean your partner has the same view.
Obviously not everything we put off is procrastination, sometimes life really does get in the way. Prioritising should not be confused with procrastination.
Sometimes our mental health is such that we find things hard to get started. Where this happens we can make ourselves feel worse as we begin to feel guilty that we are not getting things done. Try to recognise when you are feeling stressed or depressed and try not to put yourself under too much pressure to get things down (easier said than done I know).
There are many reasons for procrastinating, to many to list in a short blog, but the basic thing is to recognise that you are putting off doing something, to acknowledge the real reason that you are not doing and to address that reason fully so that you can get on and move forward.

The Delights and Dangers of What If

What If….
A small phrase but a powerful one. It can catapult us upwards to great heights of achievement or it can plunge us downwards into the dark depths of despair. It just depends on where we use it in our thoughts.
Our ‘what ifs’ can be located in the past, present or future.
If we use it in our thoughts of the past then it becomes a dangerous thing, especially in mid-life because when we use ‘what ifs’ in reflections of our past we are trying to change something that can’t be changed.
It would be a very unusual thing to reach mid-life without collecting a few regrets on the way and, as we reach a point where we are likely to reflect on our lives, it could be easy to add ‘what if’s’ into those thoughts. When you do that, it can lead to a chain of thought that impacts on you in the present.
Regrets in life are inevitable but they are the result of learning something new after the event. At the actual time you made the decision, or whatever it is you regret, you made the best choice for yourself with the information you had at that time. Regrets are important, they help us learn and make better choices in the future but when we focus on them and add in the what if’s. “What if I hadn’t have done it.” “What if I hadn’t said that.”, etc. we are starting to wish our lives had been different in the past, we can easily begin to resent what we have in the present.

The past can’t be changed (I can hear some clever soul saying “but what if it could”!), we can reflect on the past, we can learn from the past, we can use the past to influence our present and our future but we can’t change it. By imagining that we are simply damaging our present because we are focusing on regrets rather than what we can do to improve our lives for the future.
On the flip side ‘What Ifs’ in thoughts of the present or future will move us forwards. Not necessarily in a good way, there can be negative thoughts as well as positive ones, but they will drive our actions and deeds.
‘What Ifs’ have a tendency to spiral. So if we are in a negative frame of mind and we begin to speculate on ‘what ifs’ it can move us further into that negative mindset.
When that happens it can be difficult to break the cycle. It is all very well others saying “think positive thoughts” or telling us to “snap out of it” but it takes more than that. How we escape that cycle is a very individual thing but, a common thread you may recognise in these posts, the more aware we are of ourselves the better we can deal with these things. Once we recognise we are in a negative ‘what if’ cycle the easier it is to break free from it.
If we apply ‘what ifs’ to positive thoughts we can lift ourselves and our lives to new heights. Stretching our imagination positively leads us towards what we really want from life. Again these ‘what ifs’ tend to spiral, we need to be a little careful because we can just get caught in daydreaming mode. We need to ensure we have that positive mindset and ensure we take positive action to implement those ‘what ifs’.

A simple example, I want this blog to be a success and people to benefit from it. For that to happen I need plenty of people to read it. “What if,” I think, “I add a small paragraph on the bottom asking people to  share this blog.”  Then, as I am actually writing that I think “What if I write a post about What Ifs” again moving everything another step forward and, in turn, creating more ‘what ifs’ to be implemented soon!
‘What Ifs’ appear to be an ingrained part of human thinking. They represent the possibilities of what could have been or what will be but they are both potentially dangerous and delightful and we need to be able to recognise each, dismissing those negative thoughts and embracing the positive ones.
What if, right now, you think of a ‘what if’ that will take you toward success and contentment and implement that what if as soon as possible.