Nurture Your Nature

Today, modern society seems to demand everything instantly.

People want everything right now, they want their food fast, they want to get rich quick, they want their deliveries the next day or they want their fat to be burnt by magic pills!

Yet it is the nature of Nature that things do not happen instantly.

nurture

Growth and change of any kind take time and we instinctively know that. We would not expect a new born child to walk and talk immediately, we know that takes time and nurturing to help the child grow. We know that flowers and plants do not grow immediately, it takes time, care and nurturing to make your garden grow year after year.

We know these things yet, often, we forget to apply the idea to ourselves. If we want to live a full and fulfilling life we need to nurture ourselves in a vast range of ways to help ourselves to continue to grow year after year.

None of us is wholly identical to anyone else and this applies equally to what we need to nurture our nature and how we grow in the way we want too.

Take a moment to think of the plant world and the flowers planted in gardens. Some like direct sunlight, some like shade, some like a little bit of both. Similarly some flower and wilt away for the winter, others stay evergreen throughout the year.

Obviously we humans are considerably more complex than plants (although we do, apparently, share 60% of the same DNA as bananas!) and our needs change as we progress through life, those things that gave us satisfaction and helped our growth in our teenage years change as we age. For example, on a basic level, where we were once ‘night owls’ we may have changed to being up with the larks, or where working was once about earning enough to have a good time, it has become about earning enough to meet financial obligations.

So the process of nurturing your nature has to start with a bit of introspection.

Ask yourself, what gives you the greatest satisfaction now? What is it the makes you feel content with life? What is it that excites you and makes you desire more of the same?

It is important here to be honest with yourself, you may be tempted to get nostalgic and think of those things that exited and inspired you twenty years ago yet think about how those things are really relevant to you right now! It may be that reigniting a passion from the past will help you grow now or it may be that being stuck in the past stunts that growth as you try to reclaim something that just isn’t there anymore.

Anything that makes you happy today is worth exploring and expanding. What is it about that thing that makes you happy and how can you to more of that and are there different ways you can achieve that happiness. For example, if gardening brings you happiness and satisfaction what could you do to broaden that experience? Maybe learn more about it or perhaps volunteer with a local gardening group or maybe just spend time sharing your passion with younger family members.

Remember that nurturing your nature means considering all aspects of your life so it is not just about those things that you are passionate about.

Just like caring for plants our lives also need pruning a little from time to time. Is there anything you are clinging onto in your life that is really truly unnecessary? We sometimes cling onto memories and ideas that no longer have any place in our lives, just like sorting through your house and finding things that you no idea why you kept them in the first place! So if you do come up with those nostalgic thoughts ask yourself, how relevant is that to me now? It may be a cherished memory worth keeping but it is just a happy memory rather than a glorious past to be recovered. Likewise a bad memory of the past is just that and not something that should be affecting how you act now because you have grown and changed since that time.

There are endless possibilities to explore in nurturing your nature and we will return to some. The important thing for now is understanding that nurturing and growth take time and we must actively take the time to nurture ourselves in order to lead a more content and happy life.

Be EXTRA Ordinary

When you are a young adult you can get away with a lot of unconventional behaviour, people will label you as a rebellious type, a bohemian or, perhaps, a free spirit.

When you are a much older adult you can also get away with unconventional behaviour, this time you will be labelled as a bit of a character or, perhaps, a harmless eccentric.

Yet for those of us stuck in the middle years unconventional behaviour is often frowned upon as society demands we are sensible, conventional and just plain ordinary. Any deviation from the ordinariness meets with such labels as “a bit weird” “odd” or, of course, the classic “must be having a mid-life crisis!”


While, as mentioned before, we humans crave some degree of conformity there is a difference between us choosing to conform and having conformity thrust upon us by societies decreed expectations. Us humans don’t particularly like change, especially when that change is outside our control. So if we, as individuals, choose to take control and make changes in our lives, those around us can become a little resistant because it is outside of their control.

How we react when faced with being labelled and challenged by others not only varies from person to person but also within ourselves. The more confident we are in our “non-conformist” behaviour the more likely we are to shrug off the opinions of others.

However when we are starting out making changes in life or doing something different our confidence levels are lower and when others throw challenges at us we are more likely to cave in to pressure and abandon our cause.

To successfully move from the conventional and ordinary life we need to develop ways to meet the challenges from others.

Firstly, always keep in mind why you want to make that change in your life. When others challenge or try to label you negatively just focus on the important elements that made you decide that you needed to do something different. You certainly don’t need to justify yourself to others, you just need to hold your focus on you own reasons. You could write these down and revisit them every time someone casts doubt in your mind, you could get into the routine of repeating the reasons to yourself every morning before you head out to face the world or you could just simply have faith in yourself knowing the reasons you have are the best for you right now.

Another way to develop that self-belief and self-confidence is to connect with others who are pursuing the same goal or dream as you. You can join a club, a class or just gather a group of like-minded friends together. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, you can even connect with like-minded people around the world. By connecting with others who are following the same path you know you are not alone, when others throw doubts and labels at you, feeling alone can be demoralising yet knowing there are others like you helps build that confidence within because it means you are not “odd” or “having a mid-life crisis” but, instead, you are taking control of your life just as many others are doing.

The pressures to be ordinary, safe and unchanging can be immense but if we want to live our lives in a way that brings us a sense of being, a sense of satisfaction and a sense of happiness then we need to break free from those restraints and forge our own path. Naturally we have to be mindful of others but those who love us will obviously benefit from us being happier and more fulfilled in our lives.

Forget being ordinary become extra ordinary and become the person you truly want to be.

And Relax

Having, over the past couple of months, gently cajoled you to move forward in your life, take the path toward your goals, to follow your dreams. I am now going to encourage you to stop, just for a while, and relax.
Have a break, have an unspecified chocolate bar!
The point is we can become consumed in heading toward our future that we sometimes forget to enjoy the moments right now.  We need to take time to live in the moment and relish those things that give us real pleasure in life.
When I say relax I do not mean getting home from work and vegetating in front of the television, I mean making time to get out and do something that really and truly soothes your soul and brings you joy.
Obviously for each of us that is different and for each of us there will be a combination of different things that bring us that joy. Maybe a long woodland walk, or a deep relaxing massage, maybe spending time with old friends or perhaps exploring new places or ideas. Whatever it is that brings you enjoyment, get out there and do it.
And while you are relaxing, fully immerse yourself in the activity, make a truly sensory experience. Focus on the expert touch of the masseur as they deftly work their magic on the tensions in your body, drink in the sights, sounds and smells of the woodland as you take that slow amble through the trees, bathe in the sounds of chatter and laughter as you catch up with your friends, let the taste of your favourite food flow over your tongue and ignite your taste buds.

Let go of the past, temporarily forget about the future and really, truly enjoy the moment right now.
Why? There are plenty of words out there about how our bodies respond under stress, we go into primitive fight or flight mode our bodies fill with adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones that often have a negative impact on our bodies because the stresses of the modern world are a little different from having to run for your life from a sabre-tooth tiger!
Finding the time to really relax and enjoy yourself helps fight the negative impact of these fight or flight hormones and also helps our bodies promote the production of the less publicised ‘happy’ hormones which give us those feelings of happiness and contentment.
As we throw ourselves whole-heartedly into that activity we enjoy, the worries and woes of the daily grind fade away giving our minds a chance to become refreshed. How many times have you worried over a problem but it is not until that problem has been forced from your mind that, suddenly, the solution seems obvious? If we make the time to get out and enjoy ourselves our minds will function better when we need them to.
And it is not just our minds, as our minds relax our bodies do to. The tensions inside you will ease away (more so if you’re visiting that expert masseur!), blood pressure comes down and the body is better able to heal itself. Have you ever felt that strange sense of relaxation running through your body after something makes you laugh suddenly?
Doing something that relaxes us has innumerable psychological and physiological benefits. If we want to live healthier, better lives then we need to ensure that those things that bring us joy, pleasure and relaxation are permanently built into our lives.
When we feel better, mentally and physically, we have greater strength to move toward our greater goals.
So make those plans today and build the anticipation of that total enjoyment you will get from that thing makes you so thoroughly relaxed.

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.

Recording Greatness

You may have noticed that a common thread that runs through these blog posts is self-reflection.
When we fail we should reflect on where we can correct any issues, when we succeed we should reflect on that success and how we can move on to greater achievement.
However, we have to be aware, we humans are exceptionally good at misleading ourselves about ourselves! There are both physiological and psychological factors at play which impact on how we think about ourselves.
The most obvious example, physiologically, would be how we think we sound. We all have that experience of hearing ourselves after being recorded and thinking “I don’t sound like that, do I”.
Psychologically out minds and memories can play all sorts of tricks on us.
Imagine a really good day at work. The boss is away, there is nobody demanding your attention and you get the chance to clear up lots of those niggly outstanding jobs that you have been meaning to complete for ages. You work through them methodically all day and get home that evening really satisfied with what you have achieved.
The next day is completely different. The boss is back and back with a vengeance. Work piles up, everybody seems demanding and wanting everything right now. The pressures and stresses pile up as you push through the mountain of work while, at the same time, trying to placate everybody who wants their things done first. You get home that evening stressed and exhausted and the first thing you do is turn on your computer and search for a new job.
Now imagine a couple of weeks later and you have got that job interview. You are sitting there and the interviewer says to you “describe a time when you have been really productive.”
It is much more likely that you will describe the first day simply because you felt better about that day. Even though the second day you were probably much more productive, the fact that you didn’t actually finish as many tasks and the day left you feeling stressed and exhausted means it is a day you would rather forget than relive by telling the interviewer about it.
Our memories are much more connected to how we feel about events than the events themselves.

Because of this, when we embark on a new goal, it is important we also find a way to record how we are doing. Keeping a record helps us monitor progress, helps us identify improvement and helps us recognise the bad days. All of this together helps us move forward effectively.
How you do this is going to be completely individual. What it is you are setting out to achieve will determine how you keep track, for example, if you are setting out to become fitter you can record run times or reps, if you are going to write that novel you can record daily word counts or if you are determined to become a master baker you can note recipes tried etc.
It will also depend on the type of person you are, some people are avid diary writers able to write copious notes, others less so preferring to simply record brief facts and figures. Luckily, in this technological age, we do have the advantage of being able to generate records without doing very much, smart watches will record exercise, websites will record the number of blog readers etc. The key though is to use whatever method you feel most comfortable with in order to create the story of your journey.
Having these records are crucial to helping us learn about ourselves in our particular endeavour because if we look back we can start to see patterns. Do we record better performances in the morning, afternoon or evening? Are certain days of the week better than others for us to pursue our goal? It gives us a better chance of spotting where we go wrong or where we could do better but it also, when our motivation is flagging, gives us a way to reflect on the wins and successes we have achieved over time.
Record you greatness (and your no so greatness) it will help you to achieve more and become even greater in the future.
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Reliving Your Future

If you have decided to turn a dream into reality, decided to achieve a new goal or decided to make a specific change in your life, getting started can often be the hardest part. It is like moving a boulder, getting going takes huge strength and effort but once it starts moving the momentum carries it along.
One trick to help getting going is to run in all backwards!
Take a bit of time to yourself and imagine that you have achieved what you want to achieve. Spend a little time basking in the glory of that achievement before starting to reflect on how you got there. Work backwards, what was the last step you took before getting to your success, what was the step before that etc all the way back to where you are now.
To illustrate, imagine you want to win Olympic 100m Gold. You can picture yourself standing on that podium with the medal around your neck and start that trip down memory lane. To get to that podium you needed to have qualified for the final. Before that you needed to actually qualify for an Olympic place, before that you needed to be one of the best in your country etc. All the way back to winning that first race that sparked your desire to become Olympic champion.
By doing this you can begin to build up a pathway from where you are now to where you want to be. You can begin to see those markers that you need to pass along the way.
Once you have done it once you can start to look into your chosen path further to see what targets or achievements you need to pass on the way.
So, returning to the Olympics, you could learn that to actually get into the final (at Rio 2016) you would need to run the distance in 10.01 seconds (men’s time) or 10.96 seconds (women’s time). To actually qualify for the Olympics you would need to be able to run 100m in 10.16s (men) 11.32s (women) and so on, I am sure you get the picture.
I have used the Olympic example because it is fairly straightforward way to illustrate the process but naturally many goals and ambitions are not quite so clear cut which makes this process even more useful.
The clearer your picture of the end result the easier it is to work toward that because you are creating the signposts and milestones you know you need to get to before you can achieve your goal.
If you are not sure of how to get where you want to be remember to seek out those role models who have been there before. How did they get to where they are now, then use their experience to work out your own plan.
The crucial thing is that once you have fixed all of this in your mind is that you actually make that first step. Remember the Positive Mindset, take positive action as well as using positive thinking.
Join that gym, start rewriting your C.V, sign up for that baking class or even start writing that mid-life self-help blog!
As you go along take time to go through the exercise regularly. Often it is difficult to see the finishing line, the final result as we move through life’s challenges on the way to our success but by taking time to live the goal backwards we always have that final success firmly in our sights.