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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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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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.

Build Your New Months Resolution

This time next year…….

Whatever it is you want to achieve or change in your life it takes time, you are not going to run a marathon or win a sprint just because you have decided it, you need to work to make it happen.

We have our dream and we set out to make that dream a reality.

The problem that often occurs though, is that a year is quite a long time (although it does not seem like it as you get older!) and the dream we start out with gets tangled and entwined by life’s challenges on the way. A bit like the wires behind the TV, they start out nice and neat but, somehow, next time you look, everything is tangled and you can’t tell which wire leads to what!

To help prevent the tangle in our lives we need to make certain we keep focused, and a good way of doing this is keeping control of your plan by breaking it down month by month and building a strategy for the coming weeks.

Ask yourself, what practical things can you do this month that moves you closer to your longer-term goal? How much weight do you need to lose this month? What distance do you need to run? How many words of your book do you need to write etc?

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It is also a chance to review where you are right now in your plan.

Did you make a New Years resolution? If so, where, at the end of February, are you at in achieving it?

If you have made little or no progress, don’t beat yourself up over it or try to find excuses for why, just accept that things haven’t gone to plan so far and start preparing your plan for March.

If, however, you have made progress, celebrate that, give yourself a pat on the back then knuckle down and focus on the next stage.

Your new months resolution needs to concentrate on what is necessary to move you to the next stage of achievement and closer to your ultimate aim. If there is anything that you feel you have not done, so far, then evaluate that first. How important was it in your longer-term plan? Is there something else you need to do that is more important than the thing you have missed?

In other words, prioritise.

Sometimes we can become so bogged down in worrying about things we have not done that we fail to realise there are other things. equally or more important, that we can be doing right now. A lot of times when we change to something else, the other thing we were bogged down by becomes easier once we go back to it because we have had a chance to forget about it for a while.

Our new months resolution is also a means of keeping our focus on the end goal. Even where life distracts us, sitting down at the end of each month to think about the next months resolution, gives us a chance to assess and evaluate where we are now and where we need to be in a few weeks’ time. It becomes part of a continuous cycle of assess-plan-action that moves us forward and keeps what we want at the forefront of our mind.

So, take time this week to think about what you want to achieve next month and how you are going to achieve it. Think about things like the time you need to set aside from your normal routine, anything you need to get before hand or any other preparations that are key to finishing your mini monthly goal.

Your New Months Resolution is a way of keeping you in control of what YOU want to do in your life. Make your plan, stick to your plan and, at the end of next month, just see how much closer you are to your ultimate goal.

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.

 

Zoom In On Specifics

What do you want?

Do you want to be heathier, wealthier, or perhaps you want a new job, a new lifestyle or to be able to travel more?

We all have dreams of a better life yet rarely make the moves toward achieving those things we fantasise about.

One reason is that our dreams and fantasies are often quite vague on detail. We like the idea of these things but we just leave them as dreams to retreat into when our current existence gets to us. In order to make a real difference in our lives we need to narrow in on those dreams and develop them into specific goals we can use as a springboard to reach the real life we want to live.

Start by letting your imagination run wild. Really be creative in your dreams about what would bring you satisfaction if life, give yourself no limits on what you think of and allow yourself to mentally explore the most outrageous possibilities your life could be. Throw everything into the mix, everything you have ever dreamt of achieving, those childhood and youthful ambitions that faded away and those sparks of ideas that were smothered by life.

Once you have done that write down some of the ideas that appeal to you most. It is time to switch from the creative side of your brain to the logical side!

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Look at the ideas you have written down, do any of them need you to achieve one of the others first? For example, do you dream of a life of travel and of a life of financial independence? The life of travel may need you to have that financial security first. If that is the case cross off the dependent ones from your list.

Now, take what is ever left on your list and put them in order of priority. Which one feels most important to you right now? This is not to say you are dismissing the other ideas, we are just focussing on the most important idea right now. Those other dreams can just take a temporary backseat while we concentrate on achieving first things first.

Now zoom in on that one idea.

Remember it is your idea and how you view that idea is unique to you.

Maybe, for example, your number one priority is to be healthier. What exactly does that mean to you? It could mean losing weight, it could mean being able to run a marathon, it could mean eating healthier etc. You need to focus on what is important to you, not what other people are saying and not what society is demanding at the moment. Work your idea down to a single goal that you can aim for, a goal that is YOUR GOAL and one you can begin to work toward.

A brief warning, although we are aiming to create the goal to move us toward a better life it does not have to be perfect. Perfectionism is often a means of not making a decision and not taking action because we constantly wait for things to be exactly right and put off doing anything until we have got things exactly right!

Your goal does not have to be so precise and perfect it just needs to be something more concrete than the vague dream we started with. It is our call to action.

To start the process of changing our lives for our own benefit we need to start with something specific to aim for. Vague dreams make it difficult to find a starting point, so by using some focus to narrow down those dreams to an achievable, specific goal we can begin the process toward a life we want.

Be Smart This January

January. You can’t have helped but notice that every time you walk down the high street shops are enticing you to buy things to make you healthier, to feed those New Year’s Resolutions you sort of decided on.

It may be ‘active wear’ to help you with fitness, lotions and potions to help you ‘detox’ or books with alluring recipes to help you ‘get lean’. It is not just the high street though, there are those leaflets through the door encouraging you to join weight loss clubs and the media joins in with various ‘new you’ segments.

But before you start spending out or getting into some vague regime STOP AND THINK.

Remember for many of the shops, organisations and media outlets January is a slow month so for them, so jumping on resolution bandwagon is just a way of making extra money by appealing to our own frailties.

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Only you can decide what you want to do and it is important that you do it properly if you want to succeed.

START by really deciding what you want. Not a vague idea of “I think I need to lose some weight” or “I need to eat healthier” or “I want to be fitter” etc. but instead set yourself a specific goal, “I need to lose 2 stone” or “I need to reduce the amount of salt in my diet” or “I need to be able to run 10K”.

By setting yourself a specific goal it becomes more achievable because you can measure your progress over time, and time is also an important element. When do you want to have achieved your goal by? Having an end date gives you a greater incentive to work toward it. So if you have your summer holiday booked perhaps work to that date to be healthier, leaner or fitter. If you have a longer term goal then, with a specific end date you can break it down across the months so you know where you need to be by that summer date.

The other element of setting yourself goals is to be realistic. If you take up jogging in January you are not going to be running a marathon by Easter! Permanent weight loss is best achieved by losing weight at a steady pace rather than crash dieting and healthy eating is more about balance than completely eliminating something.

While I have concentrated on the typical January goals, these ideas apply to everything you want to get done, any goal that you set yourself. You need to use SMART.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

You may have heard of this before but it is always worth remembering when you set out to achieve anything. The better the framework for your plan the better he chance of success.

So before you rush headlong into the temptations of a healthier lifestyle take a bit of time to really assess what it is you want to achieve this year and begin the process of planning how best to really achieve that goal.

Next time – More on setting those specific goals

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.