Monday, 30 May 2016

Why the Little Things Matter

'Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things' Robert Brault.

Following on from last week's post, I've had more and more reason to think about the simple significance and potential impact of the little things in life.

We seem to be consistently striving towards something bigger - our goals, our dreams, self-improvement, recovery, career progression; all that good stuff. We seek transformative change which is undeniably a wonderful thing.

But sometimes we can get disheartened when the gap between where we are now and where we want to be appears annoyingly big. Instead of feeling as though we're en route to our 'big' stuff, we feel as though it's barely even tangible. There's a distance, a disconnect and inevitably just discouragement. 

In so many aspects of our lives, we overlook the little things; the simple, the natural, the effortless. Maybe we try to intellectualise them, make them nice and complicated, increase the hardship and the struggle or maybe we just don't really believe they could actually be of importance. 

But across the board, I think we need to take a minute to zoom in on the bigger picture we've been looking at and finally see it for what it is. It's a creative culmination of intricate, minute additions. Maybe we could make a point of taking in each gentle brushstroke, each dollop of colour, the dots, lines and curves without which, there would be no picture. 

The little things in life are the building blocks of our success, happiness, relationships and growth. They are our foundations.

So I want to make a big case for the little things, in all avenues of our lives because I believe that valuing the small things will create substantial change.

How can we magnify the miniscule?

OPEN OUR EYES

The more we look for, the more we see as we know that what we focus on grows. So, open up to the little things all around - in work, at home, with others, on the train, in nature - change your perspective so that you can't help but see the strength of the small things. Is it the call of a bird? A nice gesture? A good quote? A smile or a 'good morning' or checking something off our to-do list? Keep it simple and just see what starts to show itself when your eyes are open.

TAKE NOTE

Write down the little things that mattered in each day. Maybe someone said something that made you smile, maybe you saw the scurry of a squirrel or read a good line in a book, maybe you enjoyed the sunshine on your skin even just for a moment. Take note of which little parts of the day mattered at the end of each. Reflect on those brief moments of positivity that poke their little heads up throughout the day.

GIVE CREDIT

Look inward too and take note of the little things you've accomplished at the end of each day. When we're on a journey towards our 'big' things, we make so many significant steps along the way that seriously deserve our attention. Give yourself credit for each time you fought for what you wanted, each time you made a change, each little win, each question of curiosity, each realisation - it all really matters. As the saying goes, every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

VALUE

Maybe most importantly, we just need to realise and appreciate the value in the little things we have. In every day, we experience so many little things that could positively influence us if we choose to pay them attention. Maybe it's just me, but I definitely feel more content by valuing the little things in the everyday - maybe just looking back at what I've achieved however small, what I've learned, what I'm grateful for, what nice things happened. These are the things that can overcome the dreariest of Monday mornings when we choose to amplify them enough. 

***

These little things are ours all the time. They're ours to nurture and hold onto as we realise that they're leading us to our bigger things. Tiny as they may seem, they really do all have their place of purpose and gradually, wonderfully add up to create the strongest and most meaningful of things.

"Every Drop Makes an Ocean"


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Fighting Frustration - What Can We Do?

'If you think you're too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito'  African Proverb

Sometimes the world appears very big.

The norms, beliefs and cultures that we find ourselves accustomed to seemingly become the building blocks of leering walls, enclosing us within instead of providing us with a feeling of security. The more we get out of our own heads and gain awareness of the world outside of us, sometimes the more these issues seem to stack up. 

We become aware that the world is riddled with imperfections and as much as we might've been trying to control our own experiences, we're imperfect too.

When we're going through our own stuff, we focus on ourselves and our own development and that's brilliant. But when we find ourselves more present in the world again, we can realise that not everyone else has gone through this process too. 

Awareness can be a b*tch sometimes and sensitivity? - well that can be a whole other headache.

When you're super-sensitive, like yours truly, things can become a bit much sometimes.
Injustice, corruption, greed and cruelty (to name but a few) are everyday issues that do exactly that for me now and then. I think in general, we're often vaguely aware of them y'know somewhere in the back of our minds but they're detached, right? They're not our problems.

But these things bother me. It bothers me that there's so much 'wrong' in the world. It bothers me that so much is driven by money, by ego, by lies, by greed. It bothers me that there's deceptive messages, mis-information masked as expertise, and violent actions on a daily basis.

These are not detached when they're so rife - they're real, tangible, disconcerting problems.

When the world appears so big like this, I think it's because we take on the fullness of its heavy issues. And then feel incredibly small and insignificant because we're mere individuals, just one in eight billion. Personally, it has felt overwhelming that there's so much that I cannot influence and I cannot change.

And that can be a bit of a head wreck.

But it doesn't help me to get frustrated about it. I could cry for the world, I could get angry at deception, I could get frustrated at the way it is, I could do all of this for days - but that doesn't help the world and it definitely doesn't help me. 

The world is made up of people - people do these things, people shape cultures, people are society. So instead of getting frustrated at what 'people' do, I want to be the person doing something that I am proud of.

Fortunately, as a person, I can bring myself to the conclusion that I'm not helpless and insignificant. At any point when we become frustrated with how things are, we can seek out our solution and change it. 

The fact is, I do have influence. We all have influence. We all have the potential to create a ripple effect and tapping into that, is so incredibly powerful. 

'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.' Margaret Mead

So no, I cannot singlehandedly save the world, I cannot end all the harm and dysfunction. 

But I can be the change I wish to see in the world,

We all can.


  • We can be a drop that contributes to the ocean that we believe in
  • We can be a part of groups that think the way we do
  • We can consciously make a difference regardless how small
  • We can spread our message to whoever is willing to listen
  • We can take matters into our own hands and incorporate actions each day that are important to us
  • We can practice kindness, compassion, forgiveness
  • We can spread our smiles
  • We can believe in our own potential for impact and commit to what is important to us
  • We all have voices, we all have strong, brilliant minds that are capable of so much, we just need to realise this and act.

When the world becomes big, I want to remember the people I know personally who are fighting on a daily basis for something better. Every action towards a more positive life is a significant action. Every time we choose to act in kindness, in compassion, in truth - we make a difference. This is where I want the focus to be.

I know of so many inspirational people, I've read countless pertinent pieces that I know matter and these are the things that feel lighter. There is so much good in the world and the more attention we give it, the more it'll multiply before our eyes.

Because there is always differences we can make in this world.

We have the capacity to become bigger than these problems in our own ways.


'When we cannot see the woods for the trees, we must seek out the light in between'



Monday, 16 May 2016

5 Learnings About Growth

"Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still"

Change is inevitable, in fact, it is the only constant. But growth can be optional. As life continues to sweep by, we can choose to grow with it or dig in our heels and stay stuck. Fighting change for fear of the unknown trips us into the sinking sand of a whirling rut. We get trapped in an uncomfortable comfort zone - afraid to move forward and unable to go back - we stagnate.

Embracing our growth means opening up our world; it means allowing our minds expand beyond our miserable monotony and inviting a fuller, richer perspective in. When we imprison ourselves within the steel bars of negative thinking we lose sight of our own potential growth beyond them. Our self-limiting beliefs of 'can't', 'should' and 'not good enough' pad-lock away our potential light.

But it's from these places of dark deflation that we can actually take valuable steps towards growth. We often forget that every strong tree or every breathtaking flower began as a tiny seed; buried in the dirt, in the cold, dark isolation with no idea of the light and opportunity on the other side. Knowing that something better is waiting on the surface allows us to break through and seek out the light that simply wants us to thrive.

I've learnt that growth greatly enriches our lives, enhances experiences, relationships and ourselves personally. It leads us away from the dark times towards a place where we can finally flourish. It lures us away from our uncomfortable comfort zones and into a courageous, authentic and emotive life.

"Deltas are where rivers meet the sea. They're marshy, full of sediment and forever changing. They are also rich, fertile areas of growth. This is where we need to do our growth - our key learnings emerge from the delta." Brené Brown - Rising Strong

What I've learnt about growth:

1. TIMING

'For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.' Cynthia Occeli

Quite often growth comes from a time of significant struggle. When we get cemented in stagnation and realise that we're seriously unhappy, we're just like that seed. We crack, our inner struggle comes tumbling out and then everything changes. 

It might seem as though it's the darkest, most depressing time, but in fact the conditions are perfect to direct us towards the light. Because we've realised that we want better than this, we want the bloom, the colour, the vivid luscious life. We cannot stay buried in this miserable hole any longer - it's time to grow.

2. PATIENCE

You don't just plant a shrub and watch it magically bloom in front of your eyes. You also wouldn't give out to a seed for not instantly shooting up. Likewise, our growth takes time and naturally requires patience. It needs nourishment, care and commitment.

As such, when we're coming from a place of negativity, growing towards a positive mind set is quite a transformation. We need to nurture the energy needed for this process with the kindness and gentle patience that this kind of growth deserves. We need to accept that with consistent watering and nourishment, we'll get exactly where we want to be. And we need to avoid the urge to try rush this process. Enjoy each break-through moment and each little bud of learning opening up.

3. CHANGE

'Nothing changes, if nothing changes.'

We don't just get to decide that we'd like to grow and then kick back and wait for it to happen. That's not quite how it works. In order to move away from a rut, we need to take responsibility to pull ourselves out of it. We need to actively take part in our own journey of growth.

We need to choose to consciously change what is no longer serving us. Maybe it's our way of thinking, our behaviours or our values - there's something that we're engaging in that is hindering our growth. If we truly want to grow, we've gotta act on implementing these changes. This might mean letting go of old beliefs, practicing new concepts and opening our minds. It means being honest with ourselves and chopping away any weeds that are stealing our energy. 

4. SUPPORT 

If you honestly want to embrace growth, you've gotta be there for yourself. We've all heard of growing pains and yep these quite possibly will strike as we move away from the old restricted comforts and stretch our minds towards something better. Yes it can be challenging or tiring and we might find it hard to break through at times, but it's essential to stick with it. Every wobbly step into growth is still a step away from the darkness.

Regardless how familiar and safe our depressing routine may have become, it is no match for the growth that we can lead ourselves to. 

5. TAKE STOCK

This is a journey. It's likely going to encompass all seasons - the periods of slow growth and those where we really thrive - but all of these are necessary. They are crucial parts of this undertaking. For each baby step, recognise the milestone that this is - when we are no longer crawling but holding ourselves up, this is when we need to give ourselves genuine kudos. 

Give credit for those moments that were tricky but we did anyway, those actions that we knew we needed to take even when we didn't want to, those times we had to pick ourselves up after a fall. Note the growth in each little stretch towards the light. 

***

It's never too late to seek growth. Regardless who or where we are in life, we have the opportunity to embrace a new mindset, a new chapter of our experience, a wider, brighter view of the world. We deserve better. We're not here to lie underground in a limited view of darkness. There is so much within each of us - talent, opportunity, personality, potential and light. We can inspire, create, change and grow as little or as much as we like.

Personally I'm aiming for giant sequoia - how much do you want to grow? 


Sunday, 8 May 2016

This is Summer: NOT Bikini Season.

Contrary to the various stories our social media feeds might be telling us, bikini season is not on its way. 

And no, this isn't because our sunny season tends to consist of a one-day heatwave or because summer in Ireland doesn’t exactly warrant swimwear - I mean it’s not on its way because that’s not an idea that actually makes sense. Like, at all.

From what I understand anyway, the sole purpose of the next few months is not to just flounce around in a tiny two-piece. (Imagine the looks you’d get in the office!) And I'm pretty sure the turn of the season doesn’t arrive with a scroll of rules requiring us to slim down, tone up or make any other changes to our bodies. Oddly enough, the next few months won't require six-pack abs, a lower percentage of body fat and taut thighs that the #fitfam would approve of.

Yet, I can and have seen the term being heavily used and people feeling compelled to start doing x,y and z to feed into this idea before they somehow enter summer without the obligatory summer bod*. (*This is actually the same 'bod' that has served you throughout the winter and the rest of the year/your life so there's no real change necessary) How has that become an idea we’ve actively subscribed to? How does that even correlate with a certain season? Like...what?

At the same time, I do understand the pressure. I’ve approached many a summer in fear of not being ‘summer ready’ and did x, y, z and the rest of the alphabet trying to prepare. But when holidays become something to dread and anxiously ‘prepare’ for, it comes to light that we may be missing the point. We’re pursuing an unnecessary path, traipsing away from fun and enjoyment towards an ideal that doesn’t even really matter.

Luckily it doesn’t have to be like that.

Here’s what I know to be true now:
  •          It’s not time to start ‘detoxing’, or to cut out any food groups.
  •          It’s not time to pop a few pills that promise to shift those ‘stubborn pounds'
  •          It’s not time to juice everything in sight and hit the gym several times a day.
  •          It’s not the time to look toward exciting things like holidays with fear and anxiety and worrying that we’re not ready for them.
  •          It’s not time to waste money and energy buying into an industry that doesn’t care how your summer is.

It’s time to transform our definition of the summer season. It’s time to remove any connection to body image and realise that that’s simply not what this is about. It’s time to free ourselves of definitions that don’t make us feel good – why the hell would we want to hang on to these anyway?

Summer is a wonderful time to embrace the many opportunities to create memories, to learn, grow, explore and just enjoy it.

So what could we incorporate into a new definition? What could we look forward to that overshadows the ill-advised allure of getting that summer bod?

1. FIND FUN

Summer has so much potential for enjoyment. Between the longer evenings and the numerous events, festivals and days out, there's a lot more to be done than worrying about what our diet allows for breakfast. Beginning to value fun and seek it in our spare time leaves little focus leftover for feeling bad about ourselves. Check out what's on, what interests you and what you'd actually enjoy pursuing. Maybe it's a scenic cycle, an outdoor movie, taking up a class, reading a good book in the park. There's so much possibility that has nothing to do with how we look and comes with a lot more of those warm bubbly feelings.

2. EMBRACE EXPLORATION

Whether you've holidays booked or not, I reckon there's always some exploring to be done, home or abroad. If this means becoming a tourist in your own home town, then get your map out and embrace that. There's so much to see and do and a bit of sunshine can make a lot of these sights even more dazzling. Look around and see where you'd like to go, where you've never been before and what you'd truly like to see. Take photos, create memories and discover a different side to your surroundings this summer.

3. STRENGTHEN YOUR SENSES

With flowers in bloom, the heat breaking through and ice-cream to be had, this is an ideal season to indulge the senses. Burying our heads in our phones, locking ourselves away in a gym or hiding in our rooms with the curtains closed may have some gloomy appeal and all, but in the summer I think it's prime time to have a good wide-eyed look around. The vivid colours, the glisten of the sunshine, the hustle and bustle about town. The refreshing first sip of a smoothie, the smell of freshly cut grass, dipping our toes into the water. Nature is alive and vibrant and it's about time we joined it and really wakened up to our environment.

4. LAP UP THE LEARNING

The summer can be a pivotal time of action. We've got the energy, the time and we tend to feel somewhat more recharged and proactive. We can sow the seeds of a fresh new outlook and put our learnings into practice throughout the season. There's something about it that I think offers the opportunity for significant growth and change. As such, it'd seem to be the perfect time to shrug off the body image pressure, make new connections with the summer months, get the most out of it and finally let go of past associations of pressure and fear. It's a pretty apt time to take action against the belief that we're only as good as our body's appearance, to dismiss the ideals that we were chasing after and to really understand their lack of significance. We can use this time to challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zone and dive into a beautiful new season of potential.

***

We are so much more than how our bodies look and life is full of so much more than appearances. This time could be incredibly valuable, exciting and enjoyable - but it's up to us to decide we want that more than we want to attain the 'perfect summer bod'. It's up to us to shift the value and create a memorable summer experience. 
This could be one to remember for all the right reasons!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

5 Ways To Get Back Up.

"Fall down seven times, get up eight."

In life, we all have falls. We have those cringey moments that we're ashamed of, we do things we wish we hadn't and from time to time, yes of course we make mistakes. That's a given and regardless how much we wish to be perfect in all that we do, we just can't be. Sh*t happens. We are only human.

But falling down really hurts and when we find ourselves back on the ground again, we can spiral into the murky pit of a shame hangover. We isolate, or beat ourselves up or repeat what we've done 'wrong' over and over in our minds. We become consumed by fear, anxiety, sadness and shame.

But none of this helps us get back up. Obviously.

So we need a way to get back on our feet, we need to be the ones offering ourselves a helping hand to yank us up off the ground and back into life.

So when we feel like we've messed up, what can we do?

1. Take Responsibility

If we stay down there burying our heads in the sand, acting like nothing has happened, we won’t grow from it. So whatever's occurred, we need to acknowledge and accept it. This is not a time to blame anyone else, it’s not for us to make excuses. It's for us to be aware so that we can avoid a repeat.

Sometimes we need to take responsibility for the fall, but in every case we need to take responsibility for getting back up. Instead of overthinking it, we really just need to honestly acknowledge what has happened and call it as it is - not with added drama or despair but just a realistic - 'This is what it is, I don't like it and I am moving on from it'. 

There’s no merit in playing the victim, especially not when you could strive to be the victor.

2. Forgive Yourself

Making mistakes can really throw us sometimes, even when we have the best of intentions, we can lose the run of ourselves and setbacks happen. And that sucks, but it can happen. So we need to ask for forgiveness and give it. And I mean genuinely give it – that doesn’t mean saying it out loud but then giving sly digs to ourselves after, or continuing to ruminate on the issue over and over. It means saying ‘I forgive you’ and making sure our actions show that.

We can be our own harshest critics a lot of the time so when we’re feeling a bit beat up as it is, it’s a good idea to practice self-compassion. In fact it's absolutely crucial. 

  3. Let Go

In the aftermath of a fall, we can tend to use the experience as a whip against ourselves. We use it as proof of our lack of worth or as confirmation that we’re not good enough. That’s not going to help us in the slightest and I think even when we know this, we sometimes still hold on. 

Letting go means we take our learnings and we move on. It means we stop carrying around this heavy reminder of our slipups. We don’t need ammunition against ourselves, we need support and kindness.

It’s worth realising too that not everyone else is as critical of you as you are. They are not thinking of your mistakes or spending their time analysing you as a person based on one event. Everyone is mostly focused on themselves. 

So let go of the fears of their judgement, their disappointment, their whatever. Focus on yourself and build yourself back up without the weight of assumptions and fears.
  
4. Make A Plan to Move Forward

Making a point of taking the learning from these situations is where we gain strength. When we actively learn from our flaws we become stronger and more in control. So we need to make a plan to use what we now know and ensure that we grow from this, that we move forward and away from those feelings.

Take note of how we can avoid this happening again, what tools could we have used and how we’ll ensure to access them next time. Be proactive in taking something from the experience and see what could have been done differently, without judgement.

5. Start Again

'Get up, show up, dress up and don't ever give up.' When we can successfully pick ourselves up after a fall, we’re in a prime position to start again. Sometimes we’re even more focused, more refreshed and more ready to take on what’s next because we’ve nurtured ourselves back up off the ground and we know we’ve got our own back.

Starting fresh is a wonderful opportunity to apply the fruits of our perceived failure, it’s where we can show our renewed strength and commitment to growth. Luckily we can start again at any moment, so take your time to firstly heal and then firmly plant your feet in the direction of where you want to go.
***

When we're sensitive and we're striving to people please, we can take our downfalls pretty hard. We expect so much from ourselves that it's simply not feasible to always measure up. So maybe even more than others we need to have some kind of contingency plan for helping ourselves back up. We need to recognise that we're trying and that we have the resilience and determination to continue trying regardless how many times we find ourselves on the ground. 

With the right attitude and a hefty dose of kindness towards ourselves, we will find that we're staying strong on our feet for much longer, unwavering and in control. 

Getting back will always allow us to strengthen the muscles needed to do this.

'Failure doesn’t come from falling down, failure comes in not getting back up.'