Category Archives: change

The elusive art of letting go

how to let goYou know that song from the Disney movie Frozen? You must have heard it – it’s called Let it Go and unless you are between the ages of 2 and 8, it will irritate the shit out of you.

But Let it Go has become the theme tune to my life this week. From the tuneless warbling of my offspring to Andy Puddicombe guiding me through my daily meditation, people keep telling me to “let it go”.

Thinking I’d better give this ‘let it go’ message some attention, I embarked on some extensive research (Google), and came up with this: Zen Buddhists believe the root of all of our problems is our inability to let go.

Everyone knows Zen Buddhists are generally spot on, so I’m listening. Here are a few things I’m trying to ‘let go’ of.

1. Let go of giving a fuck
I give a fuck about what my family and friends think of me. I give a fuck about what my clients think of me. I even give a fuck about what the kinder mums think of me. All pretty reasonable. But recently I’ve been giving a fuck about people that really don’t deserve it. I had a confrontation with a woman in a lift – a woman I had never met before. I really gave a fuck that she was rude to me, and I’ve been holding on to it. Of course, I need to let it go. Reading this article by Mark Manson helped. Mark says: “most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given.” If you feel like you’re giving too many fucks, break down the circumstances and see whether it’s worth it. Example: Grumpy stranger in lift. She’d had a shit day + I was there + I’ll never see her again = zero fucks.

2. Let go of unhealthy relationships
This whole 80-20 thing has been around for a while but I hadn’t applied it to my relationships before. It’s likely that around 80% of your relationship ‘issues’ are caused by 20% of the people in your life. If you can let go of the people who cause you pain, do it. Can’t avoid someone who upsets or hurts you? Limit your interactions with them. It’s not selfish – it’s self-care. As the mighty Marc and Angel say “every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for more positive.” Let go of toxic people and make space for your (Marc and) angels.

3. Let go of comparisons
As a freelance writer it’s easy to get caught up in the comparisons. They’ve got more Facebook likes/retweets/blog followers/clients than me. There’s no point denying the jealousy (we are hardwired to compare ourselves to others) so feel the envy… then let it go. Life is not a competition. There is plenty to go around. Envy comes from a place of lack but, as someone who finds it hard to take her own advice once said “The pie is big. So grab a fork, poke the envy monster in its green eye, and fill your plate.”

4. Let go of the fantasy
Procrastination is my biggest obstacle. Which basically means I am my biggest obstacle. So what’s So what’s holding me back? A fantasy: that success will come easy, things will be comfortable, and that I’ll know what I’m doing. The reality: I may fail, things might be hard, and I’ll have no fucking clue what I’m doing. Reality is scary but I need to let go of the ideal and accept the reality – warts and all. I’m going to quote Leo again (because I’m a little bit in love with the fantasy of Zen Leo): “Life doesn’t have to be easy – in fact, the hard stuff is how we achieve anything of value. Life doesn’t have to be comfortable – in fact, when we get out of our comfort zone, we grow… it’s when we do things we don’t know how to do that we learn new things, new skills, and get better at them.”

It all boils down to one thing. Fear.
Holding on to giving a fuck – fear of not being accepted.
Holding on to unhealthy relationships – fear of the unknown and not being loved.
Holding on to comparisons – fear of not being good enough.
Holding on to the fantasy – fear of failure (or even fear of success, because that can be scary too).

How do you let go of fear? If I knew that, I would be charging you a shitload of cash to read my enlightened words of wisdom. And you’d pay it. Because everyone is shit scared. Everyone fears.

Letting go of the fear is almost impossible. But acknowledging the fear gives you back control. Let go of the fuck-giving, the toxic relationships, the comparisons, the fantasy. But feel the fear. Give it a hug. Then unfreeze and start living again.

Balloon woman photo courtesy of gratisography.

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Happy habits update: smiling through the shit storm

happy habits shitstormWhether he wants to or not, my husband reads all my Wellbeing bites blog posts before I hit publish. Last week he read my post on daily habits for productivity and said “I like it babe, but are you actually going to be doing any of this new habit stuff?”

“Yes I fucking am,” I said. “And I’m going to share what happens on my blog next week.”

In one moment of defensive marital banter, I was committed.

So here I am.

Firstly, let it be known that I didn’t try and implement all 6 productivity-enhancing habits in the first week – I’m not a total idiot. (For those that missed it, the 6 habits were: green exercise, mindful eating, meditation, 8 hours’ sleep, conscious breathing, digital disengagement). But 2 or 3 new daily habits? How hard could it be?

Turns out it’s pretty fucking hard when you have anything else going on in your life. Here’s my ‘habits week’ in review.

Habit 1: Meditation
Day 1 – The app is broken! Fuck, the fucking app is broken! I can’t download the bloody meditation. I can’t meditate without Andy (voice of Headspace). This is a disaster! The universe is trying to tell me something… Ah, it’s working now.

One 10-minute meditation later and I feel like a new woman. And this week I’ve managed my 10-minute meditation on 4 out of 7 days. I am my own hero. And weirdly, I’ve been able to deal with the week’s bumps and glitches more effectively.

Habit 1 won. Screw those few days. I’m focusing on the successes and giving myself a big pat on the back for this one.

Habit 2: Digitally disengage
Day 1 – I’ll just check Facebook quickly. Just the Wellbeing bites page. Ooh what’s that? Green smoothie recipe. I’ll try that. That can be my mindful eating thing for the day. I am so good at this habits thing. I’ll just have a look at the Zen Habits blog for a bit of inspiration…

Two hours later and I’ve done no work. Nothing.

Day 2 – I pack my lunch, laptop and phone into a backpack, get on my bike and ride out to the middle of nowhere to write a blog post I’ve been procrastinating on. No internet. No distractions. An hour later and the post is written.

I escaped the digi-dungeon, got shit done and got a bit of exercise too. I’m all over this habits thing.

Habit 3: Mindful eating
Day 1: My kids are not having fish fingers again. I will pick them up from daycare early and while they play quietly and happily together I will whip them up a beautiful meal full of vegies and nutrients. I will be a domestic goddess and nourish my family.

I am prepping healthy ingredients. All is going well. Then the toddler hits the preschooler. I tell the toddler off. He has a huge tantrum. As I’m wrestling him to the other side of the toddler-proof gate, the preschooler tugs at my leg mumbling about tummy ache. I barely register. He runs off to the loo. I hear crying. I walk into the bathroom. There is shit everywhere. He didn’t make it. The preschooler is sobbing. The toddler is still screaming. I don’t know where to begin. I start by having a cry too.

Fifteen minutes later my husband comes home. I’m wearing nothing but knickers and  rubber gloves. The smell of poo fills the air. The kids are clean(ish) and watching telly. “You look nice,” he says. “My clothes are covered in shit,” I say. “Please pour me a large glass of wine while I scrub the last of it out of the grout. We are having fish fingers for dinner by the way.”

What I learned
I learned that starting a new habit is hard work. You can’t be half-arsed about it. If know you can’t commit, don’t do it. If you can, make yourself accountable to someone and set reminders.

Most importantly, I learned you can’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes shit gets in the way. Sometimes it will hit the bathroom walls. Start with 1 or 2 habits and make your goal more achievable. Cut yourself some slack, celebrate the wins (no matter how small) and laugh at the glitches.

When you’re trying to implement new habits, you may get stuck. It may get messy. But you can ride the shit storm.

I’ve shared my story with you (perhaps even overshared a tad). So come on – share your own shit. How are you dealing with forming new habits?

‘Don’t worry it’s only a cloud’ drawing by sam brown, explodingdog.

Why don’t you make subscribing to Wellbeing bites  your new habit? It’s low on effort and calories. You’ll get tasty morsels like this by email, which will help make sure you don’t get sucked into a digital void. And I promise – no shit. 

Productivity paralysis? 6 daily habits that help you get shit done

Daily habitsA little while ago I made a big life change, leaving my grown-up job for the greener pastures of freelance writing. It’s been a few weeks, but I’m still struggling to get into my productivity groove.

My current daily routine looks something like this: press snooze button, rush out of bed, quick shower before husband leaves for work (optional), throw down strong coffee. Yell at my kids to get their bloody shoes on cos we’re late and mum was supposed to start work 10 minutes ago. Throw sobbing children at childcare worker. Drive home erratically. Procrastinate. Check email. Check Facebook. Drink more coffee. Check Facebook again.

At the end of most days I tally up my ‘productive’ work hours and feel crap about myself.

So obviously I need to form some new daily habits.

Here are 6 daily habits I’m implementing this week in the hope they become as routine as my morning caffeine palpitations.

1. Green exercise
Working at home is bloody hard. I often fall prey to creativity-sucking cabin fever. So I’m getting out and doing some green exercise. A brisk walk/bike ride/stretch in nature can positively impact your health and wellbeing, relieve stress, and promote concentration and clear thinking. I’m sure there is a park or a little grassy area close to you, so no excuses. Get out there.

2. Mindful eating
I’ve got work to do – ooh what shall I eat? Chocolate or an apple. Yes, chocolate. Shit, no chocolate. I wonder if apples and peanut butter are a good combo?

Eating has become a form of distraction for me. I eat in front of the computer or on the go. I make dodgy choices. So I’m making a conscious effort to eat food that makes my body happy and to sit down when I’m eating (away from smart devices). I’m also trying to eat more slowly. Chewing until each bite liquefies makes your food more easily digestible, allowing you to absorb the maximum nutrients. Taking your time also helps your body notice when it’s full.

3. Meditation
I may have mentioned this – meditation doesn’t come naturally to me. I need short, guided meditation or else my chatty mind gets all anxious. I’ve been a fan of Headspace for a while, but my daily meditation habit has become more like weekly. So I’ve signed up to a paid program for some additional incentive and scheduled meditation minutes into my work calendar. The other issue is that when I do manage to meditate, I fall asleep. Which probably means I need to…

4. …Get 8 hours’ sleep a night
According to sleep experts, 6.5 to to 9 hours of solid sleep every night can lower stress levels, may reduce weight gain and can even lower your chances of premature death. Fewer than 6.5 hours a day and your risk of dying early increases by 10%. More than 9.5 hours and your chances of dying increase even more than if you sleep too little… Who would have thought that a lie-in could be life-threatening?

The time you go to bed is important too. According to the 24-hour chi cycle, the gallbladder detoxes the body from 11pm and 1pm, while the liver detoxes most effectively from 1am-3am. So get to bed before 11pm and help your body flush those nasties out.

5. Breathe
I sometimes feel like I’ve been holding my breath all day. Shallow breaths deprive the brain, blood and cells of oxygen, affecting concentration, making you feel grumpy and stressed, and stimulating the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Focus on your breath for a moment. Breathe deeply in and out of your nose. Fill your lungs. You’ll get an instant dose of calm.

6. Digitally disengage
This is the biggest time-sucker for me. I work at a computer and spend so much time on social procrastination – flicking between writing, checking email, Facebook, blogs, the weather. It stops me facing the difficult stuff – the stuff I’m actually supposed to be doing. Be a hard arse with yourself. Close your browser and email. Turn off all notifications for Facebook, Twitter etc. If that’s still not working, unplug your modem or go somewhere that has no internet connection/WiFi – apparently these strange places do still exist.

Each of these daily habits takes just minutes to do. They may add up to an hour a day, but think about all the time you’re currently wasting on unproductive ‘stuff’ and you’ll see it’s an hour well spent.

Start small. Choose 3 habits and give it a week. Let’s get into the productivity groove together and get into a new habit – making shit happen.

Wanna find out how my ‘habits’ week went? See my Happy Habits Update (warning: it gets messy…)

Image courtesy of gratisography.

The change challenge — how to handle stepping into the unknown

Change is a challenge. Get unstuckUntil very recently, I had a day job. It was writing, but it wasn’t really. It paid the bills but it left my creativity account empty — a little overdrawn even.

The job took more than it gave. It gave me numbers on a screen. It gave my family some financial security. But along with my creativity, it took away my confidence, my time, my head space, and my sense of self-worth.

And I let it. For five years.

Dramatic eh?

But that’s done now. I’m freelancing. No more depressing commutes. No more tears. No more sinking Sunday feeling.

So why do I feel so numb?

I expected to feel immediately elated by the change. To feel different from day one. But although I’m glad I’m not at the day job, I just feel overwhelmed, a bit blue and (inconveniently) a little bit stuck.

A change is as good as a rest, they say. But that’s bollocks — real change is scary, confronting and bloody hard work. Because it’s stepping into the unknown.

Here’s how I’m coping with the challenge of change.

Focus on the positive
In the first week of freelancing I had some less-than-average feedback on my work. It had never really happened before and it was a shock. It made me question my drastic career change. I also received three beautiful ‘no changes required, love your work and thanks’ emails. But I focused on the shit feedback and let that define my beginning. Flip it. Embrace the good stuff. Be grateful for each small success. If you’re struggling, write the positives down. By acknowledging only the positive, it becomes the star of your show. The negative fades into the background.

Change takes time
We’re bombarded with media that tells us we can get the perfect job/man/figure in JUST ONE WEEK! You know that’s unrealistic, but someone’s doing it. Right? Wrong. It’s spin. No one is doing it. No one. When you measure your progress during change against a benchmark that’s pure fantasy, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Real, lasting change takes time. Take it step by step and day by day. Give yourself time to adapt. Breathe. Nurture your change and let it grow.

Stop expecting perfection
For 5 years I built up a fantasy of what it would be like when I finally made the change and left my job. It would be perfect. I would wake at 6am to do yoga, meditate, have a nourishing breakfast, be present with my kids, then glide serenely into 8 hours of creatively fulfilling, well-paid and well-received work, taking breaks to sip green tea and snack on super foods. The reality? A little different. My  expectation of perfection wasn’t realised, so I felt disappointed, resentful, angry, unsatisfied and unseen. In the choppy waters of change, unrealistic expectations weigh you down. Release them.

Pin it to win it
This may come as a shock to you but I was once unemployed for a couple of quite depressing months. I put up a proper old-school cork board. I cut out photos from magazines and pinned them up on my vision board for inspiration. It sounds wanky, but it helped. When you’re struggling with the day-to-day of change, it can be fun to visualise your future success.

Keep going
If you want to make change work badly enough, you will — despite the inevitable stumbles and slip ups. Guilt about failure can be debilitating. Be your own best friend. Be kind to yourself, encourage yourself, celebrate your progress, however small. If you persist, you will succeed.

Change is challenging and scary. But what I’m trying to remember is that not changing is even scarier. Embrace the uncertainty. Life isn’t meant to stay the same. There will be highs and lows. Your job is not to control the ebb and flow — it’s to learn to ride the waves.

Like this post? Come and ride the waves with Wellbeing bites. Sign up to receive Wellbeing bites posts by email and change your inbox for the better. 

Image courtesy of gratisography.

Poison envy: how to banish the green-eyed monster

deal with jealousy envyJealousy. Nasty little fucker. It got under my skin this week and got pretty comfy. I’ve finally taken the plunge, left my ‘real’ job and gone freelance. You’d think I’d be happy. And I am… except now that other writer comes popping into my head with her hipster style and cool new clients and no kids and great website and all this freaking time to write and… SHE’S JUST BETTER THAN ME.

Don’t lie to me and say you’ve never felt jealous. Best mate has cooler hair. Work mate got promoted. They’re better parents (and get more sleep than you). She’s prettier. He’s hotter. More successful. Thinner. Younger. Richer.

I thought when I was a grown up, I’d stop feeling jealous of others. I thought I’d be able to feel happy when others succeed, rather than feeling like someone has slapped me in the face.

But even though I’m officially a grown up. Even though I know that jealousy is about my own fear and doubt. Even though I understand that there is plenty to go around, I can safely say that comparing ourselves to others is just what us flawed and fucked up humans do.

It’s pointless to say you ‘shouldn’t’ feel a certain way or to beat yourself up when you do feel jealous. Since when were emotions rational? Instead, let’s try and deal with the green-eyed monster when it does rear its ugly head.

1. Focus on what you have
Gratitude lists are slightly noughties Oprah, but they do allow you to focus on what you have rather than what you lack (which is what envy and jealousy are all about). I’ve been envious of friends’ career success but when I look at my own work – writing about what I love, working for myself – my career looks pretty kickass too. And that’s not to mention my family, friends, home and health. Revel in what you have and you’ll have little room for envy. Now you’re focused on abundance, you can…

2. Blow your own trumpet
Not getting enough praise from others? Lead by example. Toot your own horn. Toot it loud. Shout about your success. It’s not arrogant to give yourself praise and approval – it’s called self respect. Buy yourself a gift. Shower your awesome self in love. Others will follow suit.

3. Remember there is backstory…
… and it’s not always so pretty. You see a friend doing something amazing on social media. Looking amazing. Being amazing. But you are only seeing the highlights. Nobody has it all. Nobody. You’re comparing your reality, warts and all, to a fantasy. The selfies that made the cut. The travel photos that show the ocean view but not the dog shit on the street. The house photos post-renovation that don’t show the blood, sweat, tears, near-divorce and almost-bankruptcy. Everyone has a backstory. They probably won’t share it on Facebook.

4. Understand that you have to work hard for success
I whinge that I’m not getting as much work as that other writer, but she’s out there schmoozing and building her business. I’m sitting moping and hiding behind my laptop. Your ego loves a bit of envy and is really good at convincing you that you are a loser and they are a winner and that’s just how it is. But you know deep down that’s bullshit. People don’t get success offered to them on a silver platter. They work for it. Jealousy can make you feel paralysed. Bitch-slap envy. Take action. Earn your success.

5. Get a life
Envy is a pointless emotion but a paralysing one. And therein lies its appeal. When you’re feeling envious, you can convince yourself not to do anything. Not to take a chance. Not to change. Not to work harder. Not to stray out of your comfort zone. But by filling your life with more fun, more people you love, more things you like to do, you won’t have time or a reason to be envious.

The green-eyed monster tells you life is a competition. That’s there’s not enough to go around. It thrives on creating feelings of lack. It wants to have a destructive and lifelong relationship with you.

Don’t let it.

The pie is big. So grab a fork, poke the envy monster in its green eye, and fill your plate.

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Image courtesy of gratisography.

I must be liked by everyone… and other unrealistic self-expectations

Expectations of selfYesterday, I got the “I hate you and everything you stand for” face from a barista. I asked for a 3/4 latte. I got a half pour so asked for a tiny top up. She gave me the face.

This woman is not my local barista. I will never see her again. She will not feature in the movie of my life and, if hadn’t got the face, I would never have given her a second thought post 3/4 latte.

So why did I spend the rest of the day replaying our milk-based passive aggression over and over in my mind?

Because everyone has to like me. Everyone. Even the people I don’t like. Because if I’m not likeable, I am a failure.

I know this is absolutely ridiculous. And this is just one of the many unrealistic expectations I place on myself.

Other self-imposed expectations include a Branson-like career trajectory, Buddha-like patience, JK Rowling’s bank balance, Zen Habits-style blog success, a model-esque appearance and perfect parent status. What could possible go wrong?

A few weeks ago, I talked about letting go of the great expectations we have of others. Self-imposed expectations are even more dangerous, so here are my top tips for getting rid of those unrealistic little suckers.

Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
Do you start sentences with “I should really…” and end them by feeling shit because you haven’t, didn’t, won’t?

Should is the most dangerous word in the English language. I should be thinner. My salary should be higher. I should be married by now. I should be exercising/meditating/eating healthy/drinking less.

Should makes you feel bad. Should translates to “I am wrong. I am not good enough.” Try using “could” instead. Could is a choice word. Unlike should, could isn’t shrouded in shame and guilt. It allows you space to think about why you’re not [fill in blank here]. Perhaps it’s simply because you don’t want to. Perhaps your shame and guilt has been defeating you. Should is an obstacle. Move it out of your way.

Be realistic about change 
Change is hard. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not finishing the chapter of your novel, pat yourself on the back for those few incredible paragraphs you did write. Rather than feeling like a failure because you didn’t get to three yoga classes this week, congratulate yourself for getting to one and focus on how much your body and mind has benefitted.

Risk disapproval, then embrace it
As you may have guessed by the barista experience, this is a tricky one for me. But usually when others disapprove of you, it’s their issue. Push the envelope. Live your dream. Hit a nerve. The other option is you don’t do anything and they won’t care either way. And that’s much more scary.

Stop comparing yourself to other people
Yes, I’d love Wellbeing bites to be as big as Zen Habits. But it’s not Zen Habits. Yes, I’d love to look like Eva Mendes. But I’m not sure I could cope with the pressure of being Mrs Gosling anyway (well, maybe I could live with it). It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. But you will never be others. You will always be you. Perfect, flawed and fabulous you. You are epic. Go be you. Go be epic.

Today I went back to my usual barista. He gave me a 3/4 latte with a perfect little heart on top. And a smile. It was unexpected. And I think that’s why it felt so good.

What unrealistic expectations do you place on yourself? Any tips on how to manage your self-expectations? Please leave me a comment — I need all the help I can get.

Image by Ryan McGuire from www.gratisography.com

Fear — stop being scared and get stuff done

Last night, I was thinking about all the things on my to-do list: migrate my blog, set up a Facebook fan page, build my freelance writing business, put together a plan for exercising and eating well, practise meditation and yoga each day… the stuff that’s important to me.

Lying there, I realised that I have been ticking stuff off to-do lists recently. I’ve researched kinder programs and schools, given my husband marketing and copy ideas for his theatre project, helped build Lego helicopters, created advertising campaigns for clients at my day job. I’ve been kicking some serious goals.

But not my goals. My to-do list has been stuck at the same point for months. 

So why is it easier for me to ‘do’ for other people? Why can’t I find the time to help myself?

Lying in bed, I realised. It’s fear. I’m scared. 

Doing the stuff on my to-do list means I have to start living my dream. But what if my dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

I might migrate my blog and lose the readers I have. I might create a Facebook fan page and get no likes. I might put myself out there as a full-time freelance writer and get no work. I might not stick to my exercise plan. I might eat cake and drink wine. I might find meditation makes me angry again if it’s scheduled in. I might start to hate yoga…

The fear of what might happen.
The fear of disappointing.
The fear of being disappointed.
The fear of not being good enough.
The fear of other people judging me.
The fear of losing money.

The fear of failing. 

Suddenly my dream becomes a nightmare. All because of fear.

How to feel the fear and do it anyway

Be aware and accept
You’re scared. So what? Everyone else is shitting themselves too — at least everyone who’s doing something on their own genuine to-do list.

Ask yourself: what’s the worst case scenario?
Be rational about your fear. Would you be OK? Unless your to-do list includes bungy jumping without a rope or naked yoga in the Arctic, the answer is probably yes. The worst case scenario may not be ideal, but you’d be alright.

Be in the moment
When you accept what’s happening now, it’s really hard to fear a future that doesn’t exist. Practise mindfulness. Be in the moment. The fear will dissipate.

Do something proactive
Stop procrastinating. Procrastination is fear at its most debilitating. Start. Do one small thing on your to-do list. Spend 20 minutes on it, then give yourself a 10-minute break.

Focus on what you will gain 

If you push past your fear and do what you want to do, what will you achieve? Financial security? Creative freedom? Happiness? The ability to make a difference to others? Be bold. Be brave. You’ll never live your dream if you don’t step out of your comfort zone.

Say no to other people — just for a while
Put yourself first for a bit. Be kind but be firm. Say no, I can help you out in a few days/next week, but right now I’m concentrating on my stuff. Don’t fear being seen as selfish. Reasonable people will understand and probably respect you for it. And by giving to yourself you’ll have so much more to give to others.

Revisit your to-do list. Make a pact with yourself to start ticking things off. Everything you fear is in your head. Stop feeding your fear. Face it and you’ll realise it’s not that scary after all.

If you’re here at Wellbeing bites you’ll see I actually got off my bottom and did a couple of things on my list. But yeah — I’m scared you might not like my blog. If you do like Wellbeing bites/Apple a Day, please sign up to receive email updates.