Tag Archives: expectations

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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Can’t do what you love (yet)? 6 ways to love what you do now (more).

how to love your job moreThey say Confucius wasn’t an over-privileged Gen-Y arsehole born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Apparently he had a few tough times, working as a shepherd, cowherd, clerk, and a book-keeper to make ends meet. He also said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Well I don’t care how much animal shit you shovelled Confucius. You sound like a smug bastard to me.

Why am I so shitty at a dead Chinese philosopher I hear you ask? Well because I am supposedly doing “a job I love” but it still feels like work. And bloody hard work too.

What Confucius should have said is: “Choose a job you think you might love eventually and you will have to work quite hard for quite a while with some considerable mental, emotional and financial obstacles, but at least you won’t be doing something you hate for people you don’t like very much so that’s got to be better. Right?”

I’m on the path to loving what I do but I’m a fair way from the end goal. So here’s how I’m trying to love what I’m doing now.

1. Focus on just 1 person your current work benefits
Maybe you’re a barista who want to be an artist. But that beautifully made coffee served with a smile made someone’s morning. Maybe that insurance policy you sold will mean that one family won’t have to deal with financial insecurity as well as their grief. If your work contributes to someone else’s wellbeing in any way – and most jobs do – it’s work worth doing.

2. Make your workspace beautiful
Whatever your current job, chances are you’re spending a good chunk of your life in one space. Is your workspace inspiring creativity? The first thing to do is declutter and clean. Then add a green plant or two (known to boost productivity, keep you focused and reduce stress) and a piece of art for a dash of personality and inspiration. Some minimalists recommend blank walls in your workspace to avoid distraction, but if you’re computer based, I think the most dangerous distraction is the internet. Work offline if productivity‘s your goal.

3. Leave when you leave
Being mindful and present in your current work will help you find the good in what you do, but If you don’t love your current job, leave it behind at home time. Don’t check work email on your phone. Reclaim your headspace through meditation, exercise, yoga or working towards what you do love. Your time is precious. Use it wisely.

4. Practice gratitude

My husband bought me a bracelet for Christmas. It has a silver charm engraved with the words “I am grateful”. I love glancing down at it throughout the day when my kids are being shits or I’m tired – whenever I need a reminder about the good stuff. The people I love and who love me. My home. My friends. A full tummy. A cuddle. Instead of focusing on what your career is lacking, consider all the things your work does give you – security, money, experience – and be grateful for them.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others
She has her own business. She’s successful. Happy. She’s made it. Well maybe. But you don’t know how long or how bumpy her journey has been. You don’t know about her bad days and her hard times and her self-doubt and her almost-threw-in-the-towel moments. Comparisons are pointless. Concentrate on your own path. No one else will walk it but you.

6. Celebrate your accomplishments
Did you take a step towards your ‘heart’ work today? Maybe you signed up for a blog site or made a new connection on LinkedIn. However small your step, celebrate it. Most people go through life with dreams, but dreams stay dreams if you don’t take action. Reward yourself for even the babiest of baby steps.

I’ll wrap it up with a couple of Confucius quotes that don’t make me want to punch him in the face.

Firstly, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.” Find the beauty in the work you’re doing now – it does exist.

And secondly, “It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” So keep going. You might have to shovel shit for a while but if every shovelful is uncovering the path to what you love, it’ll smell much sweeter.

Image courtesy of gratisography.

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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.

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Image courtesy of gratisography.