Tag Archives: habits

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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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.