Three steps to upgrading your self-belief

November 22, 2016

From our earliest years, we start forming beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of. We get these ideas through feedback from our family (maybe you were the smart one or the funny one, but not the sporty one) and then from our teachers and peers at school. We form beliefs not just based on what we’re told but on what we observe in the world around us.

Then we navigate our way through life carrying around a whole lot of ideas about what is possible for us, and make decisions based on those ideas without ever really checking in to see whether they’re true!

If you grew up with the idea that you were clever but not sporty, for example, you probably avoided trying out for team sports. And if you avoid sports, you never give yourself the opportunity to challenge that old belief so it stays put and becomes true for you. Vicious circle, right?!

Depending on what those beliefs are, they can seriously handbrake your ability to make progress on important goals.

The good news is that once you become aware that you have old beliefs or programs influencing your expectations of yourself and the actions you take in life, you can absolutely make a decision to do something about that because those stories do NOT necessarily have to be true.

Here are three steps to upgrading your self-belief and getting different results in life

1. Name the story

The first step to change is always awareness. Do a bit of a mental excavation and see if you can find ideas or beliefs (about yourself, your capabilities, your self-worth or what you think you deserve) that might be holding you back. Notice the things you regularly think (e.g., “I never finish what I start” or “I have no willpower”) and write them down.

2. Find and replace

Now you want to swap out some of those old limiting ideas and replace them with something more empowering. This is where some people have difficulty because if those old stories have been reinforced through years worth of your own behaviour, it can be hard to let go of them. The best way to do this is to swap out a disempowering belief such as “I’m an emotional eater” with a thought of possibility such as “I’m capable of learning new strategies to manage my emotions”. We’re not talking about chanting empty affirmations here, but planting new seeds of possibility in your mind, which you can strengthen with your behaviour.

3. Act as if it were true

Take one of these new thoughts of possibility and ask yourself how you would behave if it were true for you. If you really believed you were capable of supreme health and fitness, what actions might you take each day? If you believed you were deserving of love and respect, what would you no longer tolerate? If you believed you are as entitled as anyone to achieve all the success you hope for, how would your behaviour reflect that? Start doing those actions and before you know it, you’ll be building new experiences and evidence to support your new, upgraded self-belief.

I’d love for you to come over and join my free facebook community and share any insights you’ve gained about your self-belief so we can start working on your upgraded view of yourself and what you’re capable of!

 “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right”.

Henry Ford
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Bouncing back: How to build resilience

June 1, 2016

Why is it that when life deals one of its inevitable blows, some people are able to bounce back to their old happy self in no time at all (or maybe even better than their old self, because they’ve amazingly managed to glean some pearl of wisdom from their adversity) while others are completely flattened by it? The difference lies in that ineffable quality we call resilience. It’s something we want to instil in our kids so they can deal with the rejections and disappointments of life, and even as adults we could all benefit from this kind of psychological fortitude. If you find it extra hard to recover from emotional struggles – whether they be relationship difficulties, grief and loss, financial or work stress – you might wonder if it’s possible to increase your own level of resilience. Is it like a muscle we can strengthen and grow by our own efforts? The good news is that there are many known factors that contribute to strong psychological resilience, and it is most certainly within your power to do something proactive if you feel you could use some help in this area.

  • Having warm, supportive relationships creates an emotional safety net where we can land safely and take time to recover from our wounds. If you’re in emotional pain, having someone to confide in can make all the difference to how quickly you recover.
  • Resilient people tend to have an optimistic way of explaining the bad things that happen in life. Specifically I’m talking about the 3 Ps of Personalisation, Pervasiveness and Permanence. An optimist tends to say things like “These things happen to all of us” (non-personal); “It’s only this one area of my life that is affected” (non-pervasive); and “This too shall pass.” (non-permanent).  If you tend to have the more pessimistic explanatory style of “It’s all my fault. My whole life is ruined. I don’t know if I can ever recover from this”, you might benefit from considering the three P’s and re-working your self-talk.
  • Being able to manage your emotions in a healthy way is an important skill. A great many people fear that if they allow themselves to experience the full force of their emotions they will be completely overwhelmed, so instead they actively avoid or suppress their feelings. Learning and practising mindfulness can help you to open up and experience your own suffering in a healthy, balanced way so that you can process your experience and move on.
  • Self-compassion is about being kind to yourself in times of difficulty or perceived inadequacy (i.e., when you stuff something up). Launching into painful self-criticism when things go wrong is most people’s default reaction but this only adds insult to injury when things are already tough. Practising self-compassion is a proven buffer against depression.

We’re all different and what works for one person might not work for another so I’d suggest looking for opportunities to try out various strategies and finding your own formula for resilience building. And remember that just as you don’t build a bicep with one gym visit, cultivating resilience should be an ongoing process.

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Good enough! It’s time to overcome perfectionism.

May 2, 2016

Do you consider yourself to be a perfectionist?

Many people do, and in fact most consider it to be an admirable quality. Striving for excellence and holding yourself to high standards can be a good thing. Being orderly, organised and neat as well as paying attention to details – these are all positive qualities and are considered to be what we psychologists call ‘adaptive’. In other words, they serve a useful purpose!

For some people though, those high standards and fixation with details can be a symptom of an unhealthy kind of perfectionism. Maladaptive perfectionism is driven by a deep feeling that nothing you ever do will be good enough. It’s usually accompanied by relentless self-criticism and can result in not putting any work out into the world because of the crippling fear of judgement, rejection or failure.

Unhealthy perfectionism can lead to anxiety and depression due to the constant trying and failing to meet your own unrealistic expectations. Perfectionism can show up in any area of your life – at work, in your creative efforts, your body shape, home or your relationships.

The antidote to perfectionism is to wholeheartedly embrace the concept of ‘good enough’. And in order to be comfortable putting out good enough work, you first have to start with the sure knowledge that YOU are good enough; with all your flaws and imperfections. You have to know with certainty that even if you screw something up, it doesn’t mean YOU are a screw-up.

Until you are able to know this for sure, you’re at risk of being stuck in the painful grip of ‘never good enough’ and that’s a horribly confined space in which to live. What’s more, the world may never know the beauty and value you have to offer if your unrelenting standards prevent you from sharing it with others. If this sounds like you, I offer the following tips to help you overcome perfectionism:

Focus on what you do well

Perfectionists are always on the lookout for flaws or mistakes. Because of this negative bias, they minimise, dismiss or completely fail to notice all the things they are doing really well while they instead focus on every tiny thing that is not perfect. Take time each day to deliberately notice your positive achievements and successes. Begin to pay attention also to the examples of imperfection that are all around you that you still love and appreciate.

Remember that done is better than perfect.

As the saying goes, ‘Aim for progress, not perfection’. Press publish on that blog post. Submit the assignment. Go to bed even if the dishes aren’t done. The only people who will judge you for not being ‘perfect’ are other perfectionists projecting their own fears onto you, and while your ‘good enough’ work is making a difference in the world, their ‘not quite ready yet’ is helping no-one.

Share your struggles

Being afraid to talk about mistakes or expose your vulnerability is common if you have a false belief that perfection is the only option. Talking about your personal struggles, whether privately or publicly, allows people to connect with the real you (not the fake, ‘polished’ you), and gives you valuable real-time feedback that you are appreciated and accepted just as you are.

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What are your values?

February 1, 2016
what are your values

Let’s talk for a minute about values. You might have heard the term bandied around by coaches, in self-help books, or even at work. But still a lot of people either aren’t fully clear on what ‘values’ really are, or can’t clearly articulate their own highest values. Knowing your values and living in alignment with them is critical to a life that is happy, meaningful and fulfilling so it’s worth you spending some time on this.

So… what are values?

Simply put, your values are what you consider to be most important – in life, at work, or in relationships. Some examples of one’s core values might be wealth, freedom, faith, adventure, self-discipline, health, equality or family.

Values aren’t goals as they don’t have an end point. Rather, values guide the direction of your life, inform the decisions you make, and ideally will influence your vision and goals because setting a goal that isn’t aligned with your values isn’t going to get much traction.

Personal Values quota by Roy Disney

If I showed you a list of values you’d identify many of them as being important to you because we all consider many things to be important in our lives. The key is being able to drill down and determine the one or two HIGHEST values in your life. It can be challenging to narrow them down like this but there’s a powerful clarity that comes from doing so. This is what you stand for and what you’ll be remembered for. Values are that important. Before I get you to dive into your own values, I want to make a couple of important points:

  • There are no right or wrong answers here. Try not to get caught up in what you think your values ‘should’ be.
  • Be honest with yourself. If you say that physical health is an important value but your daily behaviour patterns do not include healthful choices, is it because you’re acting out of alignment with your values (trust me, you’ll know that in your gut) or because actually physical health is really not the most important thing to you? Remember – there’s no right or wrong!

So if you’re ready to take some time to explore your own highest values, feel free to download this Values List to give you some inspiration. Take some time with it. Get your top 10. Then narrow down to five. And if possible, get it down even further to two (or three). And when you’ve taken some time to reflect and decide on what’s most important to you, ask yourself….

  • Are the choices I’m making today consistent with my core values?
  • When I reflect on how I spend my time, money and energy, am I investing in the things I consider to be most important?
  • What might I do differently to ensure that my espoused values (what I say) are aligned with my enacted values (what I do)?

Have fun with it and if you find this exercise challenging, give yourself plenty of time to think and reflect.

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Are the crazies driving the bus?

January 13, 2016
the bus of life

Life’s a journey, and you’re travelling by bus (it’s a tired cliché but stay with me on this). You get to steer the bus wherever you want to go. Sometimes you take the direct route, sometimes you prefer the scenic route. Sometimes you get completely lost! Those times it’s important to stop and remember where you were headed in the first place and re-set your GPS so you can get back on track.

All good, right? Just as long as you’re in the driver’s seat and deciding the direction of the bus.

But what no-one tells you about the bus ride is that you have to take a whole lot of crazy characters with you. And no, I’m not talking about your family! I’m talking about all the thoughts and feelings that are scary and uncomfortable for you. The crazies on the bus will do anything to get you to stop the bus. When you stay very still and don’t go anywhere out of your comfort zone, they’re happy.

stop the bus
Don’t let them press the STOP button

Here’s how it goes: You decide what you want in life and you start up the bus. As you set off on your journey, the scary thoughts and feelings show up just as sure as the sun will rise. The more important the thing is that you want, the louder the crazies get, because the stakes are higher!  Whether you’re heading to a party or a job interview, going on a date or launching a business, the crazies will be on that bus – mark my words.

They might tell you that you’re too young, too old or too fat, that you’re not really that smart anyway or that people don’t like you very much. They might tell you that you’re not qualified enough or that because you had a terrible childhood, you’re basically broken. Essentially, you should stay home and stay still and pull your head in and forget all that driving the bus business.

The feeling will overwhelmingly be fear. But however it shows up, you need to know that these thoughts and feelings are the crazies and they will jump up and down and wave their arms and say anything to get you to stop the bus.

I know you want to throw them off and leave them on the side of the road, I really do. But sadly, no matter how hard you work to boot them out or shut them up, there willl always be one or two of them coming along for the ride.

Here’s what I tell my clients and what I want to tell you. You need to accept that the crazies are going to be on the bus. No, you didn’t invite them but if you stand around arguing with them, the bus isn’t going anywhere. So your best option is to tell them to buckle up, sit down and preferably keep the noise to a low roar.

They absolutely do not get to drive the bus.

They can jump up and down all they want, but they can’t hurt you as long as they keep their hands off the steering wheel.

Get on with driving your bus because you’re the only one in the driver’s seat and you have too many awesome places to go to let a bunch of noisy passengers stop you.

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Making space the KonMari way

January 2, 2016
Declutter your life

Despite my best efforts to keep things clean and tidy around here, I’m afraid my house in the past few months has become one massive, disorganised mess. Papers and books cover random surfaces, my clothes don’t fit in their drawers and don’t even start me on trying to find a matching set of salad servers in the second kitchen drawer.

Clutter, to me, is not just physical. A crowded, disorganised space does not make for a calm, peaceful mind. It also means I waste a lot of time looking for stuff that is not in its right place and that makes me frustrated and stressed.

That’s why I was intrigued when I first heard about Marie Kondo’s bestselling book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying”. Marie is a Japanese declutter expert with a unique approach to the task of reducing the amount of stuff in your house. I’d known about the book for a long time before I decided that things had gotten so out of hand that I needed a bit of KonMari in my life (KonMari is her nickname and the name given to her unique method of tidying.)

life changing magic of tidying up
Marie Kondo’s bestselling guide to decluttering.

My priority was to clear my space, physically and energetically, for all the things the new year may bring and for about a month now, I’ve been quietly, excitedly anticipating the day when I could begin shedding my excess and regaining my peace of mind. That day was January 29th, which means I’m now a few days into my decluttering process. I have a very long way to go but I thought I’d share with you the basic principles of the KonMari method in case you too are keen to clear some space in your life and mind.

Here’s my quick rundown:

  • Decluttering is best done category by category, NOT room by room. So whether you’re doing clothing or books or papers, you go around the whole house and collect everything in that category, then begin the process;
  • Next, you take everything OUT of the wardrobe (or bookshelf or cupboard) and decide one by one which items deserve to stay;
  • Deciding which items stay and which ones go involves holding each item in your hands and deciding if it brings you joy. Seriously, hold it, connect with it and ask yourself, ‘does this thing make me feel happy?’ If it cost you $500 and you wore it once before you realised it was itchy and uncomfortable, it’s not sparking joy therefore it’s gone! I bloody love this because it’s not so much a rational process as an intuitive one. Marie says quite rightly that with a little practice, you will immediately know which items spark joy. (hint from me: if you feel stuck, it’s because your thinking mind is weighing in on the process);
  • For those many MANY items which do not spark joy, you thank each one for the purpose it served and then you let it go. I especially love this. Because I find the hardest things to let go of are those which I might have purchased on a whim, or which were expensive, and I feel guilty about giving away perfectly good (expensive!) things. But the KonMari approach says that any particular item’s purpose may have been served the minute it brought you joy when you purchased it. Or its purpose might have been to teach you to be more mindful about your spending, or that the colour orange doesn’t suit you and never will. Thank it and bless it out of your life;
  • There is a particular order to the decluttering process. By the time you get to photos and keepsakes which are hardest to let go of, you’ll be more skilled at knowing what sparks joy;
  • After you finish sorting, the next stage is storing things in such a way that everything has its place. This way your home will never be cluttered again. There’s a unique process here too but I’ll let you get the book for that!

And that’s pretty much it. She says most of her clients end up keeping about a quarter to a third of their original amount of stuff. I believe her.

As for me, I’ve just completed clothing over several days (contrary to the ‘do each category from start to finish’ rule). Everything I own is now in plain sight in my bedroom wardrobe – nothing hanging around in the spare room or in storage. And when I go to my wardrobe, there is nothing I automatically skip over because I don’t like how it looks on me. It really is a great feeling.

Probably the thing I really liked about the whole book was the amount of gratitude that goes into the whole process and continues as you actively appreciate those items you have chosen to keep. It’s well known that gratitude is fundamental to happiness, and Marie advocates expressing gratitude for the very things we take so much for granted on a daily basis.

I  plan to spend the next week continuing the process, and then I hope to maybe reap some of the ‘life-changing’ rewards that others report experiencing – including ‘KonMari’ing’ all the activities, obligations and people which do not spark joy in my life. I’ll keep you posted!

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Have you asked for what you want?

December 20, 2015
Cass, Scout and Jake

I can’t believe it is less than a week until Christmas and the new year is literally around the corner. How did that happen?

It feels like this year has flown by, but actually when I look back at where I was in January, I’m amazed at how much my life has changed in less than a year. Back then I was panic-stricken that our house hadn’t sold and worried we might not be able to make our much anticipated tree-change. Today I write this from our beautiful acreage property, surrounded by many rescued animals and 15 minutes from the most beautiful beaches in the world.

with a calf

This whole experience has taught me a lot of important lessons about trusting and letting go. It’s also reaffirmed that we all have the power to create what we want in life.

So it’s a bit like… deciding what you want and then, paradoxically, letting go of your expectations.

Letting go of expectations is the hardest part for me (I’ve got a bit of control freak in me just like you) but it really is the only way to keep your sanity. You have to know what you want, but not hold on too tightly to what you think you need to happen, how it is to happen and when it needs to happen. It really is about letting the universe take care of the details, as unscientific as that may sound.

I would love to share with you a quick story about how this has happened for me very recently…

When we moved here, I decided that I wanted to work from home as much as possible. I also wanted to expand my reach so I could  connect with more people in more places, rather than being limited by time and geography. And I wanted to write… on this blog, maybe an e-course, and ultimately the book I’ve been talking about for years.

I decided I knew exactly how this would go.

I would get back into the coaching work I love so much because I can do it by Skype. By replacing some of my clinical hours with coaching hours, I could work from home (win) and on the other days I’d be free to write. I’d develop that online course to expand my reach and then I’d take that course material and put it into a book. Perfect.

Now let me tell you what actually happened:

I invested in a business mentor to teach me about using Facebook to attract coaching clients. I spent many hours putting together a FREE course called “Crappy to Happy” so that people could get to know who I am and what I do. I told everyone I was available for coaching. Crappy to Happy was a huge success! This was all going to plan! I waited for coaching clients to start booking me up.

And I waited. hmmmm….

Oh don’t get me wrong, I did get coaching clients but just not as many as I’d expected.

But meanwhile, something else happened.

I got an out-of-the-blue email from someone asking if she could pay me to write articles and course content for her digital platform. I’m sorry, what?


To work from home.


And then when I was in Cambodia just recently, I got a message from an old friend saying she’d seen my Crappy to Happy course and would like me to deliver it as a workshop in her very large organisation. At corporate rates. And run some mindfulness courses while I’m at it. And also do some coaching!

Meanwhile, I just happened to see that there would be a writer’s workshop in Brisbane offering a publishing prize for attendees. Long story short, the Crappy to Happy book proposal is now at Hay House and in the running for a publishing contract.

As if all that wasn’t enough, last week I was invited to write some meditations for a new online health and fitness program that’s being released by an Aussie celebrity in the new year.

I did not expect any of that. But it’s proven to me again that I can have what I want if I just let go of my expectations about how it’s going to show up in my life.

And so can you.

So what is it that YOU want, my friend? The new year is fast approaching and now is the time to set your intentions.

I actually just wrote a blog post about creating a Vision Board to give substance to your goals. I’m really enjoying creating mine and you might find that to be a fun and inspiring holiday activity too. Please do check out the post!

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Visualise success: create a vision board!

December 15, 2015
dream big

It’s that time of year again when I reflect on the year that’s just been and think about my goals for the year ahead. I’ve written before about my aversion to making New Year’s Resolutions and the things I like to do instead.  This year I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done in years (in fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever really done it properly) and that is to create a vision board.

Recently it seemed that everywhere I turned I saw vision boards and everyone seemed to be talking about them so I took that as a sign and promptly went out and bought me the prettiest darned vision board I could find (not just any old cork board for me!!)

If you don’t know what a vision board is, it’s simply a collage of images and words representing your vision for the future. If your goal is to have a tropical island holiday, you cut out a picture of the exact beach you want to be lying on next summer and you whack it on your vision board. You can add inspirational quotes, souvenirs from places you’ve been, or anything that makes you feel happy and inspired. It’s a really fun and creative way to motivate you towards your goals.  

vision board

Vision board available from Kikki-K

Some people believe that by looking at their vision board every day,  the law of attraction will manifest these things into their life. But even if you aren’t into the manifestation idea, the power of visualising success isn’t a new one in psychology. It’s called mental rehearsal and athletes do it all the time.

So how do you create a vision board?

All you need is some kind of pin board or magnetic board (or cardboard and glue if that works or you!)  Like I said, I bought my board from Kikki-K, which is a stationery shop here in Australia. They also very cleverly stock little packs of inspirational quotes, push-pins, string and mini-pegs to help get you started.

Then the fun part begins. Go online or start cutting up your magazines. Find the words and images that  speak to you and represent your inspiring vision. There are no rules!

Some people like to cover every inch of their vision board whereas I like mine clean and uncluttered. You might want to leave space to add things later or complete your board all at once.

Don’t let small thinking get in your way. If you want to share a stage with Oprah, cut out an Oprah picture and glue yourself onto the couch next to her. If you want to cross the finish line in the Hawaiian Ironman, literally stick yourself into that picture. My vision board has a bit of a New York theme at the moment with both ‘NY Times Bestseller’ and ‘Finisher NYC Marathon’ taking prominent position. (We’re not about what’s sensible or realistic here but what’s possible, even if it’s in your wildest dreams!)

I was at an event recently that was MC’d by a female radio host. She told a story of cutting out her own head and glueing it onto the body of the person whose job she wanted and sticking that onto her vision board. Seems a bit voodoo-ish but hey – it’s no-one else’s vision board but your own. As it happens, she got a call out of the blue a month or so ago offering her an amazing opportunity, in keeping with her voodoo vision.

When you’re done, hang your vision board somewhere you will see it every day. The idea is that by looking at it regularly, you never lose sight of the future you want to create. Your vision board should make you feel happy, excited and continually motivated to work towards your goals.

If you decide to create a vision board, I’d love to hear about it. Good luck and have fun!


Escaping the Cult of Busy

October 16, 2015
stop the glorification of busy

For more than a decade, every time I asked my husband about his workday, his response has been “We are SO busy!”
To his credit, when I pointed out that his busyness made for BORING conversation, he at least tried to apply some creativity by mixing it up with “We are really under the pump right now”, or “We’ve got a LOT going on”.

Pretty much all variations of ‘busy’.

Similarly, friends will lament that there is never enough time, and even on social media, there seems to always be someone wanting to share just how crazy busy life is these days. If you’ve ever tried catching up with friends and had to book a date four months away, you’ll know how out-of-control our schedules seem to be!

Are we really that busy? And more to the point, should we be slowing down?!

There’s no doubt the digital era has dissolved many of the boundaries that once were created by time and geography. Rather than clocking off at 5pm and going home to our sanctuary, we are now available 24/7 via a device we carry around in our pockets. Work can and will encroach on your personal life if you let it. (If you’re self-employed or working from home, that’s a whole other boundary issue.)

If you’re a working parent, the challenge of juggling parenting, kids’ activities, work projects and maintaining a household is a constant source of tension. I say ‘parent’ but I think for working mothers particularly, the notion of ‘having it all’ generally means ‘doing it all’!

We assume then, that busyness is a fact of modern life… but the question is, does it have to be?

No doubt we all experience times in our life when everything seems to happen at once. The big work deadline, the family visit and the school play are all scheduled in the same week. The only thing you can do is knuckle down, get it done and look forward to some down time when it’s all over. But I’m talking about the chronic busyness that never gives you a break. I’ve come to think there are a few reasons we might unconsciously be choosing unrelenting busyness over the option of a more leisurely-paced lifestyle.

  • Many people feel pressure to excel in every area of life. This kind of perfectionism is unachievable and, contrary to popular belief, is not so much driven by a desire to be your best self, but by a fear of never being good enough.
  • For some, being busy is a badge of honour worn with great pride as if it reflects productivity or importance. “I’m so CRAZY busy”, they say – hoping to transmit the message, “I’m worthwhile” or “I matter.”
  • Avoidance. Staying endlessly busy means we don’t have time to engage in any kind of deep reflection or self-examination. If you’re a bit addicted to busyness (a blank page in your diary causes you to break out in hives), ask yourself what you might encounter if you slow down enough to pay attention to what is really going on in your life, your relationships, your level of personal fulfilment.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a pervasive apprehension that other people are having a better time than you are. FOMO causes people to want to say yes to every invitation or opportunity, even when they might be a whole lot happier having a quiet night in or a weekend of doing absolutely nothing.

In this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. – Brené Brown

If you think you might tick any of those boxes or you just feel like your schedule is spiralling out of control, here are a few suggestions for how you might scale back, slow down and escape the cult of busy:

  • Pay attention to the urge to fill every moment with activity. Bring a gentle curiosity (non-judgemental and non-defensive) to what might be driving you to keep moving and doing. Does being still make you a bit anxious? What’s going on there?
  • Track your output. Multi-tasking (that thing you think you’re doing when you’re busy) is actually highly inefficient. If you assume busyness equates to productivity, try using an app such as RescueTime’ to monitor how you’re spending your online time or ‘IDoneThis’ to measure actual outcomes.
  • Change your language. Instead of offering “I’m too busy” as an explanation for not doing something, Laura Vanderkam (author of “168 Hours”) suggests you say instead “It’s not a priority”. You might find this a painless enough substitute when you’re skipping a boring work meeting but feel the difference when you apply it to your child’s sporting event or an overdue medical checkup. Then it becomes a question of values, and your behaviour might not be aligned with what you SAY is most important to you.
  • Learn to say no. A simple no, that is, without a long-winded explanation or apology. Get clear about what truly matters to you and make time for those things above everything else. I highly recommend the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown on this topic. In fact I enjoyed that book so much I wrote a whole blog post about it HERE.
  • Remember that Perfect is the enemy of GOOD. Practise lowering those all-too-high standards and accept that ‘good enough’ makes for a full, balanced, healthy life minus the stress of perfectionism (which I also wrote about HERE).

Most importantly, when someone asks how you are, try to catch yourself before you trot out the default response of “I’m SO busy!”  Pause, take a breath, and engage in a conversation.

Better still, make plans to catch up for a coffee so you can both take a break from your busy lives.

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The single most important ingredient for happiness

September 16, 2015

In just over a week I’ve had 400 people sign up to my Crappy to Happy 7-day email courseIt seems there are plenty of people who are keen to get the low down on how to be happier! (update: now almost 2000 people have signed up!)

There’s one thing I deliberately left out of the email series and the reason is that I honestly thought it was so obvious as to be unnecessary. But then I realised that sometimes, even for me, it’s the most simple truths – the things we know only too well – that we need to be reminded of, and that can make the biggest difference in our lives.

I had this realisation last week when I was having my own crappy day. I’m not a person who necessarily battles with chronic depression but I’ve been depressed, and I still have what I call ‘dark days’. You might have them too. To me these are the days when it feels like a black cloud has descended over my head and is following me wherever I go. It doesn’t matter how bright and sunny the real day is, my world feels heavy, uninspired and a bit pointless.

I’m fortunate to have enough perspective to know those days will pass. Bad days don’t last forever. (That perspective, by the way, is one of the things I’ve gained from learning mindfulness but that’s not the tip I wanted to share.)

When I had my dark day last week, I commenced my usual trek down the path of unhelpful self-criticism, unfounded fears, certain knowledge that everything really is crappy, not wanting to do what’s expected of me, not wanting to answer my phone or return calls; in fact wanting to do nothing except go back to bed until I could magic up an island holiday, a gazillion dollars and a life of no responsibility. Perhaps you’ve felt that way too at times? And then I remembered…

Gratitude is the golden key to the door of happiness.

On even my worst days, I can think of many, many things to be grateful for – things I could easily take for granted but they should never be taken for granted. At the most basic level, I have running water, electricity, plenty of food and a roof over my head. I hit the jackpot being born into a free, democratic, developed country. And if that doesn’t all put me in the top tier of the world’s luckiest people, I also have my health, family, friends, and a job I love (even when I don’t feel like doing the boring bits). The list goes on and on to the point of being almost embarrassing.

It is not happy people who are thankful.It is thankful people who are happy.

So I walked outside into the sunshine, looked around at my abundant life, felt the warm breeze on my skin and allowed every cell in my body to be infused with feelings of gratitude. Even on the darkest days, it’s gratitude that has the power to let in just enough light to start moving your mind and mood in a more hopeful, positive direction. And don’t just take my word for it. Research indicates clear associations between gratitude and wellbeing, better relationships and better health. If you’re having a crappy day or just want to find new ways to boost your happiness, here are some great ways to grow your gratitude:

  • Take a moment (like I did) to review all the good things in your own life and connect with a deep sense of appreciation for what you have. I don’t mean tick off the boxes like a shopping list but really breathe in those feelings of gratefulness until they fill you up and make you feel truly, utterly, astoundingly blessed.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. You don’t have to write in it daily but regular, thoughtfully considered entries are good (by which I mean try not to robotically list the same three things every day).
  • Send thank you notes to people who have helped you out. The combination of gratitude and kindness is a powerful antidote to misery.
  • Change ‘have’ to ‘get’.  For example, instead of saying “I have to go to work”, say “I get to go to work” or “I get to go to school/university”. Instead of “I have to pay bills”, “I get to pay bills”. Instead of “I have to clean the house”, “I get to clean my house”. Seriously. You get to earn a living, further your education, have somewhere to live and have instant daily access to all the creature comforts of modern life. It’s insane.

Why not try it? What do you get to do today that you can be grateful for?

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