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How to nurture your creativity (and why you should)

June 17, 2019
creativity

Are you one of those people who believes you don’t have a creative bone in your body? Do you envy those talented souls who can paint or sculpt or write compelling fiction? Perhaps you remember being creative as a child and somewhere along the way, you’ve lost touch with your creative side as the serious business of adulthood has taken over all your available time and attention.

The truth is we are all creative in our own ways and making an effort to tap into that creativity can be profoundly beneficial to your success and happiness, no matter what you do for a living. Creativity is about expanding your thinking to include intuitive and abstract ideas, making connections between seemingly disparate topics and coming up with new solutions to challenging problems.

If you work in an environment where things are done just because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’, creativity can mean coming up with new, more effective approaches. Innovation (necessary for business success) is entirely about new, creative thoughts, ideas and processes. It’s not just about making art. If you find yourself struggling with creative inspiration, you might try giving your logical left brain a break by incorporating some of these habits into your routine to help you tap into the well of creativity that exists inside you:

1.    Be quiet

Spending time in silence is a proven way to enhance creativity because normally the endless chatter in your busy mind drowns out the voice of inner wisdom and intuition. When you turn the volume down on all that noise – whether through a formal practice like meditation or perhaps just by going for a walk in nature without your phone – often new insights and ideas emerge without any effort from you at all. The more regularly you take time out to be quiet, the more space you allow for those creative ideas to bubble up into your consciousness.

2.    Play

Hobbies are designed to be fun and non-competitive. When you take the focus away from striving and achievement and do something with a focus on play instead of work, you break out of the perfectionist mindset that normally stifles your creative potential. You might decide to learn a language or take up macramé or pottery. Playing board games, charades or Pictionary are great ways to tip into a fun and playful side of yourself that is normally locked away. As much as possible, try to be non-competitive and do it purely for fun.

3.    Take yourself on a date

In her bestselling book, “The Artist’s Way”, Julia Cameron recommends spending two hours every week in your own company doing something you love. It might be a visit to a gallery, a walk on the beach or going to breakfast or the movies. The point is to allow yourself time to wander and simply reconnect with yourself, to get to know yourself with the same kind of curious interest and attention you might have for someone you’ve just met for the first time. This is a great way of befriending yourself and cultivating the kind of self-acceptance and self-worth that is essential for taking creative risks.

4.    Create a vision board

Lots of people recommend creating a vision board as a way of bringing to life the dreams and goals you have for your life. The idea is to find words and images from magazines or the internet that resonate with you and inspire you dream bigger about what’s possible for you. The act of cutting, glueing and pinning is a really fun way of connecting to your inner four-year old. The digital version is to use Pinterest to pin the images and quotes but I quite like the tactile process for engaging all of your senses.

5.    Read for fun

If your reading material normally consists entirely of industry journals and text books, make time to read fiction. Escaping into a fantasy world unlocks closed doors in your mind and introduces new, different, exciting landscapes. The break away from your own reality means you re-emerge with a clearer mind and a new perspective.

Ultimately, tapping into and expressing creativity requires the willingness to make space in your mind and your life for unstructured activities, and then to be prepared to take a risk in sharing ideas. Giving yourself permission to be wrong, to lighten up and let go is a great place to start.

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Read next article: Is forgiveness the key to your inner peace?

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How to Stop Being a Control Freak

February 4, 2019
letting go by stop being a control freak

Have you ever been accused of being a control freak? Maybe you pride yourself on your meticulous attention to detail and methodical approach to tasks. It’s a term we use to describe people who like things done a certain way, who prefer planned over impromptu and aren’t very comfortable with chaos.  At work, it might come across as micro-managing; on holidays, it’s preferring a detailed itinerary rather than winging it; and at home perhaps it’s insisting on household tasks being done a particular way.

Sometimes those qualities are great assets. There are times in life when consistency is required and you can’t afford to go with the flow. But needing too much control can have its downsides (much like perfectionism also has a dark side). We exert control as a way to create more certainty, in order to reduce the discomfort of uncertainty. Of course, life is inherently uncertain. There are rarely, if ever, guarantees. Oftentimes, it’s when life feels particularly chaotic that taking charge of things you can control soothes the feelings of helplessness created by an uncertain future.

Growing up in a chaotic home or family environment can lead to a higher need for control later in life. Whether it’s rigid food rules, alphabetised pantry shelves or an unwillingness to delegate, there are many ways people attempt to control their environments; but lurking beneath all those control tendencies, there is often anxiety, fear and vulnerability. Control is used as a solution but when it goes too far, it becomes a problem. Often what we need is not more control but an increased capacity for flexibility; that is, to not be wound up quite so tightly. If your peace of mind is contingent on things always going exactly to plan, you will only ever have the most tenuous grasp on happiness.

If you know you’re a control freak and feel like it would benefit you and the people around you to let go of the reins a little, there are a few steps you can take that might help you with letting go:

1. Shift your focus

Being a control freak is attempting to manage your outer world to soothe your inner world. That’s called primary control. Secondary control is more focused on managing your internal response to your outer world – so basically managing your own thoughts and feelings about the uncertainty around you. Not only is it a more realistic goal since it is actually within your control, but it’s been proven to increase wellbeing. Taking deep breaths, choosing to let go of the small stuff and increasing your capacity to tolerate discomfort are all ways you can manage your need for control.

2. Consider the consequences

While you are focusing on making yourself feel better by micro-managing the world around you, often you’re creating stress for other people who can’t relax until everything is perfect for you. If you continually re-do other people’s work or refuse to delegate, you send a message to people that you don’t think they’re competent and that you don’t trust them. If you’re doing it with your kids, this is probably not the message you want them to absorb. Not to mention the personal consequences to you because the more you try to control things, the more things there are to control. Contrary to what you may think, control doesn’t reduce anxiety but reinforces it.

3. Delegate… whether you like it or not

If your partner doesn’t fold the towels the way you’d like, resist the urge to complain or re-fold them and watch how no-one dies. Start taking opportunities to delegate tasks either at work or at home even if things aren’t done exactly how you’d like. Remind yourself that your relationship with other people and your own wellbeing will benefit from you learning to relax your standards and let go.  

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P.S. One of the best ways I know to learn to manage your inner world is through learning and practicing mindfulness. I know I bang on and on about it but that’s because I have seen first hand the difference it makes in people’s lives, not to mention all the research that now demonstrates its effectiveness in reducing symptoms of anxiety, stress and even depression. To find out more about my online mindfulness course, Mindfulness for Busy People, click HERE.

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How to stop overthinking

January 21, 2019
Overthinking

Are you an overthinker?

Of course, we’re all thinking all the time – whether consciously or unconsciously. Our mind never really stops spitting out thoughts, therefore thinking itself is not the problem. Rather, it’s the kind of thoughts you’re engaging in and the amount of energy you’re giving to really unhelpful thoughts that will get you into trouble.

I’ve come to recognise a few common culprits that fall into the ‘overthinking’ category and cause you the most distress. Here I’ve listed my top three and given you some tips for how you might overcome them.

Rumination

This is the very definition of overthinking. It essentially means to obsess over a problem and to keep thinking about it from every angle without doing anything productive to solve it. You know how they call cows ruminants because they keep regurgitating their stomach contents and chewing over it again? (I know.. gross!) Well that is essentially what we are doing when we ruminate. Chewing the same stuff over and over – but not the contents of our stomach, the contents of our minds.

This kind of unproductive, obsessive problem focus is a massive time-waster and strongly linked to increased rates of depression and anxiety. There are various ways to break the habit of rumination:

  • When you notice yourself going down that path, imagine a stop sign in your head and tell yourself STOP. Then immediately switch your thoughts to something more pleasant, more present focused or positive.
  • Give your mind a distraction. Call a friend, read a book, play music, start a new task. Find out what works for you to keep your mind from wandering back to the problem
  • Remind yourself that what you are doing is NOT problem solving and is in fact, likely making things worse. Don’t let yourself be fooled into believing this thinking is productive.

Second guessing

This is when you question everything you do and say, and every decision you make, never trusting yourself to get anything right. It could come up when you’re making decisions about what job to take or what outfit to wear. If it’s about things you’ve already done, you might rehash it wondering if you’ve said or done the right thing. Every little thing is subjected to your own harsh scrutiny, constantly wondering if you should have done something differently. Here’s what to do about it:

  • Practice being more comfortable with uncertainty. Second-guessing yourself is a type of anxiety caused by needing to be 100% sure you’ve done the right thing. Of course, nothing in life is 100% guaranteed (and even if something is right for a short time, things can change in an instant!) so learning to live in a world that is inherently uncertain is essential for your sanity.
  • Challenge your ideas about the importance of some of these decisions. Will it matter in a year? Does it matter to anyone else but you? Is this decision entirely irreversible such that you will live with devastating consequences for the rest of your natural born life? Probably not. So relax.

Mind reading

This is when you obsess over what other people might be thinking or will think about you. It has elements of rumination and a bit of second guessing which makes it doubly torturous. It is often highly self-critical thinking because you assume other people have negative thoughts about you or your decisions. Mind reading is one of the worst kinds of over-thinking because at the end of the day, it’s pure fantasy. Not only are you taking the worst, most judgmental thoughts about yourself but you’re attributing them to someone else without any way of checking the validity of your assumptions. Bad idea!

  • When you notice yourself fixating on what you think other people are thinking or guessing what other people’s objectives or motivations are, use all the skills I mentioned in Point 1 to stop and shift your attention.
  • Remind yourself that your mind’s inbuilt negativity bias means you will always assume the worst. This is part of your biological make-up but you are can take control of those thoughts.
  • If possible, simply let go of those thoughts. If not, try coming up with several more positive scenarios to replace your negative assumptions and remind yourself that since you’re only guessing anyway, the positive options are just as likely to be true.

Of course one of the best ways to manage all the unhelpful thinking traps we all fall into is by practicing mindfulness. When you can learn to watch your thoughts with curiosity (or even humour!) instead of being consumed by them, and you finally are able to stop believing all the terrible stories you’re telling yourself, you open up to a whole new way of living.

If you’re keen to learn more about mindfulness and how it can help you, hop on my mailing list (below) or better still, consider joining me for my 8-week online course, Mindfulness for Busy People.       

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Meditate to lose weight…?

December 3, 2017
meditate to lose weight

Meditation has long since dropped its reputation as a weird hippy past-time and firmly established its place in the mainstream as a foundation for optimal physical and mental health. There is research demonstrating that the benefits of mindfulness meditation include, but are not limited to:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Boosting immunity
  • Slowing the signs of ageing
  • Reducing depression, stress and anxiety
  • Enhancing relationships
    Improving attention, memory and focus

The list is long and perhaps you’ve already heard people espousing the many benefits of maintaining a meditation practice. What you may not have heard is that some of those benefits can directly and indirectly support your efforts to lose weight and create a healthier lifestyle.

See, this is where people become interested because for all the talk about accepting ourselves and loving our bodies, most women are still quite preoccupied with weight and body shape. If trimming down and toning up  is a priority for you, below are three very specific ways that incorporating a bit more mindfulness into your day might help you to more quickly shed that excess weight:

1. Reducing stress

Stress causes your body to produce cortisol. A little cortisol is normal and healthy but when you’re continually stressed, you can have an over-production of cortisol. There are lots of negative consequences to that and one of them is that it stimulates overeating (particularly high fat and high sugar foods) and also causes your body to hold onto fat. We know that being stressed also impacts the quality of your sleep. Sleep deprivation messes with the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which are known as the hunger hormones because they regulate your feelings of hunger and fullness.

So in a nutshell, if you’re chronically stressed you’re more likely to crave junk food, eat more of it, and store fat. That’s a triple whammy when it comes to weight gain and we haven’t even touched on the psychological aspect of emotional eating which is a hindrance to weight loss. Practising mindfulness meditation has been proven to reduce stress and improve sleep so from a purely physiological perspective, it’s well worth devoting time each day to maintaining a meditation practice.

2. Curbing unhealthy habits

Mindfulness involves bringing your full awareness to what’s happening as it’s happening (without judgement). Most of us move about our days on autopilot, and our thoughts and behaviours are very habitual. If you think about it, how often do you reach for a snack, finish a whole bag of chips or stand staring into the fridge without even consciously thinking about what you’re doing? Anything can be a trigger for this kind of automatic eating, e.g., the time of day, feeling bored, or another (linked) habitual activity like watching TV.

By developing an increased capacity for mindfulness, you bring yourself into the present and realise what you’re doing. When you’re actually aware of what you’re doing, you realise you have a great number of other options available to you! You also learn to know what your triggers are for mindless, compulsive or emotional eating and you’re more able to catch yourself before you fall into those old bad habits.

3. Learning to tolerate discomfort

Stress and boredom can certainly be triggers for emotional eating and sometimes a little awareness can be enough to help you curb that behaviour. But sometimes your difficult emotions can be a lot more intense than a few moments of frustration, and in those situations sometimes you don’t care about what you’re eating because your main goal is to take away the pain you’re feeling. We all have various strategies we use to avoid, suppress or numb emotional pain and food is definitely one of those strategies for many people.

Practising mindfulness meditation, contrary to popular stereotypes, is not about emptying your mind or taking yourself off to a happy place where you can take a lovely break from your real life. Mindfulness is about showing up and being fully present to what is happening, without needing your situation or your feelings to be any different from what they are. By developing the capacity to sit with your discomfort rather than run away from it, you’re far less likely to use food (or alcohol or shopping) as avoidance. This is one of the most powerful benefits of a meditation practice.  If you know you use food to suppress your emotions, I highly recommend you explore how mindfulness can help you break that pattern.

Where to start?

If you’re interested in exploring meditation, there are a lot of free apps you can download that include guided meditations. But if you’re serious about learning mindfulness properly, I’d love you to join my online course, Mindfulness for Busy People.  It’s an 8-week program based on the world renowned Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and teaches you step by step how to build mindfulness into your daily life.

Hundreds of people have benefited from the program and you can get on the waitlist to be first to hear when doors are open again (plus get in on any special earlybird offers!)

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Three changes that will make you happier

November 20, 2017
3 ways to be happier now

You’ve no doubt heard the Serenity Prayer. It’s the one where we ask for…

the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,

courage to change the things we can

and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Being a practitioner and teacher of mindfulness, I’m always talking about the acceptance part. Things in your life may not be ideal but futile resistance to circumstances outside your control is the very definition of suffering. You might not like it, but sometimes your best option is to drop the struggle and let it be. The important thing to know is that acceptance is not defeat – it’s a wise redirection of your time and resources.

Of course, the other very important part of the prayer is the part where you ask for ‘the courage to change the things you can’ and there is plenty that you do have control over.  In fact, happiness researchers suggest that almost half of your general happiness in life is determined not by the circumstances of your life but your intentional thoughts and actions. That’s huge

I thought this week I’d share three very simple things you can change, which have the potential to make a big difference to your mindset and mood.

1. Change what you focus on.

Our minds are like velcro for negativity and teflon for all things positive. This is because of your inbuilt negativity bias and you’re not alone in having this unbiased perspective. It’s built into our DNA. But when you realise how much you fixate on the negative while you ignore, deny or dismiss the positive, you can make a conscious decision to switch your focus. Instead of seeing only what’s going wrong, shine a mental spotlight on everything that’s going well. When you notice you’re zeroing in on your perceived flaws, make the decision to focus on your best qualities and dial up the self-compassion. If you’re assuming the worst about other people, try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Regularly make a note of all the things you have to be grateful for.

2. Change your language.

Just as you can choose where to direct your mental energy, you can also take charge of the kind of language you use and the conversations you engage in. Check yourself if you are using negative, critical words to describe yourself or other people. Try to steer clear of complaining and the gossipy conversation that often gains traction in workplaces and social groups. Negativity breeds more negativity so wherever you can, do your bit to raise the tone of conversation by injecting comments that are more optimistic, encouraging, and positive.

3. Change your social circle

They say we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with and I think there’s some truth to that. If you spend your time with people who are negative, cynical, apathetic or have a victim mentality, it can be easy to adopt the same way of thinking or for them to sabotage your efforts at positive change. On the other hand, being around people who are goal-directed, optimistic and enthusiastic can also be infectious. We all have some friendships we’ve perhaps outgrown, or people in our lives who might drain our energy or undermine us in subtle ways. It’s not that you need to cut all of those people out of your life (though you might decide to do just that) but you do want to make sure you’re making an effort to connect and nurture relationships with people who uplift and support you.

Decide right now the one thing you can change to shift your mood from crappy to happy.      

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P.S. One of the most effective ways to improve your mood is mindfulness. I’ve spent years learning, practising and teaching it and have just created my very own 8-week online course, “Mindfulness for Busy People” so you can learn these skills from the comfort of your lounge room! Hooray! If you would like to know more, please get your name on the waiting list

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Get Stuff Done… How to beat procrastination

August 28, 2017
overcome procrastination

Have you ever sat down to work on an important project and had the sudden overwhelming urge to tidy the pantry or re-organise your sock drawer? It could be a work project, assignment or mundane admin task that you keep putting off in favour of something else more immediately compelling.

Procrastination is a mysterious phenomenon, and we’ve all experienced it. It creates frustration and guilt when you realise that there is nothing other than your own self-defeating behaviour getting in the way of that glowing feeling of accomplishment that is waiting for you when you finally stop avoiding things and get on with it.

There can, of course, be much more serious consequences to procrastination than just feeling a bit guilty; for example, if you postpone important medical checks, fail to perform essential tasks on the job or avoid financial obligations. We make light of it but procrastination can be a serious problem. So what causes procrastination and how do you overcome it?

Partly, it’s the desire for instant gratification that causes you to avoid tasks you perceive as difficult, tedious or uncomfortable. Getting up and looking for something better to do when there’s a boring task in front of you is the same avoidance strategy that has you pulling out your phone and scrolling when you have an empty moment in your day. Perfectionism also plays a role in procrastination, when the pain of not doing something perfectly is enough to not want to do it at all.

If you’re at a loss to know how to overcome your perfectionism, I thought I’d share a few tips for how to ignore the call of the sock drawer and get things done:

1. Connect with your future self

When you procrastinate on a task, you essentially delegate it to your future self. Studies have shown that many of us perceive our future selves in much the same way that we perceive another random person who is unknown to us; therefore, we tend to lack empathy for the poor sucker who is going to be lumped with this task later (that would be you!) Engaging in mental imagery exercises where you picture yourself in the future feeling satisfied and accomplished by the work you do today can help to increase motivation to get on with what needs to be done. If you have trouble connecting with a future you, perhaps trick your mind by imagining that you’re helping out a friend by making a start on this task now. (We sometimes are more motivated to do good for others than for ourselves!)

2. Create inch-pebbles

Getting started is always the hardest part and usually once you get going, you wonder why you waited for so long. The worst part of procrastination is realising how much more you could have achieved if you’d only allowed yourself more time. With that in mind, break your task down into bite-sized chunks and aim to just get through one tiny chunk at a time. Each little milestone achieved (or inch-pebble if that feels more manageable) will give you a sense of satisfaction and increase your motivation to keep going. Until that intrinsic motivation kicks in, it can help to use extrinsic motivation by planning some rewards for each little inch-pebble you achieve.

3. Don’t wait to feel good

If a task seems unpleasant now, there’s a fair chance it’s going to feel just as unpleasant when it’s still waiting for you to do it tomorrow. Somehow we have the deluded idea that we need to feel like doing something in order to do it, and nothing could be further from the truth. What’s required here is not more motivation but more capacity to tolerate discomfort and do what needs to be done. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be the most conscientious character by nature, distress tolerance is a trait that can be cultivated and strengthened with mindfulness meditation.

So sit down and practise some mindful breathing before you get started on your task. Notice the feeling of resistance to the task and simply allow that feeling to be there. Also notice any negative thoughts you’re having and remember thoughts aren’t facts. Remind yourself of your small goal and your future self, and resolve to make a start.         

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Simple tips to manage stress

July 31, 2017
how to manage stress

Stress! We’ve all experienced it, sometimes as a short, sharp burst like when you’re rushing to meet a deadline; and sometimes for a longer period, like when your workplace is perpetually understaffed or you’re supporting a sick relative.

Stress is an inevitable part of life and that’s ok because sometimes it’s what motivates us to get things done. But chronic, unrelenting stress can have negative consequences for your physical and mental health.

Stress or anxiety causes your body to release hormones that have the effect of preparing you for ‘fight or flight’. This means your heart rate and blood pressure increase, blood flows away from essential organs to your arms and legs, and “non-essential” physiological functions (such as reproduction and digestion) shut down. Chronic stress can cause headaches, stomach aches, digestive issues, weight gain, fatigue and insomnia.

In our cave-people days, our physiological stress response was handy for survival. These days, we are not so much in danger of being eaten, but we are constantly juggling commitments, dealing with complex relationships, worrying about finances and racing to meet deadlines.

In addition to the negative effects of too many stress hormones flooding your body, the coping strategies we use to manage stress – such as eating sugary foods or drinking alcohol – can also contribute to health problems. So how do we keep stress under control?

Here are some ideas that might be helpful:

Create a Not Do list

If you’re chronically busy and never getting to the end of your To Do list, perhaps it’s time to write a Not Do List and offload a bunch of ‘urgent but unimportant’ tasks. Realistically appraise your current commitments and obligations and delete anything that is creating undue stress in your life. Breathe a sigh of relief as you feel the weight lift.

Single task

We think we’re so clever with our multi-tasking but the truth is there is no such thing. What we are actually doing is switching between tasks and every time we do, it takes longer to re-focus our attention on what we were doing, wasting precious time and mental energy. It’s time to re-learn the lost art of ‘mono-tasking’ i.e., putting your full attention on one thing at a time. Turn off email notifications and put your phone away while you focus on getting that report written. Notice other ways you are splitting your attention and work hard to keep your mind on just one thing.

Nurture positive relationships

Social hostility is major cause of stress, whether it’s an argument with your spouse or a falling-out with a friend or colleague. Do what you can to let go of negative, toxic relationships and put your energy into nurturing positive connections with people who support you. Social support is a great buffer against stress. Make time to be with your people and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Change your self-talk

Sometimes your own self-talk adds more distress to an already stressful situation. Saying things to yourself like, “It’s too much. I’ll never get it done” causes a stress reaction in your body. Similarly self-criticism only adds to an already difficult situation. Try being a bit more positive and optimistic, e.g., “This too shall pass.”

Breathe!

Deep diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) activates the parasympathetic nervous system and induces the relaxation response in your body which is a counter to the stress response. Take time out of your busy day to take full deep breaths and feel your body relax. You might go one better and incorporate daily mediation into your routine, as there is ample research to support its positive physical and emotional benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety and depression.        

Of course one of my favourite stress-busters is practising mindfulness and that’s why I created my 8-week online course Mindfulness for Busy People. If you’re keen to find out more or get on the waitlist to be first to hear when the doors open, you can do that HERE.

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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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