There are some things in my life I make sure to do over and over, because after 51 years on this planet, over 20 different homes, several testing (to put it mildly) long term relationships, 30 years working full time in a stress loaded and fast paced profession, and a battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, these are the things I've found keep me sane, whole, and happier than anything else.
I've spent 100s upon 100s of hours reading self help books, trying self improvement programs, seeking professional help for trauma and stress as needed, and trialing what works for me.
These are the tried and true heroes I keep coming back to again and again.
With the help of these 5 life touch-stones, my self awareness and capacity for joy keep growing.
A DAILY GRATITUDE PRACTICE:
Beginning a daily gratitude practice has been one of the most satisfying and life changing things I've done.
There have been times in the past when I've felt hard done by, let down, and overlooked. Life can deal you a bum hand at any time, and it's super easy to let yourself feel defeated and miserable due to this inherent unfairness. I learned early on that life can be like this, but my response used to be getting upset and wallowing in a bit of victim mentality.
'Why me?' is a question that's echoed in my brain and rolled off my tongue more times than I can count. But it never helped. And, the thing is.... there were always people, when I looked around, who had it worse than me. Yes, I've had dear loved ones suffer immeasurably and pass on, and I've experienced different types of abuse. But, I am not alone in that. Not by a long shot.
Starting a gratitude practice helped me feel grateful for the wonderful moments in my life both big and small, and directed my focus to all the good I have around me, even when horrible things happen.
As I continued to purposefully bring to mind at least one thing every day I felt grateful for, it became easier and easier to notice all the good things around me. I felt luckier, more joyful, and simply content with what I had.
My Gratitude Tips:
- Carve out at least one set time of the day (but morning AND night is better) to identify at least one thing you're grateful for.
- Go out of your way to thank the people you are grateful for in your life. You never know how long they will be around.
- Find ways to be grateful for the small annoying things in your life by looking at them from another perspective. For example, if I'm held up in traffic by an infuriatingly slow car in front, or red light after red light, I put my palms together and nod my head whilst giving thanks. Who knows, it may be the Universe's way of slowing me down so I avoid a possible accident.
- Record your gratitude observations by writing them down in a journal, using an app on your phone, or keeping a list visible on your fridge or elsewhere.
- When you feel a bit down, re-read your list, wherever it may be, and assure yourself life does have good things to offer.
I'm currently working on my newest free course, The Gratitude Antidote, and one other gorgeous surprise for you I think you'll love.
SELF CARE IS A MUST:
Thanks to my battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as some traumatic relationships, I've learned the hard way I must put myself first in order to be the best I can be.
If I put myself first, then everyone in my life benefits. They get the version of me that's happier, healthier, and much nicer to be around. I get the version of me whose bones don't ache to distraction, whose mind functions clearly, who's able to go about daily duties with energy and passion, and who can enjoy life to the fullest.
I'm a better friend, teacher, partner and all 'round human being when I'm sticking to my self care routines and ideals.
I also have a big focus on relaxing and finding peace from within.
I need to stretch and move regularly, and I'm lucky enough to be able to afford a regular fortnightly massage and monthly visit to my chiropractor to assist with my back issues (scoliosis and muscular).
My Self Care Tips:
- Self care relates to your mind, your body, and your soul. You MUST attend to all 3 for the best results.
- Devise a superb morning routine to set you up for a beautiful day. Morning additions might be writing in a gratitude journal beside a lit candle, exercise, meditation, drawing an oracle card or reading a favourite passage of text, deep breathing, singing, or anything to help empower and enliven you.
- Devise a night time routine conducive to deep, restorative sleep. At the same time every night, stick to a pre bedtime pattern. A warm shower, a soothing mug of your favourite drink (nothing with caffeine in it), some relaxing music, journaling, reading for a designated period of time etc. Dimming the lights at night is helpful to begin the wind down to sleep. Rather than bright overhead lights, pools of mellow lamplight encourage the brain to slow down. Get off your screens too. Set a time after which no screens or text messages will be allowed, and stick to it.
- Listen to your body and know when it reacts to something it doesn't like, whether that be food, or people, or something else. Follow your gut in these instances.
- Let go of the things you cannot change. The Serenity Prayer is my go to resource for this. It has helped me immeasurably over the years. Say it over and over again like a mantra when you're stuck on something. The other mantra I use regularly is the one found in my post here. My wheel visualization has been a godsend at times.
- Check out 'The Four Agreements' by Don Miguel Ruiz. These have been my other saving grace during all manner of stressful times. When fear and doubts start to overtake my mind, I turn to The Agreements for support. If I'm following these (and I re-commit to them every day, no matter if I've failed the day before), then I feel I'm on the right path for me. I have a Four Agreements/detachment/letting go board on Pinterest if you're interested. You can find it here.
If I have my self care 'house' in order, then I'm best equipped to work on the next 2 circles in my diagram.
REACHING FOR THE REAL YOU:
This has been a journey of revelation and discovery over many years for me. Learning to trust my intuition, listen to my inner child, and acknowledge the 'real' me is okay, has taken a long time.
I'm still working on it day in and day out!
As a child and young adult, I adored all things creative and art related. I also loved to read, write and do math. As I got older, peer pressure made me feel studying in the area of design or the arts was 'not a suitable subject for someone with any brains'.
Somehow I ended up studying subjects I didn't really love for my final year of high school, and began a business degree in University.
I found it dry and soul killing, and deferred to figure myself out.
I then went into teaching as it seemed to offer glimpses of creativity and the chance to help children be creative. I still craved to do an Arts degree, but let myself be talked out of it by various people.... 'You'll never make a good living if you're an artist,' I was told over and over.
Even my decision to begin my teaching degree was belittled by one friend in particular. He said I was 'wasting my brains and talent' by doing the course. I should have been a lawyer or a doctor etc. I cried that night because I felt let down and humiliated that I couldn't seem to please everyone and find something to do with my life that was worthy in their eyes.
Looking back, I can't believe how naive I was, and how mean he was (I think teaching is a noble and admirable profession). If I'd felt better about myself, I'd have told him where to get off and trusted my own instincts. He also clearly didn't really know me at all, even though I considered him one of my closest friends.
I forgive the younger me for not loving herself enough to believe her choices were worthy and important. I forgive my younger self for not feeling I deserved to do the things that I was most passionate about.
It's taken time, but I know I'm worthy of whatever choices I make for me. I'm in charge of my own life, and no-one else has a mandate over my actions or opinions. As long as I hurt no others, my choices are mine to make simply because I wish to.
My daydreams, my passions, my inner child, my longings... they are all important keys to my core purpose in life. Figuring out who I am first and foremost means I craft a life for the 'true' me. I don't see much point in crafting a life moulded around a person that I'm not. In the end, I imagine that leading to a withering of the soul. All the joy being sucked out of life.
Now, when I daydream, or get passionate about something I sit up and take notice. I get conscious about whether or not I want to pursue new directions. I make decisions with intent based on the knowledge of who I really am, and what I want from my life.
My 'Reach For The Real You' Tips:
- Get back to the things that bring you joy. Read this post from my YOU Matter series for ideas and a worksheet to help you get back to the things you love.
- Acknowledge the things your gut is trying to tell you. What is it you have a gnawing desire to do? What would you love to try but haven't? Make some time, no matter how small to begin doing these things when you can.
- If you want to get a jumpstart in the right direction, my Mini Jumpstart To YOU Experience was created specifically for this purpose. You can learn more, and get it for free over here.
- Take an online personality test like the Myers Briggs (here's the official one, and a free one) or 16 Personality Types (I'm a member there) if you're interested in these types of things. Over the years I've always come out the same on the Myers Briggs (I've had to do it for work several times), and the first time I got my results, I felt like someone finally 'got' who I really was. I couldn't believe how close the summary description fitted the ways I felt and thought, and that other people were like me too!
- There's also a great test for figuring out your best character strengths over here at the VIA Institute. I've done this one for work too, and the results it threw up confirmed my best personality assets! These are the areas I can rely on to help me pursue my dreams.
- Plus, check out this post in my YOU Matter series to affirm what it is your special talents are and why you're worthy.
- Make a decision about what you're going to do next, and commit to doing something about it, no matter how small. Then, see below for some inspiration!
IT'S TIME TO TAKE ACTION:
Often times I need to remind myself that just because I've made a decision about something, or I think I'm on the right track.... if I don't actually DO something to take action about it.... then it's probably just as bad as not being on the right track anyway!
This harks back to books like 'The Secret' that seem (I admit I haven't read the actual book) to propose that merely visualising a dream, or writing down a list of what you want to manifest, will magically cause it to appear as if some dream fairy swooped down and sprinkled instant gratification sparkle dust all over your life!
Critics of books like 'The Secret' suggest that of course none of your wishes/dreams will actually happen unless you take some type of forward motion or action towards what you want (other than just thinking about it of course!).
I have to say I agree whole-heartedly with them. Getting off your backside and actually DOING something walks all over just thinking or writing about it.
That being said, according to Dave Kohl, a professor at Virginia Tech in America, people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as people who don't. Yet, says Prof. Kohl, 80% of Americans don't write down their goals. Sixteen percent do have goals but don't write them down. Less than four percent do write them down, and fewer than one percent actually review them on an ongoing basis.
Imagine then, the small amount of people who actually write them down, review them.... and DO something about them.
Why not be one of the minority? Honour yourself by not only thinking + visualising about your dreams, but by writing down your goals and then going after them like you mean it!
My 'How To Take Action' Tips:
- Write down your goals in a journal or a separate notebook.
- Make your goals smaller, actionable goals you can reach within a time frame that doesn't seem forever away. What can you do in the next few days, weeks, months, to achieve your goal?
- Focus on a few select and specific goals. Writing down 10 goals, and giving yourself a year to reach them won't help much. Instead, pick 2 or 3, give yourself a much smaller timeline to achieve the first steps to reach each goal, and begin.
- This is why New Year's resolutions fail so often... they're broad, and the timeline is too long. If they were broken down into much smaller goals with actionable steps over shorter time periods, they'd be much more likely to work.
- For example, instead of 'I'm going to lose 10 kilos this year,' you're better to say 'I'm going to lose 2 kilos in the next 30 days,' and then list 5 steps you'll take to achieve this goal starting NOW.
- Grab The Mini Jumpstart To YOU Experience. I created this short, free mini-course with the exact intent of coaching you to find out what you want your goal to be, and then giving you prompts and tools to help you achieve it. It comes with a downloadable guidebook for each of its 5 days, and lots of lovely printables.
What If I Don't Like 'Goals'?
Some people just don't 'do' goals! The more creative or free spirited can feel uninspired by the dryness of them.
Instead of 'goals', some people like to set 'intentions.' I think this is a wonderful way of focusing your mind on what you want to get from a set period of time... a day, a week.
I like to say I 'daydream with intent' as I often write something down and then purposefully daydream about it as though it's in motion already. I find this works really well, and is probably what most call visualisation!
For instance, I could write an intention like 'This week I intend to go to bed at 10.30 every night because I'm creating a good sleep routine'. Then, when I get a chance to 'day-dream' about it, I'd close my eyes, and let myself imagine what I'd be doing leading up to going to bed, how I'd feel about getting into my soft, comfy bed, and what it would be like to drift blissfully off to sleep!
Or, 'This week I'm going to get out into Nature at least 3 times because I know I'm almost running on an empty tank and I need replenishing'. Then, 'daydream' about come splendid exploring or walking among trees and gardens.
Whichever way you approach it, writing down your goals/intentions, and dreaming/visualising about how it will look and feel when you action them, reaps rewards!
This section of my '5 part cycle' helps me feel good about myself, and affirms I have much to offer as a human being.
But, most of all, it gives me another reason to implement all the previous parts of my diagram.
Helping others has to be one of the best goals we can aspire to. For me, there's no better reason to do what I do and be who I am.
I include in this all the ways we can contribute to making the world a better place, whether it's helping people, helping animals, or helping our planet in general.
My 5 part cycle is continually revolving, and I include all of its other sections daily. Each of these sections (gratitude, self care, reaching for the real me, and taking action) highlights how much I have to offer, or feeds my ability to do so.
The older I get, the more I feel like I live in a global society....
...the more I feel like there's invisible threads connecting me to so many others.
Giving back doesn't have to involve money, huge amounts of time, or a grand gesture.
There are many ways you can contribute to your community and make a difference.
There are also many things you may do unawares, that change someone's life for the better. If you're committed to The Four Agreements, as mentioned above, you may be giving huge amounts without realising it.
Just doing your best, in all that you do (Agreement number 4), may turn a life around.
My Giving Back Tips:
- Read this post in the YOU Matter series on my blog for more. The videos and examples are gorgeous (although you may need a few tissues handy).
- Don't feel discouraged if you feel you have no money to give to charities, or enough time to volunteer. Do what you can with what you have. Encourage yourself to smile at 5 new people a day. Thank the people behind the shop counter. Compliment 2 people every day. You can give back by making others feel loved and worthy... this takes almost no time at all, only a conscious desire to add something to the lives of others.
- Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone else because you know how nice it feels when someone does it for you!
- If you identify a person you're thankful for during your daily gratitude practice, write that person a thank you note telling them why you're so thankful they're in your life.
- Whatever you do, do it with gusto and passion. You never know who you may affect.
There you have it! The 5 specific areas I try to focus on daily and continually to create a life I truly love!
I hope you found some of these ideas useful.
Keep dreaming and doing, Daydreamer!