Project HeatherED

Live your happiest, healthiest, and emotionally wealthiest life

Month: May 2018

The Eleventh TWIG Post (or why money matters)

At long last I’m finally sitting down to write my eleventh gratitude post after a busy couple of weeks. I’ve therefore more to give thanks for today; a twofold increase in my happiness quota, which is a welcome bonus of publishing this post later than originally planned. 

As I head out of this Bank Holiday weekend straight into the run-up to pay day, I’ve been thinking about the links between money and happiness. I’ve been asking myself whether there’s a monetary price on happiness, and if it is something we can buy, can it ever be morally acceptable to do so? This sounds like I’ve spent my weekend engaging in esoteric philosophical debate. Yet in all honesty, what I’m specifically musing on is whether or not to buy a MacBook laptop. #firstworldproblems #shameonme

It’s often said that money can’t buy happiness. Many leading thinkers have been quoted as saying that the things which truly matter in life cannot be bought. This generally refers to our relationships with others, that we have with ourselves, and the degree to which we feel personal fulfillment in our lives. It’s ultimately how we feel about each of those things which determines our experiences of them, and whether or not they are happy ones. Being uniquely subjective, happiness in itself isn’t easily valued, at least not in monetary terms. Both relative and intangible, happiness as a concept is difficult to define. As an amateur psychologist, my clumsy attempt at a definition is that happiness can be most closely understood as an overall positive emotional state of being, and is thus unavailable for direct purchase.

Following this line of thinking, it makes sense to me that pursuing financial wealth will not necessarily result in a happier self. Instead there’s truth in the old adage  that it’s often the small things which bring the most happiness, or that which claims that some of best things in life come for free! Having spent most of my Bank Holiday Monday catching up on Gary V’s podcasts whilst scraping moss from our patio (my poor excuse for gardening), I feel tired but genuinely happy. Doing no-cost activities like these not only help to alleviate anxiety and stress, but also give me emotional satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

“Money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference.”

Barack Obama

Yet it’s undeniable that the value of money goes way beyond its literal financial worth. Obama refers here to the power and influence that money can afford;  the “fiscal lubrication” which accelerates the pace of change. The idea of money “greasing the wheels” of action is probably most notable in the political sphere, but also applies to our personal lives, increasing the speed with which we can take positive action towards our goals.

“Wealth is not about having a lot of money; it’s about having a lot of options.”

Chris Rock

Having access to finance opens up opportunities. Comedian and actor Chris Rock makes this clear here, in that money gives us access to creative solutions to problems that otherwise may not be possible, but it also gives us a means to buy into  experiences which add value to our lives, as is most obvious in education. Personally, I’m re-thinking my relationship to money to be a tool by which I can potentially create more happiness. Probably the best example to illustrate how I’ve recently spent money to make myself happy is in purchasing this incredible antique collection of exotic insects (note: there’s no filter on this image; I wanted to show you their natural vibrancy):

BugBox

My not-so ugly bug ball!

 

Instantly captivated by this Victorian-era artifact, I was enchanted by its ability to evoke contradictory feelings of amazement and disquiet simultaneously. I fell in love with this unique piece of history, speculating on the tales of the brave Victorian adventurers who brought home these specimens; forever frozen in all their glory to travel across time and space to reside above my mantle piece. I’m hit by waves of humility and awe whenever I look at it. Proving I can wield my personal power by using money to buy something worth more to me than its monetary value, it’s got me thinking about the potential “happiness factor” of any future purchases..

Say, for example, if I were to consider my current dilemma of whether to buy a shiny new MacBook. Despite this deeper understanding of what money can do in terms of helping me create greater emotional wealth, I’m still uneasy with the idea of “buying happiness.” I maintain the belief that using money to buy something that makes me happy suggests I’m lacking in the emotional capacity to be happy with less. It seems shallow and selfish to chase after material possessions when so many people in the world have nothing to speak of, and yet experience an enormous amount of happiness.

“Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.”

Benjamin Franklin

It’s an up-hill battle, but I’m working on eliminating shame around spending. Instead, I’m consciously enjoying and appreciating those purchases that make me happy. I’m not “buying happiness”; I’m simply using the tools at my disposal to increase my overall happiness. Unless I’m prepared to give away all worldly goods (I’m not that altruistic, I’m afraid), then not spending money and keeping it in the bank doesn’t impact positively on anyone else. Ergo investing my money in something with the potential to bring significant happiness gains isn’t an inherently “bad” thing.I’m working on getting that straight in my head.

As of yet, I’m still undecided as to when exactly I’ll invest in a MacBook, but I’m pretty certain it’s the best writing tool for me. I’m working out whether to buy now or later, depending on our current levels of disposable income, which is something C and I can figure out together. Seeking advice from those in the know (namely, other writers, colleagues, C and his techie work buddies), I’m confident that the MacBook would prove it’s worth, improving my experience of writing, making the most efficient use of my time, and generally making the writing process more fun!

I’m actually proud of myself for even contemplating such an expensive purchase. It’s a sign that I’m opening my mind, heart – and wallet! – to making investments in my emotional well-being, which is far more valuable than cash. In this spirit of being more openly grateful for all I have, today’s lists are an amalgamation of thanks from the past fortnight.

 

Last week I’m Grateful For:

DaveBig

As always, I’m grateful for this handsome fella!

  •  I’ve talked about this a lot already, but for the geekiest among you, you may be interested to know that my “bug box” is part of a collection from French entomologist Charles Oberthur, who died in the twenties in possession of the second biggest collection of insects in the world. In time, my tiny piece of his mammoth collection found its way to the Natural History Museum in London, and from there has relocated to live with me. It’s just amazing!
  • Creating renovation plans for our home. I’d already planned on painting the living room a dramatic shade of Farrow & Ball blue, but my bonkers bug buy fits perfectly with the eclectic explorers theme I envision. Filling the space with bonkers artefacts, vivid colours, and unique touches, we’ll eventually relocate the TV to this room and create a kind of “luxe cinema” vibe. I’m excited to curate a room that inspires fun, energy, and smiles (or gasps!) that will ultimately become our cosy Winter den.  In contrast, we plan to redecorate what was originally the dining room (but has become a second living room) as a calm, neutral, nature-themed space in which to read and relax. Overlooking the garden, it’s perfect for sitting and appreciating how fantastically lucky I am to have my dream home.
  • Buying new Summer clothes. As is always the case, it gets to this time of the year – too warm for Winter workwear – before I realise I’ve nothing appropriate to wear.  Somehow every single year I end up feeling frustrated at my lack of inter-seasonal planning – but not this year! Thankfully this past weekend I not only bought a box of bugs, but I also made another happy buy courtesy of FatFace: a capsule wardrobe that’ll see me through the coming months comprised of a couple of summer dresses, trousers and shirt. Job done.
  • Locally-made, delicious Thai food C  and I rediscovered recently. We’ve eaten at this restaurant a couple of times already, but had forgotten just how lovely it is to eat home-cooked food at a family-run restaurant. As a couple we spend a disproportionately large amount of our income on food, and I feel a little less guilty if it goes into local businesses.
  • Having the opportunity to practise reframing. A commonly-cited CBT technique whereby I consciously seek out the positive in any situation, I’ve been exercising this mental muscle in the past few weeks as booking my favourite gym class has become increasingly frustrating. Focusing my attention on enjoying the freedom that comes from being able to organise my fitness regime around my life, rather than the other way around, has helped me to feel cool, calm and in control.
  • Reclaiming the weekends! No longer doing DIY in every spare moment means that C and I can finally go on fun days out! This feels like a real treat, and I enjoyed spending my free time walking round sunny Bakewell this past weekend. I’m looking forward to a Summer of day trips, exploring the countryside that’s on our doorstep, and pottering in our beautiful garden with the cats.
  • Finding bargain books. Perhaps one of my greatest joys in life, sourcing second-hand books in charity shops brings an inordinate amount of pleasure. In donating money to a worthy cause, I’m also adding to my self-help collection. It’s win-win.
  • The swell of pride and love that comes from seeing my gorgeous nephew G learning to walk on video.  He’s only just coming up to a year old, and seeing just how much he’s grown and changed in this short window of his life is incredible to witness. I’m a seriously proud Aunt.
  • A positive prescription review with my doctor. This is something I’ve debated about discussing on my blog, but I feel strongly that it’s important I’m open and honest if I want to influence positive change in the public discourse around mental health. Whilst I’ve had periods of mental ill-health since my teenage years, it’s only been around a year since I started taking medication for my depression and anxiety. A complex of reasons held me from seeking this particular form of help, not least of which was the stigma associated with taking “mental meds”.  Attending my annual medication review, my doctor was so pleased with my progress that he said I could consider stopping taking my pills if I felt ready. He thinks they’ve probably done their job by now; chemically “resetting my brain”, so to speak, and he assured me I’d be fine without them. Still, with my doctor’s full support I’ve chosen to stay on medication for now at least. Memories of how I used to feel remain that bit too raw to feel entirely confident in living without additional chemical support. I did, however, feel safe in the knowledge that I’ve got the right human support system in place for me to ensure I’m taking exquisite care of my mind.
  • Embracing a new hobby: gardening! After my introduction to planting last weekend (and with just the one casualty in our herb garden), I’ve seemingly caught the gardening bug. A couple of times this past few weeks have seen me take up my trowel and gloves, and turn to the turf as my newest means of stress-relief. In my (sort of futile) quest for weed-free crazy paving, I’m making a whole new job for C (who gets the pleasure of re-pointing). Yet being in touch with the soil, taking in the scent of the earth, I feel happy and reconnected with the world.
Chives

Garlic chives grown in my own garden

This Week I’m Grateful For

  • Positive health news from family members who are now thankfully cancer-free. This is a gratitude way bigger than I can express here, but it’s safe to say that this has brought a massive sense of relief and happiness from their loved ones.
  • Completing my Role Model challenge! Four weeks earlier I set myself a month-long challenge to seek life advice and inspiration from the world’s most successful people. Reaching the final chapter (literally!) of this experiment was a real achievement and I’m excited to share the results in the coming weeks. For now, you can catch up via my introduction, week one, two, and three posts. I’m currently writing up what happened in week four, so watch this space!
  • Making plans for family to move nearby. C’s sister and her brood sold their house this week, meaning my nieces are definitely coming to live round the corner from us over the Summer. Never really having family live nearby as an adult, it’s really exciting to see this come to fruition. Having the space in our new place to be able to host a last-minute visit from C’s sister, S, this past weekend was fantastic. I’m thankful that we’re able to support her in making their move a reality.
  • A long Bank Holiday weekend, including an extra afternoon off work.
  • The opportunity to wear a new dress to work. The weather stayed sufficiently sunny to be able to rock my new denim dress. Feeling like Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”, it was amazing the difference I felt in wearing something totally different than my usual skinny-jeans-and-jumper uniform. Demonstrating my new dress by means of giving people a twirl, it was fun to feel girlish and cute – and unbelievably comfortable!
  • Yet another opportunity to wear my other new dress of a sunny Sunday. Being able to slip on a cotton sundress and enjoy feeling the heat on my skin was almost as delicious as the Bakewell tart-flavoured ice cream I ate this weekend.  I felt super glamourous and pretty, channelling fifties summer vibes in my straw hat.
  • Indulging in my biggest weakness – home-made cake! A slice of spicy carrot cake covered in lashings of sugary buttercream made my day.
  • Making a mini-speech at a work social took a few braves this week. Although I knew I’d be fine when I did it, I was a bit nervous beforehand. Bringing myself to this event, I even went as far as to use the word “love” in a work environment which for me, is a personal achievement of sorts.
  • Reflecting on my life experiences to help others came up this week as something I feel glad to be able to do. With the gift of time, it’s possible to use what I learnt from my own past failures to help someone else make progress in their own lives. Supporting one of our students to prepare for his job interview, I felt really positive about passing my life lessons onto someone for whom it may make a difference.
  • Genuinely feeling happy at work. If you’d asked me some years back when I was experiencing crippling anxiety, I’d have struggled to name a single positive thing about my job. These days, however, I can have a string of awesome days! Being able to relax and bring my whole self to my work has made a huge difference in terms of what I get out of it. Choosing to take a “can-do” attitude and determining to act from a place of love (rather than fear) has made such a positive impact on my working life, which rubs off on those around me.

Phew! A mega-post, as promised, so I’m truly grateful if you made it to the end with me!

x

The RMC: Week 3 Post (or why being open to love makes us stronger)

Read my introductory post to my Role Model Challenge (RMC), or if you’ve not yet caught up, you can read my findings from Week 1 and Week 2

So it’s third time lucky with this week’s RMC and I’m delighted to introduce my #RMCsquad3:

In the third week of my RMC I was lucky enough to have a second opportunity to be a “Keeper for the Day” at a local zoo. Having previously had an awesome time caring for the giraffes, I gratefully accepted my Dad’s kind offer to return in the Spring sunshine to work with rhinos. A belated joint Christmas-and-birthday present, my zoo day had finally arrived!

The morning before I was due to meet the rhinos I was really nervous. I needed my partner C and good friend D (via text) to remind me how much happiness my last zoo experience brought me to get me up and ready to go. As much as I adore animals, my social anxiety kicked into gear, determined to prevent me from enjoying my day before it had even begun.

Anxiously waiting at the zoo gates, I made the decision once again to choose love over fear. Reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s “The Universe Has your Back” reinforced that how I react in any given moment is a choice; I have control over my emotional state. Taking her guidance to heart when faced with fear, I silently repeated her mantra myself: “I choose to learn through love.” In so doing, this brought me back to a place of quiet confidence from which I was able to relax and be myself.

Realigning with gratitude in this way helped me make the best of a unique experience. Getting up-close with some of the world’s most endangered animals was truly humbling. Feeding the Bongo in particular was a stark reminder of just how privileged I am to meet these creatures before humanity potentially destroys them. I can honestly say that there’s nothing quite like scratching a rhino behind the ear to make you feel lucky to be alive!

I learnt that it’s hard to feel afraid when in awe of nature. Even when confronted with inappropriate, sexist comment I still consciouslychose love and had a brilliant time. This newfound self-assurance continued to influence other areas of my life. Upon my return home I felt empowered to speak out against the casual misogyny I’d witnessed. I feel strongly about young women not having to handle this kind of negativity, particularly at work. I believe the Universe had my back when I needed it this week, which gave me the inner strength to have other women’s’ backs in turn.

Proud of myself for my progress in becoming better, I’m excited to share my findings from this week’s RMC with you.

Fundamental Findings #1:  Build emotional fitnessimg_0045-1

Many mentors this week recommended cultivating emotional fitness as crucial to achieving success. Jocko Willink suggests we seek to “be emotionally strong”. He believes this to be more important than physical strength, which given his physically demanding former career as a U.S. Navy Seal, is really saying something! Jocko says that if we have the psychological strength to handle life’s challenges, we can build physical strength. This strikes a cord with me of late.

I truly believe that my body’s physical condition matters far less than my mental health. When I’m in a good mental state, then not only am I far more likely to take care of my body, but I can handle pretty much anything life throws at me.With emotions directing my behaviour towards my body, this implies that it’s emotional fitness which trumps all in my quest for holistic wellness.

Taking a slightly different perspective, Mike Maples Jr recommends you “be kind to yourself in your own mind.” Through the practise of self-care, this version of emotional fitness emphasises our individual capacity to build strength and resilience. To me, being “emotionally resilient” means using kindness, compassion, and self-respect to strengthen our ability to handle whatever difficulties life throws at us. In so doing we avoid the common trap of treating ourselves unkindly or cruelly in the misguided believe that bullying ourselves will drive change. This simply doesn’t works and will never achieve success.

I’ve been working on building this kind of emotional resilience for at least fifteen years now. Not something I learnt growing up, adversity has forced my hand to teach myself. I’m actually grateful to have had this opportunity to learn and grow. I now coach myself to be emotionally happier, healthier, and wealthier. In working on becoming better, I hope one day I can help others do this for themselves, too.

I heed Tony Robbins’ advice to take advantage of good times; using occasions when I feel emotionally fit to pursue my dreams. When I have this extra energy I up my mental training so that during those times where I don’t have this strength, I’m able to draw on skills I’ve already practise. Just this week I had cause to use self-care techniques and tricks to help myself recover from a “mental wobble”. Prioritising rest and sleep, seeking support from people who love me, and and alleviating the pressure having to “do” anything all contributed to a quick recovery.

For me, this is really what life is all about: As human beings we’re always on a path to becoming better. Our emotional strength lies at the heart of our ability to realise our life’s goals and dreams. Sometimes we’ve just got to put ourselves first to renew that strength.

Fundamental Findings #2: Find your purpose

img_0046Another theme in the advice from my #RMCSquad3 thought leaders this week is to “find your purpose”, which chronologically precedes #RMCSquad1’s guidance to “follow your passion”. Taking his typically military perspective, Jocko describes this as “finding your mission”; essentially accepting responsibility for the outcomes of your actions.

I define “finding my purpose” to mean discovering for myself who I really am and what positive change I wish to bring into the world. I’m pretty confident that Tony Robbins would agree with me, believing that “the purpose of a goal is WHO you become.” This reminds me to keep in mind what’s truly important when setting gaols and pursuing my ambitions.

So how do you even start to think about finding your purpose? This week’s mentors had plenty of advice to share on this, too. For example, author Soman Chainani suggests we consider our favourite childhood books and look to uncover the reasons why we loved to read them over and over again. He thinks that “somewhere in that book is the clue to not only what makes you tick, but also your life’s purpose. ”

My personal favourites are classic novels including “Jane Eyre”, “Little Women”, and “A Little Princess”. These books all feature female leads and share personal traits I admire: emotional strength, creativity, independence and bravery. Each leading character was eventually successful in their own right, entirely on their own terms. As an adult this is exactly the kind of woman I want to be: successful in my creative endeavours, and confident that I have the physical, mental, and emotional strength to handle whatever life throws at me.

Tony Robbins recommends we spend time finding our “why” by asking ourselves why something is a “must” to pursue. He believes that acquiring this deeper level of self-knowledge helps to sustain momentum in pursuing our dreams. As it happened, on the day I tested Tony’s theory my mood was really low. Coming out of nowhere, this depressive feeling knocked me off my feet. It took me a moment to stand up, dust myself off, and carry on, but having my “why” to focus on did make this a little easier. I refocused on my work, mentally eased up on myself, and actually achieved more than I’d have done on difficult days like this in the past.

When thinking about our life’s purpose, most of us automatically connect this to our career aspirations. I’m no exception in presuming that personal meaning ought to come from my paid work. When this isn’t necessarily the case I’ve felt frustrated, but Soman Chainani recommends separating those actions which earn money from those we do to fulfill our creativity.  Having a business (tutoring college students) that generates an independent income stream reduced his reliance on writing to earn a living, whilst also removing any potential pressure on his creativity. Instead of writing to live, he lives to write, which he values highly enough to keep his business going long after his writing career took off.

Inspired by finding my purpose, I’ve spent more time working on my writing and received some fantastic feedback on my blog. It made my day! Through writing I’m free to share my life’s lessons in the hopes of helping others. It’s where I find my flow, feel fulfilled, and re-energised. I’m grateful to have found that thing which makes my heart beat faster.

Fundamental Findings #3: Dare to be open-minded and open-hearted

img_0047-1Whilst many mentors talked about strength and purpose, just as many spoke about matters of the heart. Having an open heart and mind towards yourself and others is highly valued as a route to success. Possessing these qualities is thought to inspire greater creativity, a willingness to embrace new opportunities, and the potential to build positive relationships.

Being someone who approaches life with an open mind and heart sounds great, but that’s not to say it’s easy. Researcher Brene Brown’s work focuses on the “wholehearted”, whom she defines as people with a strong sense of self-worth; those who truly believe they deserve love and belonging. She focuses on understanding how they differ from people who struggle with shame.

Indeedopenness requires a degree of vulnerability and risk that makes most people uncomfortable. Instead of metaphorically “putting on armour” to protect ourselves from the world, we must instead make ourselves vulnerable to emotional pain. Ironically, it’s only by taking risks like this that we can hope to experience closeness and connection with others.

Brene sums up this dilemma in this quote:

“Our capacity for wholeheartness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted”. Brene Brown

Obviously Brene isn’t suggesting we tell just anyone our deepest secrets. When deciding to open our hearts up to others it makes sense to choose to take a calculated risk. This means making ourselves vulnerable to those whom we already love and trust; those that love and trust us too, and whom we believe deserve our faith. This lesson hit home with me this week when I realised that the actions I take to protect myself from hurt are the same things that sometimes limit my experience of love and connection.

Relating closely to the work of “spirit junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein, Brene’s research backs up the idea of making a conscious decision to choose love over fear. She emphasises that this is something we can work on – that we’re not stuck in a fixed mindset and can seek to become more open in our heart, mind, and soul. I’m confident in pursuing Brene’s approach because of her background in academia. She takes a scientifically-sound approach to her research, which I find reassuring.

However in spite of my skepticism I must admit to having what some might call a “spiritual moment”. Watching Brene’s video, it dawned on me that to feel loved and belong I have to allow myself to show my vulnerability. I must make a repeated choice to live in love and not fear, by which I mean those negative emotions including anxiety and depression which so easily overwhelm me.

This realisation hit me on Sunday morning and quite literally left me shaking. It could be a coincidence, but I chose to interpret this as a positive sign from the Universe that I’m on the right path for me. It started me thinking about whether I’d benefit from reading one of Brene’s books to study this subject in depth. Turning to find my Kindle in the middle of the bed (I’d not read it in weeks), I followed my intuition and bought the book immediately. Turns out that it’s exactly what I needed to read.

I like to think this week’s RMC has encouraged me to be open to whatever opportunities come my way. Yet in writing my words read like much of the “woo-woo spiritual sh*t” to which I’m normally averse. I’m a bit embarrassed to own them, if I’m being totally honest. Still I have to admit it feels good to trust that I’m coming into alignment with what I need right now. It shows in my choice of mentors, going with whomever I’m intuitively drawn to; whomever I believe has the capacity to help me become better.

I was pleased to learn the incredible Dita Von Teese backs me up in being open-minded to achieve my ambitions. Dita takes this advice one step further in her conviction that “…those of us who have intense desire but lack natural God-given talent sometimes find roundabout ways of realising dreams”. Essentially, she says if you want something badly enough, you’ll achieve this by whatever means necessary.

This perspective assumes knowing what we want and where to go. In line with the principles of the “Law of Attraction”, being clear in what you desire creates the possibility of finding a way to get there. Actor Jim Carrey supports this idea, citing his own life as evidence that miracles do come true if you believe in them strongly enough. Moved by his passion but not entirely convinced of its scientific accuracy, I think it’s more likely that our beliefs shape our behaviours, which in turn direct our lives. Hence positive thoughts lead to positive actions and yield positive results.

Overall Observations: Week 3

My #RMCsquad3 worked out well in delivering the guidance I needed this week. At difficult times I turned to thought leaders I already trust and admire; the Tony Robbins’, Gabby Bernstein’s, and Oprah Winfrey’s of the world. At the same time, it was exciting to be inspired by new (to me) successful people. Some mentors in this week’s line up were people I’d never heard of before, like Mike Maples Jr and Jesse Williams, whereas others had careers I’d heard of, but as people, I knew very little about them before taking on this RMC.

To date, my RMC has helped build my self-confidence. Reaffirming I’m on the path to my true purpose, this experiment has encouraged me to seek out even more role models than those I’ve studied in this challenge. Specifically I’ve been listening to Evan Carmichael’s audio book and found my one word: become. I’ll talk more about this in future posts, but it’s yet another exciting consequence of this challenge.

Even more importantly, following my passions with conviction helped lift me out of depression this week. It’s given me a way to positively channel my energy into developing my emotional strength. as opposed to reassuring my fears by controlling my body. Instead I’m taking a chance on opening my heart and mind to whatever opportunities come my way.

In following Jada Pinkett-Smith’s lead to “go with the flow” I’m genuinely becoming happier. As I head into the last week of my RMC I’m excited to see what more I can learn. With an inspiring list of thought leaders I’ve yet to turn to for guidance {including several female role models), I’m looking forward to the final week of this month’s experiment. Much like in this elegant and articulate quote from Jada, I hope to continue in m\\y pursuit of positivity, where “what I look for is the power… and the beauty in all things.”

The Tenth TWIG post (or how I’m speaking my story of thanksgiving in 2018)

I’ve reached a milestone this week: I’ve published my first ten TWIG posts – that’s ten weeks where I’ve put my gratitudes out into the Universe!

YellowFlower230518

Whilst having a gratitude practise isn’t new to me – I’ve been making lists I’m my journal for a few years now – being publicly thankful is new to me. As you’ll know if you followed my first challenge (it starts here, if you’re interested),  this year I began to practise speaking my gratitudes aloud as part of my morning walking to work ritual.

At first, voicing my reasons to be grateful felt false, and more than a little awkward.  I cringed inwardly whenever I audibly uttered my thanks, checking over my shoulder for whether anyone was within earshot. I was anxious about being overheard for fear of attracting judgement. When I realised I’d been self-censoring, I had a choice: hold myself back, or go all in, risking a bit of embarrassment. Committing myself to writing about my experiences for this blog, I chose to care more about my opinion of me than that of a stranger.

With practise, thankfulness has become my new norm in a relatively short period of time. I’ve found that, much like depression, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle: the more thanks I give, the more thankful I feel. The greater my gratitude, the more I find for which to be grateful. As I hear myself articulate my thanks, and the more I see my positive perspective published here, the more connected I feel to this side of myself.

Gratitude has quite literally changed my mind. It’s moved from residing in a predominantly negative place, to resting most often in a state of positivity. I’m seeing life through a different lens. When I look to the world, I’m generally searching for reasons to be glad. Despite how this sounds, I’m still no Pollyanna, but this “Happy Heather” version of myself is no longer a stranger. I hear her voice when I talk to myself on my morning commute, and also through her words here. I’m even starting to genuinely like her. I mean, me…

Giving myself permission to be happy is a process, much like anything worth pursuing in life. Still, by slowly allowing myself to become more openly optimistic I’m learning that it’s okay to be okay, and that’s… well, it’s more than okay.

In celebration of reaching this tenth TWIG post, I’ve written a top ten gratitude list for this year to share today. Admittedly, we’re not yet half-way through the year, but I feel like this is a timely opportunity to look back and see how far I’ve come. As Fatboy Slim said in his 1998* hit “you’ve come a long way, baby!”

*I have to just point out – this song is now twenty years old! I’m starting to feel really old, guys…

My Top 10 Gratitude List of 2018 (so far)

As it’s the tenth TWIG post, I thought I’d add a little “bonus” TWIG list and share with you my top ten things I’m grateful for this year (so far!). Here goes (in no particular order).

  1. YouTube. 

PurpleFlowers230518Okay, so I know it’s been around forever and I’m coming late to the game, but I have to speak out about YouTube, which has proved itself to be an awesome resource. For a self-help junkie like me, it’s like having free access to an online university featuring the most inspirational speakers, leaders and teachers in the field of self-improvement.

What’s more, YouTube integrates extra learning opportunities into my daily life. Playing videos in the background (often listening to them, rather than watching the screen), I’ve learnt loads whilst getting sh*t done. It’s turned daily chores like washing up, weeding, and even washing my face into opportunities for growth. I’ve even discovered new role models, thanks to the site’s ability to suggest videos I might like based on my viewing history.  I’d highly recommend YouTube as a tool for curating your own “University of Life” education. Just make sure you’re on WiFi (or have unlimited data) before you go all in!

2. Tony Robbins’ and my Hour of Power (HoP)

No, not a new Harry Potter spin-off series; it’s only the most useful tool I’ve build into my life this year!

My HoP is essentially the priming process which Tony speaks about a lot in his work, and which I’ve already talked about it detail in this post.  It’s down to personal preference as to what’s included in a priming ritual, but for me, I follow Tony’s advice to:

  • Move my body;
  • Change my breathing patterns;
  • Express gratitude for all I have;
  • Dream big about what I most want;
  • Plan for a positive day;
  • and finally, speak out my daily incantation.

I’ve got my HoP ritual down to perfectly fit my forty-five minute walk to work, and there’s never a day that goes by where I’m not glad to have taken the time to give myself this motivational mental massage!  It works so well for me that I feel confident in saying that Tony Robbins is an absolute hero. He insists in his Netflix documentary that “I am not your guru“, but he’s definitely one of the biggest influences upon me.

3. Spending our first year in our new house.

It feels like a million years since I bought my first-ever house with my partner C, but it was actually only late last Summer when we spent just fifteen minutes viewing the biggest purchase we’re ever likely to make. An empty bank account and seven months later, I can honestly say it feels like home.

And I’m so grateful for it! Every day when I look out of the window, I see more gorgeous flowers and plants coming into bloom. I hear birdsong and can open our French doors to let the outside in, and wander in the grass barefoot and in my pajamas! We no longer have to squeeze around one another because the new house has terrifically tall ceilings. We’ve tons of room for our things in a four-bed house with just us two (and the cats), so I’m no longer stressed about space. It’s perfect for us to host friends and family, and we’ve already had several people to stay. Whilst it’ll be a huge undertaking to renovate and make it into our dream house, I believe it’s already proving to have been worth every penny.

4. Getting to know my family.

Partly as a result of moving house, and partly down to intentional effort (on all of our parts), this year I feel like I’m getting to know my family better. Spending more time with my baby nephew, my two nieces, and with both C’s and my respective siblings has proved to be a real blessing.

I’ve learnt that whilst friends are the family we choose, I can choose to creative positive friendships with family. Getting to know my own two sisters has been a pleasant surprise, in that we’ve all got so much more in common as adults than we ever did when we lived together. We’re all way more alike than I’d have ever realised, had I not taken the time now to spend time with them. I appreciate how we can all accept each other as we are today, unlike when we’re with our parents and they generally refer back to us as we were as kids.

I’m also thrilled to be a part in the lives of the next generation. I absolutely adore being an Aunt! I never expected I would be that fussed, but it turns out that I am a natural children’s’ entertainer – though I suspect that’s partly down to my willingness to make an absolute fool of myself to get laughs. Not having children ourselves, and not knowing whether they feature in our future, I think both C and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play a more hands-on role in the lives of the littlies than perhaps our own Aunts and Uncles played in our own.

5. My physical health.

This year I have a new appreciation for my body, knowing that people we love and care for are having to handle some serious health problems.

My body has been my personal battleground for many years. During times when I’ve fought with myself, I’ve essentially been seeking relief from emotional and mental pain. Using food and fitness as my weapons of choice, I’ve conducted this battle with my body through either self-harm or self-control.

However hearing of those whose bodies are suffering from ill-health has given me pause for thought about my own body. I’m grateful that my worries are merely superficial. I realised that it’s actually really hard to hate my body when it’s doing everything I ask of it. In objective terms, my body has worked hard to remain healthy, despite periods of self-inflicted abuse and neglect. Like most people, I take my healthy body for granted sometimes, because it’s easy to do whilst you have good health. Not so easy when you’re faced with illness and the very real, very difficult challenges this poses. Knowing of others in this position, I’m reminded of my good fortune to have my health, and also to appreciate what I don’t have, as well as all that I do.

6. Learning to let go of perfection.

YellowWhiteFlowers230518Okay, so I can’t take all the credit on this one, because in truth, I’m not entirely sure I made it a conscious decision to ease up on myself. Yet somehow I’ve let loose a little, specifically in the area of  food, fitness, and my body. As I’ve already said, this is a challenge for me, and one in which I continue to work on becoming better.

After reflecting on this, I believe this to be the result of a practical change in life circumstances (i.e. moving house),  and a slowly dawning realisation that my constant striving for perfection – and not my body –  is limiting my happiness.

Rather than allowing myself to be driven by fear, I’m trying to choose to act according to what will make me happy. That’s to say, not shaping my life around what will “guarantee” that I maintain a particular number on the scales, but instead seriously considering what my heart wants. It’s not comfortable – I’m not sure when , or if, it will become so – but I do feel happier. I’m braver, I feel more beautiful and I’m emotionally stronger today than when I was last at my “fighting weight”. I feel in my heart, as well as (intellectually) in my head, that I’m genuinely less attached to the idea that my worth is tied up in being thin. That is a perfectly imperfect accomplishment, in my book.

7. Spending more quality time with C

Making a major life decision – like buying our first home together – necessitates change.  Practically-speaking, living in a new place means tweaking my daily routine, which has been challenging for us both. C has to drive a new route to work,  learning to traverse the winding country lanes, finding new short-cuts (and traffic jams) en-route.

For me, it’s been more of a mental shift, and one that’s taken a little time to adjust. Realising the impracticality of attending my regular Sunday fitness class, I made the decision to stop going and incorporate more exercise into my working week. Having religiously shown up to class for a good few years now, it felt hard to give up. At first, I missed it a lot and found it hard to adjust to a weekend with no formal fitness.

Instead, I spend my Sundays with C and I think this time has been one of the most valuable investments I’ve made this year. If I’m honest, at first it wasn’t so much fun. From February, our weekends were filled with a seemingly endless stream of cleaning and DIY as we worked on “Project 171”; the renovation of our old house in preparation for its sale. However I now believe that having this joint project brought us closer together. In spite of the moments of frustration, annoyance and general tiredness, I learnt a lot from C and (I hope!) vice versa.

Now our old house on the market, we’ve reclaimed our weekends – and it’s amazing! Whiling away our newfound time together we’ve been pottering in our beautiful blooming garden; having family and friends to stay, and simply spending our days together visiting places we love. When I really think about it, such a simple change of routine makes such a huge impact on how connected I feel to my partner.

This year has confirmed to me the value of investing quality time and energy into my relationship. I already knew this to be the case intellectually. However seeing in practice how much happier we both are as a result of changing my routine has me reconsidering my priorities. I’m therefore in the process of learning yet another major life lesson this year: making my relationship – our love –  a priority.  Already I’m thinking about designing another month-long challenge, and I suspect it will focus on this area of my life.

8. Learning new skills

PurpleDaisy230518Since completing “Project 171” I feel a new level of respect for my partner C. I mean, I knew he was a smart cookie – I wouldn’t have held out ten years had he not been more than a pretty face – but what I don’t often get to see is how he is in a “work-like” environment. It reminded me why I instinctively felt safe and trusted him from the get-go; he’s a quiet but brilliant teacher and leader.

Working on this project, I took the role of project planner, but as I don’t know anything about DIY, I had to rely on C’s instruction to actually get the work done. In a couple of months, he taught me all sorts of new skills, from how to prepare walls for painting to how to regrout tiles. His hard-working attitude carried us through times when my attention had long-since waned (normally when the cake had run out). My positivity, enthusiasm and energy was balanced by his rationality, consideration and patience, not only with the project but with me, too, as a newbie on the DIY scene!

Another new skill I’m learning this year is to garden. Having poured our life savings into a house with a massive mature garden, it’s kind of a must that I get involved in its maintenance. However I’m genuinely surprised to be finding this much pleasure in it! Being outside amongst the rainbow-coloured flowers, surrounded by green grass and blue skies (my favourite colours of late) makes me feel happy and relaxed. When I came home from work this week feeling a little stressed, I decided I’d spend an hour or so scraping moss (don’t ask) in the sun, and it totally recharged my body and mind.

9. Feeling happier at work.

Retuning my mind towards the positive has enabled me to become better at my job. I’ve embraced my strengths and in so doing, I’m more inclined to seek out opportunities in which to use my best skills. Speaking out at meetings front of senior colleagues, leading training seminars, and using social media to motivating those I manage in their work, I feel like I’m really making a difference in work these days.

Being more fulfilled in my day-job has given me a greater level of confidence in pursuing my personal passions outside of work. I’ve got more faith in my own talents and abilities, which has helped me gain momentum in writing this blog. I’m even using my down-time more productively – not simply surfing the web, or scrolling Facebook!

And last, but most certainly not least…

10. Writing this blog. 

Perhaps the thing that’s given me the most joy to date is writing this blog! It sounds rather dramatic, but I feel like I’m becoming the person I was meant to be. Whilst publishing my writing makes me vulnerable to public criticism, it made me more determined to keep my commitment, not only to the blog but also to myself. Finding the thing I truly love to do, I’m no longer willing to let myself down. I’m keeping my promise to myself, writing often, which gives me pleasure and has a positive cyclical effect, meaning I’m spending more time writing and creating.

Through writing I’ve found my personal passion: sharing what I’m learning to help myself and others become our best selves. Motivating me to pursue my personal ambition of becoming better (by which I mean becoming happier, healthier and emotionally wealthier), this is an invaluable discovery that’s improved my quality of my life.

Since publishing my writing, my mind’s opened up to being more creative generally. Working on the blog inspired me to start writing my book, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Inspired by the creative momentum of writing regularly, I’ve even had several new ideas for potential business ventures!

As we approach the middle of this year, I’m feeling optimistic about the coming months. I’ve a lot to be grateful for so far. Whether I do that when marching to work out loud to myself, or in sharing my thoughts in posts like this, I’m excited for what the future holds. I’m learning that positivity is a genuinely good feeling and I think I’ll stick to this positivity malarkey a little while longer.

x

 

 

 

 

The RMC Week 2 Post (or why I’m making happiness my #1 priority)

Read my introductory post to my Role Model Challenge (RMC), or if you’ve not yet caught up with my Week 1 findings, you can read the post here

Okay, so it’s week two of my RMC and I’m proud to introduce yet another awesome line-up of extraordinary people! My #RMCsquad2 looks like this:

It’s a pretty eclectic collection, and you might be wondering how I’m choosing my role models each day. As I come to the end of week two, it feels like I’ve found a natural sense of balance in this process. This results from a combination of luck, mindful intention and intuition.

The mainstay of my RMC is in reading a chapter from “Tribe of Mentors” (which I’ll refer to for brevity from here on as ToM). My first teacher for any given day is simply whomever’s chapter is next up in this book. The “surprise” element of my experiment, ToM connects me to inspiring people from a cross-section of society and culture that I might never otherwise have encountered.

Conversely, I intentionally select a contrasting daily mentor from Evan Carmichael’s YouTube channel. I generally choose someone whose background, career or world-view differs from whomever I’ve drawn from ToM. Sometimes it’s simply a case of following my heart and trusting my intuition, which explains the mash-up of some of the world’s finest business minds, scientists, entertainers and leaders that make up my #RMCsquad2.

Fundamental Finding #1: Prioritise happiness

Underpinning this week’s advice is the theme of happiness. Tony Robbins believes that “happiness is a choice” and it’s the responsibility of each of us to “decide to be happy”. Many mentors support this focus on in valuing happiness, from celebrities like Victoria Beckham and “The Rock”, to spiritual teachers like Gabrielle Bernstein. This got me considering what makes me happy, and whether I make “joy and happiness my top priority in life”, as Gabby advises us to do.

I’ve learnt that happiness is a more complex concept than that for which I’d previously given it credit. Rather than a permanent state of being, Tony sees it as a particular state of mind we can choose to step into at any moment. Alternatively Naval Ravikant sees happiness as  “..a skill you develop”, suggesting that not only can it be learnt, but there’s also room to increase our current levels of bliss. Khloe Kardashian emphasised how happiness is something we create for ourselves, rather than relying on others to do it for us.

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Happiness necessitates action. It’s a practise, and each day I choose to act in small ways that bring me greater joy. Consciously taking time for activities I love contributes to my overall feeling of well-being. Spending more time reading, playing with my cats, and learning to garden from my partner C generally makes life better. I’m also writing more because it’s what truly I love to do. I’m learning to make my passions a priority because they bring me genuine happiness.

Depression previously conditioned me to think that happiness was out of my reach. I believed my thoughts were somehow “pre-programmed” to have an underlying negative “tone”; that was simply the way I was. This week’s RMC has reaffirmed for me that this is not the case. Happiness is a decision we make and commit to on a daily basis. As a result of this week’s RMC I feel empowered to choose to live in a beautiful state of happiness more often.

Fundamental Finding #2: Put yourself first

We’ve all heard the advice to put yourself first many times. “Help yourself before you help others” is commonly cited in all kinds of situations, from emergency evacuation procedures on-board aeroplanes to preachers of all denominations giving sermons in churches, mosques and temples all over the world. I came across this exact phrase again just this week from Ayaan Hirsi Ali in ToM.

Depending on whom you choose to listen to, “put yourself first” can be interpreted in myriad different ways. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson defines it as being a “trailblazer” ; someone who steps out and leads the way, up-front and centre. Going first involves a significant amount of courage and self-assurance. In this respect, putting yourself first also involves a degree of risk and vulnerability which isn’t always easy to overcome. I know in my life this has held me back from fulfilling my potential on more than one occasion.

Tim Urban describes putting oneself first as choosing to “be a chef, not a cook”. By this he means us to direct our work and live life like a chef, heading up their kitchen and leading their team in experimenting with creative new ideas. Acting “like a cook” means working to realise someone else’s vision. It’s a perfectly fine career path, but it seems to me that being a chef in my own life is a wiser path to a more successful, fulfilling existence. Linked to last week’s musings about the difference between intelligence and wisdom, Tim reaffirmed my desire to become a wiser woman in my life.

Putting yourself first also requires standing up for yourself. Khloe Kardashian calls us to “ignore the naysayers” in our lives – and she should know! On the receiving end of brutal, frequent public scrutiny, Khloe is a true role model, proving it’s possible to handle extreme negativity whilst maintaining one’s self-confidence and self-esteem. If Khloe can handle the amount of sh*t thrown her way, then I’m sure I can cope with an odd off-hand comment thrown my way.

Another way of looking at the concept of putting yourself first is to put other people’s needs and desires after our own. Graham Duncan advises taking other people’s perspectives lightly. There’s no “right” point of view on anything, so why is it that so many of us prioritise others’ views above our own? Practising putting myself first this week, I’ve risked ridicule from not only C, who has a significant aversion to anything he deems “woo-woo”, but also myself for engaging in “magical thinking”. Drawing an inspirational card each day from my pack of Gabrielle Bernstein’s “The Universe Has Your Back” cards, this ritual reminds me to choose to think positively , which makes me happy.

Thinking deeply about what the idea of “putting myself first” really means, I realise that it can mean whatever I want it to mean. As such I’ve created my own definition of what this means to me:

Putting myself first means prioritising myself, in terms of my health, wellness and happiness, and also rating my own opinions of myself and what I do above those of others.

Thinking about it this way, putting myself first is a way of empowering myself to become happier, healthier, and generally better in any area of my life. At work I often play the role of “cook”, taking action to realise other people’s visions. In contrast, when I’m reading, writing or researching my own passions there are no limits to my creative thinking. I feel truly free. This week taught me that it’s okay to practise prioritising myself and my interests. By making time and space to write, for example, I’m more fulfilled and am a much nicer person to others as a result.

Fundamental Finding #3: Successful people are often readers and writers

Citing reading as a key passion in their lives, this week’s role models assured me that it’s actually pretty cool to be a reader. Naval insists we “read for love”; a phrase that stuck in my mind because it reflects exactly how I feel about reading. Coming back to books as an adult, I still feel a bit embarrassed to admit I’m happiest curled up with a book and a brew. I’d honestly rather read than go on a night out these days. With several successful mentors sharing my love of reading, I feel more confident accepting myself for who I am and what I enjoy.

Already a vociferous reader, I was encouraged this week to read even more. Matt Ridley suggests that I can increase the number of books I read by listening to audio books. Having recently re-subscribed to Audible, I’ve enjoyed listening to authors read their own books in their authentic voice. To me, it’s not like reading a book but is an entirely different experience. Whilst I generally prefer reading paper copies, I’ve actually found some books that I think work better as audio, like Robert Webb’s autobiography, for example.

This week’s thoughts leaders had plenty to say about writing, too. Up until I started this blog, I’ve been guarded about letting others know how important writing is to me. I hadn’t really shared my work with anyone before as I felt scared of being judged. However by publishing my writing on a regular basis and putting my work “out there” into the Universe, I’ve gradually gained confidence in my skills.

Specifically, I’ve begun to find my own authentic voice as a writer. I’ve taken the advice of mentors like Tim Urban, who suggests I “write for myself”, and Matt Ridley, who recommends specialising in writing about whatever most fascinates you. They agree that tailoring your creativity to appeal to the masses is unlikely to make you happy. Putting across my passion in my writing, it then requires that I trust those readers whose interests align with my own will eventually find – and love – my work.

Thus far, I’m grateful to have received some amazingly positive feedback from friends, family and even strangers on my blog. These kind words of encouragement and support drive me to positive action, where I’ve then found myself intentionally dedicating more time and effort to my writing. Of course, there are no guarantees my writing will connect with an audience in the way I hope. I know I’ll make plenty of mistakes in pursuing my writing. Yet I’m glad to have learnt to act on my passion for writing simply because doing so makes me happy.

Prioritising creativity isn’t easy when there’s so much else in life vying for our attention. However this week’s RMC encouraged me to take practical steps to make time for what matters to me. When I’m writing I lose all sense of time and I’m utterly in the moment. I know I’ve hit on something good because when I write is one of the rare occasions I even lose interest in food! Tuning out the radio, I put on my “mental blinkers” and focus on the words on my screen. I get in the “effortless flow of where I am”, as Graham Duncan puts it. Artists like Demi Lovato, Victoria Beckham, and Matt Ridley also commit to their work with this kind of intense concentration. Spending more time and energy thinking about writing has brought home to me quite how important it is to me.

Overall Observations: Week 2

Getting into a habit of selecting role models, I’m becoming better at identifying  those teachers and though leaders with whom I’m likely to instinctively connect. In the past two weeks, I’ve found that a positive connection is essential for me to really understand the lessons they have to share. For example, discovering Naval Ravikant in ToM and reading his eloquent, considerate responses to questions posed by the author, along with his love of writing and reading (of course!), made me like him immediately. Inversely, it’s nearly impossible to be unaware of the Kardashians. As a recovering reality TV junkie, Khloe was already my favourite of all the Kardashian “klan”, and so I was drawn to her success rules video. Subsequently I’ve a whole new level of respect for her. I aspire to attain even a modicum of her body confidence and unwavering self-belief!

Yet despite having access to a million motivating mentors at via the magic of the Internet, there have still been days where I’ve sought out guidance from familiar thought leaders. It feels comfortable and safe to engage with the teachings of people like Tony Robbins and Gabrielle Bernstein. I already have respect for them and their work, and I’m likely to return to them for inspiration time and again.

In virtually “meeting” such a broad range of successful people, I’m becoming better at being both intellectually open-minded and emotionally open-hearted. My mindset seems to be moving towards what’s called a “growth orientation”, whereby I’m willing to welcome wisdom from any and all spheres of influence. A good example of this is my gravitating towards Gabby Bernstein, whose spiritual teachings run contrary to my not having any religious leanings whatsoever. In this growth mindset I’m less likely to pre-judge and instead approach life asking myself: “what can I learn from this?”

Moreover, I realised the importance of maintaining a positive mindset if I want to learn as much as possible from my RMC.  One way I’ve achieved this is by continuing the priming process I taught myself to do whilst walking to work. It sets me up for a great start to the day by literally driving me forward to take action. Creating positive momentum, my RMC is thus far helping me grow in brilliant, yet unexpected ways.img_0743

 

 

 

 

Next up: Week 3 #squadgoals

Now half-way through this month’s experiment, I feel confident selecting mentors whose advice challenges me to become better. As I said at the start of this post (if you can remember that far back!), I’m following the order laid out in Tim Ferriss’ ToM book, accepting whomever he proposes as my first teacher of the day, then carefully curating a contrasting hero for my second.

In the coming week I plan to spend time learning from the legendary Steve Jobs. He’s quoted time and again by successful business people as having influenced their careers and lives. Being the self-help junkie that I am, I’ve heard clips of his most famous speeches, and seen many a quote of his when reading other people’s blogs. Yet I’ve not intentionally sought out his wisdom for myself before and think the RMC is a great opportunity to do this.

I also aim to continue seeking out strong female role models this week. In general there seem to be more inspiration videos of men online, so to address the balance I’ve chosen some women with whom I’m not especially familiar. Having learnt something from everyone thus far, I’m more open-minded to mentors whom perhaps I would have previously overlooked. This includes those whom I may have previously gossiped about, which is sh*tty behaviour on my part, I know, but I’m human and I’m learning to accept that I sometimes make these kinds of dumb mistakes.

By reserving my judgement and opening my heart to receiving wisdom from whomever I come across this next week, I hope to “meet” more brilliant role models in the second half of this challenge.

The Ninth TWIG Post (or how I’m defeating my fears by choosing love)

After taking an extra-long May Bank Holiday break, having to go back to being in the office – even for just two days – felt like the longest (short) work week ever. This was amplified by my shockingly sharp slide into a state of depression. Heavy and dark, it felt like someone had thrown a thick Winter blanket over my head on a hot Summer’s day. With lethargy, hopelessness and despair tugging at my sleeve, it took all of my energy to get through the day. Slowing down to where my body felt like lead, walking to the bus stop took an extraordinary effort. Even  being outside in the sunshine felt painful.

Even to me, this description sounds overly dramatic, but I intentionally use these words because that’s exactly how it feels. In my experience, depression is incredibly dramatic and makes me behave in a seemingly self-centred way, which only adds to the feelings of shame that come with being afflicted by this negative mental state.

Waking up the next day with only a mild anxiety hangover as proof of the previous day’s drama, I started thinking about how different my emotional life is today. Most days, I wake up happy, without worry, and believing that I have future that’s worth living for. If I were a religious person (which I’m not), I’d cite this as miraculous; the polar opposite of my experience living in depression for most of my life.

I’ve learnt that our mindset is a choice.  It’s a choice available to all, and we can choose to change at any time. By choosing to have a positive and optimistic mindset, by practicing choosing love and happiness over fear, then this is the state in which I find myself most of the time.  I’m a different person because I’m making different choices. 

Reminding me how awful life feels with depression, this week I’m thankful to have had the opportunity this week to prove to myself how emotionally resilient I am.  Still, knowing for certain that these particular feelings would pass – that I can have a few “wobbly” days and return quickly to a state of  happiness and joy – is still a miracle to me.

So, in this spirit of renewed appreciation, here’s my thank you list to the Universe for this week!

This Week I’m Grateful for

Zebra

Getting up close with a herd of zebra, like you do.

  • Being a zoo keeper for the day again! After an incredible experience taking care of the giraffes last year, my Dad kindly gifted me another day as a keeper at Chester Zoo. Working alongside the rhino team, I had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with some of the world’s most endangered species. I had the privilege of hand-feeding two rare Bongos, of which there are just 150 of these beautiful deer-like animals in captivity, and only around the same number in the wild. I also got to hang out among zebra, and make friends with a rhinoceros named Benny, who happens to be the same age as me. Scratching a rhino behind the ears, I had to wonder – how many people in the world are lucky enough to be able to say that?!

    Heather&Bongo

    Feeding a rare Bongo (I hadn’t heard of these before either) with cabbage.

  • Having a super short working week.
  • Being committed to fitness as a lifestyle. Determined to re-establish my exercise regime – regardless of how many times it’s been disrupted of late – I went to the gym after work on Friday. I appreciation of how crucial working out is to my mental and physical fitness, so whilst I don’t want to go to the gym in the moment, I do it anyway. I felt good about acting in my own best interests, and doing the next right thing.
  • Publishing my Week One Role Model Challenge (RMC) post. Unusually for a blog, it’s a long-form article and I was inspired by Tim Ferriss to have confidence in my own style and the readers would come. I’m really proud of it as it’s so authentically me, I didn’t care whether or not people liked it because I like it.  I was therefore delighted to get positive feedback from readers. It made my day!
  • Having the confidence to take up the feminist cause. This week I came across a man whose attitude towards women at work was positively prehistoric. Grateful not to have to work alongside him myself, I was acutely aware of the young women who do. This drove me to speak out today so that other women don’t have to put up with this kind of sh*t in future. Now in my mid-thirties, I feel capable of standing up to misogyny. I’m proud to have the emotional strength to handle any fall-out from complaining about the immature behaviour of a grown man.
  • Being with a man like C, whose kindness, compassion and consideration for me, and others, seems to be above and beyond that of most ordinary humans. Despite terrible toothache (resulting in a painful extraction – ouch!), he put me and my he my (mentally) fragile state ahead of his needs by cooking us chilli for dinner, boiling my breakfast eggs for work, and downloading a superhero film for Thursday night movie night. I suspect he even made me my supper cup of tea (because tea always tastes better when someone else makes it). These seemingly small individual acts of love helped massively to get me out of a depressive state and confirm for me that he’s my hero – just don’t tell him I said so!
  • Receiving an invite to my nephew’s first birthday party! It’s not for a couple of months yet, and I’m already excited to be part of his first birthday celebrations.
  • Making plans to spend more time with my sisters over the next year. Already having spent more time with them this past year than I have for most of my twenties, as I’ve said in previous posts, I really appreciate the chance to get to know each other as friends.  We’re creating experiences and memories together, which is priceless.
  • Writing all Saturday afternoon. Having this time to myself to write was a real treat. Borrowing C’s mega computer, with its clinky-clunky noisy keys, I really enjoyed getting into my “flow” and accomplishing my goal of publishing my latest blog post.
  • Fitting into my leather jacket. Okay, so this is a slightly superficial gratitude, but bear with me here. Not having put this on since last Summer, I was afraid it might be too tight for me after letting go of the super-strict food and fitness regime I’ve lived by for the past four or five years.  I’m proud of myself for seeking greater balance, and as a result I’m happier and more relaxed. As a consequence, I’ve gained a few pounds and in all honestly, I’m not entirely comfortable with that. It’s brought back painful old stories of my being not thin (read:good) enough. Slipping on my jacket to find it fits fine helped prove to me that being a little heavier doesn’t equate to my being fat.
  • Receiving my Psychologies magazine in the post. Arriving this weekend and as if manifested by magic – this month’s issue features the very topic of working on rewriting our stories in an empowering way.
  • Rediscovering Brené Brown via her TED talks this weekend, it feels like the Universe is working to bring me that I need as I came across her work at precisely the right time.  I needed to hear her message about vulnerability being a sign not of weakness, but of courage and strength. I bought one of her Kindle books after the Universe called me to action. Feeling inspired by her videos, and debating whether to buy her book, my Kindle appeared on the bed out of nowhere – I’ve not read on it in weeks! I take this to be a sign from the Universe and went with my intuition to invest in her work. After all, buying a book is never a bad purchase.

    StreetMarket13May18

    Sunny Sunday at the street market

  • A sunny Sunday morning at a local street market. In perfect pottering weather, C and I visited a new local street market for the first time. Collecting a ton of business cards and ideas for our creating a terrarium for my garden living room, I came away with a tiny knitted turtle (to live on my desk), home-made cake and C bought some local art. We also ate delicious Caribbean street food, and I even had peanut butter and jelly gelato for dessert!
  • The pleasure of a good charity shop find. We bought a green glass vase and a small ceramic pot for under £2.50, which perfectly fit with my vision for our garden room. I filled the vase with bluebells from our garden, and it looks beautiful.
  • A glass jellyfish paperweight ornament. It sounds bonkers, but it’s a truly beautiful find.
  • Tea and cake on our patio of a sunny afternoon.

    HerbGarden13May18

    Our herb garden and my very first attempt at grown-up gardening!

  • Filling my home and garden with plants. Neither being an indoor or outdoor gardener by any means, I adore being surrounded with greenery and thus am taking steps to become more of a horticulturalist. This weekend I began to realise my vision of a plethora of plants overtaking our back living room by buying its first few potted plants. This room we refer to as the “garden room” because its French doors open up onto the garden, and I’m excited about bringing a bit of the outdoors in.

Let’s hope for another week of sunshine!

x

The RMC Week 1 Post (or how I’ve set about building my #squad)

If you’ve not yet read my introductory post to my Role Model Challenge (RMC), you can find out more about the thinking behind this month’s challenge here.

So how did week one go, I hear you cry?!

Before I spill the beans, let me introduce my role models for week one #RMSquad1. The line-up is as follows:

 

First off, I’d like to say that I’ve loved putting this challenge into action and testing out the role model theory. Combining my passion for learning, reading and writing with an element of experimentation, this challenge is totally “up my street”,  as we like to say up North. Having recently finished reading Gretchen Rubin‘s “The Happiness Project“, it fits with my desire to bring more happiness into my life. Much like Gretchen’s commitment to “be Gretchen” and live authentically, I’m excited to “be Heather” by creating this RMC experiment.

With such an awesome #RMSquad, it’s really difficult to choose which pearls of wisdom to feature in this post. In my desire to share the best of my weekly lessons with you, I’ve organised them into “Fundamental Findings”; the advice that’s moved me, got me thinking differently, and ultimately has, or will have, a significant impact on my life. My theory is that if it’s sparked something in me, then I hope it might do the same for you.

Towards the end of this post, you’ll also find some of my “Overall Observations”. In addition to bestowing the wisdom of this week’s thought leaders, I’ll comment on how the experiment itself is going, sharing what’s been most or least challenging thus far. I’ll then conclude this mega-post with a few notes about how I plan to approach the second week of the RMC, in light of what I’ve learnt this week.

So here goes…

Fundamental Finding #1: Follow your passion

Bluebells

The most impactful advice from this week was to “follow your passion”; the idea being that most people do their best work when they truly love what they do. If you adore your work, then it doesn’t feel like hard work. Instead, it feels natural to invest time, energy and passion in something which holds true meaning for you.

Though worded differently, the majority of mentors placed this as one of their most highly valued tips for success. Being implored by such incredible thought leaders to “invest in your heart” (Steven Pressfield), “follow your bliss” (Kyle Maynard) and “love what you do” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), I felt inspired to pursue my own passions.

After some intensive naval-gazing over the past year, I can articulate this as follows:

A devoted student of health and wellness, self-help, personal development and  growth, my mission in life is to share these lessons with other people, through my writing and speaking. I aim to help as many people as I can to become happier, healthier and emotionally wealthier. I’m passionately committed to making mental wellness as much of a priority as physical wellness in our society, and to broadening the definition of “health, fitness and wellbeing” to include mental and emotional health as standard. 

Sounds impressive, right?!

It sounds so simple to “do what you love” (Karlie Kloss), but it’s actually the most challenging practice I came across this week. It’s surprisingly difficult to “make your life fit your passions”, as Susan Cain suggested. Working full-time to pay the bills means my attention is necessarily divided between what I want to do, and the myriad demands life places on our time and energy.

This dilemma clarified a key question for me, to which I’m yet to find an answer:

How can I balance doing what I love, with my desire to meet the needs and expectations of the people I love?

Seeking answers, I intentionally sought guidance from successful female writers, Susan Cain and JK Rowling. It was reassuring to discover that it took them time to transition to doing what they love, and writing full-time. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear that their road to success was not the “all or nothing” kind of approach I’d expected of such extraordinary achievers.

For example, Susan recommends that you ensure you can make enough money elsewhere, so that the time you spend on creative projects “… can be all about focus, flow, and occasional glimpses of joy.” The implication here being that monetising one’s passion can lead to it diminishing if you’re not careful.

Whilst it would be amazing to make writing and speakin my full-time career, I’m fortunate that my current work supports me in pursuing my passions in my free time. This empowers me to pursue my love of learning and writing for its own sake, without financial pressure. This gives me the creative freedom to experiment without external expectations censoring my output. At least for now, I can enjoy following my passion primarily for myself.

Fundamental Finding #2: Make time for what mattersWhiteFlowers

As if preempting my concerns about practising the first finding, this week’s role models also direct me to make time for what matters most. As someone who’s organised and conscientious (as confirmed by the skills audit Gary V suggested I take this week), I like to think I’m someone who manages her time pretty well.

And yet, like just about everyone I know, I feel time poor. With only twenty-four hours in a day, I feel torn between using my spare hours of an evening to read, research and write, whilst still fulfilling my commitments as a partner, friend and family member. Sometimes, it feels like we’re all too busy to even think about being busy!

In this world, where busyness is worn like a badge of honour, it was refreshing to hear from some of the most accomplished people on the planet confirming my suspicions that our citing busyness is really more of an excuse not to act.

I can definitely see how this plays out in my own life. I’ve only very recently allowed myself to think about the future. Giving myself permission to have dreams – let alone pursue them – has scared me because there’s a real chance of failure. A recovering perfectionist and chronically risk averse, it’s felt safer to simply not try; to live a small life rather than strive to be more.  Overcoming these mental barriers to success will likely take me more than a week, but simply acknowledging their existence  feels like a step in the right direction.

Still, no one ever said that it would be easy to make time to pursue one’s dreams. Conversely, It takes a lot of mental and physical effort get sh*t done. Schwarzenegger is a great example of someone who’s “walked the walk” on this. He talks about how in his early career he maximised every hour in the day, explaining how hard he worked to make the most of every opportunity to develop and grow. That’s the kind of person I aspire to be.

But how?

As Debbie Millman says, “busy is a decision“. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day and it’s up to each of us to invest our time wisely. Learning from this week’s thought leaders, it’s clear that I need to make my passion for writing a priority by establishing some kind of consistent practise. Rather than simply thinking about acting, I must actually get out there and make things happen.

This process won’t be easy. Kyle Maynard recognizes that following your bliss will require courage, resilience, bravery, and risk-taking. But it’s worth it, if it’s something you really love. Writing truly is my passion project, and making the time to write every day, however little, is important to me. Initially, I plan to establish a routine in which writing is a regular habit. I’m good at creating habits, so this makes sense as a starting point. This week has reaffirmed that it matters to make what I love a priority.

Fundamental Finding #3: The most interesting and least expected advice

PinkFlowersPerhaps the least expected, yet most interesting, guidance I received this week was from Terry Crews, someone whom it’s unlikely I’d have come across without the RMC. Terry got me thinking about there being a difference between intelligence and wisdom.

 

 

 

He defines this as follows:

“Intelligence is like following a GPS route right into a body of water until you drown. Wisdom looks at the route but, when it takes a turn into the ocean, decides not to follow it, then finds a new, better way. Wisdom reigns supreme.” Terry Crews (Tribe of Mentors)

Appreciating the subtle, but critical, difference between these two important qualities allowed me to recognise occasions in my own life where I’ve acted with intelligence, but have not necessarily made wise decisions. My relationship with food is a prime example.

Acting with intelligence as regards the science of weight management, I’ve successfully achieved my weight loss goals. However this has involved investment of significant time and energy into meal planning and scheduling fitness. This seems acceptable, until I consider how much time and energy this has taken from my most important relationships.  Specifically, the many social occasions I’ve avoided where I’ve also missed opportunities to connect with family and friends, and the mental focus that I’ve given to worrying about my weight, rather than being in the moment with my (long-suffering) partner, C. Whilst acting intelligently from the perspective of my physical health, I’ve neglected not only my mental health but also potentially contributed negatively to the mental health of the people I love. Not wise.

Armed with this new knowledge of the fundamental difference between intelligence and wisdom, I’ve reconsidered my allegiance to intelligence

Holding up my intellectual intelligence as a key strength isn’t wrong, as such (I’m a bright button, if I say so myself). Terry’s simply made me think about how I value this in comparison with other kinds of intelligence, such as emotional or spiritual (intuitive) intelligence, and with the wisdom of making the best choice in any given situation. Whilst justifiably proud of achieving a healthy weight, I question my intelligence leading me to prioritising this over the quality of my relationships. How I look and feel in my skin matters to me, but it feels unwise to prioritise skinniness over the experience of giving and receiving love. Life’s too short and time too precious. This lesson taught me the importance of developing the wisdom to make better choices in the moment for the long-term happiness of myself and those I love.

Overall Observations: Week One 

Generally, I found that the easiest advice to follow tended to be the most prescriptiveHaving a few of these “easy wins” helped me build momentum for the RMC this week.  Some thought leaders provided clear instructions quite literally giving me practical steps to follow. This eliminated the need to “translate” the guidance I received into actionable steps, which is what I found myself frequently having to do. Finding the gems of wisdom in their stories, and then interpreting ways in which I might live by this guidance takes time. Hence it was helpful to have mentors who sometimes simply told me what to do. Examples of quick and easy-to-follow advice this week include writing goals into my journal (Samin Nosrat) and doing a personal strengths audit (Gary V).

Other strategies that were simple to apply included those I’d already built into my day prior to this challenge. For example, Karlie Kloss described her morning routine, talking about the importance of starting her day right. I’m already on the same page here, as you’ll know if you’ve been following my blog. I got this one down during my Walking to Work Challenge a month or so ago. This also boosted my confidence in what I do. After all, if it’s good enough for Karlie, then I’m pretty sure it’s good enough for me!

If there’s any downside to the RMC, it’s that it’s been more time-consuming than expected. Outside of reading and listening to the day’s heroes, which of course takes a little time away from other things, I think what’s draining my time is my propensity to take copious notes. As you’ve probably gathered, I love to write and note-taking is actually something I love to do, even when reading non-fiction for fun.

Gretchen Rubin writes about having this very same note-taking obsession in her book, “The Happiness Project”, which I’ve recently finished. Taking comfort from our shared passion for penmanship, I decided to embrace it and put it to use in my RMC. Taking notes isn’t only the best way I absorb knowledge, but for me, it’s also a source of fun. While it takes time and energy in the short-term, I think it’s worth doing, both to maximise what I learn from spending time with influential, inspirational people and also simply to make me happy.

Next up: Week 2 #squadgoals

Looking ahead, I plan to make a few changes to my #squad line up for my second attempt at implementing the RMC. Noticing that I learnt new things about myself this week by intentionally selecting a wide range of people to model, I will look to continue broadening my sphere of influence in the coming days.

Specifically, my aim is to seek out a wider variety of female thought leaders. I want to focus my attention on learning from more women in general.  Aware of my inclination to hand over the decision-making power to the men in my life, I’d like to expand my perspectives of women’s capabilities, and hence my personal power. Women on my “hot list” for future RMC weeks include: Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Gabrielle Bernstein, Mel Robbins, and Lionel Schriver, to name a few.

This week, I randomly chose some videos without too much thought about who they featured. Some role models, I expected to adore. I felt Susan Cain and JK Rowling to be kindred spirits, both introverted women who love writing and prefer taking a measured approach to risk-taking, like me. What I didn’t expect, but was delighted to discover, was finding some of the most impactful advice coming from models Karlie Kloss and Ashley Graham. Indeed, Karlie was really the only person to focus on caring for one’s physical body alongside one’s mental health, which is a crucial part of overall well-being.

Of course, I’d also like to spend time with some of my favourite mentors, like Tony Robbins, Gretchen Rubin and Geneen Roth. These teachers whose work I already admire, and who have proven ability to move me to action are always worth my time. These are people whom I have deep respect and love for, and will likely always turn to for advice and guidance when times are tough.

Surprisingly, my curiosity was sparked by hearing from mentors whose careers, experiences and lives differ so widely from my own. I was intrigued by Elon Musk, for example, and his passion for changing the world on such a dramatic scale using cutting-edge science and technology.  After listening to a range of role models this week, I’d like to spend some time learning from people like Steve Jobs and Steven Hawkins, whose interests are so far from mine, and yet have so much to teach me.

Finally, I’d like to learn more about the personal perspectives of people in the public eye. These “celebrities” whom we think we know through their work, may be completely different people in real-life. I found this to be the case with Reese Witherspoon this week, and look forward to getting to know people like actors Jim Carrey, Matthew McConaughey in the coming weeks.

With so much potential to learn and grow, I’m excited to pursue this challenge. Wish me luck in the next three weeks!

P.S. If you’ve made it this far, you’re worthy of a place on my list of heroes!

The Eighth TWIG Post (or why I’m excited for a week of firsts)

It’s just been the first weekend of May. Unusually for a British Bank Holiday, the weather was absolutely perfect! As my friend D says, it’s like being on holiday. It’s also the first time since February that C and I haven’t had to spend our free time renovating our former home.

Yet despite having a glorious long weekend to look forward to, I felt frustrated with myself and my inability to simply relax and enjoy it. On one hand, I’m thrilled at the prospect of five days to rest, relax, recuperate and rhino-sit (I’ll explain this in a future post!). On the other hand, I’m anxious about making the most of my time. I’m feeling disappointed that, even after many years working on self-improvement, my mind still sometimes wanders into dark places.

As luck would have it, I came across the exact guidance I needed for this weekend whilst reading “The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabrielle Bernstein:

“Projection is perception. This means that whatever stories you’re projecting in your mind are what you’re perceiving in life.” Gabrielle Bernstein

Gabby’s words reminded me that I have the power to alter my mindset. I have a choice in my perception (how I want to see things), which dictates how I feel. I can therefore control my emotional state and choose to feel differently at any moment. As such, I made a decision to make a new, empowering choice about how to feel this weekend:

I choose to feel happy in the present and give thanks for all I have. I choose to let go of anxiety, and instead allow myself to feel excited about the future.

In this positive spirit, I’m happy to share my eighth TWIG list.

This week I’m grateful for:

  • Five days off work. ‘Nuff said.
  • Amazing weather! Hotter than Spain in some places, apparently.
  • Free books! I’ve been cleverly ordering items on Amazon Prime to maximise the free credits I receive for opting out of next-day delivery. I’ve then enjoyed buying cheap Kindle books from my Wish List and indulging my passion for reading at no additional cost.
  • Having freshly cut and coloured hair. It makes me feel “done”, even when I’m slobbing about in my pajamas (which happens far more frequently than it probably ought to for an adult woman with a job).
  • Walking to work without my coat on for the first time this year. It’s a mini-miracle for the weather in the UK to get good enough to be able to take off my jacket outdoors before 8am.
  • Spending a day working outside of my office. Lat Thursday I had back-to-back meetings, so took advantage of the opportunity to work from different locations in-between times. Feeling very much the Millenial iPad nomad, I relished the freedom to do a spot of people watching while I worked. What’s more, I was able to make the most of my time after work to pursue my passion for writing before C picked me up to go and vote. Bonus!
  • My manager’s faith in my skills as a speaker and leader. She told me that she was glad I’d offered to help with the first event of our agent conference. I was asked to lead the first session, as she wants a confident and clear speaker to get things off to a good start. I felt super proud, and I’m happy to do so because I genuinely enjoy public speaking, weirdly enough. It’s also a chance for me to hone my speaking skills, which might come in handy if ever I decide to make my own podcasts or vlogs.
  • Going hard in the gym. After staying up late last Friday to get a spot in my favourite class, I gave it my all on Tuesday. I lifted the heaviest weights I’ve done so far, and came away feeling powerful, strong and accomplished.
  • Our former home is finally for sale. C’s home for over twenty years (five for me), it’s important to us that we give it the “send-off” it deserves. We’ve invested our hearts into making this a beautiful home again, which we hope will generate an offer worthy of our time and efforts. We’re keen to be able to invest the proceeds in our future, so it means a lot that we maximise our returns.
  • Seeing C happy and relaxed. I love seeing him come alive when he’s outside, working in the garden. The sun seems to recharge his batteries, and it’s really heart-warming to see how much joy our new garden gives him. It makes me feel good too, as it’s full of beautiful surprises and is changing every day. I feel very glad that we bought this place when I see C so contented.
  • Hanging out in the garden with our cats. The level of enjoyment they derive from their human buddies spending time outdoors with them is infectious! My cat D follows my feet as I walk barefoot in the grass, rolling over my toes and purring with delight at my being with him outside. Though I didn’t see K most of the day, in the afternoon I noticed the heather plants moving. She’d been sleeping in the shade and was happy to see we were still there post-nap time.
  • Take Two: Movie Night with C. We’ve done this two Thursday nights in a row now, and I’m counting this as our taking steps to build a positive, relationship-enhancing habit. The cinema-sweet popcorn is also delicious.
  • Living amongst trees, flowers and wildlife. I’m fortunate to have nature quite literally on my doorstep in my new home. In the past week, C bought himself a wildlife camera and captured footage of a fox and a badger visiting our garden in the early hours. It appears we have regular night-time visitors! We’ve also noticed the garden itself blossoming this past week, coming into its own for Spring. There are so many beautiful flowers! We’re also lucky enough to live in an area where there’s a plethora of ginormous trees, not only in our garden but in those around us. We’re privileged to now live on one of the last streets before the start of the Peak District national park, and driving around this weekend, I’m reminded how close we are to nature.
  • A Sunday of firsts in my home. It was the first I’ve sunbathed* (*read: dipped in and out of the shadows with my milk-bottle legs) in my garden; the first time I hung out washing to dry on our line; and the first (and second) time we used the new barbecue. To celebrate, we had burgers for lunch and dinner. Eating dinner outdoors in itself is a real pleasure; but burning meat in the sunshine is true bliss!
  • Having family moving onto our doorstep. This week we received news that our nieces (and their parents) are moving to live in our city! From the Autumn, we’ll have my sisters within an hour’s drive, and C’s sister living round the corner. We’ll go from no one nearby, to lots of people who love us a short drive away. I’m excited to play an important part in our neices’ lives in the years to come. From being able to help pick them up from after-school club, to attending their Christmas plays and have the girls sleep over, we’re going to be able to make a positive impact on their little lives. I can’t wait!
  • Spending time with my nephew G. Since I last saw him, he’s got new teeth, can clap his hands, and he even waited to crawl for the first time ever in front of me! As this technically occurred on a pub table, I’m sure at his eighteenth we’ll be teasing him about going on his first pub crawl before he turned one! Splashing in a washing-up bowl in the back garden, my heart ached with love for him! He’s such a happy boy and I’m so glad we have him in our lives.
  • A Bank Holiday walk with my sisters, ending with a pub lunch and a Magnum. It sounds like such an ordinary thing to do, but I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to now do these kinds of things together. In depression, I distanced myself from my family in general, but they never gave up on me. I feel lucky that we can build a friendship as adult women, as well as our being sisters. It’s really lovely to see how alike we’ve grown over the years, despite our different life experiences. We even enjoy a lot of the same things these days, thanks to the men in our lives. It’s a joy to get to know each other, as well as getting to know the men who love them.

I’m late in posting this week, thanks to the lacklustre WiFi connection in our back garden. Technically, I could add in a few more gratitudes from today (Tuesday) but I’ll save them for next weekend. I’ll have a few more exciting things to share by then, too!

Until then, enjoy the sunshine!

X

The Role Models Challenge (RMC) Post (or how I’m experimenting with virtual inspiration)

So I’ve developed a habit of watching inspirational YouTube videos before going to work in the morning. Or, more accurately, I listen to them. I’m usually busy trying to get myself ready whilst simultaneously trying not to trip over two hungry, excitable cats weaving around my ankles.

Magnolia

Spring is the perfect time for a new challenge!

One thing I really love about this is how I start out listening to one of my favourite speakers – say, Tony Robbins or Gala Darling – and end up, like Alice in Wonderland, following my curiosity down the rabbit hole and discovering new teachers. Had I not ventured into video, I might never have found awesome motivational speakers like Abraham-Hicks, the Hip Hop Preacher , Eric Thomas, Gary Vaynercheuk and even celebs like Jim Carrey, talking about his moving perspective on life and living.

Sometime this past fortnight, my Internet wanderings had me crossing virtual paths with a guy called Evan Carmichael. Evan is an entrepreneur who runs the biggest YouTube channel that helps entrepreneurs develop themselves, and subsequently their businesses.

EvanCarmichael

Thanks to Evan Carmichael for allowing me to use this picture!

“Success leaves clues. Study the people you admire and want to learn from.” Evan Carmichael.

His strategy for success is to find role models, and learn as much as possible from them. Evan (and his team) dedicates hours to condensing hours of footage into carefully curated, easy-to-consume videos featuring the world’s most inspirational people sharing their top life and business advice.

Through Tony Robbins’ work, I’d already come across the idea of “modelling; a concept based in the NLP  (neuro-linguistic programming) approach to self-development. By seeking out mentors or role models, and learning from others’ mistakes and successes, the idea is that it’s possible to fast-track your own personal growth.

“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.” – Tony Robbins

I also identified that I had people in my life whom I already looked up to and

Rose

“A rose, by any other name…” or so it goes…

admired:

  • My sisters, C  (all-round super-woman and my heroine) and A (the most driven, organized and lovable person I know);
  • My friends, E (my go-to for rational, intelligent perspectives on just about anything, and an unsung NHS heroine), and D (one of the smartest, strongest women I know),
  • and my manager, K (whose unrelenting, positive support I’ve talked about before on my blog).

However given that I’ve worked in the same job for seven years now, sit at the same desk, and generally see the same people most days, my exposure to new, inspiring people is rather limited.

Tony speaks often about the power of books as a source of inspiration, a means of acquiring knowledge, and to learn from the experiences and expertise of others. Reading vociferously at challenging times in his life, Tony made major life changes and has achieved huge success. In addition to modelling himself on real-life mentors like Jim Rohn, he also turned to books, and often references “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl, as an example of a book which changed his perspective on life (as do many other successful people, which is why I’ve ordered myself a copy!).

Remarkably (or at least, now it feels this way). I’d never really considered the possibility of find role models by looking to the literary and virtual worlds. I’d presumed a mentor had to be someone you know in real-life, and have thus overlooked these potential sources of inspiration.

Thinking back, many of my childhood heroes came from books or movies. I’ve come away from reading or watching something inspiring many a time feeling energised and driven to action because of a connection with the characters or story-teller. As we live in an interconnected digital world today, whereby we have access to unlimited resources and direct, instantaneous connections to  incredible people, it makes perfect sense that we could use this to further our personal growth. No longer limited to our immediate social circle, the opportunities to connect with and learn from our personal heroes are endless!

Inspired by this concept – the idea of reading a book, watching a YouTube video, or listening to a podcast as a way of “spending time” on a daily basis with some of the best teachers and thought leaders in the world – I’ve designed myself  a new personal challenge:

My Role Model Challenge (or RMC, as I’ll refer to it from here, in order on to save my fingers from any unnecessary RSI) is a month-long experiment whereby I’m testing out this theory:

“Model success. The way to shortcut your path is to learn from people who did what you want to do.” Evan Carmichael

 

But where to start?

Combining my newest obsession for watching motivational YouTube videos, with my life-long passion for reading, I’ll be taking strategies from the best in their fields and choosing key lessons to put into action each day of the next month. Using video and books as a means to do this is an inexpensive, easily accessible way of tapping into the greatness of the world’s most successful people.

Before we begin, I’d like to lay out my hypothesis (and in many ways, this is also my goal for the RMC), which is:

By increasing my exposure to inspirational thought leaders I will broaden my perspective on life, and help me uncover new ways of living my happiest, healthiest and most prosperous life.

In practise, my testing this means I’ll be:

I’ve chosen Tim Ferriss’ “Tribe of Mentors” as my RMC book for two reasons. One, I’d been gifted this book at Christmas, and at 605 pages long, this book is almost Biblical in proportions (even compared with Tony Robbins’ books!) Initially daunted at the prospect of reading Tim’s book, I realised it’s perfect for the RMC as each chapter is only few pages long and is an easily manageable read of an evening.

 

 

Equally perfectly designed for the RMC, these videos will be my main online source of inspiration. Each containing ten success strategies, this gives me plenty of options when selecting what to practise in any given day.

  • Taking notes, distilling key advice and recording interesting quotes (because this is how I best learn, as you’ll pick up in future posts).
  • Choosing the 2-4 pieces of advice that stand out to me by which I’d like to live that day.
  • Creating practical ways to apply my role models’ advice in my daily life.
  • At the end of each day, or during the next day, I’ll be recording my findings, what I’ve learnt and what I’ve achieved.

Each week, I’ll be sharing my findings with you here on my blog. Starting each

BlueFlowers

In real-life, I continue to be inspired by nature in all its brilliance!

post by giving you that week’s line-up of mentors (my #RMCsquad), there’ll be links so you can find out more about them and their work.

I’ll then give you the low-down on what I’ve learnt that week; how I’ve applied their genius advice in my own life; and whether the RMC is helping my self-development. By exploring the benefits and limitations of looking to “virtual” role models for guidance, I’ll seek to evaluate how useful this strategy is as a tool for personal growth.

Encouraging and uplifting others to live their best lives is a huge part of my purpose and passion, and a massive driver behind my writing this blog. I hope I’ve sparked your curiosity and you’re as excited as I am to “meet” my mentors and see what happens with my RMC over this next month!

 

Wish me luck!

 

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