What would you do if free of expectations or commitments?

It might feel like a stupid question. After all, none of us is completely free of commitments.  We all have things that clamour for our attention, probably multiple times per day!

But what if you didn’t? Play pretend for a moment. Imagine you were given a free week. Not necessarily a holiday because that comes with a different set of expectations, but a week where you could play with anything you wanted to.

What would you do? Who would you spend time with? What might you create?

Now here’s the thing … as much as yes, you have commitments, if you wanted to, you could probably find a way to get rid of some of them. Delegate or just delete. Postpone for a time, or do it once more but then no more. How you make it happens will depend upon the thing in question and just how much you really don’t want to do it any more.

And it might not even be something you want to stop forever. Pausing for a time is totally valid too.

Today is my children’s last day in school for the summer so this is the last email I’ll send you until September. I’m not stopping because I don’t enjoy writing to you – I love it! I’m pausing because I have three manuscripts I’m itching to finish plus lots of family fun to undertake. Pausing the daily emails for a few weeks will make space for the latter without compromising the former.

You can do anything – but you can’t do everything.

Which leads me back to my initial question to you. What are you itching to create more of? What adventures are calling you? Where would you like to go today?

Having identified what those things are, all you need to do then is find a way to delegate, ditch or postpone some of your commitments. Easy. (And I can’t wait to hear what you get up to!)

Know someone who needs an adventure?

What a difference a day makes …

If you were around at the end of last week, you’ll know that two-thirds of my children have been galavanting round Europe for the last few days. They’ve had a fabulous time and while they’ve been away, Michael (my youngest) and I have been having fun too. Doctor Who in Cardiff. Two trips to the cinema. Meals out. It’s been great! But still, a little piece of me was in Europe and it felt kind of funky.

By 11pm last night, both were home again (yay!) but with them came the unpacking and the washing and the sleep deprivation. My eldest daughter was adamant she wanted to go to school this morning but I’ve left the youngest fast asleep, not daring to go in there for at least another two hours!

About an hour or so ago though I was hanging out (another!) load of washing, delighting in the warm air and the beautiful hazy sunshine and it was then that I was struck with a feeling of contentment.

Yes, there is A LOT of washing to get through, we’re all pretty tired, and the house is currently littered with half-empty suitcases, but it’s a brand new day, the sun is shining, and hooray for automatic washing machines!

Contrast this with yesterday when I was checking my phone incessantly for updates and struggling to concentrate.

Life really is a mixed bag or, as Forrest Gump told us, like a box of chocolates.

And so I felt compelled today to remind you, if you’re having a less than stellar day, to hang in there. Seek out support. Talk. Be kind to yourself. Do whatever it is you need to do to get through this bit.

And if you’re having a delightful day, relish the moment. Give yourself time to pause and appreciate it. Store up those memories.

Because if there’s one thing you can be sure of it’s this: If you’re having a terrible day, yes this too shall pass – but if you’re having a wonderful day, this too shall pass!

So enjoy this moment. It is a gift.

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If you’re ready to quit, read this …

There’s a plant in our house which, until last year, lived in my daughter’s bedroom. It was looking a bit sad and neglected so some time last year she moved it to the dining room where everyone could be responsible for remembering to water it. Earlier this year,  I noticed “everyone” actually meant “no-one” and the poor thing was dead.

Never one to admit defeat, I moved the plant to the window sill in the kitchen. My record with house plants is fairly terrible but I decided that at least if it was in the kitchen, it was so close to the tap, it at least had a chance.

Every few days, off and on, whenever I happened to think of it, I watered this dead plant. It looked terrible. It’s leaves were brown and falling off. I didn’t hold out much hope for it and when I looked at it last week, it appeared to be little more than decayed, dried up mud. After feeling guilty for forgetting to water it (again!) I gave it more water and thought no more about it.

Until last night when I watered it again and, to my utter astonishment, I saw it had grown baby leaves …

To say I was delighted would be an understatement!

You can’t easily tell from the photo but these little shoots are tiny, the biggest ones are smaller than the fingernail on my little finger, they’re really cute.

And yes, I was happy for the plant but more than that, they’re new life, evidence that, despite appearances, things are never as over as they might appear to be.

If this plant could speak, it would probably complain about what’s happened to it. “Look what you did to all my luscious leaves. What has become of me?!? I’m ruined!”

And yes, compared to eighteen months ago, that conclusion would be correct. Compared to what it was back then, it’s nothing but compared to what it was two weeks ago, it’s a miracle!

Logically, that dead looking plant should have been thrown away weeks ago. There was no reason to keep on watering it, it was dead. There was nothing that could be done to save it. But you know what? Never say never.

Life has a way of surprising you and so today, if you’re on the brink of giving up, take this as your encouragement to give it one more day. And then maybe the day after that, and the day after that.

Sometimes giving up is the kindest thing we can do, but for everything else, there’s always one more day.

Know someone who needs some encouragement?

The art of doing less

As we head into another Friday, the piece my noodle keeps coming back to is the reminder to be kind. Not to other people, you’re already doing that most of the time. Nope, the person I feel compelled to remind you to be kind to today is you.

It goes back to the idea of over estimating what can be done in a day. Society teaches us to push. The art of the hustle is a much lauded thing and I know I’ve been guilty of it too with all my talk of action. Action is important.

And action is important, but we also need to remember to be kind to ourselves and the people around us.

It’s like a kind of counterpoint between action and kindness. It doesn’t need to be either/or. We can be kind while we take action. Not just that we can, surely that’s the default? Or, one would hope so at least.

But being kind to ourselves sometimes seems so much more difficult.

Maybe this is part of the problem that leads to us pushing and feeling the need to hustle. We say yes to all of the things, put everyone else’s needs first, thinking that in so doing we’re being kind and loving and a good human.

But sometimes the most loving, kind thing we can do is pop a pair of headphones in and feed our own soul first. Or maybe that’s just me trying to justify to myself why I’m here writing this first, headphones in (thank you Brain.fm!) while ignoring my hubby who’s home this morning before a late shift?

But no one said you and I have to be everyone else’s entertainment committee.

Sure, it’s nice to make sure the people you love are happy and content but if he’s bored by sitting on the sofa watching the telly, he needs to acknowledge that and do something about it. Same with the children or whoever else you might usually find yourself twisting into knots for. Boredom breeds creativity.

What if we made a conscious decision to do less, to keep our days wide open, to stop jumping to everyone else’s needs first?

With just two weeks left until school finishes for the summer, I’m already priming my children. My youngest daughter in particular is often heard complaining that she’s bored so I’ve challenged her to start thinking about the things she can find for herself to do. Call it a hobby if you will. Something she can engage herself in that doesn’t require anything other than herself and her imagination. (And no, cooking pizzas in her favourite Roblox world doesn’t count unless she’s first learned to code it herself!)

What if we stopped being everyone else’s head of entertainment? What would that look like? Just something to think about as you head into the weekend. ?

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Are you celebrating the teeny tiny wins?

I crept up the stairs, sidestepping the creaky one, my feet as light as they can be for someone as clumsy as me. (And no, that really isn’t me just trying to be cute. I regularly fall over my own feet!) When I got to the top of the stairs I saw my youngest daughter’s light was off. I poked my head round the door. Asleep? Like a log. Result!

A few more steps took me to my son’s room where his heavy breathing confirmed that he too was out like a light. Given that half an hour earlier he’d been convinced it would be impossible for him to go to sleep, this felt like victory.

Okay, so my eldest was still awake but she’s fourteen and a wonderful sleeper so I decided that two out of three wasn’t bad and allowed myself a moment to revel in my parenting win, if only for one night.

And it was then that it hit me: how often to we mentally beat ourselves up when we get it wrong? We allow ourselves to feel great remorse and shame and sure, the circumstances might warrant it, but what if we gave as much time and attention to those moments when all is right with our world?

It’s a fairly standard planning tactic to take time at the end of a week, or even each day, to celebrate the wins but what if we’re setting the bar too high? No one ever writes “only ate one kitkat” or “didn’t make any of the children cry today” on these things but what if we did?

Because I don’t know about you but those “teeny tiny” things can feel pretty insurmountable when they go the other way and you can betcha that if, heaven forbid, you were to eat four kitkats tomorrow, you wouldn’t let yourself hear the end of it!

And so, for one day only, I dare you to consciously choose to celebrate the wins, no matter how tiny, and see what kind of an impact it has on your day.

(And yes, I’ll be playing too so hit reply at end of your twenty four hours. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. ?)

Know someone who needs this?

If you have a ‘to do’ list that you never get to the end of, this is for you.

If you were forced to write your to-do list on a scrap of paper tiny enough to fit in the smallest pocket of your jeans, what would you put on it?

Or (just in case you don’t wear jeans!) what one thing can you do today that’ll make this day a win?

Under-scheduling. Leaving room for the magic. Setting the bar super low. Whatever you want to call it, what if you didn’t force yourself to do all of the things today?

We live in a society that is always on. Pushing ourselves late into the night is seen as something to be celebrated. Time quilting is lauded as the greatest strategy ever to get stuff done that you won’t otherwise squeeze into your day.

And I get, really I do. With everyone else hustling, getting so much done in the time it takes me to make a coffee, if you’re not careful it can start to feel like you’re going to get left behind.

Do you ever pause, look around you, and wonder where everyone’s in such a hurry to get to?

There are exceptions of course. In the wee small hours of April 10th 2007, my poor mum was mentally willing my husband to please tie his shoe laces faster – she was afraid our son would be born in her kitchen!

But exceptions aside, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Can you imagine Usain Bolt running twenty six miles at the same pace he does his 100 metres? Crazy! It just can’t be done.

Instead, what if we chipped away, little by little? Under-scheduling.

Repeated daily actions over time adding up, over the course of a year, to super-human achievement.

Write five hundred words every day for a year and you’ve got yourself two weighty ninety thousand word manuscripts.

Eat just 135 less calories every day for a year and you’re looking at the most painless one stone weight loss ever. (Assuming all calories are equal and “calories in equals calories out.” Personally I’m not convinced!)

Read just five pages of a book every day for a year and you’ll get through … okay, that one depends on the size of the book – but you get the idea!

Slash the to-do list (or throw it away completely. You can remember one or two things without needing to write them down and if you can’t remember something, it probably wasn’t that important in the first place!)

You’re not a hamster. It’s time to climb off the wheel and enjoy the view – but only if you slow down enough to see it! Are you game?

Know someone who needs to do less?

What if we embraced the itch?

I don’t know if it’s simply because of a change in the weather, with the promise of summer serving as a physical reminder of the pace at which 2017 is running, or just because life’s feeling pretty steady so my brain decides it’s time for a shake up to keep things interesting, but I’m starting to get that itch.

Maybe you’ve felt it too? That niggle you get from time to time, calling you to take a look at what you’re doing on this planet and if it’s everything you hoped it would be. And it feels a bit like picking at a scab – you know you really shouldn’t but you just can’t help yourself.

What if we changed the dialogue around that niggle?

What if, instead of seeing it as something to be wary of, a flaw in our makeup, proof that we simply can’t stick to one single thing, what if we embraced the itch?

It’s a bit of a running joke between me and some of my closest friends. Spirally spiral we call it. (I don’t keep a running calendar of how often it happens but a quick search tells me May , June and October last year were all spiral months! That I’ve gone a whole nine months before getting niggly again must count as something of a record! ? )

What if, instead of beating ourselves up, we took the itch as our cue to spend some time reflecting on where we are and where we want to be?

If you’re a list maker, you might like to start by listing out all the things you’re delighted with in your day to day life right now. What things are you already doing every day or most days that light you up, help you feel at peace with the world, feel like they’re exactly what you’d like more of?

On the other side of the page (and this is the fun bit!) list out any things in your day to day life that you’re ready to do less (or none!) of.

(And in case you like printables, I’ve made you a handy dandy little PDF. Print it out or, if you prefer playing with these things on your computer, you’ll see I’ve made it editable so you can type and save it directly on your machine. Click here to download it.)

The first time I tried this I was surprised by how much longer the left hand column was.

Left unchecked, my itch had me believing that everything in my life right now was directly at odds with how I wanted it to be. In my head it was all about the things I didn’t want to do any more and I was miles away from doing the work that lights me up.

The reality is yes, there are things I want to bring more of into the world, there’s an impact I want to make that I’m not making yet, a message to share that’s not being spoken, but it’s definitely not all doom and gloom and certainly nothing that a few tweaks wouldn’t fix!

And maybe that’s true for you too. If so, great! ?

But even if the list on the right is huge and there’s what feels like a massive chasm between where you are and where you want to be, getting clear on paper what that looks like is the very first step towards making a change. (And yes, you really do need to write it down. Doing it in your head does not count – just in case you were wondering! ? )

Are you ready? Great! Choose ten minutes when you can play with this uninterrupted and see what comes up.

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What if you made a contract with yourself?

I just got back from a Friday morning coffee with my fella and something we were chatting about got me thinking about you. Let me tell you the story …

So we were talking about 10 years from now when he can retire. (No, he’s not as old as all that. He’s a policeman and the job is structured such that he could leave as young as 50 if he wants to.) That totally fits with my dreams of travelling round France ten years from now and so I agreed that it was a fab idea. Between you and I, I’d love him to leave sooner, it’s not a fun job and there are days when it breaks him but, we’ll see 🙂

Anyway, as soon as the words were out of his mouth he started second guessing himself. He said that lots of his colleagues, when they got to that age, start talking themselves into staying a little longer because of what it does to the pension.

And that’s when I said the thing that also made me think of you …

“What if we do the sums now and get things set up such that, when it comes time, there is no discussion about if you should stay on a little longer because we’ll have already been planning for it and anything else would be breaking what we’d promised ourselves?”

Clever chap that he is, he agreed. (He knows better than to argue with a woman on a mission!) But of course I thought of you …

What are those things that are important to you? And what’s it going to take for those things to become a reality?

What if you promised yourself that it would be so, no excuses, no second guessing, just taking it as so and moving forward from there? What would that look like?

Too often we make all sorts of promises to other people but when it comes to our own passions, the things that get us fired up, we let them take second place to the wants and needs of others.

And there are times when this must be so. Children need to be fed. Nappies need to be changed. Homework needs to be helped with.

But who says that that stuff must be all that you’re about? And (dare I say it?) who says that you must be the one to do it all? (Gasp! Sacrilege, I know!) But seriously, you don’t have to do everything and you certainly don’t have to do everything to the detriment of yourself.

The stuff that lights you up, that thing that you can’t forget about or let go of, that stuff is vital to this world. It is your magic. Your secret sauce. The very essence of what it means for you to be you.

Choose you.

Make a promise to yourself and keep it.

Decide what’s important and declare that it will be so.

Show up, all you, all in.

And on behalf of the world, I thank you 🙂

No-one actively dislikes vanilla, but they don’t adore it either!

When was the last time you asked someone what their favourite flavour of ice-cream was and they got all excited and started jumping up and down about plain ol’ vanilla?

What’s that? You love vanilla with the little black flecks in it? Me too! But that’s hardly plain old vanilla is it? 😉

Or, when was the last time you stood in front of a crowd of one thousand random people, told them your favourite joke, and they all laughed?

Ok, ok, poor example. I adore people but I would never tell my favourite joke to a random crowd that big. That would be terrifying! But, play along and pretend that you did, do you think they’d all get it?

Not likely. They might laugh because you’re laughing, or get swept along in the moment and chuckle, but the chances of a mixed bag of people all finding the same thing funny are low.

So why is it that we all too easily find ourselves a little surprised when someone doesn’t quite get us? Or, maybe that’s just me? 😉

What if, for the next six months, we practiced showing up like that ice-cream with the little flecks of vanilla pod in it? Or, blueberry cheesecake, cherry or even olive oil and pine nut ice-cream? (Yeah, I think that last one sounds kinda funky too, but I’d love to try it!)

Whatever flavour of ice-cream you are, however many or few or weird people dig you, what if, for the the next six months, you showed up, all in, all you?

Collect photos of cloud porn if that’s what floats your boat. Laugh loudly and deeply at Miranda while sipping a freshly ground flat white if that fills your heart with delight. Marvel at the wonder that is Hawkeye (pun totally intended!) if comic-book heroes are your thing.

Whoever you are and whatever it looks like to be all you, all in, I dare you to be that person for this next six months and let’s see if that can help make it the best year ever.

Are you game? Fabulous! I look forward to playing along with you 🙂

If your life were an advert, what promises would you make?

Well hello there. Happy Friday! It’s been a crazy 10 days and I’ve never been gladder (if that’s even a word!) to greet Friday with a great big hug and a smoochy wet kiss!

And after messing around with my website yesterday and getting all excited about the pretty colours on Facebook last night, I woke up thinking about promises. Specifically the promises I make about this blog and the daily email. (Stories and inspiration to help you smile and be you.)

This might sound kinda crazy but sometimes, when I start one of these and it’s just not flowing, I go back to my site, to remind myself of the promises I’ve made you.

And as I was thinking about that this morning, another thought popped in my head …

“What are the promises that we want our day to day lives to deliver?”

Like, if you show up in my little corner of the universe, what can you expect to find? And, if I show up in yours, what does that look like? Who would you most like to show up as? How does she speak, think, walk and be?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … you can be anyone.

And yes, I’d most love it if you showed up as you, but there is no neatly packaged definition of what it means to be you. You’re a multi-dimensional, big, complicated space-time event. What does it look like to be you?

This world is full of dark stuff. There are tragedies and horrors happening on a daily basis. Some we hear about, others slip past the attention of everyone except those it actually happens to.

What if you putting a smile on your face and greeting today with joy helped shine a little light into the darkness? [Click to Tweet]

It might sound naive and sure, when we’re surrounded by bad news stories it can feel pointless and like it doesn’t make any difference at all, but please, never underestimate the difference you can make with a simple smile.

A smile transforms even the most severe of faces. There’s a reason for that! 😉

So here’s to you my lovely. May you infect your world with delight today, simply by being you.