It’s time to get smartest!

The new year is well and truly over, the second quarter of the year in full swing. But what about all those plans you made back in January? Maybe right now you’re more focussed on your taxes than getting stuff done, but what if I told you the new year is just a number? What if you could decide, right now today, that you’re ready to get to work on your own happy ending?

(I’ve told you already how much I love happy endings, right? Both writing them and helping you create yours.)

Think “planning” and it doesn’t take much to land on “goal setting”. (Did you just roll your eyes? I know, I know. Stick with me. This is going to be different, I promise!)

I love planning. I’ve taken great delight in losing weeks and weeks at the end of a year plotting and scheming for the year to come. But then what? All too easily everything would fall apart. Even the very best laid plans can get derailed when life happens.

That’s when I decided to try something different. I still map the whole year out, very (very!) loosely, but my main focus these days is on goals that fit within a three month long block.

And instead of getting SMART (the usual goal setting advice) I prefer to get SMARTEST. (Same as SMART but with a little something extra at the end, to really make things go with a bang!) Here’s what that looks like:

We start out with a variation on the 1981 invention SMART:

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to do, have, achieve or experience?
  • Measurable: How will you know you’ve done it?
  • Actionable: Start with a verb. What will you actually do?
  • Realistic: We all want to stretch ourselves but is this goal something within your reach?
  • Time bound: When will you do it by?

And then we add in the little bit of extra magic, to really spice things up a bit! (Including three real life examples, to help the power of these additions sink in.)

  • Exciting: For the love of sanity, please make sure it’s something that’ll get you out of bed in the morning!

Real-life example: I hate cycling. It makes my bottom hurt and I’m rubbish at it! As much as I love France, how much mileage do you think I’d get from setting a goal focussed on cycling the Tour de France?

  • Seasonable: Does this goal fit with your current season of life?

Real-life example: I have three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs, a hamster, a rabbit and five fish (not to mention a long-suffering husband!) Would setting a goal to travel round the world for six months fit with my current season?

  • Targeted: Does this goal serve your happy ending? Will achieve this goal move you closer to realising some bigger ambitions?

Real life example: Remember earlier I mentioned painting broad strokes for the year? And yes, I prefer to plan in three month blocks of time, but doing so with an eye to the big picture is important.

Make sense? Great! So now what?

Next, it’s over to you. Using the outline above, it’s time to craft 3 – 5 goals for the next 3 months.

Reminder: Don’t get hung up on what date it is. If the very best time to get to work on your goals was two weeks ago, the second best time is right now!

And if you’d like some help as you play, don’t forget to sign up for my Happily Ever After challenge. It’s the exact process I take Rent A Boss clients through when they first hire me and it works like magic! Click here to find out more and sign up. (Did I mention it’s free?)


What if there was no right or wrong way?

The last few days have been a little bit mental. I’ve been writing my Morning Pages, keen to stick to the process, but unlike the first three weeks, it’s not really flowed. Some mornings the words falling from my fingers have felt little better than flotsam, but even the junk has its uses and so I pressed on.

I use an app for my morning pages (I know, I know, Julia Cameron says you should write by hand. More on that tomorrow.) and at the top of every new entry there’s a little snippet of text, a piece of encouragement for the day. A couple of days ago this little note reminded me ‘there’s no right or wrong way to write morning pages’ and, given how stiff it’s been feeling, I jumped all over that reminder. It was perfect!

Sometimes it’s simply about showing up and trusting the process. Doing the very best we can, without judgement or self-editing. But this isn’t only true for writing.

How many times have you held back or waited, because you were afraid you couldn’t do it ‘right’? Maybe you weren’t feeling totally at the top of your game so you put it off until you were feeling in a better place?

What if, instead, you did it anyway? Showed up to the very best of your ability, from a place of honesty? How much more freeing might that feel? Knowing that you didn’t have to worry about what ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ looked like?

I’m sure it wouldn’t work for every situation (if you’re a heart surgeon or the chief engineer for NASA, I imagine getting it right is pretty important!) but for the rest of us, what if we cut ourselves some slack and simply showed up?

Just something to consider over your coffee. ☕️

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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.

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Does the beginning dictate the end?

Alert: Massive British stereotype ahead! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! ?

The weather here is weird! (And not the wonderful weird I wrote about last week.) After a lovely few days last week, today, if it wasn’t for the crazy humidity, would be bordering on cold. What’s that about?!?

It hasn’t stopped me working outside though. Okay yes, it was a nicer experience last week but it’s still lovely to be working in the fresh air. I have the sound of the beach in my ears as I write. I’ve just finished a rather lovely coffee. It really is, on paper at least, a little bit dreamy.

The funny thing is, the day didn’t start like that. It started with me feeling tired and was swiftly followed by my rushing around play errand keeper for my youngest daughter, all for no apparent reason as it turns out. (Don’t you just hate it when that happens?!?)

If the start of the day had been any indicator of what the rest of the day would entail, it was destined to be a horrible stressful kind of a day. But surely the very beginning of something doesn’t have to be all there is?

Take babies by way of example. They’re a lot of work. They eat, sleep, cry and poop. And sure, they’re kinda cute, but that’s pretty much all they have going for them. Their beginning isn’t all there is. They’re not destined to remain forever thus.

Or take the child who has a horrific entry into the world. We’ve probably all met mothers who relish telling their birth stories, clearly still scarred by the experience. That beginning can’t be all there is.

If in the big things, like bringing a whole new person into the world, we cut people some slack, why can’t we do the same for day to day life?

Right here, right now, based on this one snippet, this one moment in this day, today is brilliant. It’s like my favourite quote says:

“Every day may not be wonderful, but there’s something wonderful in every day.”

We choose what to give our attention to. I’m choosing right now, to notice the way the little breeze is making a blade of grass dance. I’m choosing to notice the gentle trickling noise from my next door neighbour’s pond. I’m choosing to notice the feeling of calm and contentment. I’m choosing to notice the warmth of the wood under my feet.

What if instead I chose to notice every time a car travels a little too fast down the road? Or if I chose to notice the occasional banging noise from three doors down where plasterers are working? Or if I chose to notice the areas of the garden where the weeds are getting (more than a little!) out of hand? Or if I chose to notice that annoying motorcycle that just put-putted its way down the road?

It’s all a choice.

Both versions of this moment are real, they’re happening simultaneously, dancing around one another and overlapping, but we filter in more of the things we pay attention to. (Yes, it’s that darn reticular activating system again!)

Whether your day started brilliantly or was a little bit bumpy, there’s always time to turn it around. You only have to choose.

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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!) 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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How do you know which idea is the very best one?

It’s a trick question of course. There’s no such thing as the “best” idea. To suggest otherwise is akin to maintaining that each of us has one soul mate, that perfect person we’re destined to be with forever.

What if your soul mate lived thousands of miles away and didn’t speak English? Unless you were incredibly patient – and a frequent flyer! – you’d instead find yourself stuck with the ‘wrong’ person.

But what if there are actually hundreds of different people for whom you’d find yourself a good match? And what if the person you end up with is less about ‘destiny’ and much more about the actions you took together to nurture that relationship?

Classic example: With the man who ended up being my husband and father of my children, I made the first move. Prior to that fateful day in 1996, I had never, ever done something like that. I was friends with lots of lads but hopeless at expressing my feelings.

What if I hadn’t offered him a lift home that day? I’d have probably met someone else and ended up with a totally different life as a result.

It’s a bit crazy if you overthink it. The impact of tiny decisions and actions taken as a result is immeasurable. It takes us full circle back to that worry over what the best idea is because if tiny actions can have such a massive impact, hadn’t we better be very careful?

You know what the very best idea is? The one you act on.

Ideas are prolific. The more you act on them, the more seem to pop into your head.

Ever since I re-started this daily email, I see ideas everywhere. I like to trust the nudge in my gut about which to share with you on a specific day but sometimes, with so many ideas to play with, it can be difficult to know for sure.

Overthink it and you can easily start second guessing yourself but what if you didn’t? What if you instead grabbed hold of an idea and ran with it, safe in the knowledge that you can always tweak and adjust as you go.

Because ideas are wonderful and magical but, much like the birds you might see soaring overhead today, their real power is isn’t displayed until they take flight.

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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. ?)

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What if you didn’t ignore the nudges?

Have you ever had that thing where someone pops in your head randomly and, when you reach out to them, it ends up being the most perfect timing ever?

Or maybe sometimes you feel compelled to do something (and no, I’m not talking about eating three kitkats!) and when you follow your instincts, it’s perfect? Or maybe you follow your instincts and never find out if or how it makes a difference, but somehow you just sort of know it was important?

What if you didn’t ignore those nudges? What if those niggles were part of a bigger picture (one that you might never see all the pieces of) and, by acting on them, you’re helping to create something delightfully wonderful in the world? (Or terribly awful I suppose, but let’s dwell on the positive eh!)

Chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, where a butterfly flapping its wings in China causes a tornado in the Caribbean, would tend to agree. (And yes, I feel compelled to acknowledge that I’m oversimplifying a massive mathematical concept in that one sentence.)

With so many pieces of information battling to get your attention, you can’t possibly notice or act on everything. You will miss pieces and you know what? That’s okay.

But when something gets through the filter, when you feel that nudge to act, I’m here today to remind that by doing so, you’re helping us make magic! (And on behalf of the world, I thank you in advance! ? )

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Reminder: You are not a tree!

After moaning to myself over the weekend (in my head! You’ll be glad to learn that my long-suffering family weren’t forced to hear all about it!) about how I wasn’t writing enough, I woke up this morning realising that there was only one way to fix that – write more!

And it seems so simple but how many times do we talk (or think!) ourselves in knots?

Overanalysing, planning, following every and any random link on Facebook that promises to be the ultimate guide to getting all of the things done (or maybe that’s just me?!?) when ultimately, all any of us really needs to do is decide what the thing is (or isn’t – moving away from something is perfectly valid too!) and take steps in that direction.

And so this morning, as you step into a brand new week. take this as your gentle reminder (or kick up the pants if that’s more likely to get you moving!) that, if you’re not happy with something, now is the time to do something about it. Because you are not a tree! ?

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