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? πŸ˜‰

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 myΒ favouriteΒ joke to aΒ 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? πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚

If you struggle to smile every day, read this …

Happy Friday! πŸ™‚ You may have gathered by now just how much I adore Fridays. They’re one of my favourite days of the week! πŸ™‚

I just figured out though why I love them so much. It’s not that there’s no work happening. It’s not the promise of a lie in tomorrow. It’s not even a glass of wine or an extra coffee at the end of the night.

I love Fridays because everyone is ever so slightly more relaxed and smiley. (I like to think of it as a mini-Christmas!) Even if it’s been a hard week, they remember to be thankful that at least it’s Friday.

Personally, I also love Fridays because I usually make a conscious decision to under-schedule the day. I’m not one for all that many meetings anyway but, if one is needed, it absolutely, definitely, will not happen on a Friday! πŸ˜‰

Slowing down the pace a little, taking time to lift up your head and take a look around you at this crazy, wonderful world, having your eyes open to the delight right in front of you, it makes it sooo much easier to find things to smile about.

Do I dare also include another reminder about the reticular activating system? Hmmm, yes I dare. If you’ve heard me talk about this before (and remember what I said!) you deserve a medal and can skim over this bit. Otherwise, read on, cos this is cool!

The reticular activating system, also known as “blue car syndrome” is the reason why, when you find out you (or someone you love) is expecting a baby, you suddenly start seeing babies and people with pushchairs everywhere.

The reticular activating system is why, until I bought a bright yellow car, I never saw another yellow car on the road. Now they’re all over the place!

And the reticular activating system is why, if you start making a habit of looking out for and consciously noting the things in a day that are delightful, you start to notice them even more.

Your clever amazing brain, knowing that if every single stimuli that comes into your brain in a day were brought to your attention you’d go crazy, filters out the bits it deems unimportant. Stuff that is interesting or familiar or relevant to you, you see, hear and smell but everything else, gone.

But how does your brain know what is relevant to you? Most of it is done unconsciously (I don’t remember having a conversation with myself about yellow cars for example) but your brain is smart and it can be taught.

By making a conscious decision to pause and look around you and notice the things that are lovely in your world, your brain flags those things as important to you and, without you even asking it to, will start bringing more of those things into your consciousness.

Neat eh?

As an aside, the same thing is true of goals too. Twice this week I’ve noticed random people who will make a wonderful addition to my latest novel. (The first one is so delightful, he’s going to be the love interest. I can’t wait for you to meet him!) I don’t know these people. In the case of the first guy, I didn’t even speak to him, he was just a random stranger on the street, but my brain clearly knew more than I did and helpfully brought this potential lead character to my attention. Thank you brain πŸ™‚

You might have come across the phrase in the bible about being wonderfully made? It’s really not just a nice turn of phrase. You are brilliant and amazing! And every time I get to geek out on the reticular activating system I am reminded of just how true that is.

So, if you find it hard to smile or notice anything lovely, take heart dear one. All is not lost for you.Β Your brain can be taught.

Make a conscious choice to look around for something (anything!) lovely to smile about and, before you know it, you’ll start seeing more and more of these things in your day to day.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it? πŸ™‚

Give it a try and let me know how you get on and, in the meantime, keep smiling πŸ™‚

One thing you can totally say “no” to …

Hiya and welcome to part two of “the game of yes” πŸ™‚

This is the “exception to the game” edition because, like I mentioned on Tuesday, there is one category of stuff in particular that I’m massively opposed to.

Can you guess what it might be? That’s right, it’s the dreaded ‘shoulds’.

Doing anything because you think you ought to is a horrible reason for doing it. Coupled with the expectations of others, ‘shoulds’ are the stuff of soul-eating nightmares.

Is it possible I’m being overdramatic? It might sound like it but really, think of it like this …

When was the last time you said you ‘should’ do something, and it was something that excited you or filled you with joy?

And when was the last time you said you ‘should’ do something, and you didn’t feel a sense of dread, regret or frustration?

Or how about when, after hearing you talk about something, a well-meaning friend or loved one said, “Oh, you should …” How did that work out for you?

It reminds me of that conversation we had at the end of last year about standing by what we actually think and believe, instead of saying what we should.

When you do what you want, stuff that lights you up and excites you, instead of what you think you should do, when you ditch the shoulds and be honest, you give the people around you permission to be real too.

And there is nothing more delightful and lovely in this world than people showing up the people they were born to be, all in, real. It’s the stuff of magic!

And so today I dare you, if only for one day, to pay attention to the words you use, ditch the shoulds, and do what lights you up.

Sound fun? Good! Get to it πŸ™‚

Limitations breed creativity. AKA: The real reason I love Twitter!

If you’ve ever heard yourself making the excuse that you can’t do thing x or y because of lack of time or talent (and thing x or y is actually something you’d love to do of course!) then today’s postΒ is especially for you.

For the last seventy-something days I’ve been playing along with the 100 Day Project on Instagram. My creative thing for the duration has been a daily haiku, largely because, historically at least, I’ve been terrible at maintaining any sort of a challenge past the first week so I wanted to do something that I had at least a fair chance of sticking to!

It’s been fun and although, yes, I’ll be glad to have the freedom to say “Good Morning!” however I fancy once the 100 days are up, I realised this week that having those constraints in place has forced me to exercise my playful side a little more, as well as get creative.

Same with Twitter. I love playing with the characters, seeing how I can stretch and massage them to get as much meaning from the little space as possible.

All of which got me to thinking …

How many times do we decide to put off starting something, simply because we don’t have enough time or ability or energy? (Leaving aside that all of which are massively subjective of course!) If the things we put off aren’t all that important to our mental, spiritual or physical well-being then it’s not that big a deal of course.

But what if you’re putting off stuff that would make a day feel delightful?

What if that thing you’re relegating to “some day, one day, maybe, I wish!” is actually really vital to you?

Why would you not do that stuff??

Oh, you don’t have a full hour to dedicate to it and you’re probably not the best at it anyway plus, you didn’t sleep well last night so maybe it would be better to do it another time.

Nooooo! If you wait until the perfect time you’ll be waiting forever! It’s time to work with the constraints and do it anyway. You only have thirty one minutes? So what? You can do a lot in thirty-one minutes.

You’re not an expert at it? Whatever ‘it’ is, me either! πŸ˜‰ Is it fun to you? Does doing it make you lose all sense of time? Does it light you up? Great! Sounds like the perfect reason to add more of it to your day πŸ™‚

Constraints breed creativity. It’s time to work those boundaries to your best advantage and start doing more of what makes you smile.

Ready? Get to it! πŸ™‚

Happiness is not a destination …

After a bit of a turbulent end to last week, I’ve been pondering a lot about happiness over the last few days.

It’s really easy to get focussed on goals and ambitions and future plans, so much so that we slip into this pattern of thinking, “I’ll be happy when …”

And sure, ideally, when you do the stuff you’re aiming for then yes, you will be happy (if not, why are you even bothering to aim for it?!?) but who says we can’t be happy, right now, today?

Since when is our happiness dictated by our proximity to realising our ambitions?

Ambitions are tricky beasts anyway. Maybe yours are neatly typed (and laminated!) but I find myself tweaking and adjusting as I go, if not weekly, then at least every month or so. If my happiness is tied to realising ambitions I might never smile again! πŸ˜‰

So what’s the alternative?

Life is messy and yes, sometimes it makes us cry, and there are days that we’ll get to the end of that we’ll be soooo glad to see the back of, but despite that, what if you chose to smile every day?

What you smile at is the stuff of a whole other conversation (yes, we’ll be having that one later in the week. Fear not.) but just now, for today, I want to challenge you to actively look for something to smile about.

It might be something silly or tiny or even something you created for yourself (I smile every time I put on a squish of my favourite perfume because it smells so delightful) but what that something is is largely irrelevant.

It’s time to ditch the happiness destination and choose to allow ourselves joy and delight and loveliness in every single day.

You game?

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

Well hello there. Happy Friday!Β 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! πŸ˜‰

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

How to close the perpetual worrying about worrying loop.

In the ongoing saga that is my son and him crying in school, today we seem to have, finally, closed a loop.

And it reminded me of programming and made my geeky little heart glad. Not that I’m a programmer. We don’t let El touch code! πŸ˜‰

But I digress.

I got to thinking about us, the adults, and how we tend to worry about what ifs and maybes.

My son had got himself to a point where he didn’t have anything to worry about other than a ‘what if?’ and, in a six year old, it seemed almost sweet whilst totally illogical.

But in you and me? Not so clever.

It reminded me of a Churchill quote I read on Facebook first thing this morning:

“The future’s uncertain. It’s a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”

Do the very next thing. Focus on and give head space to the very next step.

You won’t close the perceptual worry loop by trying to persuade yourself to stop worrying. It’s kind of like a double negative and they just don’t make any sense.

The only way to close the loop is to pretend like the loop doesn’t even exist and instead, decide what the very next piece looks like and do that.

You don’t have to know all the answers. You can take it one link at a time and wait and see how it plays out from there.

Sometimes it’ll mean things don’t quite work out how you thought they would but you know what? That’s ok! If you knew all the answers all of the time, what would that do to the fun?

Stop worrying about worrying about worrying and instead, take 10 minutes, right now, to decide what the next piece looks like, and do that.

In fact, why not get God in on the worrying piece, tell him what’s doing your head in and let him worry about it for you?

And then you can skip off into the rest of your day, one step at a time.

Ready? Let’s go! πŸ™‚

 

Could these two words change everything?

I’ve been involved in a bit of a battle with my six year old these past couple of weeks.

Every day he insists that he’s too tired for school and worried.

I remind him that he’s slept all night and ask what he’s worried about, to which he replies that he doesn’t know what he’s worried about.

Yesterday I offered to pretend I was the wizard in the Mr Worry storybook so he could tell me everything that he’s worried about and I could make sure none of it happened.

“But that won’t work. You’re not a wizard!”

He’s right of course, I’m not. But I decided to pretend like I was anyway and asked him two magic words ….

“What if …”

Specifically in his case, what if you weren’t tired and worried about anything?

He didn’t have an answer but for the first time in 2 weeks, he went into school happily. This morning, he didn’t mention being worried at all and he even smiled, waved and blew me kisses. Magic!

It’s Friday. I’m not naive enough to believe that when Monday rolls round, everything will be perfect but a girl can hope eh πŸ˜‰

After dropping him and his siblings off at school, I started to think about today’s Daily Dose and do you know what I came up with? Nothing!

After messing about on Facebook for a bit, making a cuppa, twitter, all the usual pre-writing things that get me going, a thought popped in my head …

“What if I did know what to write about today?”

And that’s when it struck me … what if ‘what if’ were two magic words that had the potential to unlock all manner of stuckage?

My daughter was fussing because she didn’t know the answer to something. “What if you did know?”

A good friend was unsure about something that she regularly consults on. “What if this was your client? What would you tell them?”

Not to mention all those ‘what ifs’ that came tumbling out in yesterday’s Daily Dose.

‘What if?’ is swiftly becoming my favourite phrase and so today, whatever that thing is that you’re pondering on, I’d encourage you to wave the magic wand of ‘what if’ over it and see what happens.

And just in case you’re inclined toward being a little bit like Mr Worry, this is about opening ourselves to possibilities. I’m not advocating the worry kind of ‘what ifs’:

What if the roof falls down? What if I make the wrong decision and everything collapses as a result? What if I’m wrong? What if I miss something?

Those kinds of ‘what ifs’ keep you stuck and playing small and we are all about moving forward.

Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow and I’m pretty sure that includes every worry based ‘what if’ you can imagine.

So here’s to the power of what if, the possibilities and lots of forward momentum. I can’t wait to see where it takes you! πŸ˜€

Read this if you were feeling fabulous but then found yourself in a suck because of someone else.

I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one who has experienced this …

The day seems to be going along quite nicely and then bam! One random comment or conversation and you can feel your spirits landing in your boots.

It happened to me on Monday. I’ll spare you all the sordid details but it wasn’t fun, not even a little bit.

Feeling flat and low doesn’t sit with me very well so I was determined to find a way to get past it, regardless of the circumstances around me that day.

It was as I was pondering on how to get happy again that I was reminded of how brilliant, thinking about good, lovely, nice stuff is.

Paul wrote:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

I’d love to be able to tell you that I thought about nice stuff and right away, I felt better but it doesn’t always work like that.

What did happen though was that by not thinking about the grump I was in, I was kinder to the people around me which in turn had the knock on effect of them being lovely to me and eventually, within half an hour or so, the meh feeling was gone.

Magic πŸ™‚

And so now it’s over to you. If you were feeling wonderful but now today feels less than stellar, it’s time to start pondering on the kinder, lovelier, pure and noble things in your day.

Sometimes that is sooo much easier to say than it is to actually do but what if you just gave it a little try? You don’t even have to believe it’ll help. You just have to try πŸ™‚

And of course, I’d love to hear what happened. Hit ‘reply’ or drop me a note on Facebook or Twitter if you’re open to sharing it with other people too and let’s see just how powerful the noble, pure, lovely, excellent things in life can really be πŸ™‚

 

If you haven’t got a dog or a child, it’s probably time to get one!

And if you’re constantly burning out, you probably need both!

How’s that for opinionated eh? πŸ˜‰

OK, so there’s a bit of a back story to this. When isn’t there?

You may have gathered by now that I love Fridays. I tend to avoid all meetings or client calls and generally aim to just have as much fun as I possibly can.

The pace slows down and bit and yes, I do some work, but I like to have that wrapped up by lunchtime. Today however was different.

Next week is half-term which means the children are home. My husband and I are also off to Cardiff on Monday and, overall, the whole week will be a lot less work-focussed than usual.

So I decided today that I needed to get lots done, maybe write a few of next week’s Daily Dose episodes and other bits and bobs that would help me get a head a little.

I was ready to attack the day at about 100 miles per hour.

But then I got back from taking the children to school and the welcome home I got from the dog was so nice, I decided to take her for a walk before settling down to work.

And it was as I was walking happily along in the sunshine that I realised how much I love being outside and the freedom to do stuff when I want to. The sun was playing with the clouds. It was just lovely.

If it hadn’t been for the dog, I’d have been head down right away. I’d have missed the pleasure of being outside and, sure, the world wouldn’t have fallen apart as a result, but my day would have been less as a result.

Children have the same effect.

It is impossible to be a workaholic and have children. Even if I go into head-down, headphones-in mode, sooner or later, someone in the house needs me.

Whether it be a dog or a child, every entrepreneur needs someone to help them lift their head up and look around from time to time.

I used to think of it as an interruption and yes, there are still times when I close my office door so that they know not to come in for a little while (and yes, they are very good at ignoring that completely if my door stays shut too long!) but what if those little people or furry companions are actually a gift?

There are times when I would love nothing more than to be able to just press a pause button for a little while. To pause the mess and the noise and the squabbling and the washing.

We don’t say it out loud but sometimes having kids around is frustrating and maddening and impossible. Add the dog and her constant moulting and clamouring for attention to the mix and it’s enough to drive you bonkers!

A gift? Really?

Really.

Today is a gift and without the addition a child or a dog, it’s all too easy to miss it.

And so here’s to our babies, whether they be human or furry. Give one of them a hug just as soon as you can and remember to thank them for being them.