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 waiting for the perfect time?

You know what I’m going to say. There is no perfect time.

If all the wannabe parents waited for the perfect time to have children for example, the world would soon cease to exist (either that or all children would be the product of one too many glasses of vino!)

If my youngest had waited for the perfect time to learn to ride his bike he’d still be sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else cycle round the school. With hindsight, the closest thing to ‘perfect’ timing was probably about three years ago but going back isn’t an option. All we have is this moment. There is no rewind button. ‘Coulda, shoulda, woulda’ isn’t going to help.

And yet, as much as I know it and you know it, how often to we find ourselves pausing (procrastinating?) because it doesn’t feel like quite the perfect time?

There’s something to be said for considered reflection of course. I’m not suggesting we rush thoughtlessly into every and any situation. It may have taken until my 40th year but even I’ve learned the beauty of pausing and thinking before reacting to circumstances (some of the time at least. I can’t promise to get it right all of the time!)

But if we’re honest with ourselves, how often do we spend time ‘reflecting’ and ‘considering’ in a bid to ward off the fear?

I do it myself, in that space of time between publishing a novel and getting stuck into the next one. I spend days, sometimes weeks, tweaking my outline, playing with character development and all manner of very important worthwhile ‘busy’ activities. And sure, that stuff is useful and needed but there comes a point where the bum has to get in the seat, no more ‘busy’.

There is no perfect time. You’re always going to have lots of other things calling for your attention. But all you have is this moment. What are you going to do with it?

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Beautiful things happen when you let your little weirdo out to play.

Have you considered recently the magic that happens, simply when you let your inner weirdo out to play? Spoiler alert: It’s brilliant!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with a lovely lady in one of the local hospitals. She’s great at what she does, is super nice and, as one of my big stepping FitBit friends, helps keep me (literally!) on my toes.

But it’s not what she really wants to do. She started telling me about her husband’s business and that what she’d really love is to work alongside him. And me being me, I asked her … what’s stopping you?

Easy for me to ask of course, much harder to actually navigate. We chatted a little longer, said our goodbyes, and I thought nothing more of it. Until last weekend, when I found out that yesterday was her very last day at the hospital. That’s right, she found a way to let her weirdo out to play, the stuff that lights her up and gets her all excited, and she’s actually doing it. When I found out I was delighted. I love stories like that!

The way I see it, life’s too fleeting to spend it not doing the stuff that lights you up.

And it got me to thinking about how often we initially discredit stuff, think it’s not possible or talk ourselves out of it, but when we actually allow ourselves to play with the possibility, to embrace our little weirdos if you will, real magic happens.

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What if simply showing up, all in, was ninety per cent of the battle?

Having played with daily ‘morning pages’ for two weeks now (long enough to make it a thing but not quite long enough for it to be a habit yet!) I got to thinking about what I’ve learned so far from the process.

It’s not that I’m doubting the method, but I guess you could say I’m keen to see if I’m getting anything out of it. After all, it might be only 500ish words but those words all add up. If I’m going to ‘invest’ them in this process, I’m keen to know there’s value in doing so.

Guess what though? I was forced to come to the conclusion that it has been (and will therefore continue to be) totally worth it!

Not only have I come up with loads of random ideas for these daily emails, writing random anythings that come to mind have also resulted in the title for a new non-fiction book series, helped me figure out the answers to things I didn’t even realise were bugging me, plus helped make my day to day routine feel calmer.

By simply showing up and playing with words, with no real sense of expectation or pressure to create, magic can happen.

Maybe you’ve had this happen to you … You start the day with the barest bones of a plan but, simply by showing up, you have a wonderful day. And sure, it might not always be the magic you’d have expected if someone had asked you to predict how the day would go, but magic all the same. Exciting!

What if this is a case of art imitating life? What if, by simply showing up, all in, real and honest, with a sense of playfulness but no concrete expectations or pressure, we allow delight and wonder into our day to day life?

Show up, the real honest to goodness you, and watch the magic happen. You in? ?

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What are you expecting?

Monday morning. A brand new week. What are you expecting?

Are you expecting a wonderful new week full of exciting opportunities?

Are you expecting a tough new week full of trials and tough stuff?

Sometimes life just happens but what if, some of the time, the stuff we expect is actually what ends up happening?

Maybe that sounds a little too woo woo and left of field for your liking?

You know what? Sure, it might sound a little woo woo but the bible is littered with verses that talk about expectations. We’re told by James that we must pray expecting an answer and even Jesus told us to ask, believing that it will be given.

Is prayer something that is only valid if done with our eyes closed or with our hands together and head bowed?

If so, how was Paul able to tell us to pray continuously? I’m pretty sure his tent mending business might have suffered a little if he did all his work with his eyes closed!

What if every thought that enters your mind were prayer?

And those half whispered words? Yep, them too. The Holy Spirit can even take the aches and groans from our heart so I’m pretty sure he can use less than grammatically correct sentences.

So, if all of it is prayer, what if everything you think as you come into this new week were prayer too?

I’m not suggesting that, by expecting the week to be terrible, you’re actually praying for God to make it so, but what if you started this brand new week giving it to God, asking him to help you have the best week ever (whatever ‘best’ looks like for you and him) and expecting him to make it so?

Sure, bad stuff happens and some weeks are terrible.

But terrible is not the default setting so how about we go into the new week expecting stellar?

What might that look like?

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Asking isn’t the scary bit …

Asking, it goes without saying that it’s a good idea. We might resist it until we’re really desperate, simply because it’s mildly terrifying to put yourself out there, but eventually there comes a time when all of us learn, first hand, the power of the ask.

You’ve probably got examples of times when you asked something of someone and the results were terrific. Whether it was a simple little ask, like the time you asked a member of your family to do something for you, or something bigger, like that really cool gig you didn’t expect to get but put yourself forward for, just in case.

We know good stuff comes from asking but still we resist it. I got to thinking about what it is we’re actually afraid of. Is it the fear of rejection or the idea of making ourselves vulnerable? By asking for help we’re proving to the askee that we’re not wonder woman and cannot in fact do all of the things unaided.

Or maybe we’re afraid of what might happen if they say “yes”?

I was forced to confront this head on this week when a friend replied to one of these emails to tell me how much it had helped, and that she’d forwarded it on to several friends.

Brilliant! I have a special page for this very purpose. Having stepped away from social media for the near foreseeable future, such sharing is exactly what I could have asked for – and I didn’t even have to ask!

“But what if they don’t like me as much as she does? What if they think my words are silly and trite? What if, what it, what if?!?”

Actually no, that’s not what I’m really afraid of. Those are superficial vanity fears. Here’s what it really comes down to …

What if they read the email, say ‘yes’ to signing up for it for themselves, love it, tell all their friends who tell all their friends, and suddenly, without warning, this little daily missive goes out to hundreds and hundreds of people?!?

But that would be brilliant, wouldn’t it? Well yes, but …

And in that “but” lies the real reason asking is terrifying.

That “but” masks the myriad of sub-conscious doubts and fears, about who I am as a person and what it would really be like to have a message that impacted thousands of people each day. I’d love it but …

And I know I can’t be alone. Whatever the ask is for you personally, what will happen when someone says yes? And what’s your “but”?

Find your “but”, force yourself to confront it head on, and immediately it starts to lose its power. Magic!

P.S. In the interest of facing that “but” head on, if you know someone who needs these daily missives, would you introduce us please? And yes, you can even use the snazzy special page! ?  Thank you! ?

What’s at your root?

Ten days or so ago, as we found ourselves at the very beginning of a spell of delightfully warm weather (although yes, being Brits you can be assured that it didn’t take long for us to start moaning that it was too hot!) I took it upon myself to tidy the garden.

Impetuous as I am, I knew the novelty would soon wear off so I threw myself into the task with wild abandon. After attacking some brambles, I turned my attention to the ivy that was threatening to take over the path and garage.

When I cleared the path it was like pulling up a little carpet of roots. Very cool, thought I, and then I went on with my day and thought nothing more of it.

Until today.

Because today the sun is (sort of!) out again and, having ventured back outside, I just noticed what’s happened to the ivy on the garage now that it’s carpet of roots is no more.

If your fingers are even just a little greener than mine you’ll already know of course … without the roots, the rest of the plant is struggling. I’d feel guilty if it wasn’t for the fact that this thing has grown so much, it’s now threatening to take over the inside of the garage too!

But looking at the now wilting ivy, it got me to thinking about us. You know when things get really crazy and you find yourself stretched? Maybe you say ‘yes’ to things that aren’t in your best interests and put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own?

Without that connection to the very core of what it means to be you, it can be all too easy to find yourself feeling just as shrivelled and dried out as the ivy on my garage. (Metaphorically speaking of course! ? )

It all starts with actually knowing yourself (a a whole other story for another day!) but in case today finds you flagging, take this as your reminder to take a look at your root. ?

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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 the game really is won or lost in your head?

If you’re sat there thinking, “Well duh! Of course the game’s all in our heads” then you’re about where I was about two hours ago. But there’s a difference between knowing something, logically, and it actually impacting us at a deeper level. Sometimes the distance between heart and head is huge!

Bit of context: I watched a video this morning of a group of people jumping (or trying to jump!) off a ten metre diving tower. At a little over fifteen minutes, it was longer than your standard YouTube offering but uttering compelling.

One of my favourite bits was when one lady decided she couldn’t do it and started climbing back down the tower, only to change her mind and jump.

Then there was the friend who climbed back up the tower after jumping to encourage his friend who was struggling. You need to watch it for yourself really (yes, that’s the link to click to do so!) but there was something fascinating about how quickly the scared friend started resenting the one who had already jumped.

It was like watching little snippets of human nature play out in front of your eyes.

But it reminded me that this game really is won or lost in our heads.

What if you didn’t doubt yourself? What if you knew that that thing you’re considering jumping into couldn’t fail? What if it wasn’t too late or you weren’t too old or too, whatever excuse your brain keeps whispering to try and keep you safe?

What might that look like?

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