Happiness in nature: log pile
Empowerment & Seeking

Happiness: The Truth about Self-help Tools

I began studying the psychology of my own experiences in 2004 with a book on Psycholinguistics and one on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Since then, I’ve studied a bunch of qualifications, and have worked in social care, education, mental health and youth work fields.

Yet, there are some ‘lessons’ you don’t fully comprehend until you’ve lived them.

A few years ago, Christine Kane wrote an article about smiling after challenge, and a particular comment she made really stood out for me:

“That’s because when it comes right down to it, happiness is a lot about training.”

I sat and stared at that sentence. Happiness is about Training your Mind. That kind of rings true… and of course, it’s the whole point of my work, in a way. I want to share all that I know about training the mind to be healthy, happy and effective at learning, feeling and being.

Beyond all my talk about empowerment and inner strength, all my motivation for being a mentor to help people feel equipped for their personal quest: happiness is probably the most common desire in all of us.

The Personal Training Effect

Across the last 15 years or so, I’ve focused on any practise that may allow me to reach that potential, to complete my own personal quest.

I have all this knowledge about meditation, gratitude, visualisation, learning, associations, triggers, challenging our thoughts, and re-defining. But in reality, they’re all tools for experiencing happiness in the moment.

We’re all seeking happiness as someone hiring a personal trainer seeks health and wellbeing. And much like those sessions, it may take a few difficult tasks, pushing against our limits and trial and error to find the workout that gives us the desired results.

The Horizon Never Moves Closer

Similarly, goals generally require us to try various tools and methods, to fail until we learn enough to succeed.

Because really, growing in skills, ability and experience is what makes us human. Personal growth, in my view, means we’re really living.

Christine also reminds us in that article that we’re “…never going to ARRIVE at the horizon. That line where earth and sky meet will always be out in front of you.”

Which is amazing, really. In some ways, the true reach of human potential really is infinite.

It’s something I never remember, especially when I’m feeling bad and can’t explain why. It’s something I know, but can’t access the knowledge of. These little steps are the easiest, and perhaps most effective… But it’s important not to focus on the horizon, just focus on where you want to put your feet next.

If you feel lost in your path to complete a personal quest, grab some free tools to help you blaze the trail.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Small Steps: Building the Path through Meditation

I used to meditate every day.

At some point between moving in with my husband and earlier this year, the habit had just… faded.

Our ‘life’ is really a cumulation of the daily choices we make.

For me, meditation is a space for my mind to breathe. I don’t notice much when I practise, but I do notice the lack of clarity and patience when I don’t.

I’ve never done more than about 5-minutes a day, so I’m not asking myself for huge amounts of time or energy, and yet I had probably gone a few months without meditation before I really *noticed.*

The ahar moment; that sense of understanding one of the contributing factors at least, to my stress and feeling of constant overwhelm.

Small, Daily Steps Add Up

I’ve currently committed to myself three ‘meditation sessions’ a week, of at least 60-seconds.

That’s 3 minutes a WEEK.

It’s Key to Think Long Term.

If I expect myself to meditate 5-minutes daily, that’s 35-minutes a week. And if I miss two days in a row, what is the likelihood of me finishing that week off? Something stopped me from getting started twice – that block is likely to continue to exist.

So across a month, I might get those first 3 days in, then miss a day, but then complete another 2 days. By the end of the second week though, it’s dwindled to once a week as a desperate measure.

The result? I complete 45 minutes across the month, and feel stressed by the end, seeing it as a chore and only half paying-attention to the practise.

Alternatively…

I can commit to 3-minutes a week. After the first week, I think I’ll up one of those practises to 2-minutes. By the end of a fortnight, I’m completed 10 minutes. Sometimes, I do 2 sessions, because I’m beginning to feel the effects, and I don’t do anything else while the kettle boils anyway.

By the end of week 3, I’m feeling incredibly accomplished, and I’ve done 6 sessions of 2-minutes: just because it felt so easy to let the timer run-over slightly.

And then we end the month of tiny steps with around 45-minutes, but my daily mini-practise resets my stress levels regularly, doesn’t add to my never-ending to-do list, and I have a habit I can build up to 5-minutes, or even just leave it where it is. If I have a ‘bad week,’ I can still keep my commitment of three-minutes a week, even if I suddenly realise I need to do all 3-minutes last thing on a Sunday night.

The Take Home Message

If you want to be someone who does a certain behaviour, pick the smallest, tiny commitment, and make it.

Make it TODAY. Not tomorrow, not on August 1st: Now.

If it would help you to be accountable, leave a comment here, or pop over to the facebook group and update us each weekend with your progress!

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Mapping Out Small, Daily Steps: Pt 1

We dream of things being different, and it’s frustrating to feel so far away from that possible future. When our daily steps don’t match our values. Anything which blocks our sense of progress towards our best self, feels stressful and overwhelming. Be that a known obstacle to a goal, or not knowing how exactly to reach a life where we are more fulfilled.

We all have changes we want to make, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of ways to set ‘smart’ goals, choose focus ‘words’, organise our time or work on visualisation to walk the path towards that potential.

Before we start thinking about changes, let’s spend a few moments thinking about how we define our situation.

What Changes To Make?

So often, when asked about goal-setting or making changes to how we feel, think, or behave, we focus on an end-result, an accomplishment of some description. We think about ‘reaching the end,’ and often this image has a sense of being effortless.

However, thinking about how we define our current state, we’re likely thinking about the last few days or weeks. What we did each day, how much energy we lacked, or how many things we didn’t get done.

We judge our present based on the day-to-day experience. What steps did you take today, towards that final goal?

What we want isn’t always some ‘outcome’ but actually for our days in the future to just feel lighter; for the experience of living to be that bit better.

So in reality, to make changes to that daily feeling, we need to look at our day’s current structure.

A Daily Steps Check-list

  1. Did anything today give you a sense of progress towards your best self? List any actions or events which brought you to life, got your passions going or at least brought about relief at being accomplished. Even those tiny daily steps count.
  2. What zapped your energy today? Think about the activities you did or the thoughts you focused on which left you feeling drained, panicked or overwhelmed. List them out separately, and if there are any you can remove: do so! You may need to think about if you could do them less often, or if you could swap these tasks with another person. We’ll come back to this list later.
  3. Focus on values. What sense would you like in future days? Would you choose a sense of motivation, perhaps more energy to complete tasks or just feeling free to breathe in between various tasks? Think about the values of the activities you listed for question 1, and see if any themes come up.
  4. Think about pace. Although some things may be out of our control, when trying to fit everything in, we can sometimes make decisions that squeeze us for time, or that we know aren’t going to serve us well one those days. Think about the pace of each day when making plans, especially if you’re able to ‘tone down’ some activities. For example, coffee with a friend may take too much time with travel, but when you decline, offer a 30-minute phone call to catch up as an alternative plan.
  5. Shape your future days. How would the day look, if you had more energy, more freedom or were making regular progress? Schedule an ‘ideal’ day like a diary, and notice if any of those aspects could sneak their way into your current days. For example, if an ideal day begins with 15 minutes of meditation, can you put a 1-minute mindfulness practice into place tomorrow morning?

In order to change our future, we need to look at how we live each day.

In part two, we’ll focus on incorporating small, achievable routines to bring about grand change.

*~*

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New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Perception: On Re-Framing Your Experiences

On Friday afternoon, following a particularly stressful day working for a mental health project, I found myself burning out. I wasn’t angry, nor particularly sad, but I felt under pressure and desperate to get home: emotionally exhausted.

About 3 minutes from home, at a roundabout where people often go despite the traffic coming their way, a car pulled out in front of me. I had to break suddenly, my fight-or-flight system throwing adrenaline around my body so I could react quickly.

I felt shocked and instantly angry. My heart raced, my hands tensed around the wheel. My thoughts flooded in: “How selfish, they could have killed us both! Why can’t people LOOK when they drive? Some people shouldn’t have driving licenses.”

My usual response would be to lift up my hand in a “what was that?” questioning motion. I’m not someone who uses the ‘traditional’ symbols: I just open my palm to the sky in my exasperation. Then I rein in those thoughts and pull back from the offending car: “I better be careful, this driver is likely to do something else dangerous.”

But this time, as the driver pulled off at my junction, they put their hand up to the rear-view mirror (the universal thanks/sorry movement), and I saw the green P-plate.

Re-framing, or the Paradigm Shift

Instantly, my anger dissipated. I didn’t have to reign those thoughts in; they just weren’t there anymore.

I put my own hand up to the my mirror, hoping they’d see it as “no problem” and left a big gap because I remember feeling that everyone was so close while I was learning to drive. In fact, I kept the P-plate on my car for well over the recommended two years. 

In terms of Friday’s event, nothing actually changed: I nearly had a car crash. I was scared for my safety. I got angry. The driver having a P-plate didn’t miraculously mean I was safer.

So why did those thoughts and feelings dissipate; if nothing physically changed? I’d re-framed the experience.

When I was growing up, I read a book entitled “NLP for Dummies.” I didn’t remember a lot about NLP as I grew older, except one example about re-framing experience (which a google search cites as being from Stephen Covey):

Some children are disturbing a train carriage of people.
The father appears to be ignoring them.

The author asks the man if he could control his children.
He expresses the frustration/exasperation/anger of people being disturbed, interpreting this man to be insensitive and irresponsible.

But the moment the father shared that the children’s mother had died an hour before:
the entire emotional experience shifted from anger to compassion.

Again, nothing physically changed. The children continued to be loud and disruptive.

The thoughts changed. The characters focused on re-framing the event. The interpretation, the labels of how that father should behave, changed.

I don’t normally experience road rage. I have conditioned myself to ask “what if?” or “why would I do that?”

Someone cut me up in traffic, or drives through a red light?

Yes, those first thoughts come up: How dangerous, are they insane; they’re putting everyone at risk.

And then I step back: re-framing the experience. “What could be happening, to make that okay in their eyes?”

Perhaps their mother is dying and they’re rushing to hospital to get those last 5 minutes to say goodbye.

The likelihood of that being true for EVERY bad driving event is pretty much nil. But, the only person actually hurting from my road rage, is me. And if I choose to believe that every ‘bad driver’ has a decent reason, I don’t sit there seething, keeping those uncomfortable, fearful thoughts going. I send out a wave of compassion, and get on with my day.

We can change how we think about events.

It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of time. But it’s possible.

For me, the gains are worth the effort.

 

P.S. If you want some support to help change those thoughts and break those negative cycles, find out more about my coaching sessions here.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Goal-Setting for Success

You’ve tried to make a change, but it’s hard to reach your goal and make it stick.

Habits are difficult to control, and those New Year’s Resolutions never last…

You are not alone.

Humans are habitual creatures, and making a change can feel like a lot of work. But there are some strategies you can use to maximise your chance of making the change, and really feel accomplished as you progress towards your goal.

This checklist of questions will allow you to really plan what you want to be different, understand what motivates you to fight your old habits and create the map to follow towards your potential.

 

What do I want? Where am I currently, and where do I want to be at the end?

By when? Do I have a deadline to aim for – and is this realistic? If it’s not, pick a smaller goal – maybe a smaller step to this bigger goal.

Why is this important to me? It’s important to know why you want to make the change – not because you’ve been told to or ‘know you should’ – what will you actually gain from changing?

How will I know I’ve managed it? What would I be doing or thinking differently if this goal was achieved?

Where am I now from 0 to 10; if 10 is at that goal?

 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910

Not started                                        At Goal

What would it look like if I moved 1 point up that scale, in my life? How would I feel?

What action(s) would move me up to that number? What is the smallest step towards this?

Are there any other habits I can link this in with? It’s easier to amend or replace a current habit than stop/start one thing entirely.

What will I be doing daily or weekly towards this goal? Will I make lots of small changes across a day or change the way I do one key thing?

How long will that take per day/week? Do I have that time? How can I schedule it in now, make room for this new action?

Where will I struggle with it? What hasn’t worked in the past? Can I problem-solve those issues now? What is it that makes that a struggle? What do I need?

Can I reach that need without breaking my goal? How so?

Who can I enlist to support me in this? What will keep me accountable?

How will I react if I slip up? Will I start again the next day, re-visit these questions or just pick myself up and keep moving forward?

How will I monitor it? How often? Do I need a daily log, or is a weekly check-in enough?

How can I ensure that I get all the support I need from myself and from others?

What is my main motivating factor to succeed? What’s the deep reason for making this change: how will it benefit me?

A Strong ‘Why’ is the Cornerstone of Motivation.

Put that last motivating factor everywhere in your environment for the best results, a picture of the person you can’t let down, a quote about keeping your word or just a phrase about how it will make you feel are powerful cues.

In the end, making a change is hard work, and can take weeks for some people or months for others. But with these questions answered, you’re already half-way there.

*~*

Want these questions as a handy worksheet? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From a goal-setting worksheet and 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!