New Perspectives: Time Management

Do you find yourself ridiculously stressed because you never get through that massive To Do list; there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done; and the stuff that you really want to do, that makes your heart sing, you never quite get to because you’re always on the treadmill doing the routine stuff and maintaining the status quo? If so, I bet you think “I need to sort out my time management” but I say what you really need is to get back to your purpose.

The big things that you need to do to move you towards your vision, the stuff where the growth, learning and challenge is, that’s the stuff where the joy and passion in life lies. Ask yourself, what is it that you are prepared to spend your time, energy and money on? What are you prepared to lose sleep over and give up a social life for? I bet it’s not house chores, grocery shopping, paying bills and mowing the lawn.

So how do you make time for the big stuff in amongst the routine, day-to-day maintenance tasks that seem to take up so much of your day? You have to make some tough decisions and be prepared to say “no”. Here are some suggestions that might help:

  • Negotiate deadlines: If someone asks you for something and it doesn’t fit with your schedule, ask them when their absolute last-minute acceptable deadline is. There may be some leeway.
  • Delegate tasks: Asking someone else to do something for you could be uncomfortable, particularly if you believe they won’t do it as well as you or if you believe it implies that you can’t cope but the fact is that if you want more time on your schedule you’re going to have to hand off some of the more menial tasks – and accept that the results may differ from your own! Remember: your time and energy is better spent on the big vision stuff. Your future is worth more than what you’re doing in the moment.
  • Accept less than perfect: You may not be able to spend the time you normally spend on some tasks and you may have to lower your standards of output to allow you more time to spend on the vision development work but remind yourself of what is really important in the long term: your vision.
  • Be prepared to disappoint people: Most people won’t stop liking you just because you can’t spend time doing what they ask. They might be disappointed but they probably won’t dislike you and if they do, then they don’t respect your needs and your time so it’s not much of a loss.
  • Be prepared to give up some activities: Some things aren’t compatible with your higher vision for your life and you have a choice to make. If something is eating up time but not moving your towards the life you want, is it something you really want to spend time on? Can you cut it down or cut it out completely? There’s nothing wrong with a little down time but be aware of the difference between relaxing and slacking off or procrastinating.

If you have difficulty in implementing these suggestions have confidence in your vision, in yourself, in your ability to do these things and still be liked by other people. Trust in your ability to make these decisions, to set your priorities and your boundaries and know that by doing this you are building towards a better life for yourself and restoring the joy that you’ve lost being stuck in routine chores.

The secret to time management, my friends, and a happier life, is holding onto your purpose and going after it with everything you’ve got.

Image by Philip Wels from Pixabay

New Perspectives: Taking Things Personally

Are you one of these people who feels that life is unfair? Do people treat you unjustly? How do you feel when someone gives you criticism or feedback that doesn’t sit comfortably? How do you feel when people don’t respond to your messages on social media? How does your energy change when somebody comes into the room in a particularly good or bad mood? What if you suggest something and the other person doesn’t want to do it or disagrees with you? How do you react? What if somebody gets angry with you? How do you react then?

If you take things personally then these sorts of situations may make you feel anxious, angry, hurt, disappointed or demotivated. Maybe you doubt yourself or feel sorry for yourself, maybe you feel rejected. Maybe you find yourself regularly reacting to things, defending yourself and becoming entangled in drama.

This used to be my life, until I learned how to remove the “me” from the events that happened around me and how to react to situations with less emotion. I began to understand that what happens to us, what happens around us, the energy that people bring to us, actually has very little to do with us. It’s really about them: their values, their beliefs, their experiences, their needs and their desires, projected onto you.

When someone gives you advice or criticism, it’s usually not about you; it’s them telling you what they would do in your situation or giving you the advice that they would want to hear to fit the outcome they they want for you and that they think you should want too.

Once I understood this, I was much more able to filter out other people’s energy and stop seeing it as a judgement on me or as my responsibility to fix. These days I adopt an informal system I call the “four C’s”. You may find this system useful, so I will share it with you:

  1. Confidence: Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, in the circumstances you are in; with the knowledge, skills and experience you have right now. When you know better, you’ll do better but for now, this is your best. So long as you are operating from a position of fairness, goodwill and authenticity then you can do no more. People are going to disagree with you on some matters but that’s okay. They’re entitled to their opinion and you are entitled to yours. It doesn’t mean you have to change, in fact you can’t change and you should never change just to please somebody else. Who you are will always leak out in times of stress anyway so be who you are. Be confident in your values and beliefs, make decisions that are in alignment with them and love yourself, even if people don’t agree with what you’re doing. If they disagree with you, they’re not disagreeing with you, they’re disagreeing with what you’re saying and doing; their disagreement doesn’t say anything about you as a person.
  2. Curiosity: When someone says something you don’t like, the first instinct can be to justify yourself, defend yourself, or counter-attack. That’s not helpful. You can’t change people’s minds that way. In fact people tend to think what they want to think so don’t try to change their mind or explain yourself. Instead, be curious. See this as an opportunity to learn. Understand that we all come into the world from different perspectives. When someone comes at you with anger and negative energy, it’s because they see the world differently or they don’t understand your position. Maybe you’re not communicating it effectively, maybe they’re having a bad day and you’re simply the target of their deflected anger. Maybe they’re genuinely trying to help you and they think they’re saving you from a big mistake. Ask questions: ask them specifically what they think you should do, what they’re not happy with. Explore it. Acknowledge their position and their right to hold it. Take the emotion out of the situation, rather than being sucked into conflict and negative energy. Remember: it’s not really about you.
  3. Compassion: Have compassion for the person coming at you in negative energy. They’re probably having a bad day or maybe even a bad life. After all, who is confrontational and unpleasant to someone else if their heart is full of joy? Having compassion doesn’t excuse the other party for their behaviour but it allows you to step away from a heated emotional response and understand that their energy is not caused by you and is not your responsibility.
  4. Containment: By this I mean boundaries. Our energy is our own. Somebody’s else’s energy is not your energy, nor is it your responsibility. It’s not up to you to calm them, fix them or cheer them up and neither is it their responsibility to do the same for you. If necessary, withdraw to maintain the boundary. Take care of your energy, respect yourself and respect other people’s boundaries, as well as your own. Understand that sometimes people may need to withdraw to take care of themselves too. If you suspect someone is ignoring you, consider that they may have something occupying their time and energy elsewhere that’s entirely unrelated to you, or perhaps they simply need some alone time to recoup their energy. Respect their needs.

In summary, remember that whatever goes on around you, happens at you or to you, is often not about you. Nurture your good energy, respect yourself, have confidence in your decisions, hold to your values and allow others to disagree with you or withdraw from you, without it being a judgement on you. This will enable you to stop taking things personally and will improve the quality of your life.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Your Brain: Social Anxiety

Social anxiety: that awful, physical and mental fear that someone is going to look at you, judge you and laugh at you. That fear that becomes so serious that you feel real, physical symptoms and are tempted not to go out at all. If you give in to those symptoms and fears long enough it can become a habit and can seriously impede the quality of your life, even leading to isolation and agoraphobia. I am writing from personal experience here, as someone who has struggled with social anxiety for over twenty years and felt the shame and isolation it causes. My mother is agoraphobic and she describes it as a fear that the feelings will become so severe that she might die if she goes too far from home.

Why do we develop social anxiety? Through a lack in our confidence to perform according to our standards in an unknown situation. It’s a fear of inadequacy and of lack of control, of being judged and found wanting by others and of the pain of rejection. It’s emotionally and physically debilitating through the emotional pain and the stress that it creates.

What can you do when you feel social anxiety arising?

  • You can stay in, give in to the physical symptoms and fears, and feel shame and guilt (shame choice)
  • you can stay home, give in and enjoy the relief of not having to go out (relief choice)
  • you can go out and grind through the symptoms and fears (push choice)
  • you can go out and focus on the benefits of going (pull choice)

As in the previous article on procrastination, I prefer the pull choice. It doesn’t ease my physical symptoms but it reminds me of why choosing to ignore my fears is the better option emotionally. To help me focus on the benefits of going, I use positive language to reframe my thoughts. “I’m not nervous, I’m excited”, “I’m not anxious, I’m anticipating”, “It’s not a nasty ordeal, it’s a lovely opportunity”.

One of the biggest fears in social anxiety is being the focus of negative attention. A useful way to deflect attention from yourself and ease the pressure of any resultant anxiety is to ask other people about themselves and reflect back with simple phrases and further questions. It’s a low demand style of conversation that can ease you into a social event gently.

Another way to face your secret shameful fear is to make it public! Tell someone you’re nervous. Let them judge you and you’ll discover that actually there’s no judgement. The power of social anxiety’s irrational fear lies in its secrecy; by exposing it, you will realise how irrational it is and how unnecessary it is to struggle alone. Furthermore, by admitting your difficulty you allow others to support you and reassure you. You’ll discover that the world is not as judgemental and cold as you thought!

Finally, I’ll just remind you that although social anxiety causes you to imagine you’re the focus of the attention, it’s actually rather unlikely that you are going to be the focus of attention. Social anxiety says, “What if I do the wrong thing, what if I say the wrong thing, what if I make a fool of myself?” but really who’s looking at you? You’re going home running the evening back through your mind, comparing your behaviour against your own high standards but nobody else cares! All that unnecessary stress is for nothing.

Use these tips next time you go out and let me know if you find it an easier experience, I’d love to hear from you.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Your Brain: Procrastination

Ever had one of those moments where you know that you need to do something, you intend to do it but then you don’t do it? Not just once but perhaps for days or even weeks at a time? The longer you leave it, the more stressed and disappointed in yourself you become, the more impossible the task seems and even worse, the intensity of your resistance increases with the urgency of the task until you hit a crisis point.

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we procrastinate? Simply put, we procrastinate because somewhere deep inside our brain (and by this I mean the thinking mind, not the physical organ) lies a belief that doing this thing is a dangerous idea that could cause us discomfort in some way and so it tries to protect us through procrastination. There’s a fear in there that you will be faced with something that you can’t handle, be it an event or an emotion. Perhaps you have a concern about what people might think of you, or are worried about a change in circumstances. Procrastination is your brain’s best answer.

Procrastination works on a number of levels, from becoming absorbed in external distractions like social media, TV, other tasks and other people’s demands on your time, to the internal distractions of thoughts and worries, emotions and memories, to what I consider the brain’s last line of defence: physical manifestation of internal conflict. Ever thought of an impending task and felt sick with nerves, developed a headache from stress or felt a sudden need to take a nap? That’s your brain trying to protect you from associating with what is stressing you.

How do you overcome procrastination? As procrastination is an attempt to save you from a bad outcome, I like to provide my brain with the contrary perspective of a positive outcome. “Sure, you could avoid doing it and continue to feel annoyed with yourself and feel like a failure just so you don’t have to do the scary thing, or you COULD do it, feel like a winner, feel the release of all this stress and enjoy your day!” Sometimes you need to manage your mind and I do this by giving my brain choice.

There are four potential choices:

  • Continue procrastinating, don’t do the thing and worry about not doing it (stress choice)
  • Continue procrastinating, don’t do the thing, don’t worry about it (consequences choice)
  • Stop procrastinating, do the thing, grind through the resistance (push choice)
  • Stop procrastinating, do the thing, focus on the benefits (pull choice)

Out of the four choices, I prefer the pull choice. It feels less painful emotionally in the short term and avoids the unpleasant consequences of not doing the thing.

Ironically, by procrastinating and trying to avoid the stress we create more stress. On top of that you risk losing confidence and trust in yourself to deliver on your promises, especially if you have a history of not doing what you set out to do. Even worse, you might be teaching others not to trust you.

Thank your brain for its concern, show it another perspective and encourage it to hook onto the benefits, not the risks. That’s how I deal with my procrastination. Hope it helps!

Image by Gracini Studios from Pixabay

Your Happy Life Part Four: Comparison and Failure

In the previous articles in this series we reviewed how core values can help you create a vision for your life, how limiting beliefs and a poor self-image can hold you back, and how to challenge those beliefs and that image. In this final article in the series we’re going to take a look at issues that might come up when you do start to take action to follow your vision. We’re going to look at the dangers of comparison and how to take a different perspective on failure.

At the heart of comparison is the question, “Am I as good as these other people, am I good enough?”. Comparison takes the joy and passion out of life. If you’re doing something that you enjoy and are emotionally invested in, that you’re putting time, money and energy into, that is in alignment with your core values, then why allow any of the joy of that experience to be diminished by comparing yourself to others and allowing yourself feel small or anxious as a result? Comparison invites the question, “Can I really trust my decisions because I’m not getting the results, rewards or success these people are?”

The fact is that you don’t know those other people’s situations. They may have financial or practical support that you don’t have; they may have had life experiences that you don’t have; they may have been going longer. The snapshot you see of their life now reveals nothing of the struggle and work, the failure and the growth that went before it. Whatever you’re doing is relevant to you and your life alone. Do it because it’s what you want to do, not because you’re expecting to emulate or replicate the success of someone else. It’s YOUR life. Focus on that. Do your thing, love it and get the most you can out of it.

At the core of the fear of failure is the thought, “I don’t want to look like I’m not good enough.” Believe it or not, failure is your friend. How else are you going to learn how to handle things going wrong unless they do? How are you going to handle feeling foolish unless you get things wrong? You WILL make mistakes, and things WILL go wrong and people MIGHT laugh at you. And you will survive all of that.

Failure teaches you that it’s okay not to get things right or perfect straight away. It teaches you flexibility; if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and then try something else. And keep trying. Just don’t give up.

It teaches us resilience and grit. After all, if something comes to us easily, where’s the satisfaction of overcoming a challenge? It teaches us compassion and empathy for all the other people struggling like us, and provides us with an opportunity to build a community as we reach out for mutual support and encouragement through entrepreneur groups and hobby classes, and parent and carer meetings. We see that other people find this stuff hard too, we see how they struggled and overcame. We see that failure is not the end but merely a step towards something better.

The only way not to fail is never to try and why would you even consider not trying, if what you’re doing is something you love? If you accept the possibility and likelihood of failure, the pressure is off. What does failure even say about you as a person? Does it say you’re a loser or that you’re brave for trying in the first place? You get to decide.

Ignore the temptation to compare yourself to other people and embrace the benefits of failure and step out into your vision. Take action, make things happen and create the life you want.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Your Happy Life Part Three: Challenging Labels and Beliefs

In the previous two articles in this series we discussed core values, limiting beliefs and self-image. In this article we’ll be looking at how to challenge any labels or limiting beliefs that are stopping you from taking action to improve the quality of your life.

When I find myself becoming stuck in self-doubt or trapped in a line of unhelpful thinking, I use a method known as Socratic Questioning to determine whether what I’m thinking is realistic, likely and helpful. It sounds complicated but is really just a set of questions that you can use to challenge what you’re thinking. And these questions are:

  • Is there evidence for this thought? (Is this thought fact or feeling?)
  • Is it the whole truth or are you being selective?
  • Is it a black and white situation or is it more complicated than you’re willing to accept?
  • Is this an exaggeration, are you catastrophising?
  • Is it a likely scenario?
  • Is there another interpretation?
  • Are you thinking this out of habit ?
  • Is this your own thought or have you been influenced in some way?

Using these questions you can determine whether you are working from emotion rather than reality and prepare a course of appropriate action. Very often the beliefs that are holding us back are rooted in fear of either what we don’t know or what we think is going to happen. If you can pinpoint those fears, you can expose them as being just that: fear. The antidote for fear is having a plan. So ask yourself the questions and formulate your plan!

In the next article we will look at how to embrace failure and reject comparison.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Your Happy Life Part Two: Self-Image and Limiting Beliefs

In the previous article I discussed core values and how they help you to make decisions, create a vision and enjoy a greater satisfaction in life as a result. But what happens if you know what it is you want to achieve in life, you know who you are and you’ve worked out your core values but you don’t believe in your ability to achieve it? What if you don’t like who you are? What if you have limiting beliefs or a poor self image?

What is self image? It’s the way you perceive yourself and the way you think other people perceive you. It’s made up of your self-worth (your belief in your own value and your place in the world, your self-respect and self-love) and your self-esteem (how you think other people perceive you, value you and respect you). When you have a positive self-image it’s easier to make decisions and stick to them, you’re able to validate yourself and trust your decision making, you’re able to draw on your reserves of resilience and your self-belief if you face opposition or challenges. If you have a poor self-image then it becomes more difficult; you’re likely to need more external validation and to worry more about other people’s opinions or reactions. You’re likely to have fewer reserves in times of trouble.

We form our self-image through a lifetime of experiences, interpreting what happens to us, how other people treat us and the labels they give us. If enough “bad” things are said about us or happen to us, it can be tempting to form a poor self-image.

The thing about labels is that while they can be helpful for description, they can be limiting if we make decisions based on those labels. Similarly, assumptions based on experience can provide a handy shortcut to projecting a likely outcome but they aren’t necessarily accurate.

Labels and beliefs are not truth. They are opinions, thoughts, assumptions, NOT facts. How we see ourselves doesn’t have to stay the same. Our past is not our future. Just because something happened one way doesn’t mean it is going to again in the future. So often, we cling to old beliefs and other people’s labels as excuses to protect us from the unknown risks of doing something or being something different. If you’re living with a set of beliefs or a self-image that is holding you back from taking action to change what isn’t working in your life, ask yourself how it is serving you.

You don’t have to live under a belief or label or image that no longer serves you. You can change. You can choose what thoughts to accept and reject, which means you can control your choices, which means you can change your life. Take a look at what you think and ask yourself if it’s really true.

In the next article in this series we’ll look at how you challenge your beliefs and self-image.

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

Who Are You? Your Happy Life Part One: Identity and Core Values

In this article I discuss core values and how they are vital to establishing a clear sense of identity, making decision making easier and helping us to enjoy a greater quality of life.

Let’s introduce ourselves: Hi, I’m Vicki. I’m married, I’m a stay at home mum, a sister, a daughter, a neighbour, a friend. Tell me about yourself. How’s life treating you? 

I bet you start telling me about your job, your relationship status, where you live, your kids and so on. It’s the go-to conversational opener because it’s easy, it’s factual and there’s little risk or vulnerability. Yet none of these things reveal who you really are. Let’s start again: tell me what fires your heart; what hill you would be prepared to die on, what you must do or have to feel that life has meaning. Me? I’m a writer, a creator, a dreamer, a communicator, an educator, a comforter, an encourager, a listener. I need to connect in meaningful relationships with like-minded souls and share experiences so I can learn and then share what I learn with others. I believe in justice, fairness and kindness although I can be selfish, lazy and entitled. I get bored easily, I have a quick temper, I fear rejection and loneliness. All this is me, in all my glory and flawed humanity.

Friend, I know myself, and as a result I am happy and at peace with myself and the life I have. I also have a strong and clear vision for the future. I believe that when you know yourself it becomes easier to love yourself and identify what you need to do to give yourself a satisfying, fulfilling and happy life. Five years ago I had not yet learned this and I was living a very different life. I was arguing with everyone about everything! I was stressed, angry, and burst into tears frequently. I felt squeezed into the role of a stay-at-home mother caring for a young child with special needs – a stressful and demanding role with no time off and little appreciation. I had no physical or mental energy for writing or even thinking beyond the next chore or demand being made of me; over time the creative spark within me died and, with it, my joy. I tried to socialise but the few friends I had were busy and their lives got in the way whenever I tried to arrange dates, so I sunk into resentful isolation. Things went from bad to very, very bad. Let’s just say I had no quality of life and get back to talking about you….

If you’re struggling to find the joy, might I suggest that perhaps you’re neglecting some part of you, as I was? If this is the case, how do you work out what it is? A great way to start is to list everything that is important to you, ie your core values. I recently did a review of my values and my current list consists of:

  • Connection
  • Freedom
  • Joy
  • Fulfilment
  • Growth
  • Peace
  • Excitement
  • Authenticity
  • Significance
  • Change
  • Risk

These are what I need and value in life, to various degrees. Rank your values in importance; I would suggest that the top five are the ones that drive your decision making, even if it’s subconsciously. This is what you really want and who you are trying to be, underneath your roles and relationships. The nearer to fulfilling these values you come, the closer you are to being authentic to your identity. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with some part of your life, the clue will very probably lie in any rift between your values and your lifestyle, just as it did with mine. I wasn’t connecting with anyone socially and I wasn’t using my creative skills, and that isolation and disconnection from my creative self was killing my spirit. So, if you’re not satisfied with your life or who you are right now, what part of you are you not honouring or expressing? What role or relationship have you become lost within? What value are you neglecting?

Being clear about your identity is vital when life decides to throw you the odd curve ball. Maybe you fall ill with a long-term condition, or you lose your job, or a relationship ends. It’s easy to find your self-image bruised and if it’s a big change to your circumstances you could find your sense of identity being challenged. Isn’t it the case that when we grieve a relationship we’re partly grieving the person we were in that relationship? And when we celebrate the end of a relationship, we’re celebrating leaving behind the person we had become that we didn’t enjoy being? In Philosophy For Life, Mel Thompson writes, “Relationships establish a sense of identity, and the closer the relationship, the more significant will be its influence on the sense of self.” Work, school, family, friendships: these relationships play their part in who we see ourselves to be and when these circumstances change, we have to incorporate that change into our self-image. There’s a crucial difference, though, between self-image and identity: self-image is how you perceive yourself, identity is who you areIt can be the case that there is quite a rift between the two. My self-image was terrible; I saw myself as an ungrateful, selfish, angry, unpleasant person who couldn’t get along with anyone and I was making knee-jerk decisions based on how I saw myself rather than in connection with who I really was and what was important to me. By identifying your core values you can ensure that the actions you take honour who you are and you can start to shift any false image you have created of yourself over time. You can make decisions, set goals and follow a life vision, regardless of obstacles, challenges, fears and self-doubt. 

Hang on a minute, you may be thinking. Isn’t the point of personal growth …. growth? And doesn’t growth mean change? Does that mean our identity changes? Yes! Indeed it does. It’s an inevitable part of life that the experiences we have will change us as we come to new understandings, form new beliefs, attain new insights into ourselves and those around us. We may find that the values we prioritise change or that we adopt new values and let go of others. Keep reviewing your values as your circumstances change and those all-important decisions will be easier to make and will feel “right”. I believe the key to enjoying a higher quality of life satisfaction is knowing yourself, loving yourself and living life in alignment with your values, what Abraham Maslow called “self actualisation“.

You may be thinking “it’s all very well knowing myself but what if my circumstances won’t let me take action? What use core values then?” In the next article I’ll discuss self-image and limiting beliefs, the roadblocks to self actualisation.

Until then, why not identify you core values and have some fun getting to know yourself a bit better?

If you enjoyed this article, please like and share it with your friends on social media. You might like to watch my Facebook Live video on this topic. I will be doing more Lives throughout the week so follow me on Facebook to receive notifications. I would love to hear your comments on this or any other article so please drop your comments in the section below or message me via Facebook. If you would like to receive six sessions of coaching for FREE as I practice my coaching skills before launching my life coaching business in the summer, contact me privately on Much love!

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It’s All About You (Why I’m Coaching Myself First)

I’m stopping today. Letting it all go. Taking a deep breath in and a long breath out…..

So many plans, so much energy, so many thoughts! I’ve worn myself out. Time to implement my five R’s:

  • Retreat
  • Reflect
  • Refocus
  • Relaunch
  • Review

In the new year you’ll hear about how YOU can implement them in your life to have a happier, more fulfilling 2019. But first it’s my turn to practise what I preach. Before I go hurtling into next year I need to get myself in the best mindset possible, get my clarity and focus, get myself aligned to my values, set my priorities and organise my goals, get those habits and routines in place and get READY for 2019. I’m spending this weekend and next week doing just that, and will be building on it throughout December.

By New Year’s Day I’ll be in the best shape possible to help YOU create the 2019 you want. It’s all about you. But first I need to make it all about me. 

Join me in and take the rest of this year to reflect on what you want to achieve next year, who you want to be, how you want to feel. Look at what’s important to you, how you honour that in your life, who you share your life with and how you relate to them. It’s time to wrap up this year and focus on what’s to come.

Finish 2018 strong and start next year as you mean to go on. Your life is waiting. Get ready!

-love the the life you have, create the life you want-