Have you ever really wanted to do something, try something new, make a change, follow your dream or begin anew but just not known where to start? Been too scared? Not felt ready?
Or started, been unhappy with the result or frustrated with your progress and stopped again? Maybe you have had some success but you couldn't maintain momentum or it didn't feel right or give you the buzz that you were hoping for?
This is what writing has been like for me. I've done a bit of this and that. I've written a few articles for websites, had a little piece published in a daily metro newspaper, even co-authored a book that was published in a couple of different countries and translated into Dutch! I've called myself a writer and an author (and felt like a fraud) but I've never been able to make it work. I've procrastinated, avoided, decided it was not my destiny (excuses, excuses) and moved on to other things, pushing the dream back to the far reaches of my mind. To the place where we put the things we really want but are too scared to really try.
Peter Bregman, an acclaimed author and expert on 'leading and living' as he puts it, reckons that when we don't take chances, when we procrastinate and dilly dally over our dreams it's because we are afraid of feeling. We don't want to feel disappointment or sadness or frustration or embarrassment or rejection. We don't want to hurt.
Now I don't know what research he has done in this area but intuitively it makes sense to me. Maybe I've never given it my all because I've been afraid it wouldn't be everything that I'd hoped for? That I would write and no-one would read it or worse, they'd read and get bored? That I would feel disappointment, rejection, sadness and loss.
At the same time I started reading about courage. Not the 'save a child from a burning building' type courage, although there's no denying the courage it takes to do that! I was reading about everyday courage. The courage it takes to begin new things, like start a new job, get married, move cities, quit a job or follow your dreams.
Robert Biswas-Diener, a positive psychologist and author of The Courage Quotient has done a lot of research in this area and he says that everyday courage has two parts. The first is about managing the fear. The second is about having the willingness to act.
His tips for managing fear:
- Get angry! Anger trumps fear every time. Get angry with the status quo, with the fact that you're not doing what you want to be doing, that you've got this big vision of an exciting future in front of you and you need to do something about making it reality, dammit!
- Relive success. Think about the things you've done in the past that required courage - the jumps you've made - and the successes you've had, no matter how small. Remind yourself of the new job you started or the big house move, or the time you struck up a conversation with a stranger in the hope of getting to know them better. Think about how good that felt and draw on that feeling.
How do increase my willingness to act?
- Take baby steps. Remember the quote, 'the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step'? What one very small thing can you do today that will start you on your journey? Do it. Then think about what you'll do tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, do that. Keep going.
- Engage in a little failure. The key word here is little. So what if one of your baby steps doesn't work out as you'd hoped? You've got more to take tomorrow. Embrace the mistakes, learn from them and keep going. The stakes are low when you're taking baby steps and the rewards, even from the failures, can be great.
Recently I decided it was time to try again. It had been seven years since I put fingers to keyboard, so to speak, and written something for publication. I took one baby step at a time and I worked fast, without giving myself time to second guess, to get anxious, feel fear, to edit and re-edit. I wrote, read it and hit the send button. It worked, and I felt happy.
Here's a fact: Australians collectively interact with their mobile phone 480 million times per day.
I've tried digital detoxes (they don't last long) and I bear and share guilt about my mobile phone use. I know it interferes with relationships. I know it's a productivity killer. I know the signs of addiction... oops.
I also know that smartphones and digital tech are not going away - nor do I want them to. So rather than labour beneath the guilt of 'I should' or 'I shouldn't' when it comes to my smartphone, I've put together the ultimate list of apps for mental health, happiness and well being. If I'm going to be glued to my phone I may as well use the tech for good.
I have a rule when it comes to Christmas: My birthday comes first!
In mid November I celebrate another trip around the sun and until that day Christmas gets short shrift. Once the birthday is done however, it's on like Donkey Kong: the fun, the festivities, the fretting and the financial collapse.
This week I was thrilled to break my 'no Christmas pre-birthday' rule to contribute to the Woman's Day 'Keep You Cool at Christmas' guide. It's a week-by-week guide to staying Zen during the pre-Christmas chaos.
In an increasingly scheduled life (work, parenting, community, health, domestics... you know the drill) it's hard to find 10 minutes to myself.
If you've read about the myriad benefits of meditation but still find it tough to find 10 minutes to yourself, here's how I do it.
We’re often entreated to ‘Look on the bright side’ and ‘Think positively’ when life is treating us poorly. ‘It could be worse…’ we're told. Well yes it could, but that doesn’t make me feel better.
Humans are wired to focus on difficulties and challenges. We see the bad before we see the good. We give more weight to negative experiences than to positive ones. In fact some researchers suggest that we pay up to three times more attention to our ‘negative’ feelings than we do to our positive emotions.
Why are we such sad sacks?
Worry will not change the outcome.
Yet we do it anyway. It makes no sense.
This is your crazy brain at work.
Worry is a natural response to thinking about the future and anticipating events. Some of us are wired up to do it more than others. When we worry excessively and uncontrollably we're heading into anxiety territory and that needs professional support.
The human mind is capable of one billion billion calculations per second. It is a masterful machine, awesome in its power and complexity.
But it's unreliable. It's illogical, irrational and unreasonable.
How I'm going to get the kids to school on time.
Every problem has a solution. I firmly believe that. But not every solution is easy to find. Here's a productivity tip I learned last week that helps us to uncover the answers to some of life's peskier productivity questions. Questions close to my heart like, 'Why can't I get the kids to school on time? Ever?'
‘Please don’t whinge at me first thing in the morning.’
I need space. I need solitude. I need to come to terms with my day. I need music. I need a cup of tea.
What I don’t need is bad news and complaints. A child who doesn’t like the breakfast choices. A husband bemoaning politicians. A miaowing cat.
I am not a morning person but it’s more than that. It’s not good for me, for my mind, my productivity, my stress levels or my relationships to start my day with negativity.
It’s not good for anyone.
A question for you...
Looking over the year so far, what accomplishment or achievement makes you most proud? Which bit of life have you won at so far? Write it down.
Have I got you thinking?
I have been working online for 22 years. When I started Mark Zuckerberg was 12 years old. There was no social media. There were no smart phones. ‘Email’ as we know it now was pretty new. (How old do I feel?)
I’ve watched the Internet become our information go-to. I work online, I socialise online and I learn online. I tell my kids that we’ll ‘Google’ answers to vexing questions. They can’t imagine a life without YouTube and wonder why wifi stops at our front gate.