Essential life lessons from His Lordship

Essential life lessons from His Lordship

I think that these are the key life lessons that will lead to a happy life.

life lessons

In a very short space of time His Lordship taught me the following, all through leading by example:

  1. Choose to spend your time with people who love and accept you, and enrich your life.
  2. Listen to your body – get sufficient sleep to restore your energy levels.
  3. Practice portion control. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave food on your plate.
  4. Spend time relaxing outdoors in warm sunshine.
  5. Recognise that you truly deserve all the compliments and affection you receive.
  6. Only do that with which you are comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable with something, walk away.
  7. Learn to adapt to new environments in order to find out where you belong.
  8. If you need or want something, ask. You just might get lucky.
  9. Be patient. Better things are coming your way. Then, show gratitude.
  10. Make fun, play and exercise a regular feature in your life.

fun-725813_1280 (2)

Now, no-one is perfect. So although I have learnt a great deal from His Lordship, there are a few caveats that I also picked up along the way from his less-than-stellar examples…

  1. When giving someone a gift, make sure that it is something that they will like. Just because you think it’s awesome doesn’t mean that they will too.
  2. Certain health and hygiene routines are best done in private. Although we all appreciate cleanliness, we don’t always want to watch the process.
  3. It is not necessary to loudly announce your arrival. Every time.
  4. If you make a mess, clean up after yourself. Before someone else feels obliged to do so.
  5. You only have to be demanding once for people to change their perception of you.
  6. If you know that someone has a favourite chair in their lounge, don’t sit there.
  7. Even though you might consider yourself a foodie, remember that people are more important than food.
  8. Simply helping yourself to something without permission is not borrowing: it’s theft.
  9. If someone gives you a gift and you’re not sure what it is, remember that it might have uses beyond being food or a potential pillow.
  10. Standing motionless after you break wind is a dead giveaway.

What essential life lessons have you learnt?

Overcoming geese and other fears

Overcoming geese and other fears

I am afraid of geese. Seriously. It all stems back to an incident in Hyde Park, London when I was two years old. Unsurprisingly, I have no recollection of the event. But upon confessing this rather bizarre fear (especially because I never encounter any geese anyway), my mum recounted this event from my childhood. Freud would love this stuff!

You’ve got to admit this is terrifying!

I don’t have a phobia. Although I have discovered that it extends to other large birds with large beaks. Like the African grey parrot that used to wander around my mother-in-law’s living room. But then there are more serious fears – the kind that limit our development in life.

What is the predominant fear in your life that’s holding you back?  Failure, rejection, humiliation, or something else entirely? What’s that one moment in your life that you would ‘do over’ if you could?

overcoming fear and failure

In order to move forward, you have to place your fears and failures to one side. Like so many things (perhaps everything?) in life, it’s much easier said than done. But dwelling on current and past fears and failures will get you nowhere. It will just give them a more dominant position in your consciousness. Ironically, if you try to force these thoughts out of your mind, the same thing will happen. There’s a trick to this…

Although you cannot simply forget these things, you can choose to reconcile and focus. Accept that these things have happened, and that there is nothing you can do to change that. You cannot redefine the past. Reconcile yourself with these things, and accept that you can and must move forward.

It’s natural that you won’t forget your fears and failures – they will enter your thoughts. Take a step back mentally when these negative thoughts arise. See them as just that: thoughts. Remember, thoughts are not facts. Adopt a neutral stance, one of an observer who it neither critical nor judgmental. And then gently focus your attention on something else, something that is positive and rewarding.

overcome failure

We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all been paralysed (metaphorically) by fear. We’ve all failed at things. In this way, we are all the same. But here comes the difference: some people are crippled for life, whereas others bounce back. What makes a difference is choosing to place fears and failures to one side and move on, or choosing to be overwhelmed. The choice is yours.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your crazy (like geese) or serious (like failure) fears?

Ditch the blanket fort for some sunshine

Ditch the blanket fort for some sunshine

I love the sheer power of nature. Even in the most serene of settings, nature never fails to have a profound impact on me. To be honest, several hours before I wrote this post I felt awful. I felt that the only solution would be:

  1. glass bottle of Merlot
  2. Ferrero Rocher and Lindt chocolate
  3. a blanket fort.

But then I stepped outside and felt the warmth of the sun. A few hours later I realised that I had indeed needed three things to transform my mood. I had just thought of the wrong list. What really worked in the end was:

  1. a cup of green tea
  2. Autumn sunshine
  3. my hammock

This just reinforced my thoughts about nature that I’d had during a road trip… A few months ago whilst travelling through South Africa I had the opportunity to stay in many little towns along the way. There was one area, just outside one of these towns, that I found to be particularly magical. We stayed in a cottage luxurious unit in the middle of an ancient milkwood forest. We were surrounded by unspoilt fynbos as far as the eye could see. And where there wasn’t fynbos there were mesmerizing views of the sea and an incredibly beautiful bay. I felt truly immersed in nature. (No snide comments about the luxury accommodation, please.) In an incredibly short space of time we were able to completely relax and unwind. I really felt as though I was able to re-balance my body, mind and soul. It enabled me to be mindful, with remarkable results. Words simply cannot describe how my sense of wellbeing was completely transformed in this idyllic place. Whenever I enjoy spending time outdoors, I always have the same thought: we should do this more often. There really is a tangible healing power in nature. There’s some irony here too, because we wouldn’t need the curative powers of nature if our modern lifestyles didn’t take us away from nature in the first place. So we need nature to be a healing balm for the modern lifestyle, because this lifestyle prevents us from spending sufficient time in nature in the first place. Time for a change, methinks. What have been your healing and relaxing experiences in nature?

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel like a complete bourgeois hypocrite? I recently had one such humbling moment.

If you know me and/or follow this blog you will know that I believe a great deal in what I see as the necessity of self development. I’m all for personal development, finding one’s purpose in life, discovering motivation and inspiration, creating fulfillment, and the list goes on…

A few months ago my husband and I spent a couple of weeks traveling around South Africa. The last week or so consisted of a road trip from the west coast, following the coastline all the way back to our home near the east coast.

(Can I please just mention here that it was an actual bona fide road trip with stops along the way etc. My pet hate is when people say they are going on a road trip whereas they are actually simply driving from Point A to Point B without doing anything along the way apart from getting petrol and having toilet breaks. That is just a drive. A commute. Stop trying to make those ordinary journeys sound like exciting adventures worthy of an art film. Okay, rant over. Whew.)

So we were nearing the end of our road trip. Many people advise not to drive the last stretch, and to simply get in a plane once you reach a certain point. We decided to drive the whole way in order to see more of our country.

This meant that we drove through some very poor, undeveloped regions. As we drove along winding bumpy roads rife with potholes, we had to avoid hitting not only pedestrians but cattle, horses, donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens, and dogs as well. What we saw was people consumed by the need to survive.

I really saw how so many people’s lives are consumed by the basic requirements for survival. We drove past people carrying water containers and large bundles of firewood. We saw people tending to crops and looking after herds of animals. And this was not some rosy idyllic country scene. This was poverty.

It was then that I felt so incredibly humbled. I’ve always known that I am fortunate to not live in poverty. But I suddenly realised that something like personal development, something that I see as a necessity, is actually a luxury. If your every waking moment is consumed with tasks and chores that are focused on looking after your basic needs, the idea of ‘working on yourself’ seems so embarrassingly bourgeois.

I don’t think I will disregard the notion of personal development. But I now see it as a luxurious indulgence. Because, after all, I now have a completely different perspective as to what really constitutes a problem in life.

I’d love to hear your views on this topic…

Too much of a good thing? Nonsense!

Too much of a good thing? Nonsense!

Why is it that every time someone says something about having too much of a good thing they adopt that annoying facial expression? You know the one I mean? The one that channels your inner caveman and gets you itching to club them over the head? That one.

Hmm… Should I just thump him over the head right now?

I am adamant that there are certain things in life of which it is impossible to get too much. Things in my life such as…

  1. Time with family, my hen and other friends
  2. Laughter (unless you have a full bladder)
  3. Chocolate fondant
  4. Champagne (This is for the environment. You know, to save water.)
  5. My mom’s lemon meringue pie (not the crap version they serve in restaurants)
  6. Full body massages (and if you want to throw in a mani and pedi, why not?!)
  7. Time in nature (especially at and under the sea)
  8. Green tea (to balance out numbers 3 to 5)
  9. Absorbing novels (the kind where you experience withdrawal symptoms when you reach the end)

too much of a good thing

Right, so, in order to be all neat and tidy, it would be great to end with number 10. Thing is, I was about to write 10. Cipralex because this stuff changed my life. But then I realised that it’s not a great idea to tout what would ultimately be an overdose of happy pills.

There was a moment in fact when I thought that the meds might be working too well. Like that time that I scratched my brand new car (a gift from my husband) and laughed. I was delighted by my reaction, exclaiming the wonders of modern meds that target depression and anxiety. According to my significant other, I was taking things too far. So maybe, just maybe, in the case of Cipralex, there is such as thing as too much of a good thing.

PUT DOWN THAT CLUB YOU DAMN TROGLODYTE!

Just as a little tangent to the last sentence, when I was a teacher I always tried to give my classes useful advice. Like don’t go to a dodgy tattoo parlour, that sort of thing. (One of the pupils actually quoted me as saying something of this ilk in the school newsletter. Not one of my finer moments.)

 

 

 

And to think I was just worried about poor hygiene!

One such pearl of wisdom that I shared was that it’s always useful to use ‘big’ words when you insult someone. Like troglodyte. That way they feel insulted and stupid. Plus, they can’t really retaliate because they’re not sure what the insult meant. (Can you tell that I was bullied???)

But back to the actual topic at hand, I’m sure there are things in your life where you feel that you simply couldn’t have too much. I’d love to know what they are! Please share in the comments section.

Will you please quit pouring that green goop over yourself?!

Will you please quit pouring that green goop over yourself?!

In my last post I confessed to starting to go organic and natural. It’s not an obsession by any means. Promise. It’s just about trying to eliminate physical toxins such as harsh chemicals from our home. Despite what my Pinterest boards might seem to be proclaiming, I am not trying to be a domestic goddess.

It’s really made me start to think about toxicity in general. And not just slimy green goop that’s stored in dubious barrels.

eliminating toxicity

 

You might remember that I also wrote a post on emotional toxicity. Basically what I was trying to say is that being negative towards others, being unduly critical of others, gossiping, etc all just adds to the negativity in your own life. Plus, you pass that toxicity onto others. And nobody needs green goop of any shape or form in their life.

But there’s something else to consider. In some weird slimy version of the vaguely recent ice bucket challenge, many of us seem to pour toxic goop all over ourselves. And it is also a viral sensation.

Sure, by being negative about others we are encouraging negativity in our own lives. But all too often we assume unnecessary blame, feel inappropriate guilt, wallow in self doubt, and subject ourselves to undue self-criticism. Do you pour this green toxic gunk over yourself?

You are who you are.

And who you are is enough. 

I think that it’s time to take a more zen-like approach to life. Accept life for what it is. Accept others for who they are. Accept yourself for who you are.

I’m not trying to suggest that we should never try to improve. What I do think, however, it that constantly focusing on the future and trying to improve encourages us to be negative and critical about our present circumstances. It also prevents us from being mindful of the present and accepting ourselves with loving kindness and compassion.

Let’s face it: we all need a little love, kindness and compassion in our lives. Let it start as an inner personal phenomenon because your internal world ultimately determines your external reality.

I’d love to know your thoughts about eliminating the toxicity from your life?

It’s time to ‘fess up

It’s time to ‘fess up

I have a confession. I’m becoming one of those people. The people who make you sigh, grimace, and roll your eyes. I’ve been sucked into the world of leading an organic and natural lifestyle. If you know what ACV is without referring to Google, then you’re one of us. And there’s no way out!

Coconut oil is a fad that might actually be worth all the fuss…

Just to be clear: this does not mean that I’m becoming some sort of woo-woo hippie who doesn’t adhere to modern hygiene. I shower daily and wash my hair regularly (more on ‘no poo’ later).

It all started innocently enough. Well, as innocent as it can be with Pinterest. As far as I can tell, only women suffer from this addiction.

Pinterest addiction

Beware: I have heard that men can adopt the tough love delete-your-app approach. But I think this only applies if you have a DIY Project board. Something about the words ‘but it shows you how on Pinterest – it’s so quick and easy’ is akin to an evil curse.

In our household the wording is more along the lines of ‘but I found it on Pinterest and it’s natural and doesn’t have chemicals’

This latest compulsive sage started when I happened across a few posts about natural alternatives to chemical detergents. I thought it was worth trying out. They sucked me in! It was the gateway drug of all things natural and organic. I read a few articles about the ingredients in ‘conventional’ detergents and toiletries and then there was no going back. (What’s worse, I’m not only guilty of addiction, I’m also guilty of dealing – leading to others’ Pinterest addictions.)

And then it snowballed: from detergents, to all sorts of products. In this way, Pinterest has an unfair advantage over those of us with a compulsive streak. Pinterest led me to Thank Your Body. Google led me to Faithful to Nature – and they courier the stuff to you. It’s all too easy and available. One kitchen cupboard is now dedicated to my stash.

Not that I’m a die-hard organic-or-nothing gal. I mean seriously, could they not have come up with a better term for ‘no poo’? It sounds like a constipated toddler rather than an alternative to chemical shampoo. Terms aside, I still believe in the aim of all things natural.

My aim from the beginning has been to eliminate as many chemical toxins from our home as possible. And I feel good about that. But it got me thinking about the broader meaning of toxicity. Make sure you read my next post about emotional toxicity and how it’s everywhere and needs to be eradicated (just like those carcinogenic germs)…

I’d love to hear from you. What’s your take on going the organic and natural route?

Pink elephants, lemon meringue pie, and eliminating toxicity

Pink elephants, lemon meringue pie, and eliminating toxicity

I have to admit that I read a lot of articles of the LifeHacker variety. If you’re like me, you’ll have this this lovely warm Aha! moment. And then dish up another serving of dessert as you watch yet another episode of Bones, and somehow forget the beauty of that insight.

On another note, I’m a self-confessed lemon meringue pie snob. And glutton. And addict. And obsessive. And compulsive.

Over and over again we’re told the same stuff:

  • eat right
  • exercise right
  • sleep right

But we also need to think right.

And I’m not just talking about having the right mindset, or being optimistic. Judging from what people say and write, I think that we’re guilty of a lot more negativity that we realise. I believe that negative thoughts and comments are truly toxic to our wellbeing.

toxic thoughts

It’s just so easy to fall into the trap. I think we’re all too quick to judge, to criticise, to belittle, to gossip. Oh of course we all agree that these things are awful, but yet these kind of comments seem to creep into conversations all the time. And I’m no exception.

Taking it a step further, I think that even negative things said in jest, in teasing, are just as toxic. If you’re think I’m being oversensitive, then that’s okay. I think you’ll just be proving my point. Because it’s okay to be sensitive. I’d rather have a capacity for empathy and be sensitive than be that woman who sends bitch slap messages.

negative messages

I think that even when we say negative things in a joking manner, that negativity is still transferred somehow. I’ll use an example that is random but is nonetheless one of my personal favourites…

Whatever you do, do NOT think of a pink elephant.

I’m hazarding a guess that you now have an image of a rosy pachyderm in your mind? It’s kinda cute, hey? Awwww. Okay, back to my point…

Even though the instruction was not to think of something, that idea or image was still presented to your consciousness. I think that negative things said in a joking or teasing fashion are just the same. Long after the humorous tone has faded, the message remains.

So here’s to being mindful of what we are thinking, saying and writing. To eliminating the negative – and being committed to doing so.

do not think of a pink elephant

You’ll have to read my next post to find out my embarrassing confession when it comes to eliminating the toxicity in my life.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the extent of negativity and trying to eliminate it?

The real truth about creating new habits

The real truth about creating new habits

I initially thought that the title of this post would be ‘Create 7 Habits in 7 Days’. Clearly I was feeling somewhat overambitious that day. Let’s just say that I put the ‘C’ in OCD.

One night when I was plagued with insomnia, I was reading through various blogs. (Just so you know, it’s a great habit to read blogs. Nothing like a bit of shameless self marketing thrown in here and there…) Anyway, the point is that I came across a post that was all about using a checklist to develop new habits.

new habits

At first I thought it sounded a little twee. But I never can resist a list. Or an opportunity to use colourful pens. Or an excuse to start a journal of sorts.

Now I must mention here that the post did argue the logic and merits of focusing on developing one habit at a time. I decided that I would work on seven. Simultaneously. Like I said, I put the ‘C’ in OCD. So my checklist looks something like:

  1. Wake up on time
  2. Go to gym
  3. Use Pomodori (learn about the Pomodoro System here)
  4. Meditate
  5. Plan meals for next week (More than a serious rut, my cooking is in a bottomless crater.)
  6. Buy groceries accordingly.
  7. Do some crafts on Friday.

(In hindsight I see I forgot: 8. Get a damn life!)

So out came my once-forgotten journal and my stash of pens. I selected seven different colour inks for no reason other than I thought it looked pretty. (Now who’s being twee?!) I created a weekly checklist where I could keep track of how efficient I was being in adopting these new habits.

My idea of heaven…

At first I thought that, like so many simple ideas, this works. It’s ridiculous how much I love ticking off items on a list. Now I may not be Catholic, but I did experience some guilt when items were not ticked off for the day.

And then life happened.

It’s so easy to plan something, like a list of things you want to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine. But I find that we often plan in a vacuum. We forget that things happen. Errands need to be run. Interruptions occur. You get distracted. You get tired. You discover a concussed baby monkey in your garden (true story). A cat moves into your home. The cat takes over your life for the first week. You have to hire a carpenter to install a cat-flap. You need to take your cat to the vet. You get the picture.

But I do think that using lists and checklists has its merits, especially for the conscientious types. (That’s me. Oh the shame!) If nothing else, you start developing systems, and I always think that systems deserve more focus that goals. Because with the right systems in place, you will achieve your goals as part of the process.

And what is life, if not a long-term process during which we’re trying to achieve fulfilment? Be mindful of the systems you create in your life, because they will ultimately determine your happiness. And happiness should always be the ultimate life goal.

I’d love to hear about your successes. How have you managed to adopt new habits?

The best time to adopt a better lifestyle

The best time to adopt a better lifestyle

I have this theory that the timers on cardio machines were developed in Hell. They operate slowly in order to extend your torture and agony. There is no way that twenty minutes on a treadmill is the same as twenty minutes in real time. It’s some sort of Hellish cosmic joke where we’re all victims of this never-ending hoax. And then, to add insult to injury, we keep on returning to gym.

Sometimes I get the better of the hoax and avoid the gym. But then I get sucked in again. And the agony is always worse once you return after a break.

You know that feeling when you are sweating it out and you need to distract yourself from what you are enduring? I was on the rowing machine at gym, looking out the large glass windows at the trees on the surrounding hills. The beautiful colour of the changing colours of Autumnal leaves captured my attention.

There was one tree that really caught my eye. The changing colours were incredible. Perhaps it stood out so predominantly because the forest behind it was still green. Even in Nature, things grow and develop at different times.

So it was okay that I was only on the rowing machine in May, my first real attempt to kick-start what should have been New Year’s resolutions. If trees can adapt to the seasons at different rates, so can we.

I had been beating myself up (not literally – that would be too excessive even for me) about the fact that it had taken several months for me to get my A into G. I realised that ‘should’ often involves undue criticism. We worry about what we should be doing, what we should look like, what we should be earning, and when we should achieve all this.

But that just focuses on the negative and fosters criticism of ourselves and others. It’s not about a specific date. It doesn’t matter when you start. So what if I only got back on track with a healthy lifestyle in May? The point is that I have. Who cares when I will get to the level of fitness that I once reached? The point is that I will at some point. Hell, I might even surpass it.

healthy lifestyle

So when is the best time to adopt a better lifestyle? It’s not about when. It’s not even really about how. It’s about developing a habit organically because you enjoy the process. And that is what my next post is all about: the truth about developing new habits.

When did you do something later than you ‘should’ have, only to realise the irrelevance of the timing and your self-criticism?