Tag: focus

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?

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?

What Are Your Emotions Doing to Your Brain?

“Emotions are related to activity in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behaviour, and determine the significance of what is going on around us.”

It is so important to keep this in mind because heightened emotions have such a powerful and far-reaching impact on our lives, and the lives of those around us. Our emotions determine what we notice, how we react, and how we perceive and evaluate our environment. It’s no wonder that things look better in the morning when you’re feeling more composed. At that point your emotions are more under control, more bearable, because the immediate intensity of your emotional reaction has dissipated. This then has a calming effect on your perception of your circumstances; you tend see things in a calmer light, which then results in more mediated behaviour.

It’s just another reason why mindfulness it so important. And now neuroscience provides the incontrovertible evidence. It pays to be in tune with your emotions and to regulate them effectively. Having control over your emotional wellbeing essentially gives you control over your behaviour and the rest of your life.

Finding Perspective When Things Are Pear-Shaped

Finding Perspective When Things Are Pear-Shaped

There is nothing (NOTHING!) that infuriates me more than someone telling me to ‘chin up’ when things in my life are a little pear-shaped. (Any references to my figure are completely coincidental and unintentional.) Or when someone tries to point out that ‘everyone’ experiences this. Or that their lot in life is far worse than mine. Once my unabated fury at their complete insensitivity and lack of empathy has worn off, I do have to admit that I understand their intention. There is some wisdom in trying to get things in perspective and see things in a more positive light. However, making tactless comments is not the way to change anyone’s mindset.

Simply telling someone to look for the silver lining is not going to work. It just isn’t. The focus is all wrong. People have to learn how to respond to difficulties in their own way that enables them to have a sense of mastery and control in their lives. The coping mechanisms that we employ will ultimately determine the degree of power that these difficulties can exert in our lives. As ever, I have a nifty little quote…

“Difficult things are part and parcel of life itself. It is how we handle those things that makes the difference between whether they rule (control) our lives or whether we can relate more lightly to them.”

There is a way to respond to and cope with difficulty that neither negates the experience of it, nor renders one powerless in its wake. Each one of us has to develop the skills to handle difficulties effectively, as such things can and will arise in our lives.

And this brings me back to my original point. It’s futile to try to diminish the severity of the difficulties someone is experiencing by imposing your views and advice on him/her. You will simply come across as being inconsiderate and insensitive. Difficulties have to be accepted and acknowledged if they are to be dealt with properly.

For any person, the focus needs to be on how you can handle negative situations in your life so that in the end you can find your own sense of perspective and ‘relate more lightly’ to the difficulties as they present themselves.

Why I Don’t Multitask – and the Art of Balancing on One Leg

Why I Don’t Multitask – and the Art of Balancing on One Leg

We all know someone who seems to be a multitasking guru. You know who I’m talking about: the person who can simultaneously proofread important documents, design custom fittings for their home renovation, answer the phone, train the newbie at work… All while making a cup of herbal tea and nibbling on a low-GI health muffin.

Envious? Don’t be. She probably isn’t completing any of those tasks to the best of her ability. And she definitely isn’t enjoying any one of them as much as she would if she wasn’t multitasking. As for the muffin? No matter what adjectives you throw in front of it, the word ‘muffin’ is just a euphemism to hide the fact that she’s eating cake in the middle of the morning.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being organised, efficient and showing initiative. My point is simply that there is this notion that to be all these things you have to be balancing a thousand tasks at once – and I think that there is more validity in learning to focus on doing one thing at a time. Yes, we all have those moments when time is a commodity and we simply have to multitask; that’s understandable. The reality is, though, that we should only multitask when it is absolutely unavoidable.

Being able to focus on one thing at a time has an intrinsic sense of calm, order, balance and joy. You’re also more likely to be better at whatever it is you’re doing because you’re not distracted by a constant stream of competing thoughts. There is a unique beauty that comes with focus.

Tree Pose in yoga
The Tree Pose in Yoga

To use an analogy, it’s like trying to hold the Tree Pose in yoga. If you keep your eyes focused on one spot, your thoughts focus on the simple task of trying to balance… and you maintain the posture. As soon as your eyes wonder, or you start thinking about something else, or you start comparing yourself to others in the yoga studio, you start to wobble. I speak from recent experience: when I was focused, I could remain absolutely still in the Tree Posture. As soon as I started thinking about something else (ironically, it was the idea for this blog post) I deteriorated into something like Tree Struck by Lightning and Slowly Falling Over Pose. Whoops.

It was a useful reminder of what can be achieved when the mind is focused and absorbed in one task. It sounds quite banal, but once you master a true sense of focus, you will be struck by the changes you feel within yourself as you implement this strategy in everyday life. If you will excuse the pun, it brings balance to all aspects of your life and an enhanced sense of beauty, joy and fulfillment.