Limits can set you free

The photographic exhibition that I stumbled on along the beachfront.   The cornflower blue sky bleeding into the sea.  Fresh air and exercise, basking in the early summer sunshine.

I would have missed it all if my budget had allowed for a return bus ride from my coffee date.

Instead, I spent the fare on another drink and took an hour to meander back along the seafront.  The whole morning was pure fun, with none of that queasy feeling you get when you spend more than you can afford.

Is there anything more joyful and freeing than knowing you have more than enough – money, time, energy, love, health?  Isn’t that what we are all striving for, really?

And yet, without limits, they are so easily squandered.

  • We spend money we don’t have, rather than stick to a budget or a list, feeling uneasy even as we spend it.
  • Tasks are allowed to take as long as they take.  Deadlines drift and bleed into others and into our free time.
  • Meetings are held and nothing is achieved.  No matter, we’ll just schedule another one, and another until our deadline is so close that we have to be productive.
  • Bedtimes flex and we pay the price in tiredness the next day.
  • We choose quantity over quality in our food and find ourselves fatter and hungrier than ever.
  • One glass of wine leads to another – and another and another.
  • And, of course, hours can disappear into social media binges which end only when we’re exhausted,  ratty and cross with ourselves for getting so little done.

Limits – like so many things which actually lead to happiness but are bad for consumer spending –  have become unfashionable.   We’ve been led to believe that limits are a curb on our possibilities, our choices, our very freedom.

But we can use limits to set us free – from work, debt, low energy, poor health, stress – to enjoy more time, money, joy, life.

Need some inspiration to get started?  Right this way.

Limit your spending

Set a monthly budget that allows you to save a regular amount – however small – and stick to it at all costs.   Challenge yourself to get what you need and do what you want for less.   Discover the joy of feeling in control of your money and knowing that you have more than enough for your needs.

Then, once you’ve got the savings habit, learn how to invest for far greater returns and earlier retirement.

It’s your money and your future financial security – put yourself in charge.

Limit the claims on your attention

Only read your mail and e-mail when you have the time to deal with it.

Challenge yourself to deal with each piece of mail one time only.   Scan it, and if it makes your heart leap or you have to act on it, then act on it – straight away.  If you don’t want, or have, to act then bin it, or unsubscribe from it, then and there.

Don’t save anything to consider later.  Don’t write half a reply and promise to reply more fully another time.   You are just adding to your to do list.  Just do it.

Limit your to dos

To mis-quote Bill Gates, we underestimate how much we can do in a year, and overestimate how much we can do in a day.   Pick just three things to achieve in any day and do them.   Repeat.

It all adds up and it builds your confidence in getting things done.  And the other things will still be there in the morning.

Limit your space, limit your stuff

You may not need a bigger house or more storage space, and all that that costs you.  You may just need less stuff, smaller stuff, stackable stuff, fold away stuff.

Stuff expands to fill the space available.  Limit the space, limit the stuff.  More inspiration here.

Limit the time it takes

Remember how productive you are at work right before you go on holiday?

Experiment with time limits and deadlines.  See how quickly you can get something done.  Let go of the need for it to be perfect and feel how good it feels to get it off your plate.

Or see if you can leave the office at the same time each day and still get your work done.

Then use the spare time for something fun.  Or better still, schedule the fun in first, then make your work fit around it.

Limit the distractions

Before you go online or pick up your phone, ask yourself why you are you doing it. To research something?  Make contact with friends?  Surf for inspiration and, if so, for what?

Do the task you intended to do.  Set a time limit for idle surfing or researching.  Then close your browser down or put your phone away.

Resist the temptation to keep checking in.  If anything’s critical, someone will ring you.  Anything else can wait until you have the time and energy to deal with it.

Limit what’s going in your mouth

If you can’t stop grazing and picking, then set limits on when you eat.  Go back to old fashioned mealtimes and only eat then.  Plan your meals so that you fill up on good quality, sustaining food then don’t eat until the next meal.

For those of us lucky enough to have more than enough to eat, there are worse things in the world than feeling a bit hungry.

Limit what’s going on in your head

When something pops into your head, treat it like email.  If it’s important and urgent, action it straight away.  If it’s important but not urgent, action it or write it down.

Anything else – worries, ruminations, criticisms, judgments, frustrations, imaginary conversations – let it go and get back to what you were meant to be doing.   More on all that here.

Like water, our time, money, attention and health are life-giving, precious resources.  We can waste them and be limited by their lack.  Or we can choose and use limits to serve us and set ourselves free.

What life-giving limits do you use – and what new ones could give you more?

A simple way to stop wallowing and feel better

So, this week, I failed.

I wanted something, I went for it, spent valuable time pursuing it, felt it was right – perfect for me even.

I didn’t get it.  I wasn’t even close.

It’s been a bumpy week going through all the emotions on the change curve: Shock (“No way, this was meant for me” – Tuesday); Denial (“There must be some mistake; maybe they got my email address wrong” – Wednesday); Anger (So.Much.Anger… – Thursday).

And Friday – Acceptance (breathes out) and Moving On (“Thank you so much for the opportunity…”).

I’ve been rinsed, spun and left creased and limp once again by the realisation that, just because I want something, it doesn’t mean I am going to get it. That, surprisingly, even after all these years, I still don’t have control over what happens (and believe me, I’ve tried).

I think many of us are feeling this way at the moment, perhaps more keenly than ever before, maybe even much of the time.

In this space it’s so easy to feel exhausted, helpless and down; to ruminate, worry; become bitter, moany, unproductive.

It’s important to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings, of course; perhaps even give into them for a while and allow ourselves to wallow and rest if we can.

But it’s also important to know how to move on.  Before we build a mind maze with walls too high to climb; too deep and strong to break through; until it pens us in, blocks our view and keeps us circling for too long.

My gran’s generation didn’t believe in wallowing.  There wasn’t the time.  She would have been told to “Snap out of it”, or “There are plenty who are worse off than you” or any of the hundred other things people told themselves back then so they could “buck up” and get on with it.

My modern-day suggestion is to ask yourself: “What’s good?”

What’s good”?   Two simple words to pivot on and find your way back.

Your brain can’t help but respond.  It will immediately stop circling and start searching for things you can be glad about, grateful for, move towards.  You will feel happier, stronger, lighter, more creative.

Try it for yourself the next time you read the news or your friends’ despairing posts on social media – notice where your eyes go and feel the instant difference it makes.  Then move forwards.

So – what’s good?

In praise of doing nothing

DaisyIf I had weeded the patio last week as I’d planned, I wouldn’t have been delighted today by a daisy, peeping out between the cracks of our grey urban garden.

If I hadn’t given up on trying to write and gone to do the washing up, I wouldn’t have seen the daisy from my kitchen window and been inspired to write this post.

When we feel submerged by our to do lists, pressed upon by time and what other people deem important, we can remind ourselves that doing nothing is an option too.

Often, it’s the best choice.  For when you need to recharge and be re-inspired.  For when you are about to make a leap that doesn’t feel exactly right.  For when you don’t know what to do.  For when pushing forwards feels more like wading than gliding.

Just wait, watch, be amazed and inspired by what emerges.  Seize the moment then.  And notice how much easier and more joyful it all seems.

You could rush around the garden hunting for Easter eggs.  But sometimes it’s good to just sit idly in the middle of the grass and see if anything glittery catches your eye.

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You may be thinking: “That’s all very well, but I have deadlines to meet and bosses to please”.   No problem – you can just play with this on something low risk and see how it goes.

Sometimes it can take me a week to write a post.  This one was drafted in 10 minutes.  Inspired action doesn’t have to take longer than slogging through.  And it’s a lot more fun 🙂

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Mind the gap – between the Ideal World and the Real World

Does your life “measure up”?

It’s only since my daughter started learning maths that I’ve noticed how much our culture likes to count and measure things.  It’s so “normal” that I doubt we even realise we’re doing it much of the time.

2017. Not just “the year”, but a measure of years (and only one of many). Our ages and birthdays.  Time. Our weight.  Money in our bank account.  Number of Facebook friends/likes.  And, of course, it’s everywhere in the world of school and work – grades, sales targets, appraisal scores, KPIs.

We’re so obsessed that we even try to measure things that can’t sensibly be measured.  Who is the prettiest, the thinnest, the nicest?  Which drawing is deserving of an “A” grade?  Who is our “best” friend?  Which is the coolest brand to be wearing/driving right now?  Which is the “best” school in the area?  Am I a Helicopter Parent, a Slummy Mummy, a Hipster? Who is the most expert at a subject?  Whose views are worthy of being heard?  Whose life looks the best?  Am I “old”?  How happy am I?  Is my life “worthwhile”?  Am I “doing my best”?

(I got a bit carried away there – there’s so much material.  I bet you can think of a lot more.)

It matters because in life, as in the business world: “What gets measured gets managed”.   The more things we (or others) try to measure in our lives, the more things we feel the need to compete in, judge, “manage”, control, maybe even outright lie about.

And that comes with a high cost – in time, energy, money, wellbeing.

When we feel anxious, it’s more than likely because we are measuring.

  • Have I done enough work to get an A/ a Very Good at my appraisal/ a promotion?
  • Am I beautiful/handsome enough?
  • Do I have enough time to do all that I want?
  • Have I achieved all I wanted to by this birthday?
  • Will I achieve all I want to this year?
  • Is my house tidy/modern/clean enough?

And when we feel bad, it’s because we think that we don’t “measure up” (I’m not handsome enough/my clothes are not cool enough/my life is not exciting enough/ I wasn’t kind enough/I don’t have enough money).

But do we want to be always competing, measuring, feeling like we’re falling short?  What purpose does it serve? Is it inevitable?

Or is there another way?

Let’s look at what’s really going on here.  When we feel “less than” we are measuring ourselves against an Ideal World – beloved of lifestyle blogs, tv programmes, business managers, Instagram pages, advertisements and magazines, and other (also anxious) people who think they want to live there.

Compared to the Ideal World, we will never be beautiful enough, healthy enough, kind enough, smart enough, travelled enough, popular enough.  Because we live in the Real World.

The gap between the Ideal World and the Real World is how we define “enough”.  It’s the job of the people who want to sell us stuff or work us harder to “mind the gap”.  Keep it wide enough that we feel Not Good Enough – so we work more/ spend more to keep up, get help, or make ourselves feel better about our “shortcomings”.

The Ideal World will always be with us.  But how we respond is our choice, and we don’t have to buy it.

There are counter-measures we can use, to bring ourselves back to the real, imperfect, messy world, where we and all the other real people belong .  Where we can be more accepting, compassionate, creative, forgiving, kind and effective.

The next time you feel anxious or “less than”, pause for a moment and try one of these.  [*But first please see my comments in the footnotes.*]

Just let go

Just breathe and notice the thought or feeling passing through as you might notice someone walking by on the street.  Notice it come and go in a detached way, maybe smile at it, then get on with your life.  You can literally shrug your shoulders as you do.

Make your thoughts explicit and address them

If you have the time and space, say the thought out loud or write it down.  It might be specific and useful, like “Oh no I forgot the dry cleaning”.

Or it might be more general and unhelpful, like: “I don’t have enough time”, “I hate my job”, “I feel old”, “I’m too fat/ugly/boring”, “I have no friends” .  Many of these generalisations do not survive the light of day.  Just saying them out loud or writing them down tends to bring up counter-arguments and gets you working on what you want to change.

Change your focus

Find positives and things to appreciate when you feel like you’re falling short.  Be kind to yourself.  You may be getting older, but you are still healthy, for example.   You may have upset someone, but you didn’t do it on purpose.

You can also keep little mantras handy, to help you re-enter the real world and lift you up.  I like these:

  • “There’s the ideal world and then there’s the real world”;
  • “You’re as young today as you will ever be”;
  • “I’m only human”;
  • “It’s all good”.

Find and create what works for you.

Laugh at yourself

And, my personal favourite counter-measure: humour.   The next time you are feeling like you don’t “measure up”, say to yourself in a mock horrified voice: “OH MY GOD! (gasp) I’M NOT PERFECT!!!!” Guaranteed to bring you back to the real world in no time.

In the Real World, you measure up just fine.

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*Please note: The above examples are designed for people with fairly mild, sporadic anxiety.  If your anxiety causes you distress or feels crippling to you, or examining your thoughts only makes you feel worse, then please consider seeking professional help.

Happy New Year!

I’m easing myself back into work today and a new post will follow soon.  In the meantime, here are some quick links to resources from the blog if you’re thinking about making new year resolutions.

Firstly, some thoughts about goals (or resolutions – same thing really):

Goals: the enemy of joy (and what to do instead)

But if you want to go there:

How to make resolutions you’ll keep

10 questions you could ask yourself when you’re stuck

Dive on in and good luck!  Do let me know if I can help in any way.

Happy 2017!

Paula xx

Maybe you are “living the dream”

What if I told you that you are already living your dream?  Would you believe me?

A lucky few might.  Most of us might react along a range from rueful laughter to strong disagreement.

But for many of us it’s (partly) true.  Here’s why.

Even when we feel that much of our lives is controlled by others, we still exercise a lot of our own free will.  From a very young age, we make choices within the limits we have, based on our own desires, interests and preferences.

And, if we look back over the free choices we have made in our lives, we will find that they are linked by remarkably consistent themes.

For example, we might have chosen to:

  • work as little or as much as possible;
  • stay in one place, or move around often;
  • keep things quiet or busy;
  • work with visual media, words, or things;
  • be around people mostly, or mostly be alone;
  • celebrate with big parties, or intimate dinners;
  • be physically active or sedentary;
  • learn new things by taking classes, or by our own experiments;
  • dress ourselves to look nice or to feel comfortable, or both;
  • choose specific colours or styles in our shopping, dressing, decorating;

and on it goes.

We might stray from time to time: dabble with a new way of dressing, working, learning, living (out of boredom, or fear we are doing things wrong, or to please other people).  But we will yearn for, and usually return to, the themes which work for us in the end.

In a world that is always telling us there’s more and selling the new, it’s easy to think that we need to shake things up all the time; that choosing the same sort of things day after day is dull, boring, sad, instead of calming and comforting.  We fail to notice, let alone appreciate, that we are already choosing what suits us, what makes us uniquely ourselves.

So if we want to live our dream life, we don’t need to buy the latest style of sofa.  We just need to do this:

  • notice and appreciate what we already do that we love;
  • find the themes that link those things together (and maybe put them together to help create a vision for your life);
  • make more choices based on those themes.

There’s a good chance that you are living your dream life already, just not all the time.

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One of my favourite coaching questions for new clients is: “Tell me your story”.   You can learn so much about yourself from where you start your story, what you put in or leave out, the language you use and the themes that keep popping up throughout. 

You’ll get the best results from this if you do it with a skilled coach, but you can also write down your own story, or record it, if you want to do this for yourself.

Or try this question to help discover your themes:  “What did I love doing when I was seven years old?”. 

Goals: the enemy of joy (and what to do instead)

visionI’m not a big fan of goal-setting.   This is why.

Goals are often based on a flawed premise: if I achieve this (lose five pounds/get my degree/earn a certain sum of money/buy a house) then I will get that (happiness/love/admiration/friends).  So I must achieve this.  If I don’t achieve this, I won’t get that.

The goal becomes a high-stakes game in which there are only two possible outcomes: win (reach the goal and be loved, admired, happy) or lose (fail, be unhappy).

And even if we achieve our goal, we then wonder why we aren’t completely happy.  Relieved, maybe, probably exhausted, a bit happier perhaps.  Did achieving the goal bring you everything you hoped for?  Probably not.

From here, we either hold on too tightly to what we’ve achieved (because to lose it would be to lose what we have worked so hard for), become apathetic (I worked so hard for this and I’m no better off – what’s the point in trying again?) or garner our strength, set another goal, and press on again.

Stress, stress, stress.

Goal-setting also tends to kill creativity.  While we are ploughing on towards reaching our goal, we forget that there are many other ways to get to where we want to be.

And goals keep us focused on the future, not the present, where we can actually be happy.

Goal-setting seems attractive as a refuge from the uncertain, a bid to control what can’t be controlled – our life.  But life is lived in nuances, possibilities, options.  It’s a dance, not a route-march.

There is a better, easier, happier way.  And that’s to start with a vision.

A vision is a more general idea of the kind of life you want to lead; what your idea of a happy, fulfilling life looks like.  How do you want to spend your leisure time?  Do you want  a relationship or a family or neither?  How do you want to keep in touch with your family and friends?  Is there a particular religion or spiritual practice you would like to follow?  How do you want to eat and keep healthy?  What kind of work would you like to do and how/where/when would you like to do it?  How much rest do you want to have?

There are many ways to do this.  You can make a vision board using pictures and things that inspire you or remember the times when you were happiest and work from there.  You can also do this work with a coach if you don’t think you know, or if you think best out loud or with other people.

Whatever vision you come up with, it should inspire and excite you, energise you and carry you forward.   It will become your touchstone to remind you what you can do right now to realise your dreams, and your guide book to refer to when you feel out of sorts and realise that you have moved away from what you most want.

From here, it may feel natural to make some vision-fuelled plans, or even set some longer-term goals.   So go right ahead, if you want.  At least you know now why you are setting them.

Just remember to check in with your vision now and then to make sure that what you are working on will take you there.  If your goals stop serving your vision, find another way.  They are only a means to an end, not the end itself.

Or, you may prefer to just free-flow it.  Keep your vision in mind and just take what feels like the next best step.   Or just incorporate elements of your vision into your day to day life, do what makes you happy and see where it leads you.

Most of us work best with a mixture of the two – something to work towards (but not too much – one or two aims is enough), while also paying attention to happiness in the here and now.

Visions keep us light, playful, creative.

“You’ll never get it wrong and you’ll never get it done, so have fun, have fun, have fun!”*

What would you do differently if you believed that that was true?

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Incidentally, visions  work well in business too (and are a great  way to take some of the stress out of managing high performers).  This is one of my favourite mottos (paraphrased from a George S Patton quote): 

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what you need to see and then be amazed by how they achieve it.

* (paraphrased from Abraham-Hicks)

What lifts you up and carries you through?

balloons

Feeling sluggish?

Dull days, darker evenings and the slow creep of winter can leave us feeling drained and low. Our energy and enthusiasm can get squeezed out as the pressure to Get It All Done slowly builds towards the holiday season.

We may long for respite and rest, and sometimes that’s what’s needed.

But rest is only a pause.  It doesn’t energise, strengthen, inspire, bring joy.

Now, more than ever, we need to make time for the things that light us up and spur us on.

What gives you energy?  I don’t mean the quick hits of caffeine or sugar that just stave off a slump for the next hour or so.  Not just things you like doing.  Not crossing things off your to do list, so you feel a bit relieved.

I’m talking about the things that really lift your mood, open you up, brighten your day, leave you smiling, buzzing, raring to go.   The things that make you think: “That was so great, I would love to do that more often”.

For me, it’s bike rides along the beach, really helping someone who needs the help, a yoga session, country walks, daydreaming and doodling about my ideal life, running into a friend or neighbour for an unexpected chat, being playful: doing roly polys down hills, dancing in the living room, racing down big slides and playing “bundle” with my family after dinner.

Moments of connection, moments of exhilaration and silliness.  The more spontaneous, the better.  No amount of tv watching or sitting by the fire with a hot chocolate comes close.

Here’s a winter challenge for you.  Pay attention to find your energisers.  Find small ones you can do at work and at home.  Make it as easy as possible to do them and weave them into the fabric of your days.  Find bigger ones and plan them in for your down time.  When you feel stuck, bored, moany, sluggish or uninspired, pick one out of your menu and go do it.  If you can find ones that your family can do together, so much the better.

A happy life is just a series of happy moments.  Let’s create more of those and let them lift us and carry us through.

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Don’t think you have the time?  Consider this.

Not everything is your concern

holding-the-worldHave you ever thought about how much you “take on” mentally in any given day?

Our friend tells us about a difficult day they’re having or our child struggles with their homework and our immediate response is to take their problem on, think up a solution, offer an opinion, give advice.

When faced with a daily shower of depressing news headlines we internalise them, worrying and commenting on them with friends and online, feeling somehow responsible for them and how they play out.

When another person does something which annoys or offends us, we tuck it away inside, ranting about it, railing against it, brooding about it, trying to guess their motives, plotting how to stop it from happening again.  Getting infuriated when it does happen again (as, of course, it always does).

When we think we may have annoyed or offended others, we worry about it, beating ourselves up, endlessly questioning ourselves and our actions, wondering how we can stop that happening the next time.

Every day, we labour under the illusion that by railing, worrying, sharing and offering opinions we can shape events, manage other people’s lives, control the uncontrollable.  While trying to manage our anxiety about the many things outside of our control, we end up making ourselves and others more anxious.

And it’s ironic that we’re getting so overwhelmed and agitated that we aren’t even taking action on the things we care about.  So we share articles about terrible suffering, instead of donating to or volunteering for the charities working to alleviate it.  We moan about the government instead of voting or standing for Parliament.  We confuse worrying, opining and marching with long-term, positive, visionary action.  And in doing so we feel increasingly powerless.

It’s a peculiar kind of arrogance which leads us to think that we need to have a view on everything; that everything we do or think carries weight.  And a perverse logic that thinks we are going to make a difference when we only talk about the things that matter most to us.

So how do we stop concerning ourselves with All The Things and find the energy to work towards what we really care about?

Here are some things to consider.

In our dealings with other people

We are responsible for ourselves, our own lives, our actions and our responses.   I also think we have a responsibility not to deliberately harm or hurt others.

We are not responsible for others people’s lives, actions or responses to us.  We cannot control them, and nor should we try.  Worrying about them is a waste of time.  Interfering is arrogant and disrespectful.

Of course, there is a middle ground around being kind and respectful in our dealings with other people and being there for those who are vulnerable and in need.  What that looks like in practice is an individual choice.  But too few of us do this well because we are spreading ourselves so thin.

Other people’s problems

When someone (and that includes our children) tells us their problems, they are not asking for our help.  They are making conversation, thinking out loud, organising their thoughts.

The best thing we can do is stop and listen.  If we really can’t stop ourselves butting in, the next best thing we can do is empathise.   If we still can’t contain ourselves then we need to ask questions to help them clarify their thoughts.

We don’t need to take the problem on.  When we come up with suggestions, advice or an opinion We. Are. Not. Helping.  We are getting in the way.

When someone wants our help or advice, they will ask for it.  At that point, we can decide if we are able to help them or not.  Simple.

When something happens that you don’t like

Don’t resist it, rail against it, share it, deny it – it will only infect your mind like a virus.

Instead, first pay due attention.  Notice it and the feelings it provokes.

Then accept it.  It’s happened, it is what it is.

Then decide.  Are you are going to take it on or let it go?  Are you going to pick up the dirty laundry on the floor or leave it for the person who dropped it to pick up?  Are you going to run for Parliament or trust the people who are paid to be MPs to do their job?  Are you going to donate to or work for a particular charity or are you going to leave that work to those who are passionate about it while you get on with what you are called to do?

Then let it go.  The decision is made, move on.

There is great peace in realising that not everything has to be our business.   We don’t need to take everything on.   But when we do, we need to do it wholeheartedly.   That’s how we empower ourselves and others and can really make a difference.

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I wrote this piece primarily as a reminder to myself, but if you find something useful in these words, then please let me know in the comments.  Questions and contributions to the debate are also very welcome.

Distant goals or daily joys?

goal-photoFrom pretty much the moment we are born we learn that outcomes matter more than processes; that the destination counts for more than the journey; the ends justify the means.

As toddlers, we get the greatest praise for walking, not for trying to walk.  At school, we get most recognition for our test scores, not the effort we put in.  And once at work, we are expected to “perform”, meet our KPIs, hit our targets.  We celebrate marriages, not relationships, medals not sportsmanship.  In conversation we talk about the new car we got or the holiday we took (exciting!), not how long we saved for it (dull).

It’s everywhere and it matters.  Why?  Because most outcomes are not under our control.  They depend on our efforts, yes, but also on other people, on our environment, genetics, technology, dumb luck.

When we buy into the lie that we are what we achieve, we allow our self-esteem  and happiness to be ruled by forces outside of ourselves.  We are adrift, not anchored; anxious.  We spend too much time, energy and money trying to work out and follow the formula for “success”.  We can try too hard for approval, sacrificing our own needs in the process, and feeling crushed when we don’t get it.  We may even resort to cheating, dominating and manipulating others in a bid to control them and make ourselves feel safe.

Life is messy, uncertain, unpredictable.   We can let ourselves get sucked into the cyclone, spinning as we strive to achieve the things others value and approve of.

Or, we can find solid ground and anchor ourselves in what matters most to us: what lifts us, brings us joy and gives us a deep sense of fulfilment.

From that more secure, more energising place, we can aim higher, take more risks, build more positive relationships, help others better, follow our dreams.

Here are some ways this can, and does, work in practice.

Want to be successful in your work?  Notice what you are best at and love doing at work.  Then figure out how doing those things can get you to where you want to be.  When you are happy and fulfilled in your work you will naturally attract and build the customers and positive relationships you need to help you succeed.

Want to lose weight?  Stop dieting.  Stop stuffing average-tasting, unsatisfying food mindlessly into your mouth when you are bored or over-hungry or feel like you need comfort.  Instead, discover what food tastes amazing and feels satisfying to you.  Then make it and savour it.  Over time you can adapt it to make it healthier while keeping the taste you love.   But first, just learn to love food again.

Want a successful relationship?  Notice and pursue what you love and lights you up.  Dress in the way that makes you happy.  For any relationship to succeed, particularly after kids, you need to be with someone who knows you and loves you for the person you really are.

Want your child to succeed in life?  Don’t we all? But it’s not within your control.  So enjoy your own life and enjoy being with them.  Share their interests and help them get what they want.  Expand their horizons, help them experiment, but expect nothing.  Build them up and be their friend.  Then leave them alone to define success for themselves.

While you are busy playing, experimenting and enjoying, the stars may align so you get that promotion or meet your soulmate or your post goes viral or your child gets an “A”.  That’s just the icing on the cake.  Because you’re already living a happy and satisfying life.

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The above examples are simple, but not easy to do, particularly if you have got out of the habit of listening to and pleasing yourself.  Working with a coach can help you discover what brings you to life and how to pursue it.

If you’d like to dig deeper into outcomes versus processes, I’d recommend almost anything written by Alfie Kohn, my parenting hero.   His recent blog post inspired this one. 

I also love Big Magic by hugely successful author Elizabeth Gilbert – an inspiring and uplifting book for artists, which focuses on the creative process over the output.