The Birthday Post 2017: 3 Mantras To Live By

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Another year, another million lessons ... when I think back to where I was a year ago at birthday time, I haven’t fundamentally changed (remember this post?) but I have definitely learnt more and more.

Although I check in regularly on the blog, I feel like over the last 12 months I’ve been less into tracking goals and consistently reviewing where I’m at.

Circumstances at work and in my personal life have meant I haven’t had as much time for these activities, so when I came to write this post, I wasn’t sure how easily it would come.

What I did realise though was that I have continued to do a lot of reading and self coaching and from that has stemmed some mantras that I’ve been carrying with me.

I don’t use each of them every single day but they have been immeasurably helpful throughout the last year and, right now, I think they’re definitely keepers for the future too.

I’m going to summarise what each of them have meant to me and I hope you’re able to start thinking about some mantras to carry with you too.

Mantra 1: 

It’s just my brain, it doesn’t mean anything.

Holy what?! Thank you Brooke Castillo. She mentioned this one in her Self Coaching Scholars course and I have drawn on this many, many times in the last year.

If I wake up in the morning feeling unable to face the busy day ahead, if I start to worry about how a client meeting went, if I look in the mirror and am sure I’ve gained a heap of weight, if I’m sure someone is saying something behind my back… I just come back to this mantra. “It’s just my brain, it doesn’t mean anything.”

We are so often sure our thoughts are facts and that how we feel about situations is absolute reality. But really your brain can choose any which way to go.

This has taken the edge off many situations and helped me step out of my head almost immediately.

Mantra 2: 

My purpose is to appreciate being alive.

My purpose?! The meaning of life?? Heavy stuff I know, but questions we’ve all asked ourselves at one stage right?

Again I did some self coaching on this over the last year and was encouraged to come up with a one sentence statement that covered off what I thought my purpose might be and, more importantly, a purpose that felt good to me.

When I looked around at my situation - born where I was, into the family I was, with the education I was given, surrounded by the people who’ve entered my life, the angst over choosing my purpose started to drift away. I already really have everything I need and although there will be pain and hard times, it’s all part of the human experience and even the hardest emotions can be valued.

When in the midst of an existential crisis about major decisions or what the next stage is for me, I remind myself of this mantra and I’m brought back to the moment, knowing I am lucky and that I don't have to take life quite so seriously. 

Mantra 3: 

In the end, we all die. It’s over before we know it.
We will have controlled very little.
None of it will mean much.
So we might as well lay it out.

Not to end on a totally morbid note, but this one is all sorts of amazing. Again, I pulled it from my current guru Brooke Castillo.

I’ve talked about control on the blog before, and I know many of us are grappling with this day to day - controlling our routines, controlling our relationships, it’s pretty exhausting right?

The other aspect to this mantra I appreciate is the underlying reference to the fear we all feel.

We don’t want to launch our business, or post that photo on Instagram, or tell that person how we really feel, because we are afraid of being judged or feeling negatively.

Whenever I feel that fear, I refer back to this mantra and know, in the scheme of things, I’m just a speck on the historical timeline, and the least I can do is experience life fully, including fear, rejection, all of it.

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Happy birthday to me and remember to lay it all out my amazing readers!

I Worked Out Why You're 'Too Busy'

If you think back over the last week, how many times did you reply ‘good... busy’, when asked how you are? 

I hear it so often - from coworkers, friends, clients and, of course, I hear it come out of my own mouth too.

I genuinely feel busy - I have a job that keeps me busy, a social life, a side business, family, friends. The thing is I don’t want to feel bored and have nothing to do - I’m grateful for all in my life.

But I also don’t want to use ‘busy’ in a negative way or as an excuse.

This is unfortunately what I hear so often - not just I’m busy, but I’m ‘too busy'. That’s when alarm bells start ringing for me, and here’s why...

You are prioritising ‘busy work’

We’ve spoken a lot about the second shift here on the blog - the household labor women do after their paid job is done.

After all, if you look for it, there’s always something to do in your second shift.

Is your house clean? I bet you could take everything out of your kitchen cupboards and clean those out too (please don’t).

I really want you to think about the things you can let slide… I’ve had two examples of this in the last few days.

Firstly, I got back from my holiday to Hawaii and my general inclination is to unpack and put the washing on once I get in the door. Why? I just got back from holiday. Instead, I made myself a coffee, sat on the couch and watched a movie. The suitcase was still there the next day once I’d had a good sleep and eased back into home life a little more.

Now, once I got the washing on the next day, I heard the washing machine beep its last beep, just as I was in the middle of writing this post. My inclination? Jump up and go hang the washing out. Why? I’m in the middle of something more important to me and the washing will be there in an hour when I’m done.

If you’re not ready to let anything slide this week, at least observe when you might be doing this - either doing things you don’t care about, or interrupting yourself constantly to rush on to the next task.

You’re avoiding what you care about most

Ding, ding, ding! This is the clincher my friends and something I observe frequently.

For my brain it’s much easier to hang out laundry than it is to write a blog post.

Writing a post takes thought, effort, courage, working through fears.

Who wants to do that when I can just stand in the backyard, pegging t shirts on the clothesline?

So often we deprioritise the things that are important to us for the sake of being busy. And this can include self-care or relaxation.

For example, I noticed earlier in the year that my days were going like this - work all day, go to the gym, cook dinner, then sit down to work on my website…

Of course, I was too tired to work on my website by then and although the other tasks were still important to me, I was putting less important things ahead of my main goal.

I’ve seen this in many areas with clients - 'I have to look after my family so I don’t have time for exercise', 'I have to check my work emails in the evening after dinner, so I don’t have time to paint', 'I can’t sit on the couch when there are dirty dishes in the sink', and on and on.

The things that scare or challenge us are the things we push aside, but they are also usually the most rewarding.

What step can you take towards a scary goal this week, ahead of your busy work?

You’re letting your mind run the show

Have you ever noticed how you can do things on your to do list with pain or ease? Let me give you an example.

Some Sunday afternoons, I cook around three meals for lunches and dinners for the week ahead. I can do it one of two ways.

  1. I try and do it as quickly as possible, multi tasking across recipes, huffing and puffing around the kitchen, watching the clock, lamenting having to cook on a Sunday. I also notice I’m more likely to cut my finger with a knife when I’m in this type of mood. Sounds fun right?
  2. I put on a podcast, pour myself a drink, grab everything out that I need for the first recipe and methodically work through each step in a relaxed way. I admire my handiwork when everything is in tupperware containers and reward myself when I’m all done - with a bath, an episode of a great show or getting ready for dinner out with friends.

The crazy thing is it usually takes me the same amount of time to meal prep whether I choose option 1 or 2 and guess which one leaves me happier?

If you have chosen to do something, do you want it to be mentally painful or pain-free? Try it out this week and also have a read about segment intending for help focusing on the task at hand. 

Want to chat about this further? Book in for a complimentary 30 minute consult with me and we can look at your to do list and move you away from being ‘too busy’.

What I Learnt from Brené Brown

I read this Guardian article recently about people who have aversions to recommendations. I think I often fall into this category (and to confirm, I have never seen any Game of Thrones).

I have managed to resist Brené Brown’s work for years, until about a month ago when I succumbed and watched her TED talk - one of the most popular of all time.

What then followed was a (accepted!) recommendation of her book The Power of Vulnerability. I downloaded the audio book and the 6 hours and 31 minutes were devoured in just four days.

Brené is so personable and her qualitative research on fear, shame and vulnerability is peppered with both heartbreaking and hilarious stories from her subjects, as well as her husband, kids, friends and wider family.

So what did I learn? Apart from the 10 guideposts for wholehearted living which she goes through in the book, these lessons struck me the most:

We all care what others think of us

Brené points out two thoughts we all often come up against when pursuing something new, or even just getting around in our regular everyday life:

  1. ‘I’m not good enough’
  2. ‘Who do I think I am?’

Being crippled by what others think is so common for many people, and I do find some comfort in that commonality.

This blog was a huge undertaking for me and believe me, the above questions have crossed my mind more than once when I press publish on a post…

Be who you are

One of Brené’s mantras is: ‘"Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand my sacred ground."  

Once I heard this, I could hear it ringing in my ears during the smallest day-to-day situations. So often in conversations I was playing myself down or changing my style to try and match or dominate another’s - particularly at work.

Thankfully I found this doesn’t happen often with those closest to me, but it’s a huge challenge to just be who you are without pretense or adjustments to suit those around you.

Choose empathy over sympathy

Confession - this section of the book had me welling up a little. So often we jump to sympathise with people when they’re vulnerable with us, but as Brené points out, this doesn’t put us side by side with them - it usually places us above them.

Empathy should be the real focus in these intimate conversations - even if we haven’t gone through the exact same situation as others, we can just say ‘that sounds like it’s really hard/horrible/sad/embarrassing’, rather than ‘oh, you poor thing’.

As Brené beautifully puts it - ‘sit in the dark with them, don’t flick on the lights’.

I could go on with more lessons, but we'll leave it there for today.

I'll finish with a quote about the wholehearted, vulnerable people Brené interviewed - she notes they were also usually the happiest...

“They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first. The willingness to do something when there are no guarantees. The willingness to invest into a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”

...And now to read the rest of her books! 

 

Three Life Lessons Learnt in Vietnam

Hi readers, I’m back! My husband and I just spent two weeks in Vietnam and a week in Thailand and it was an amazing trip.

Three weeks felt like aggggggggeeees and we saw and did so much. It was super warm (35 degrees Celsius plus) which was amazing, but I’m actually kind of happy to come back to cooler weather.

I highly recommend travelling to both places, but I thought today I’d reflect on the three major themes I took from my experiences in Vietnam.

Keep it slow and fresh in the kitchen

Vietnamese food is incredible - at almost every meal my husband or I would say to each other ‘I know I said this last time, but this food is just so … fresh …’ and we’d laugh.

We visited bustling food markets in Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi and whipped up some dishes at a cooking class on the river in Hoi An.

The experiences really inspired me to slow down and take the time to make fresh, healthy, delicious food.

Often when I’m racing home after work, it’s a case of ‘what can I cook the fastest, with the least amount of steps?’ and although there are times when that is called for, it’s not that difficult to shred up mountains of fresh green herbs, slice your meat carefully for optimal cooking and stir fry delicious noodle dishes while meditating over the steam.

Relax and take risks in life

As some of you may know, Australia is often referred to as a ‘nanny state’.

Australia has a LOT of rules and laws and the complaint is that we are way too over-regulated compared to the rest of the world. Think - you have to wear a helmet on a bicycle, you really can’t smoke anywhere anymore and the restrictions go on and on.

As I grew up in Australia I’ve obviously grown accustomed to the safety and comfort of where I live, but I do love going to other countries and observing the differences.

Well the cities of Vietnam are perfect for that - in particular, gawking at the traffic.

Leaving the airport at Saigon, we were caught in a semi-traffic jam.

I peered out the taxi window at motorbikes weaving in and out of the lanes (often with up to a family of 4 on the motorbike), cars and buses beeping their horns (always as a warning that they’re there, not in an aggressive manner) and random people strolling into the middle of it all as they try and cross the road. It is truly an incredible sight.

Although I’m aware Vietnam’s road toll is much higher than Australia’s - I love that the chaotic traffic situation just works.

People live with more risk and get on with walking, driving and living without fear.

Be grateful for what you have

Vietnam is not a rich country and is still officially a communist nation. Although the food, the people and the places are amazing, I was reminded how lucky I am to come from a safe, spacious, wealthy country.

In Vietnam there is more poverty, no free healthcare for citizens and a very low pension for retirees so most are looked after by family into old age.

On the positive side of that, you see many older people floating through tai chi routines or using the free exercise equipment in the park on a plight to remain healthy for as long as possible.

Vietnamese-owned companies require employees to work six days a week and wages are often not high enough to afford a visa and trip to a country like Australia. I am extremely lucky.

I’d love to hear about your travels. What’s the number on lesson you’ve learnt in another country?