I have just finished reading 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin.
In her book she chooses to focus on one area of her life each month to reflect on and make changes, originally in blog form.
I didn't love the book.
I did like parts of it.
One disappointment for me was that the author chose not to explore meditation. I personally felt like she was kinda taking the long way round by omitting this :-)
She also didn't want to spend more time in nature, as some of her friends suggested, which for me is a core contributor to feeling good.
However, she did explore mindfulness and gratitude which encouraged me to engage with the book, plus she cited some of my favourite parenting books and strategies which helped me to feel rapport.
It was up and down for me. We have some values and interests in common but some just didn't resonate at all.
Despite my less than raving review, I figure that the purpose of the book is to prompt me to make up my own mind; it is the author Gretchen Rubin's journey, I can choose to agree or disagree :-)
So, what were my memorable takeaways from this bestseller?
There are two that stand out.
1. Shield the joyous. You can find the blog entry here, it's a little different in the book but still the same message... do-you-shield-your-joyous-ones.
2. Pursue a passion. In this chapter Gretchen explored making more time for books in her life. She also recognised that some people don't know how to answer this question in the first place...
"It seems too large and unanswerable that they feel paralyzed. If so, a useful clue to finding a passion to pursue, whether for work or play, is to "Do what you do."
What you enjoyed doing as a ten year old, or choose to do on a free Saturday afternoon, is a strong indicator of your passion.
One blog reader pointed to an even more basic indicator of your passion: "Actually very similar advice from a physics professor of mine, who said, "What do you think about when you're sitting on the toilet? Because that's what you want to think about.'"
Do what you do is helpful because it points you to examining your behavior rather than you self conception and therefore may be a clearer guide to your preferences."
I like this.
I think there is a time for goals and creativity and progress and there is a also a time to just "Do what you do".
One thing that I do is listen to music. Lots and lots of music! I've been posting one song a day since I realised how much joy it gives me to share one of the many songs I'm listening to daily.
I actually do have a Sound Track to My Life....I can't not do it :-) I live it!
So...shield the joyous and do what you do.
And borrow The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin if you feel like a good, wordy dose of self reflection haha.
Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care and spent significant amounts of time caring for and talking with people in their final weeks of life.
These are the top 5 regrets of the dying.....
Well, it's been a little while since I wrote and I knew it would be ....being involved in a big project like 'Singing with the Stars' was a huge outward breathe of courage and newness for me.
This outward movement required another equally large inward breathe to reflect and attempt to return to some sense of internal equilibrium!
The concert raised over $13,000 (!!) for Make a Wish Foundation to go towards granting wishes for seriously ill kids, an amazing achievement for all involved and all who attended, particularly Belinda Knight who worked tirelessly behind the scenes.
It was a great show, loads of fun and variety, with such a high standard of acts. My singing partner Jonny Gorden and I performed a medley of Buddy Holly songs that he arranged and directed. By all accounts, our performance was well received and I was especially proud of our efforts.
On a personal level, Singing with the Stars was a mammoth step out of my comfort zone. I was scared shitless at times during the process but interestingly, at other times, I felt very myself...like I was exactly where I needed to be, and wanted to be, despite the newness of it all.
Because, you know, newness does feel scary.
Of course it does.
Fear around something new is normal.
If the new thing we are doing really matters to us, if we really, really want it or it has a deep, personal significance, we may feel even more fear.
And...if we've had a negative experience in the past...an embarrassing moment whilst performing, if we failed an important test, if we received feedback that was less than constructive, if we were teased or laughed at, talked about, criticised...the list goes on....let's add another few layers of fear on top of the original 'newness' fear as well.
For me, I had already made my baby steps. (You can read about them here.) I was both ready and eager for the next step and I still had my fair share of personal challenges to get there.
What did I do? Well, I did the best I could, honestly.
Here are a few tools and tips that I found helpful for dealing with any anxiety or fear that came up for me....
1. Journalling, particularly free writing. I would write whatever popped up in my head, longhand, even if it was just my shopping list at first. After a few minutes of random thoughts, the juicy, raw stuff would often come up to be expressed and dealt with. I sincerely found (and continue to find!) that putting my worrisome thoughts down on paper stops them from running amok in my head.
2. Rescue Remedy lozenges....thank you dear Robyn for this 'lolly of calm' at rehearsals and at the show.
3. Prepare. Now, there might be a time and a place for 'winging it' but for me, this was not one of them and I would say that if something really matters to you, like a performance or a job interview for a much longed for position, winging it is not a great idea :-)
I steadily worked through my 'to do' list before the show, sometimes it was long and a little overwhelming, especially if there were other personal things happening. Other times it was slow and steady, mostly involving a 10-15 minute practice after the kids were in bed to learn the song lyrics and then later some story lines/stage direction. I knew I wouldn't regret that I had not rehearsed enough, no matter what happened on the night.
4. Visualisation. In the couple of days before the show I had crazy butterflies in my tummy so I attempted to reframe my thoughts. I chose to remember that the butterflies were not 'bad', I didn't need to get rid of them, instead I saw them merely as a reminder that I was keen to do my best. I would take deep breathes and visualise the butterflies slowing down their crazy fluttering, landing calmly on a log and just fluttering their wings every now and then. I didn't make them disappear...we chose to become friends instead :-)
5. Get support! I found that effectively communicating my desire to be a part of the show and how important it was to me, family and friends were keen to support me, whether by attending the show, sending positive words of support or in the case of The Man of the House and the kids, freeing me up for rehearsals...a huge thing if you have a family.
Ask for help if you need it...I asked my hairdresser for help with a costume and she gladly provided things to try on. I asked members from the local Rock and Roll dance club to dance in our act. I asked my friends to buy tickets, attend and vote. I texted my singing partner Jonny on the morning of the show some silly, anxious questions that were stressing me out, nothing major, just little things that were bothering me. Fantastic mentor that he is, he phoned me and calmly talked me through the logistic stuff that had me concerned.
6. Celebrate your success. Please, please don't forget this important step.
Even if your success was just having a go, celebrate it.
Celebrate that you had the courage to try.
Celebrate your very first, teeny, tiny, baby step.
Celebrate when you totally achieve your goal, when you hit the mark and then some.
Life is too special and amazing to just move on to the next thing.
Enjoy the afterglow.
I consciously decided to truly hear and receive compliments that people gave me. At first my knee-jerk reaction was to point out the errors in my act, especially when I watched the video recording on facebook.
But it didn't feel good and I'm guessing it didn't feel great for my friends to have their compliments thrown back either.
So....I decided to go the other way...to graciously receive compliments, thank the giver and remember the words they said. I wrote a heap of them down in my journal, along with some memories of the night, and they are fabulous to reread already. What a wonderful memento for the future.
Celebrate in whatever way that feels right to you. Mine definitely included a little bubbly...after my performance ;-)
Celebrating with friends and flowers below.
More flowers, lucky girl.
So that is all for now...in two years there will be another show that will surprise and entertain local music lovers...I can't wait to see it and perhaps even help out in some way.
I'll leave you tonight with this video by the immensely talented Tania Allen with fun footage of the contestants, professionals and crew preparing for the Make A Wish Foundation "Singing with the Stars" contest of 2014.
Yay us! (See, there's a little more celebrating for you ;-)
If you have a goal you wanna reach, I highly recommend setting a date to anchor you... a specific time to work towards gently and progressively (hopefully!)
For my marathon running friends, my goodness, they are popping up everywhere, this is relatively easy.
The date setting, not the training I imagine!
They pick a marathon, they register, they know it's coming so they better do something about it :-) If they rock up on the day without training, they might find themselves walking or feeling sick or with an injury. Not good.
I work better with dates too.
In under three weeks I will be performing as a contestant on Singing with the Stars, a local event to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation, granting wishes for terminally ill kids. As an amateur, I have been paired with local professional Jonny Gorden and we have been busy behind the scenes planning our singing act.
I am feeling quite honored to be a part of the show, I can only imagine what the kids and their families go through on a day to day basis, and I am sincerely happy to help in this way.
It is also such a fun event, I attended the previous show two years ago with friends and we had a great time as audience members...plus we did a little day dreaming, imagining what song we would perform if we were contestants...okay, maybe a LOT of day dreaming :-)
It's a great opportunity to try something new and challenge myself and sing in front of a crowd.
A big crowd.
300 people, give or take.
This shit just got real, haha.
Seriously though, the lead up to it so far has been a fun AND challenging AND worthwhile experience, as anything worth doing usually is. (I'm thinking parenthood!)
Having this date, Saturday August 9th, in the forefront of my mind keeps me on track. If I don't practice, well, I might stuff up the lyrics, the timing, where I need to be on stage etc.
Of course, I might stuff up these things anyway but at least if I practice I know I have given it my best shot in terms of preparation.
It's going to be such a good night, past shows have sold out so do get onto it if you're keen! Tickets are available from Belinda Knight on 0438 257 230, $10 for upstairs gallery seating, $15 for downstairs. The show starts at 7pm and is held in Wallaroo Town Hall.
Would you like to set a date for a much longed for goal? Once you've set a date you can break your big goal into baby steps each day or week, whatever suits.
I need to get back to my number one priority, little Miss 3, and schedule in some time later to practice!
Do you have a dream for your life?
Perhaps something big or perhaps something small and important to you?
What if you've forgotten (perhaps in the fog of early motherhood) what your dreams are, in addition to raising your lovely family?
What if you've forgotten what you even liked to do before you had your kids?!
Or perhaps the 'you' after children is actually very different now, you kinda feel like you're starting from scratch?
I can definitely relate to this so here are a couple of tips that I hope will help you get in touch with a dream of yours....
Tip 1. Try new things. If something sparks your interest, a hobby, a job, a book, a new skill...dip your toes in. Keep it simple and easy, test the waters. Take a class. Read a book or a blog. Volunteer. Ask people. See what new or old hobbies you might like to explore.
Yes, maybe a new career or a big goal will become of it or maybe not. The exploration is half the fun and definitely not a step to be rushed.
This blog in the last couple of years has recorded some of my exploration and it was one in itself!
Go easy on yourself and look around at what takes your fancy.
Tip 2. If you really don't know where to start, perhaps you could tune in to your feelings when someone tells you what THEY are up to lately or when scrolling through facebook and reading about other people's lives. You might feel happy for them or you might not feel so great.
Tune in to this feeling.
Remember my last post when I admitted I could no longer watch tv shoes like The Voice a few years back? (I can now!) Even though I didn't, and don't, wish to go on the show, I had a tendency to feel sad and disappointed at myself compared to the brave contestants trying out. I didn't even have the courage to sing in front of my loved ones, let alone strangers...so I switched off.
What a pot of gold right there...you can use your negative emotions, as well as your positive ones, as sign posts.
Do you ever feel a touch of envy or jealousy at someone's life?
It might appear as a fleeting thought....
"How the hell does she have energy/time to paint?"
"They must spend so much money on eating out!"
Or it might be more of a sad or disappointed feeling like mine. A good sign that I need to move more in that direction for myself, no matter how small the steps.
Don't discount these emotions, use them as the golden signposts that they are, helping you identify what it is that YOU actually want more of in your life.
Obviously not everyone is going to be dreaming of singing/playing piano like me :-)
Everyone's dream or goal is going to be different and beautiful.
Currently I have friends who are about to have their first baby or who are adding to their family, planning to go overseas, dreaming of a writing career and beginning the habit of putting pen to paper regularly, starting a business, wanting to move up the career ladder, training for a marathon (or recently completed one!), saving for a house deposit, wanting to incorporate more fun and adventure in their life, wanting more WINE in their life, hehe....the list is as varied and beautiful as we are.
Have fun tuning in to what you might like more of in your life.
Have you ever spoken these words?
Or something to this effect?
It's not uncommon for women to want to do something different in their career but then feeling unable to pinpoint what exactly that is.
Enter Barbara Sher's book, "I Could Do Anything if Only I knew what it was".
If the title's lament resonates with you, you are in for a treat.
A friend first recommended it to me late last year and since then I've passed the recommendation on to others in person...and now to you.
I have not read a book in quite awhile that has given me so many timely insights.
This book can really help you with the puzzle of what to do with your life. The author specifically addresses career but it also relates to hobbies or activities around family commitments.
Barbara Sher writes in a casual and often funny style, she is very personable and reading her words is a bit like chatting to your best friend.
My main personal insight, or perhaps more a reminder, was that I really love to sing. I have known this for awhile, and I have mentioned it a few times here on the blog but it was helpful to really confirm this in the first few chapters.
Since this reminder, I am proud to say that I went onto perform my very first local show as a support act three weeks ago. I have plenty to learn and many places to improve, for sure, but I feel proud of my performance and super proud of my willingness to get out there and do it. Excitingly, since then I have been asked to perform for two charity events coming up later in the year...yay!
So...what else did I get from "I could do anything if only I knew was it was?"
The fact that I tend to be a 'scanner.'
Barbara says people can often be divided into two sorts of people....Scanners or Divers.
Divers love doing one thing or a variant of that one passion.They enjoy becoming a professional at it, mastering it and going deep; whether it be business or music or a specific career.
Then there are scanners.
They love a little bit of a lot of things! They can sometimes be known as a Jack of All trades...and not necessarily seen in a positive light.
Variety is their middle name. They might choose something and decide to master it...but then they'll want to chose something else to explore next. Or they might enjoy dabbling and be a bit of a Renaissance woman, having various interests on the go...or perhaps explore one interest for awhile, go onto something different, then return to the previous love.
Sher's her follow up book is written specifically for scanners and is called "Refuse to Choose". She helps readers to design a life where they can do as many or as few of the activities they love at one time, or in sequence, as well as make a living.
She also helps readers look for anything that is common in the activities they enjoy doing so they can discover what is most important to them, perhaps even finding a job that has a lot of these elements within it.
It's good stuff, I highly recommended reading one or both of the books if you are confused as to the next step in your career or wanting to uncover and ultimately fulfill some hidden dreams and goals.
"I could do anything if only I knew what it was" and "Refuse to Choose" are currently in print.
Alternatively, you can read Barbara Sher's first book Wishcraft, about achieving your dreams (if you already know what they are!) at her website www.wishcraft.com
Our senses can help us live a richer and more satisfying life, as well as enable us to access the Spaciousness and Peace that is the Present Moment.
Let's take a look at our senses separately.
Do you love to eat, to savour the taste of food, to relish beautiful flavours? Are you the person that oohs and ahhs over a ripe peach or a creamy scoop of icecream? Does time stand still when you drink that smooth, rich cup of coffee in the morning or eat that delicious, spicy Indian Saag?
If so, these moments, these simple pleasures, can be useful pointers to the Present moment.
It is an amazing gift to be present...to silence that inner chatter and replace it with the sounds around you. For me, focusing on what I can hear is the quickest way for me to be present. When I hear the birds chirping in the morning, I take deep breaths, I listen, here I am.
My hearing reminds me that I am not the incessant chatter of my mind, I am here, , right now, in my body.
Do you have a keen sense of smell? My mum does. She would smell my bubblegum in the house when I was a child before I had opened the packet.
Why not use your sense of smell as a Present Moment Reminder? When you smell something (good!) it can be a reminder that you are here, right now, smelling that scent.
Freshly baked bread? A flowering jasmine or lavender plant? Essential oils?
If you smell something bad...well, so it is! Perhaps try practicing acceptance and surrender here also, the opposite to resistance?
Do you feel present and peaceful when you are getting a massage? When you are not thinking what went wrong or right in your day but enjoying the deep tissue sensation? What about when you are holding a child's soft, little hand?
I love immersing myself in a cool pool or the ocean in the summer, or alternatively a hot bath in the winter, for this very reason; I enjoy the feeling of contrasting temperatures on my skin. I also love my cup of tea or coffee to be very hot, I enjoy feeling it's heat in my mouth and throat. These little things can help me come back to the present moment, as well as contribute to my feelings of pleasure in life.
What can you see? What do you notice? What colour is it? What shape?
Practice this when you look at your kids or loved ones, really looking at them and taking in their faces, it is a lovely way to connect. Try not to make judgements about what you see, just notice. Look at trees, the clouds, flowers or leaves.
Would you like to consciously use your five senses to help you become more present in your daily life?
My suggestion for you today, this moment, is to breathe deeply and engage your senses with intention.
What can you feel? Hear? Smell? See? Taste?
It is my hope that you will experience a delightful reminder of the Present Moment and the simple pleasures and Peace that reside there.
"Follow, follow the sun
and which way the wind blows
when this day is done.
Breathe, breathe in the air,
cherish this moment,
cherish this breath.
Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
brand new moon, brand new sun.
When you feel life coming down on you,
like a heavy weight.
When you feel this crazy society,
adding to the strain.
Take a stroll to the nearest waters edge
remember your place.
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came.
So which way is the wind blowin',
and what does your heart say?"