It feels as though time moves faster the older I become. The years roll smoothly into each other and at times I have wondered whether an event took place in 2018 or 2019. As a child the weekends felt ample and the summer holidays like a lifetime. I recall July and August in the 1980’s being filled with endless trips to the park, beaches and play schemes. I was rarely without an ice lolly in my hand due to the scorching weather.
As an adult my weekend feels like it ends on a Sunday somewhere between ironing my children’s school uniform and choosing an outfit for work. The prep work for Monday certainly puts me in ‘work mode’.
Technology plays its part in keeping us connected to the world. There are many positives in signing up to social media. However, if we are not mindful we can spend a lot of our time online; casually surfing, networking, promoting our business. This reduces our time to rest, reflect, see people in person, read books, explore the outdoors and so on.
On my commute I read the online bible, books, blogs and listen to music. I decided that I may as well use my journey to learn, reflect and enjoy music. This has enhanced my commute time; something I once saw just as a means to an end.
Outside of our day-to-day work whether we are self-employed or an employee, we can decide what we do with our time. We can choose to commit to studying, reading books, going for leisurely walks, visiting a friend or relative. Whilst it can be difficult to factor in time to do as we would like, we can be flexible to ensure there is some space for learning, developing, fun and family time. I am of the mindset of ‘if it is important we will give it priority’.
Time will pass regardless of what you do with the hours you are given. You can decide if you want something to show for it or not. Do you wish to look back in years to come and smile at the fact that you did what you intended, you did what was necessary and what mattered to you and others around you?
Life is for living and not just for allowing time to pass us by.
For the past few days I have been thinking about my behaviours; particularly those I would like to change. I have found myself at this point on a number of occasions. Initially I am excited and enthusiastic about the prospect of a ‘new me’ then situations arise and I find myself right back to square one. By this time I am despondent, exhausted and frustrated.
At times we have the will and zeal but slide back to our old way of thinking and acting. Once the despair surfaces we may struggle to believe we can ever change making it easier to revert. We can talk ourselves out of trying believing it to be in vain, that we are just as we are. Change will be painful, change will take work, change will have its setbacks and change will take time. Our behaviours are learnt over years therefore it would be unrealistic to expect radical changes over a few months or even a few years.
By nature, I am an introvert – I am present when with you but I need time out daily at work and home. This is to recharge my batteries and reflect on the many thoughts, decisions and discussions that have taken place in my head and with others. By nature I can be grumpy, direct and I wear my heart on my sleeve – just ask my family! I struggle to conceal my feelings when sad, angry or confused. I try but it seems hopeless. I would probably burst if I have to suppress how I feel – it is simply not a part of my make up.
Despite being well aware of my behaviours I still remain hopeful that even a small change is better than no change. I am learning not to be too hard on myself when I fail to act as I know I should. I am learning that no one person is perfect and yearning for absolute perfection is pointless – you will always come up short. Instead I try to accept who I am whilst pushing for improvement.
Have you attempted to change your behaviours?
How did you feel when change was slow or non-existent?
We have officially made it to 2020!
I am looking forward to what this year has in store for me and my family. No matter how many plans we have there is still an air of the ‘unknown’ which can be both frightening and a little exciting at times. It really does depend on your perspective. I have learnt we are not in control of our life half as much as we would like to think we are. Does this mean we should throw out our plans and sit back for life to ‘happen’ to us? I say no. I say we go ahead and put plans in place knowing some will pan out, some will go on hold and some will be scrapped due to our personal choices.
I make it a habit to write down my plans and rarely have more than five. I believe if your list is too long, you can easily lose focus or overstretch yourself and fail to reach any of your goals. At the end of each year, I discuss my plans with my husband and he shares his plans with me – several interlink and the remaining are personal. Sharing your plans make you accountable; it could be with your spouse, partner, family member, friend or a mentor. Three to six months into the year you could provide an update on how your plans are going, considering:
What were the challenges?
How did you overcome them?
Did you change direction?
How did you manage the disappointments?
What lessons did you learn?
I am unsure what changes you would like to see in 2020 but they are less likely to occur if you fail to note them down or type them in your phone/laptop. Regularly reading your goals serves as a reminder but also makes your mind more efficient by helping you to focus on the important aspects.
So in 2020, do not allow your goals to remain as ‘loose words’, ‘hopes’ and ‘dreams’. Do what you can now to reach your goals, however small the steps may be. If you cannot get a place on your desired course this year, buy a book to read/study in the meantime in preparation rather than simply waiting to apply in 2021. If you wish to be more organised, choose to write ‘to do’ lists listing your key priorities. Be flexible and willing to take a change of direction if needed. Most of all remember to enjoy the process!
We ought to be kind and loving to ourselves despite our flaws and shortcomings. Regardless of whether we have achieved or arrived at our planned destination. At times we can appear on the outside to love and appreciate ourselves but what thoughts whirl around our mind whilst we are at home, at work, with friends and family? Are they thoughts of love and acceptance or thoughts of rejection, dissatisfaction and hopelessness?
Our thoughts matter far more than the opinion of others around us. What we think about ourselves relates to how we interact with others, perceive others and see our place in this world. Healthy, loving thoughts mean we acknowledge when we have messed up, missed the mark and choose to start afresh. Unhealthy thoughts mean we scrutinise past conversations, have unreasonable expectations of ourselves and generally see life in a negative light.
Being kind to ourselves starts with the small. Soaking in a bath with candles after a long day at work or at being home with your little ones, it means treating yourself to an item that will compliment you (according to your budget obviously). Being kind to ourselves means having an early night if you are tired, despite seeing a pile of ironing that needs doing. Being kind to yourself is accepting it is okay to think of your own needs, particularly when you tend to spend a lot of your time meeting the needs of family and friends.
I struggled with being kind to myself at times. My expectations were too great. I would have stern words with myself if I did not achieve what I expected to in an exam, if a friendship went pear shaped or if there was a disappointment of some kind. Negative thoughts would then follow which would lead me to a dark place. I learnt over the years to accept myself as I am and as Americans would say ‘cut myself some slack’.
It is liberating and certainly brings a sense of freedom. Often we are prisoners of our own thoughts. We owe it to ourselves to loosen the rope.
Our mindset hugely affects the way in which we function and our approach to life. It impacts on the way we view others and how we deal with challenges and disappointment. Our mode of thinking has been built up since we were young therefore it is realistic to accept it will take time to change direction. Hope is simply not enough, we need to have a willingness to change our mindset for the better.
Living with a ‘glass half empty’ mindset will only bring much of the same thing; pessimism, low expectations, looking for the worst in people and in situations. Working towards a ‘glass half full” or “cup overfloweth” mentality will take work but the outcome will make it worthwhile.
My husband (bless him) is optimistic to the point of being downright unrealistic. He will convince himself a typical 50 minute journey can somehow take 30 minutes. I have assured him even if there were no other car on the road this would not be possible. When we go to the shopping centre or supermarket, he drives directly to the front of the store to look for parking. Everyone knows the closest spaces are always taken. I struggle not to roll my eyes.
I am the realist in our marriage. I tend to look at the facts and evidence. I will identify why something cannot be done while my husband will respond “Well, why not?!” We work together to meet in the middle of our two extremes.
Previously when going on holiday, I would discount the flight as being part of the holiday. In my mind it was a means to an end and something I had to endure rather than enjoy. I saw checking in at the airport as stressful and boring. I would be agitated on the aeroplane, constantly checking how many flight hours remained. However when I flew to Jamaica in June, I trained myself to believe the holiday started from the airport; we took selfies, I bought goods in duty free and stopped for breakfast. I enjoyed watching films, listened to music and slept in between. What a difference- all because I tweaked my thought pattern.
Sometimes we believe we have a lot more patience than we do. It is only when put to the test can we truly identify if we are lacking in this area. All the more important is the attitude we maintain when we are forced to wait. Are we calm and composed or irate and distracted? Do we overlook the feelings of others in pursuit of what we want?
I know, hands on heart that I do not have an overflow of patience and I am learning – often the hard way. As a teenager my mum always told me I needed to learn patience and I casually allowed her comments to run over me. The number of times she uttered “patience is a virtue” I do not know!
It is far easier to have little patience as a child and teenager as people almost expect it. As an adult a lack of patience is not welcomed. It is assumed our ‘people skills’ are more in tune and that our sense of awareness grows. But does it?
My husband always jokes that I act like I am on a mission. Even when on holiday/family breaks I struggle to take leisurely strolls and instead walk as if I have a train to catch. He holds my hands to slow me down. On the outside I smile and internally I feel irritated at not keeping at a faster pace.
Last week I walked down the high street and got stuck behind two women who slowly stolled side by side without a care in the world. I felt myself becoming agitated as I planned a way to get around or through them.
A few months ago at the end of our church service, an elderly woman stopped to speak to me. A part of me desired to rush off to meet my husband and collect our children from Sunday School. I then had a thought that perhaps this woman needed to talk, even if it was just general banter. We spoke for about 10 minutes. As we drove home I wondered if the woman was married or if she lived alone. I wondered if her only real communication with others took place at church. Whatever her circumstances she made me reflect on my actions and that is never a bad thing.
LAST Saturday morning I planned to drop my daughter to dance for two hours and return home to do some housework. We jumped into our car, I turned the key to discover the battery was dead – great timing! I sat for a moment and wondered what to do. My husband was in London at a meeting with the other car, my sister in-law was unavailable and my son was groggy with a flu virus. My daughter also missed dance the week before and needed to catch up with the dance routine.
I decided to order a taxi, drop my daughter to dance and wait for 1.5 hours. I was annoyed because A. I would be £15 out of pocket, B. I now needed to make myself presentable – usually I ‘drop and run’ so no need for any make up or matching clothes, C. A load of washing was in the machine waiting to be hung out.
As I sat typing this while my son sniffed and sneezed next to me, I realised that not everything will go according to plan. Life will throw you curveballs but we cannot afford to be beaten by them. As much as we plan, we need to work with an element of flexibility. If one is too rigid you leave yourself open to much disappointment.
I lived a life of rigidity and it was limiting and exhausting. I was constantly picking myself up from disappointment after disappointment. Whether my train was delayed or an appointment/event was cancelled, it left me feeling out of control.
Having control is learning to rise above circumstances which come to try you and throw your plans right out of the window. Having control is accepting we do not travel through life along one straight, neat road paved with flowers. The road bends and turns, moves up and down and can be ugly. In between those twists and turns we can choose to laugh and relish the good times. If we look closely, they are there!