April 1: Today, you could...

Today is the day you could treat everyone you meet with warmth and kindness.
Then notice how these feelings often come back to you.

Today could be filled with the most amazing possibilities.
All you need to do is change your focus so that you are aware of them.

Today you could start living the life you have always dreamed of.
Remember, even the longest journey starts with the first step.

April 2: Do your beliefs support you?

If there was such a thing as truth we would all agree on it and since we don't all agree what is true for you may not be true for others.

We need to treat such differences with respect but since you have chosen your beliefs you can ask if they are supporting your progress through life, and if they are not, chose different ones.

Here are a couple of typical disempowering beliefs:-
Life's a pain and then you die.
Other people will let you down.

Here are a couple of better ones:-
Problems are a sign of life.
Most people are doing their best.

What beliefs do you want to adopt and live by today?

April 3: If you knew you were going to die today, what changes would you make in your life?

This is a very tough question and it would be unhealthy to spend too much time thinking about your early death. But it is worth five minutes of your time, just to see what kind of thoughts it throws up.

1. Perhaps, you will look at some issues about relationships that you need to resolve.
2. Perhaps, you will have thoughts about taking time off for yourself.
3. Perhaps, you will consider dealing with something you have been putting off.

Whatever does come up, it's worth making a note of and considering what action you can take today.

It would be good to reflect on the progress you have made when you go, safely, to your bed tonight.

April 4: The benefits of an impoverished childhood

The businessman was discussing with his tax consultant how best to arrange his financial affairs, so that after he and his wife died their his children would bear a reduced tax burden. In the course of the conversation, he expressed his concern over his offspring's attitude to money.

He felt he had grown up respecting the value of money and had never squandered it on trifles. His children, on the other hand, did not seem to share his attitude. The consultant smiled at him and remarked, "You can never give your children the benefit of a financially impoverished childhood."

The anecdote illustrates that it's the difficult times we go through that contribute to our growth and maturity and the challenges we face and overcome are usually our greatest source of learning.

Write down three problems you have faced and overcome in your life and ask yourself how you have benefited from having dealt with them.

April 5: The farmer and the corn

This is a story about a farmer who was being interviewed by a journalist because he had grown award-winning corn.

"The secret," said the farmer "is that I share my corn with my neighbours."
"How can you afford to share your best seed?" the reporter asked him.

"Well," said the farmer, "the wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and scatters it over field after field. If my neighbours grew inferior corn, cross-pollination would steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbours to grow it too."

Those who choose to be at peace must help their neighbours to be at peace too.
Those who choose to live well must also help others to live well.
Those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness as well.
The value of a life is measured by the lives it touches.
The good in each one of us is bound up in the good of us all.

April 6: What would happen if you did nothing?

A decision to do nothing is still a decision and in a world obsessed with activity not taking action can, sometimes, be a viable option. Not every problem needs to be solved. Indeed, not every problem can be solved. Certain things just have to be tolerated or lived with, while others are best left alone.

The skill lies in learning to distinguish between those situations where action is appropriate and those where it's best not to try and change things. It can be the bes thing, once in a while, to say to yourself, "Don't just do something; sit there."

Often, people who have been rushed to hospital because of a medical emergency, come out days or even weeks later, to discover that all the urgent things they needed to do have either already been done by someone else, no longer need attention or have turned out to be not so very urgent after all. You don't really need to wait for an emergency to bring about a similar situation in your own life.

It would be interesting today to take something that's been on your mind, decide just to let it be and observe what happens.

April 7: The bank

What would you do if an amount of £1,440 were deposited in your bank account every day on the condition that you spent it all by the end of the day, failing which the balance would revert to zero? My guess is that you would try and spend the money each day in a manner guaranteed to ensure that it would be of maximum benefit to you on that particular day.

The sum involved may well be familiar, it's the number of minutes in each day and the truth is what you fail to spend to your benefit day does not get carried forward. The balance is wiped clean. Each day is a new account, you can't borrow, you can't save.

Make the most of today, it's the only time you're going to experience it.

April 8: Keeping a journal

"If your life's worth living," said Anthony Robbins, "it's worth recording."

Maintaining a journal is much more than simply recording your life. I know of no better or more important tool for becoming the person you want to be.

It's a place where you can record your best and deepest thoughts, jot down your aims in life, plot its future course, hold yourself to the high standards you have set yourself and explore any past issues that are currently affecting you.

A journal can help you to know yourself as you would an intimate friend. It can act as your adviser and be a source of inspiration and guidance for you. By all means, write down the events and incidents that make up your life, but the opportunities presented by a journal are far wider than that.

Perhaps, you could start a lifetime habit today by maintaining a journal?

April 9: Gossip

"There's only one thing worse than being talked about, and that's not being talked about." ¯ Oscar Wilde

That might be sound very witty, but I'm far from sure it's true, particularly, when I observe the harm caused by malicious gossip. I don't mean the kind of talk targeting celebrities who often wash their dirty linen in public and open their personal lives to scrutiny and comment, though I concede they have feelings like everyone else.

I'm referring to the kind of remarks made when so-called friends get together to talk about mutual acquaintances behind their back. I'm sure you must have noticed how often the information exchanged during these sessions is negative and damaging.

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

How would this person feel if he or she were in the room with you?
How would you feel if similarly comments were being made about you?
What's your responsibility, even if you are just listening to others?

April 10: You can't possess another person, but you can nurture a relationship

If you see a beautiful flower in a garden and pluck it to take home with you, it may give you some pleasure for a few days, but will eventually die. If you leave it in its own soil, water it and nurture it, it will give you pleasure for many seasons.

Wanting security, particularly in a relationship, is a natural human instinct. But grasping at something instead of nurturing it is a short-term strategy unlikely to yield long-lasting dividends.

April 11: The knight and the wolf

A knight returned home from battle and went directly to the nursery to see his infant son. When he entered the nursery, he found blood everywhere and the family dog lying in the corner. Overcome with grief and anger, he took out his sword and slayed the dog, assuming that it had fatally mauled his baby.

On closer inspection, however, he noticed a dead wolf lying on top of his infant son. When he lifted the carcass of the animal off his son's body, he discovered that the baby was alive. Realization dawned at last that his dog had killed the wolf in order to save the baby's life and that he had killed the very animal that had saved his son.

Just spend a few moments thinking of an unfair judgement you might have recently made about the words or actions of another person. Could you have been partly or even completely wrong in your assessment?

April 12: Now that you know better, do better!

Understanding that is not translated into action is futile; indeed, one might say it isn't any kind of understanding at all.

Unless what we have learnt is grounded in what we do, that knowledge is of little benefit to ourselves and of no use at all to those around us.

It's worth taking a few minutes off from your usual activities today to check if what you now know is being expressed in what you do.

April 13: What would you do, if no one knew who you were?

Imagine a situation in which you suddenly find yourself living in another country. Everyone speaks your language, but no one knows your history. And while you were being transported to this new place, you also lost, along with your luggage, all your former convictions and preferences. So, you are safe and secure, but unknown.

What would you choose to do for a living?
What sort of people would you seek out as your friends?
What would you prefer to believe?
What would you do for fun and entertainment?

Now, check your answers to these questions and see whether they differ from the life you are actually leading right now. Then ask yourself one last question: Do I need to start making changes in my life?

April 14: You are more powerful than you imagine

Mark was walking home from school, when he saw the boy ahead of him trip and drop a big pile of books he was carrying. Mark knelt down and helped him pick up the scattered books. Since they were going the same way, he helped carry part of the load.

As they walked along together, Mark discovered that the boy's name was Bill and that he loved video games, baseball and history. He came to know, however, that Bill had a lot of trouble with other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. They continued to see each other around school and became good friends.

Six years later, after high-school graduation, when they were going to college in different towns, Bill asked Mark, "Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things the day we first met? You see, I had just cleaned out my locker, because I did not want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had saved some sleeping pills from my mother's stock and was going to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together, talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed those happy moments with you and so many others that might follow. When you helped me, you did not only pick up my books. You saved my life."

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you could change a person's life, for better or for worse.

April 15: Today, you could...

Today, you could try and respond with new energy and determination to the challenge of life.
You could keep pushing, until the door opens for you.

Today, you could be just one step away from a real breakthrough.
And the only way to find out if, indeed, you are, is to take that step.

Today, you could suspend your judgement of others and look at them with new eyes.
You might be pleasantly surprised at the discoveries you make or feel the need to protect yourself more.

April 16: Three things that went well

This is a well-researched approach to creating, improving and maintaining a positive mindset.

Each day, write down in your journal three things that have gone well for you. Add your views on what you believe are the reasons for this. The original experiment that was carried out along these lines suggested keeping up this practice for a week. The results in terms of a mood change for the better and an increasingly positive approach were very impressive. It was also clear that the longer the participants continued with the exercise, the more marked were the results.

Why not start this exercise right now? Review the last few days and write down the first three things that have gone well for you.

April 17: Aeroplanes are rarely on course

Ask any pilot and they will confirm this. Although they know their destination and plan their route in advance, they must spend a large part of the journey making corrections as external factors force them to move off course. Sometimes, they have to make major adjustments to avoid storms and turbulence. On other occasions, minor ones are necessary to allow for wind changes. But they still arrive safely at their chosen destination.

It's interesting, how some people feel they should be able to go straight to their objectives without encountering a single hindrance, sometimes even giving up if they are blown off course.

What's important is the following: You should know where you are going and also be aware if adjustments need to be made along the way.

Don't give up on your dreams. Just be prepared for the occasional detour.

April 18: If you want something, try asking for it

It sounds very simple. But a great deal of research has shown that people are reluctant to actually ask for what they want either out of a misplaced sense of courtesy or fear of rejection or of social embarrassment. There are also people who make this request in so tactless manner that it doesn't encourage a positive response.

Here are some useful guidelines to help you ask for what you want so that your request is heeded:

Approach someone who you know can supply what you need; otherwise, there's little point in making the request.

Be specific; make it clear what you want and when you want it.

Ensure that your request is expressed with courtesy. Don't demand, threaten or plead. Be prepared for the eventuality of a refusal.

Sounds easy? Why not find out? Experiment by asking for something you want today.

April 19: If you wrote yourself a letter, would you be upset to receive it?

I guess this sounds like a silly question. If you already know what you wrote, why would reading it upset you? But then, consider the following:

Have you ever brooded over something and ended up feeling upset as a result?

Have your thoughts ever lingered on a past slight and caused you to become tense and unhappy?

Have you ever recalled a bad time you've been through and experienced the pain all over again?

Remember: Your thoughts are not created by events. They aren't created by other people either. They are created by you alone. And they are the letters you write to yourself.

April 20: What did you enjoy as a child that you would enjoy doing now?

A simple question and worth a few minutes of your time today.

Just write down five things you enjoyed when you were young. It could be kicking leaves as you strolled along a street, being read to or whatever is relevant for you. If you can't come up with five such experiences, write down things you think you would have enjoyed had you been given the opportunity.

Now, next to each one of these items, write down a related experience you could enjoy here and now as an adult. Then try out a few to see how they feel. Here are some examples:

Being read to: Listening to books on a cd or your MP3 player.

Kicking leaves: Kicking leaves, it's still fun..

Being hugged: Hugging someone.

It's amazing how many fond childhood experiences are still available to us as adults.

April 21: Footprints in the snow

If you look at a trail of footprints in the snow, you might think you know in which direction the person making them is headed. But you might well be mistaken in your assumption. All you can actually tell is where the person who made the footprints came from and where he has been. The footprints are a record of the past, not the future. At any time, the person could change direction or even set off to cover a different terrain.

This can be a metaphor for you life if you want to make it so. Your past does not equal your future. Others may think they know the direction in which you are heading, whether it's in the long term or the short term, but you can, at any moment, change direction and go somewhere new, thereby surprising people, even those who know you well.

Your history does not direct your path. It might be a burden you have to carry for a while, but it does not decide where you will go. Only you can do that.

April 22: It's difficult to forgive people we have harmed

This, perhaps, needs to be read a few times before its real meaning can sink in, because it's counter-intuitive. Logically speaking, if we have harmed someone, it's they who should be doing the forgiving. Despite that being true the offender also finds it hard to forgive.

Look back to situations where, rightly or wrongly, you have ended up feeling guilty. Ask yourself whether you haven't sometimes reacted with anger, particularly, when you yourself were at fault.
So, when your reaction to someone is negative, it's worth asking yourself a couple of questions:

1. Have I wronged this person in some way?

2. Does he have a trait or habit that reminds me of something in me I don't like?

Of course, there are occasions when we have a negative attitude to people simply because they are not very nice to be with. Sometimes, we need to take things at face value, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But it's always worth exploring such situations to find out the root cause of our reactions.

Conversely, when someone is unreasonably angry with you, it's worth asking the same questions about them. You may well gain some new insights into their character.

April 23: Is it ever too late to have a happy childhood?

Despite the obvious appeal of this piece of bumper-sticker philosophy, I regret to say that the answer is: Yes, it is.

1. I don't mean it's too late to introduce some childlike fun into your adult life. Indeed, the fact of growing older seems to offer more opportunities for doing so.
2. I don't mean either that you can't take the initiative, perhaps, with the help of others, to deal with and resolve some negative aspects of your past life.
3. And I don't mean that you can't acquire a more positive perspective on difficult memories.

What I do mean is that at some point in your life, you have to come to terms with your past, however difficult it might have been, and that all the support and solace in the world won't change what happened to you. It might well prepare and empower you to deal with the issues you find so difficult. But the fact remains, that a time will come when you must decide to move forward instead of looking back.

Therapy which does not focus on the objective of looking at the present and the future instead of obsessing about the past is unlikely to offer a solution that will be both realistic and sustainable.

April 24: The precision of numbers

There's a beautifully poignant episode in the Woody Allen-Diane Keaton film, Annie Hall, where a split screen shows the two of them in therapy, complaining about their poor sex life.

"He wants it all the time, three or four times a week," she declares.

"She never seems to want it, at best two or three times a week," is his grouse.

The viewer realizes that three times a week might not be a bad average for both of them.

Often, what seems like a wide gap can be considerably narrowed down, if it is seen in terms of numbers. If nothing else, the process lends a given situation greater clarity and paves the way for a compromise.

Try defining some issues over which you disagree by using say, a 1-10 scale. The difference of opinion that separates you might be a lot less than you think.

April 25: It's difficult to be yourself when you're trying to please others

Almost everybody likes to be liked; it's a normal human instinct. It's also a mark of maturity to be able to accept that people being so different from one another, not everyone is going to like you or approve of what you say or do. The same word or deed may be appreciated by one person and criticized by another. Pleasing everyone is just not a practical proposition.

The price you end up paying for your efforts to achieve the impossible is that you lose touch with who you are by trying to be a different person to win the approval of each person you meet. It's just not worth the effort.

It's far better to concentrate your energies on overcoming your eagerness to please. It's nice to be pleasant. That's something you can control. But pleasing others is dependent on their reactions and beyond your immediate sphere of influence. By trying to adapt yourself to how they react, you risk ending up losing yourself.

April 26: What music can you make?

The violinist, Itzhak Perlman, was stricken with polio as a child. He wears braces on both legs and walks with the help of a pair of crutches. To watch him make his slow and painful way across the stage, one step at a time, is not an experience one can easily forget. There is a certain majesty in his laborious progress towards his chair. Then he sits down slowly, places his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps of the braces on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Bending down, he picks up the violin, positions it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. For every performance of his, they sit quietly, while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent as he undoes the clasps of the braces on his legs. They wait patiently until he is ready to play. But on one occasion, something went wrong. In the middle of the performance, one of the strings on his violin snapped. You could hear the sound like a gunfire shot across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant.

People who were there that night thought to themselves: "We figured that he would have to put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches, rise from his chair and limp his way off-stage¯to either find another violin or else another string for this one."

But Perlman didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes, then signalled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began and the violinist played from where he had left off. And he played with the kind of passion, power and purity they had never heard before. Of course, everyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that and so do you, but that night, Perlman refused to acknowledge it. When the performance drew to a close, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered.

Perlman smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow and raised his bow, asking for silence. Then he said, not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, almost reverential tone, "You know, sometimes, it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

Some stories need no further comment.

April 27: What is the best use of my time right now?

There is no more effective question to ask yourself on a daily or even hourly basis.

After all your planning and all your thinking, all your wishes and all your anxieties, you, like everyone else in the world only have here and only have now in which you can take action.

This moment will not return, time doesn't care if you spend it well or badly, it just goes on passing. That doesn't mean you should be in a rush, that's rarely an effective use of this limited resource.

What this question does is ask you to stop, reflect, decide and then move forward in a direction you can own as yours and with a plan you have created.

April 28: The more you celebrate in life, the more there is in life to celebrate

Celebration is a habit to be cultivated. Often, areas of our life that work well can pass unnoticed, while the difficult issues tend to engage more of our attention. As a result, we risk losing our perspective on life and lend our problems greater magnitude than they rightfully deserve.

So, write down today three reasons to give thanks, to celebrate. Add another one to your list tomorrow and carry on in this manner until next week, so that a week from now, you will have ten such reasons on your list. Keep the list with you and read it every day, adding to it as and when other such reasons come to mind.

Next time you are passing through a difficult phase in your life, take a few minutes to read this list before you look for solutions to any problems you might be facing. It won't change the nature of the problem, but it will certainly put you in a better state to deal with it.

April 29: Meditation

Rarely has such a simple subject been made so complicated by various belief systems, experts, gurus and adherents. Meditation is not necessarily a support to everyone. Nothing, in fact, is universally applicable to all and sundry. Meditation can be a spiritual practice, but doesn't automatically have to be. It's always simple, but can often be difficult as well.

Will it work for you? Here's how to find out:

Sit in an upright position, either on a chair or on the floor.
Close you eyes or just look downwards.
Concentrate on your breathing. Count 1 as you inhale and 2 as you exhale.
Carry on until you reach 10. Then start counting again.
Practice for five minutes, preferably at the same time every day, and build up to fifteen minutes.

That's it. Do this for a month and if it makes you feel more relaxed about your life, you might want to explore more sophisticated techniques which are nothing but more refined versions of what I have just described.

If you don't feel any difference even after a month of practice, meditation is probably not for you.

April 30: "Another King rose over Egypt who did not know Joseph"

I'm not normally one to quote religious texts, but this is the favourite quote of a dear friend and intended as a warning against putting too much faith in an individual in a position of power or influence.

I remembered it when we chose a school for our son, based on a charismatic speech by the head teacher who laid out in detail the exciting plans he had in mind¯then left at the end of the term.

In any decision involving others, be it in relation to a job, education, location and so on, it's worth finding out whether our choice can stand on its own without the prop or influence of a particular person who might currently be a determining factor in our calculations. It's worth asking yourself the following question: "If they weren't there, would I be?"

It might not change you decision, but you would, at least, be making a better-informed one.

© 2019 David Mills