February 1: Today, you could...

Today, you could take a risk with something or someone.
Who knows, your life might never be quite the same again.

Today, you could talk to a stranger or give someone a gift.
Who knows, their life might never be quite the same again.

Today, you could show compassion and consideration in all your encounters.
Who knows, the world might never be quite the same again.

February 2: If the same problem keeps turning up, it's probably about you

Here are some examples:

If you keep feeling misunderstood, there's a good chance that you don't understand yourself or are not good at communicating with others.

If other people keep irritating you, it's most likely that you are easily irritated and might consider changing the situation by asking yourself why you react the way you do.

If you keep getting involved in unhealthy relationships, it probably means that you keep making poor choices about the people you spend time with.

If you think this just applies to other people, you're fooling yourself. It may well apply to others, but it certainly applies to you.

February 3: There is no such thing as an insignificant contribution

According to chaos theory, the beating of a butterfly's wings in Africa can result in a tornado in Florida.

In life too, a warm response can change the course of another person's life for the better, whereas a harsh word may well do just the opposite.

Live today as if everything you do has a consequence, for you will never know if it's the big things or the little ones that have made the difference.

February 4: We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are

Everything we experience we experience through our own unique set of filters, be it the big things like love and beauty or the more mundane such as the quality of a cup of coffee.

Important insights arise from this understanding:

1. Our communications are, at best, approximate.

2. Others do not see the world as we do and never will.

3. Ideas about right and wrong are often matters of personal judgement.

Today, see in what way you can show more tolerance for the differences in others; for you are just as different as they are.

February 5: Loving being in love

Some people just love to be in love and who can blame them? It's a great state. Emotions run high and you feel you're vibrantly alive.

It's worth remembering, though, that there is a difference between loving the state of being in love and actually loving the person you are supposed to be in love with.

If you don't make the distinction the chances are your relationship won't last.

February 6: Comfort, stretch and panic zones

It's useful to look at how much of your life you spend in the following zones:-

Your comfort zone: This is where we feel most secure. It's fine to spend time in this zone, the trouble is that some people never step out of it!

Your stretch zone: Here we push ourselves to excel at what we do and explore beyond the known and the familiar. This is where we learn and, therefore, grow as human beings.

Your panic zone: This is where we know we have overdone it. It's not a place to visit very often or a place to linger too long in.

Now, what's interesting is the way these zones interact with each other.

If you stay in the comfort zone, the stretch zone shrinks and the panic zone expands.
If you regularly spend time in the stretch zone, the comfort zone expands and the panic zone shrinks.
If you regularly spend time in the panic zone, it tends to expand at the expense of the other two.

For example, if you want to enhance your fitness level, you might find that a short run is a stretch. As time goes on, however, your body adapts to the exercise and running a short distance becomes a comfortable activity for you. As a result, you need longer runs to stretch yourself.

If, like most people, you find public speaking a trial that plunges you straight into a state of panic, you can devote yourself to gently stretching yourself in that area through preparation and practice, so that you get accustomed to the idea and the activity. Once you do so, your panic will at least reduce.

So, right now, what can you commit yourself to do that will stretch you?

February 7: Waiting for the world to agree with you

I once watched a television program about the workings of a well-known commune. A group had been formed to come to a decision about a logo to identify the centre. Its members had been meeting for over a year, conferring together about it and discussing it at length and yet had not reached an agreement.

I noticed how differently they were all dressed. Some had chosen to wear clothes in bright colours. They were the ones who were in favour of a brightly colour logo. Others wore outfits in earth colours, some of them simple, others more flamboyant. Each of them had chosen a logo that matched their preference for the colours they wore. I thought it was heartening that they weren't able to agree on the logo. After all, they were individuals each with their own preferences.

However this also means that if you are waiting for the entire world to become exactly like you, Christian, Muslim, vegetarian, left-wing, right-wing, football fan or whatever, you are wasting your time. It's never going to happen.

Instead, rejoice in the variety of human experience. Ask yourself what each person can teach you. You will acquire more knowledge, gain keener insights and learn to be less rigid in your views and more understanding of others. And you won't waste your life waiting for something that isn't going to happen.

February 8: A news fast

News broadcasters and writers have an important job in our society. They act on our behalf as they try and find out what is going on in the world and inform us about it. However, we should bear in mind that they are also ambitious individuals working for commercial organizations.

And there is no doubt that bad news sells. It's easy for us to overlook that all news media carries a certain bias, for the simple reason that it is controlled by the ratings game. This is something the media itself rarely talks about.

Now, if you are in a positive frame of mind and feel good about yourself and the world around you, keeping yourself abreast of current events, even through mainly negative media reports, will do you no harm and poses no problems for your well-being.

If, however, life has dealt you a few knocks and you are not feeling emotionally up to par, I would recommend you go on a news fast. Your being informed about the world's problems at a time when you are struggling to deal with your own isn't going to help either you or the world. So, take a break and switch off the TV when the news comes on. You owe it to yourself.

February 9: What would I try, if I knew I could not fail?

Write down three quick answers to the above question. Then look for the clues they hold to what else you might want to do in your life apart from your usual preoccupations.

Perhaps, you should take a small initial step? Or a giant leap?

We all have far more potential than we actually fulfil.

"Ships in harbour are safe ... but that is not what ships were built for." (John A Shedd)

February 10: What would the child I once was think of the adult I have become?

Take some time right now to review the opinions you had of yourself when you were a child. Perhaps, you wondered about what sort of adult you might grow up to be. Perhaps, you even debated about the sort of a parent you might turn out to be.

How does the reality compare?

You may be pleasantly surprised at how far you have come.
On the other hand, you may realize there are still some changes you need to make.

February 11: Is this important or is it just urgent?

It's very easy to confuse what is important with what is urgent. As a result, we end up spending more of our time dealing with things that are urgent and rarely get to attend to the things that are important. Sometimes, those close to us, important people in our lives, suffer because we are so taken up with "urgent" trivia.

An alternative question we could ask ourselves is the following: What would happen if I didn't do this thing I regard as urgent and concentrated, instead, on something I consider important? Could I live with the consequences?

February 12: What is the bigger YES?

Sometimes, it's very difficult to say "NO" to the requests others make of us. Driven by the desire to help, we are likely to feel guilty about turning someone down.

At such times it could be worth asking yourself the question "If I say "NO" to this request will that enable me to do something of greater value?"

If there is something of greater value that you can do, perhaps even just having time for yourself, the "NO" can become a bigger "YES", the negative can become a positive.

Today you could put this into practice, at least once.

February 13: Let go of the past or the future

Amazingly, some people keep a mental list of the times they were let down by their friends or partners. It is a list of every slight they ever suffered. The same people have a talent for choosing items from their list to toss into situations when the moment is ripe for creating the maximum amount of damage.

Of course, these are "other people" and you have never done anything like that.

But just in case you are tempted down this path, do remember that it's your choice. You either let go of the past or the future.

February 14: Love never dies a natural death

The state of being "in love" can and usually does settle down over the years, but love itself, if nurtured, need never die.

What can kill love is a diet of negativity, particularly, negative comments.

Communication either builds or destroys. The choice is yours.

Perhaps, today could be the time to give extra care and support for the love that is in your life?

February 15: How can you ruin a relationship and grow old quickly?

The answer: Lay down too many rules.

It is said that every cigarette you smoke takes five minutes off your life. Well, there is a good chance that every rule you establish about how things should or should not be costs you many times more than that. What's more, such rules can damage and destroy your relationships as well.

Relationships, like life, need to flow in order to evolve. The greater the number of blocks we put in the way, the more likely we are to prevent the flow and hold back the growth. And things that don't flow not only don't grow, they also tend to decay.

Today is the day you could choose to disregard one of your unnecessary rules and see how it feels when you go to bed tonight.

February 16: Tram tracks

In the town where I grew up, there were tram tracks we loved following as we rode our bicycles alongside just for the fun of it. When our wheels sometimes got stuck in the track, we couldn't steer and had to stop to lift our bikes off the track before setting off for wherever we were headed in the first place. I've thought a lot about that as a life metaphor as I've got older.

Sometimes when we feel we are heading in the wrong direction we can make a course correction to get where we want to be.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our circumstances that we must come to a halt before we can change direction to correct our course.

Is today a time for minor adjustments? Or do you need to pause before going in for a bigger change?

February 17: A mental challenge

Try to go for three days without entertaining a negative thought for more than five seconds. If one comes along, either let it go or replace it with something positive. If you fail to do so, the time starts again and you keep going until you have completed your three days.

The worst that can happen is that you become more keenly aware of your thought processes.

And the best could be a permanent change in your focus.

February 18: Who would you be without your history?

Go back to early childhood and imagine the way your life would have been had the circumstances been different. You may discover:

1. How the difficult times shaped the person you are today and that you don't wish to change them.

2. Areas of your life that were not fully explored or expressed and realize that you can do something about them.

3. Bottled-up feelings that have, in turn, trapped the real you and which you could now choose to release.

Who knows what may turn up? There is only one way to find out.

February 19: Who can put you down?

Well, almost anyone actually. It's the hazard of being human.

People who have poor opinions of themselves often try to boost their fragile egos by trying to put others down. It's wise to remember when someone tries to put you down that this kind of behaviour says far more about the person indulging in it, than about you.

There's a difference between being put down and feeling put down. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

February 20: Take me to "The University"

This was the request a visitor made to her taxi driver when she was being driven around a historic town. The driver took a route past various colleges, the church, skirted the playing fields and ended up back at the railway station.

The passenger argued over the fare, because she had not seen "The University". She had wanted one building she could visit so that she could say she had been there. Unfortunately for her, that's not what a university is.

The same is true of a relationship. A genuine relationship can't be confined to a single location, a specific feeling or a particular event. It is based on all these things and more. Above all, a relationship is an experience and your attempts to define or contain it will merely hinder all that you would have gained from it, so undermining its value.

Ask yourself: "What preconceived notions about my relationship do I need to let go of in order to allow it to flourish in the weeks ahead?"

February 21: A "manipulative" story

I try to avoid stories that manipulate our emotions and milk them for all they are worth, but this one illustrates such a vital truth that it deserves inclusion.

A man stopped at a florist's to order some flowers to be delivered to his mother who lived far away. As he got out of his car, he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb and sobbing. He asked her what was wrong.

"I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother," she replied, "but I only have seventy-five cents and a rose costs two dollars."

The man smiled and said, "Come on in with me. I'll buy you a rose." He bought the little girl her rose and ordered the flowers he wanted to be sent to his mother.
As they were leaving, he offered the girl a ride home.

"Yes, please!" she said, accepting his offer. "You can take me to my mother."

She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

The man returned to the flower shop, cancelled the order for the flowers to be delivered, picked up a bouquet and drove the hundred miles to his mother's house.

Draw your own conclusions from this story about who you need to get in touch with, whose contribution to your life you need to acknowledge and appreciate. Then act on it.

February 22: The fitted suit

A man goes to "George", the famous tailor, to have a suit made. After selecting the fabric and being measured for the suit, he returns for the fitting. He puts the suit on and discovers that one sleeve is shorter than the other. So, George suggests he shorten his arm by raising his shoulder. This will make the sleeve fit better. The change of posture, however, turns up the collar. So, the tailor advises him to tilt his head to one side.

This creates a problem with the other shoulder. So, his body has to be adjusted to compensate for it and this goes on. When the man finally leaves the shop wearing the suit, he is stopped by a passer-by who says, "I know only George could have made a suit that would so perfectly fit a cripple like you."

How much of your life do you live in a way that distorts your real identity in order to fit the image life has made for you and which the rest of the world thinks fits you perfectly?

Write down the three biggest changes you want to bring about in your life and the action you can take today to help you move in that direction.

February 23: Why are you being so nice to me?

In the film, The Breakfast Club, there is a scene where a girl from the wrong side of the tracks is being given a make-over by an upper-class girl she is sharing a Saturday detention with. The first girl asks the second, "Why are you being so nice to me?" And the simple answer is "Because you're letting me".

Just pause to think how difficult the act of giving can be, especially when there is resistance from the receiver. People are sometimes embarrassed about accepting anything from others. It makes them feel obligated, beholden, even vulnerable. The process of giving is rarely simple.

Now, ask yourself how good a receiver you are. How easy do you find it to accept what others offer? Could it be possible that even as you're resenting the fact that people don't do anything for you, you resist accepting what they are keen to offer? Phrases such as "It's easier if I do it myself" or "Others don't do things the way I like them to" could serve as clues to discovering if this applies to you. If you're not sure, ask someone close to you for their views.

Today, you could try accepting what people want to offer you. It could be a fulfilling experience for both parties.

February 24: What are you waiting for?

Allow yourself to focus on this question for a while. Be receptive to the message it conveys to you and you alone. Okay, you might be waiting either for a TV program to begin or for someone's arrival, so that the two of you can go out together, but beyond the immediate context, what are the many things you are expecting to happen and for which you have put your life on hold?

Now ask yourself the following question: Is there an alternative to waiting?

Even if something important is supposed to happen tomorrow, you still have the chance to enjoy today to the full, don't you? Why waste the whole of today simply in anticipation of what is due to take place tomorrow?

If you find yourself waiting for the "right" person or people to turn up in your life, you might want to check out whether you are enjoying the company of those who are already there.

If you are waiting either to start a job, go on holiday or merely for the sun to rise, don't ignore the opportunities the period of waiting offers you.

As a minimum your wait will be all the more pleasant for it.

February 25: You don't find the light by studying the dark

Counselling and therapy have their uses and have been of great benefit to many. If trying to resolve a certain problem on your own or with the help of friends isn't getting you the desired results, these are options you might want to give serious thought to. However, the purpose of such work must be geared to resolve your issues as quickly as possible.

You should examine your past only to the extent that it helps you to release its grip on your present. Repeated analysis of the difficult times you have lived through runs the risk of becoming a self-defeating exercise. If you are committed to improving your situation, your main focus should be on how you want things to be rather than on how they were before.

February 26: Others may travel along the same path but you are unique

Reassure yourself with the thought that whatever you are facing is no different from what many others have faced before you. Most of them have survived the experience and even matured through it. Their experience and the manner in which they have come through it can be uplifting and inspirational for you.

The situation has its flip side, however. The triumphs of others can also become the stick we beat ourselves with as we ask ourselves repeatedly: They managed to do it. Why can't I?

This is the moment for you to remind yourself of your uniqueness as an individual. Just as your own fingerprints cannot match those of others, the problems faced by others while similar to your own, are never identical. So, don't be harsh on yourself because of your inability to handle problems in quite the same way as others have before you. Rather, allow the way in which they have dealt with their issues to become an inspiration for you.

Be as kind to yourself as you would be with others. Always remember: They are not you, you are not them.

February 27: It's not the size of problem that's important, but the state of the person dealing with it

 I'm sure you will agree that it would be silly to try and run a marathon without being in peak condition, insane to start conducting an orchestra without learning to read music and stupid to dive into the deep end of a pool without learning to swim. Yet, we think nothing of trying to deal with major problems in our lives when we are least fit to do so and are surprised when things don't work out.

Devote time to yourself and your needs, even if it's for a short while, before you spend time on your problems. The better you feel physically and emotionally, the more resources you will have when you attend to your problems. As a result, they will seem less acute and the solutions you find for them will be more creative.

Here are three pointers:

1. Get enough sleep. Almost everything seems worse than it actually is when you are tired.
2. Check you are in a positive frame of mind. How you approach a problem determines how difficult it will be to solve.
3. Enlist the support of others. Few things need to be faced alone and most people love to be of help.

February 28: Who could help me with this? (1)

People are often reluctant to ask others for help and use phrases like "I don't want to take up their time" or "They already have enough to do without having to do this for me as well" to justify their stand. Yet, the same people, if asked to help someone else, will say, "I'm so glad they asked me to do this for them" or "Pleased I could be of assistance."

Why not treat yourself with as much consideration as you would treat others?

Why not ask for help today?

If it's not a leap year, you could even look at the item for the 29th February today.

February 29: Who could help me with this? (2)

If you could conjure up the image of anyone¯living or dead, real or fictional¯to help you, who would that person be and what kind of help would he or she offer?

Pay careful attention to the new insights the memory of that person brings you, acknowledge them as your own and follow the direction in which they lead.

Why not ask for and accept help today?

© 2019 David Mills