Here are some more recent items. I hope you find them of help.
Today you could let go of the past.
Since you know you can't change it, don't hang on to it.
Today you could leave the future alone.
If you have made the plans that need to be made don't waste time in anticipation.
Today you could enjoy all the present has to offer.
That's why it's called the present, it's a gift, it's life.
Here are five thoughts, based on research. Try 2 or 3 today.
1. Plant something and nurture it.
Caring for something, or someone, else changes how we feel about ourselves.
2. Count your blessings--at least five--at the end of each day.
And keep that list as a reminder to start the next day. You can repeat items but you need to write five each day.
3. Take time to talk. Have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week.
When you reach out to others both you and they benefit from the encounter.
4. Phone a friend with whom you have not spoken for a while and arrange to meet up.
In the world of emails, texts and phone conversation nothing beats a face to face meeting.
5. Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it.
Most of us spend more time and effort meeting the needs of others than meeting our own needs.
Here are five more items, again based on research. Try a further 2 or 3 today.
6. Have a good laugh at least once a day.
A funny book, a website full of jokes, a comedy club, a film, shared fun...go for it.
7. Get physical. Exercise for half an hour three times a week.
This is one most people don't associate with happiness, try it for a month and see if it makes a difference.
8. Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once each day.
An easy one to test out, just do it and see how it makes you feel.
9. Cut your TV viewing by half.
OK, half might be pushing it, but do try and reduce it, particularly the time spent watching the news.
10. Spread kindness. Do a good turn for someone every day.
If you keep in mind the possibility of doing a good turn the opportunities will come to you as the day goes on.
Admitting an error is very difficult for some people and it's to them that this item is addressed.
Here is the challenge for today.
Identify a situation where you were wrong and couldn't, or wouldn't, admit it.
1. Acknowledge your error to yourself, preferably out loud and in front of a mirror. Go on you can do it, just say 'I was wrong when...'
2. Acknowledge your error to another person, preferably one affected by it. No need to make a big thing of this, just as simple 'sorry' or again 'I was wrong when..'is enough.
3. Take one action, however small, to make amends for any harm that resulted. The acknowledgement could be enough but try and go a step further.
Today you could think of three ways in which your life could be worse.
And then rejoice that it isn't.
Today you could think of three things you could easily have got wrong.
And then rejoice that you didn't.
Today you could recall three difficulties that you have dealt with.
And rejoice that they are behind you.
My grandfather was his own worst enemy, except between the years 1939 and 1945.
OK, that's a joke but there is an underlying truth that many things which occupy our minds cease to be important when we are faced with a bigger threat or problem.
So we do have a choice about how we deal with the issues in our lives and we don't need to wait for a world war to move on from things that are holding us back.
There are two ways in which life can be a struggle:-
First when you are trying to do something, learn something, be something, that is difficult and challenging.
Second when you are trying to do something or be something that goes against your own best interests.
The first is an invitation to use all your resources to achieve your goal, the second a sign you should consider giving up.
The distinction is not an easy one to make, here are some questions that might help.
If I achieve this will I better express my uniqueness as a human being?
If no one else cared about the outcome, would I continue with the struggle?
Is there a way of using my time and energy that might serve me better?
Just imagine you have been introduced to yourself, without knowing it was you.
How would you react to that person?
If your answer is that you would like this person more than you like yourself you might decide it's time to raise your opinion of who you are.
If your answer is that you would like this person less than you do yourself you might think it's time to improve on how you show up in the world.
If your answer is that you would like this person about the same as you do yourself, be drawn to some parts, less keen on others, then congratulations on being comfortable in you own skin.
This is a true story about a lecture given in London by a visiting American academic on a specialised scientific subject. In the audience was a local expert in the same field who's firmly held views were very different from those of the lecturer. At the end of the talk the local expert stood up and the audience awaited his comments and criticism. Instead he said quite simply, "Thank you, I've been wrong about this for the last 15 years."
There is something exceptional about the ability of humans to embrace a new realisation even if it makes a past belief wrong. The learning and changed understanding is seen to be of greater importance that any loss of ego.
Right now, choose one belief about which you have some deep and, so far unadmitted, doubts perhaps about a past event, perhaps a deeply held conviction about life.
Are you prepared to say "Thank you" to your new understanding even if you end recognising you have been wrong in the past?
In a graveyard in Edinburgh called Greyfriars is a statue of a Sky Terrier called Bobby who, after the death of his master, John Grey, kept watch over his grave for fourteen years, leaving only once a day to get food.
It's a touching story of love and devotion but it's also a warning about hanging on to a past that will never return. I guess when you die you don't want a statue to mark the fact that you stayed in the same place, physically, mentally and emotionally for many years.
What you are hanging on to that will never come back?
What do you need to let go of so you can start moving forward in your life?
We all seek some certainty in our lives; it's a natural human reaction.
Here are the only three things, as I see it, that you can be certain of.
1. Time passing
However we spend the time we have available, and it's the same time for everybody, it will pass at the same rate. If we waste it, spend it wisely, ignore it, panic about it, time will just go on passing without reference to us. So it's a smart move to make sure we spend it in ways that work for us, it's a scarce resource.
2. Things change
This might well feel like a cause for insecurity but if you embrace the inevitability of change you will be better prepared for it and almost certainly better able to deal with it. It's the nature of things, people, relationships to change, not always for the better. Everything passes, good times, bad times. Resistance to change often causes more suffering than change itself.
This is the big one, for all of us, whatever our beliefs. Death visits everyone, usually first in the death of those close to us, and then in a recognition we too will die one day, and that we don't know when that day is. We do however have control in how we spend the time between now and that unknown date.
Today you could spend less time thinking about others.
And learn to treat yourself with kindness, love and patience.
Today you could slow down the rush of your live.
And make time for yourself just to be, to enjoy the moment.
Today you could take some time out.
And use it to list all the good ways you affect other people.
This heading will be very familiar to any fan of Bruce Springsteen, it's what the crowd call out before his performance starts.
It also sounds like they are booing and that's what a well know singer who preceded him at a charity concert thought, and she left the stage in tears.
How many of the slights and rejections in life are caused by misunderstandings, here are some examples.
I'll meet you by the station exit. It turned out there were two, we both waited for 30 mins and felt let down by the other one.
You weren't there when I called round at the agreed time. Actually I had rushed my sick neighbour to hospital and couldn't let you know.
I was upset you forgot my birthday. I didn't but the postal service screwed up so your present arrived over a week late.
Next time you feel upset over something and can't check it out immediately, imagine a reason that wouldn't upset you, at least until you get the chance to find out the facts.
If you suffer before you need to you suffer more than you need to.
There is a difference between making a decision and acting on a decision, both are important but you won't act until you have decided.
That's what makes this distinction so important.
If you find there are actions you want to take but have kept putting off then at some level you are still dealing with an "if".
You probably haven't made a firm decision and are using the uncertainty about "when" to avoid making a clear commitment.
On the other hand you may be clear about what you are going to do, just uncertain about when you will take action.
Right now might be a good time either to act or at least to fix a date and time you are prepared to hold yourself accountable for.
This is just for fun. Stand in front of a mirror, look at yourself and put the biggest silliest grin on your face. Hold it and turn your head so you are looking up at the ceiling. While holding the grin and looking up at the ceiling clench your buttocks as firmly as possible and hold that position for the next instruction.
Now, try and be depressed!
This is not meant to be a cure for the difficult things in your life, it's not meant to be a treatment for depression. It does highlight that how you stand, and the expressions you make have an effect on your mood.
Today, you could experiment with that.
It's worth considering that you probably learn more from your failures than you do from your successes.
I'm not discounting success, it's a wonderful feeling to attempt to do something and achieve it.
But it can be followed by a full stop and the question "Whats next?"
There is also something amazing about failure when the task you have set yourself turns out to be a bit too much for you.
For a start it's an heroic endeavour, to try for something beyond your normal comfort zone even if you don't quite make it.
And the learning can exceed that of trying for something less worthwhile, even if you make it.
Today, you could attempt something where your chance of success is quite low.
And decide to learn from the process, whatever the outcome.
When you put a rat in a maze with some cheese in the middle he follows the smell and experiments with different paths before he finds the one that leads to the cheese.
If you repeat the exercise he will follow the correct path with less errors and after a few repeats will finally learn the best way to get the food he wants.
If you then move the cheese to another location the rat will try the route that worked before a few times and then give up and try new directions until he is successful.
It seems that human beings don't act as intelligently as rats when it comes to how we run our lives.
So often we repeat a well trodden path even though it hasn't worked the last few times we tried it.
Here is a definition of stupidity; 'Doing exactly the same thing again and again and expecting to get a different result'.
The crash diet that has never worked long term before but 'this time it will be different'.
The approach to a relationship issue that has always led to a row but 'this time it will be different'.
The search for something lost in the same place you have looked for it the last three times!!!
If you are consistently not getting the reward you seek it's time to change your approach and find a new route.
Today, you could select an area of your life in which to apply this new learning.
This is a story from the therapist Richard Bandler. I'm not sure if it's true or if he made it up to make a point.
A man in a psychiatric hospital is convinced he has already died and is now corpse. Bandler asks him various questions in an attempt to convince the man he is still alive, but to no avail. Finally he asks him "If you are a corpse and I cut you you won't bleed will you?" The man nods his assent, at which point Bandler leans over and stabs him with a pin, deep enough to draw blood. He looks at the man, who has not even flinched, expecting him to accept this proof that he is alive. "Well, I was wrong" said the patient, "Corpses do bleed"
Whatever beliefs people cling to or depend on they will find evidence to support, even if the have to manufacture it.
Today, you could look at one of your cherished beliefs and ask yourself if your attitude has blinded you to evidence to the contrary.
Like it or not, we usually find we are living the life we have chosen.
Yes, tragedy or illness can strike us, difficult events arise, but overall we end up with the results of the decisions and choices we have made.
We can protest, claim bad luck, bemoan our fate, wish things were different, in fact do almost anything except face up to the fact that we are responsible for our decisions and their consequences. And even if there are other reasons why you still don't have the life you would like you will be best served by assuming you are responsible for how things have turned out.
Today, you could act as if everything in your life is because you have created it that way and then, if you want to, you can create it differently.
Well it is if it's done properly.
Let me suggest three ways of listening.
Very useful when you are receiving information e.g. 'meet you at 10.30 by the coffee house' although it's amazing how many people get even this wrong. Look out for a tendency to start framing your reply before the other person has finished talking, it usually means you're not concentrating hard enough.
This is helpful in more serious conversations. Here you listen to the words but also try to get in touch with the feelings behind them. This listening is characterised by an ability to respond in such a way that the speaker says 'Yes, that's exactly what I meant' Remember how you have felt when someone showed they had fully understood you?
This goes beyond accuracy and even empathy. Here you listen so carefully to the whole communication, get so attuned to the other person, that your response tells the speaker something they didn't fully realise. Responses such as 'You are right, and I didn't even realise that's what I was saying' indicate you are practicing advanced listening.
Today you could decide to try all three ways as opportunities present themselves.
1. Decide on something you want, it can be something small or a major life goal.
2. Check it's phrased in the positive, what you want, not what you don't want, and then write it down.
3. Decide on an action, however small, which you can take today towards that objective.
4. Take that action, do whatever you have to do to complete it, and, preferably, record it.
5. Decide on an action you can take tomorrow towards your goal and record that as well for when you wake up.
If you keep this process up for a week you will end up a lot nearer to, or achieving, your goal.
Emerson said 'The hardest thing in the world is to think'
But it is worth the effort and using questions is a great way to start.
Today, you could question everything.
Here are some suggestions.
Does eating this food support the life I want to have?
Am I spending time with people who enhance my life?
Why do I still feel this way over something that has passed?
Is buying this item going to be a good use of my finances?
Could I be doing something more fun than watching television?
As well as answering these, see how many more questions you can generate. It would be interesting to go to bed tonight tired out from just thinking.
Today, you could stop making comparisons between yourself and others.
Rejoice in being who you are, and then, if you want to, make changes.
Today, you could stand out from the crowd or be part of the crowd.
There is no right or wrong way to be and it's your choice.
Today, you could decide on what you want to have done by the time you go to bed.
And start right now to take action towards making that your reality.
A husband notices his wife cuts a thick slice off the ham they usually have on Sundays before putting it in the oven. He asks why she does that and she tells him it makes the roast taste better and that, anyway, it's what her mother always did. His mother in law is joining them for lunch that day so he repeats the question to her and she also says it improves the taste and that it's what her mother did. That afternoon they go to visit the grandmother in her retirement home so again he repeats the question. 'I had to cut the end off, our oven was too small' says the old lady.
It seems like more of a joke than a true story until you reflect on the things you do out of habit that no longer serve you.
A challenge for today; look for an example of a repeated habit that is no longer of use to you, and then drop it or come up with a better approach.
In ancient Greek drama there was usually a group called The Chorus whose job it was to tell the audience what was really going on. The Chorus always told it like it was, no pretence, no denial, it had absolute integrity. The main actors played out their stage drama, often ignoring situations and information that conflicted with how they wanted the world to be. Behind them, The Chorus would tell the unembellished truth in a very matter of fact way.
If you have a friend who can be your Greek Chorus, not just tell you what they think you want to hear but give you their honest opinion even if it is difficult for you to listen to, then they are a resource beyond measure and you should value them greatly even if they sometimes annoy you.
There is also a Greek Chorus inside each of us, a quiet voice that knows what is really going on and tells us the truth we are trying to avoid.
Today, you could allow it to speak to you; it may well save you from future suffering.
Your mind, like your body, needs regular exercise to maintain it, strengthen it and keep it supple.
Here are some suggestions you might want to consider and take action on.
Go out of your way to meet someone new, someone outside of your usual circle.
Read a newspaper with a view completely different from the one you hold.
Choose a type of TV program or station you wouldn't normally watch.
Go to a place you wouldn't normally visit and look for some new stimulation.
Try an activity you never thought you would indulge in, just because it is different.
And in each of the above look for what is good about the experience.
Many years ago, I sorted out my very large and very full tool box. I tipped the contents on to an old sheet on the floor and then started to go through item by item keeping or discarding as appropriate. After five minutes I realised this was going to take well over an hour. I sat and thought about how to speed the process up and decided to just decide what I knew I needed and wanted to keep and then throw the rest away without looking at each item even if I might have missed something. It has since turned out I didn't.
So here is the challenge for today.
If you unpacked all aspects of your life, location, relationships, job, leisure, attitudes, and only took back what you really wanted what would you wish to keep and what would you be willing to discard as 'not needed on voyage'?
A young widower, who loved his five year old son very much, was away on business when bandits came who burned down the whole village and took his son away. When the man returned, he saw the ruins and panicked. He took the burnt corpse of an infant to be his son and cried uncontrollably. He organised a cremation ceremony, collected the ashes and put them in a beautiful little bag which he always kept with him. Soon afterwards, his real son escaped from the bandits and found his way home. He arrived at his father's new cottage at midnight and knocked at the door. The father, still grieving asked: "Who is it?" The child answered, "it's me papa, open the door!" But in his agitated state of mind, convinced his son was dead, the father thought that some young boy was making fun of him. He shouted: "Go away" and continued to cry. After some time, the child left. Father and son never saw each other again."
This is an old Buddhist story and in commentary the Buddha said "Sometime, somewhere, you take something to be the truth. If you cling to it so much, even when the real truth comes in person and knocks on your door, you will not open it."
One day a young monk on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The monk yelled over to the teacher, "Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river"? The teacher pondered for a moment looked up and down the river and yelled back, "My son, you are on the other side".
I hope that made you smile.
Let me now raise an interesting question that you might want to consider today:-
Could it be that in some parts of your life where you currently feel dissatisfied you are in practice where you want to be even if it doesn't feel like that?
Perhaps that won't apply to you but you might still get some new understanding by thinking about the possibility.
Is there something you have always wanted to do, an experience you have always sought after, an objective you have never quite reached?
Sometimes such situations do respond to greater effort, can be achieved with a final push. Sometimes however, particularly if it's a long standing unrealised ambition, it's good to stop trying harder and instead start looking at what is getting in the way, what is holding you back.
If you are having trouble getting in touch with what is blocking you try this.
Write 'What stops me doing this is....' ten times on a sheet of paper and then finish the sentence with ten different reasons.
Somewhere in the answers will be clues to what it is you need to face up to before you can move forward to your goal.
Knowing what it is doesn't solve the problem but it does give you the best place to look for a solution.
You probably know about this idea, that we are all connected to everyone else on the planet by an average of six linking people. So you know someone, who knows someone, and so on, an average of six times and then you are in touch with anyone in the world you wish to be in contact with.
It gives an added dimension to the question 'Who could help me with this?' You are not limited to the people you know personally, you can include the people they know and so on.
Indeed, via the internet, you can very quickly have contact with a whole range of people. So expand your horizons when you have something you need help with. What you need is out there and you do have ways of contacting it.
A couple of years ago I had a problem of a shower drainage that couldn't rely on gravity so I posted a question on a website. Eight hours later I got a reply from someone 5,000 miles away giving me details of a pump that would solve my problem.
The world is full of people who want to help, reach out and find them.
This is a well known quote from a film but I'd like to leave to one side its quite aggressive origins and ask this question.
What one thing could you do today that would 'make your day'.
It doesn't have to be major, but it might be. It does have to make your day special in a way you hadn't thought it was going to be.
Best of luck with this, and remember to enjoy the process.
'Who knows where the time goes?' is a song title and also a good question.
Do you sometimes go to bed wondering where the day has gone, feeling you haven't spent it wisely?
If you do, here is a suggestion, record how you spend the next three days.
Just take a blank sheet of paper, or use your computer, and record every hour how you have spent the time.
Do that for three days, it won't take more than thirty minutes total.Then spend another half an hour reviewing what you have written and see if it matches how you want your life to be.
If it does then rejoice, if it doesn't then make changes and repeat the exercise.
When I was young I heard an address for children at my local church, given by my Baptist Minister father, about a tree that grew straight, never bent whatever nature threw at it and so was chosen to be the mast of a big sailing ship. When we had a hurricane in the UK I thought about that as so many straight trees got uprooted in the high winds and so died. Trees with more flexibility survived because they quite literally bent in the wind.
If you think about it it's not an either or situation, sometimes you need to stand straight and hold your position and sometimes you need to show flexibility, the real skill is to know which approach is most appropriate in each situation.
Today, you could be aware of the choice you have and perhaps even experiment to see which works best for you at a particular time.
The actress Joan Collins is married to a man many years younger than herself. She was asked recently if she worried about the age difference and replied 'Well, I see it this way, if he dies, he dies'
Just makes you smile doesn't it, a great way of responding to a difficult question.
A reframe is a way of changing the way you understand something to give it a different and preferably more positive meaning to it.
Here are some examples:-
From 'I just don't have an answer to this' to 'I'm interested to see what answer emerges'
From 'This is getting me down' to 'I have the resources to get on top of this'
From 'I'm too old/stupid/tired/down' to 'Any improvement is still making things better'
You could try some out today.
We all have a lot of skills and talents and if you think you don't then one of your talents is that of self denial, you are brilliant at it.
So, you express yourself in many ways each day depending on your circumstances and the people you meet.
Today I want to invite you to choose a particular feeling, and yes, it's going to be a positive one, and live the day demonstrating it.
Here are some suggestions:-
Loving : Whatever happens respond with love.
Wisdom : Credit yourself with being wise, even if you don't feel it.
Fun loving : See what turns up that you can enjoy to the full.
Creative : Show an ability to come up with original responses.
Kind : React with gentle understanding to the events of the day.
The purpose of this exercise is to make today more fun, not to beat yourself up because you didn't manage as well as you wanted to.
Today, you could learn to give an inch.
Where you might have been inflexible in the past you could show a little flexibility today.
Today, you could walk an extra mile.
Offer someone support like they have never known it before, you will both benefit.
Today, you could prepare for a marathon.
Some things in life involve a long haul, quick fix solutions don't apply. But you could start training today.
There is research on this item; it's not something I've made up.
When you come across a situation where you don't know how to deal with things try coming up with bad ideas that won't work.
You can be outlandish and outrageous with this, even have fun with it.
Two things will happen.
1. You will step outside your normal way of dealing with such issues.
2. Out of every ten bad ideas on average there will be one which has value.
What's to lose, ten minutes of your time?
Today, you could surprise someone.
Act differently from how they are expecting, preferably in a way that makes them, and you, feel good.
Today, you could surprise yourself.
Do something you wouldn't normally do, take a risk, shake things up a bit.
Today, you could allow yourself to be surprised.
Increase your awareness, look out for things you wouldn't normally notice, let yourself be delighted by the new.
Practicing random acts of kindness is certainly not a new idea. Here is a definition and then a challenging question.
A random act of kindness is something you do for someone else without looking for personal gain.
It can be anonymous but it doesn't have to be.
Now the question. When was the last time you took such an action?
Today, you could make it a more recent event.
An old joke. 'Ask me the secret of good comedy' says the comedian.' The audience member responds 'OK, what's the secret of ..' 'Timing' says the comedian interrupting the questioner.
Now some related questions:-
What is it too late for?
Some things are beyond recovery, the time has passed and won't return. It's time to let go, time to move on.
What is it too early for?
We live in an impatient world, we try to protect the future by anticipating it, dealing with it before its time.
What is it time for?
What is it just right for you to do today? What action do you need to take? Who do you need to talk to?
There are only two types of important decisions, ones that involve life and death and ones that can't be reversed.
Life and death decisions you probably already take seriously, they do tend to concentrate the mind.
All other decisions are a lot less important and ones that can be reversed are not that important at all.
Ones that you can't go back on need careful consideration, you want to make the best choice you can.
Decisions you can change later are just experiments, when you get feedback, if it hasn't worked, you can change your mind.
Spiritual beliefs and religious practices are very important to some people and their stance should be respected.
But even the most die hard fundamentalist would have to accept that, at least on this earth, religion has been the cause of much suffering.
Wars have been started, countries invaded, families divided, differences exploited, hate fuelled, all in the name of God.
Also in the name of God hands have reached out to others, aid has been given to the stricken and great love has been shown.
Here is a simple suggestion, add the letter 'o' and put the dogma to one side.
We have far more agreement about what is Good than we do about what is God.
This was said by René Descartes as a way of proving his existence in the world, since I am thinking I must exist.
For most of us no such proof is needed, we accept our existence; it's what we do with our lives that presents the problem.
So this phrase has a second meaning, 'You are what you think.' Your thinking may or may not confirm your existence but it certainly goes a long way towards creating your reality.
Today, you could act as if what you think creates your experience of events, it will make a difference to your day.
We live in a world in which things do go wrong, tragedy does strike, life can be harsh and seem unfair.
Suffering is a part of life, you can't avoid it, it goes with being human. But you can avoid suffering about the suffering although it's a difficult distinction to make.
Suffering about what has happened has a raw quality to it; real grief lies deep in the body, not just in the head.
Suffering about suffering is of an intellectual process, a wish things could be different rather than a reaction to what is.
Either experience is painful, about the first you have no choice, about the second you do have some control.
Today, you could make three small differences in your life.
Clear something up, let something go, make something better.
Today, you could turn right instead of turning left as usual.
You could do that literally to explore a new route and see what you find.
Today, you could forget trying to be perfect.
And make a positive change, however small it is.
We all have issues we need to deal with but life itself is not a problem to be solved, it's an experience to be enjoyed. It's a trait of western society that we like to solve problems.
Some people look out for them just so they have something to solve.
Some people, obviously not you dear reader, even create problems so they can solve them.
But life is not a problem to be solved, that approach reduces it to a series of events and we miss out on the full experience of being human.
Helen Keller, born both blind and deaf, two conditions that could not be solved, said 'Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing'
Today, you could live your own daring adventure.
Most people, at least most people who are interested in reading what I write, like to think of themselves as tolerant, but that's not the same as being without boundaries.
Here are some thoughts on where to draw the line.
You should not tolerate the actions or beliefs of people if you end up being damaged.
You should not tolerate the actions or beliefs of people if others end up being damaged.
You should not tolerate the beliefs of those who preach intolerance towards others.
Most of the time it's OK to let others do and be what they want. The Flat Earth Society doesn't harm others, let it be.
Sometimes you have to take a stand against prejudice and intolerance. Some things just can't be tolerated.
What really counts in life is not where you have come from but where you are going to.
I understand some backgrounds make the journey of life more difficult but I also know a lot of people who are grateful for the struggle they have had in life. I also know people who wish they hadn't had it so easy, wish they had been more tested so they knew what they were made of.
Whatever your situation your future is far more important than your history.
Today you could act as if that were true, start to leave your past behind and move towards a future of your own creation.
Four experts were asked to test four employees to establish which one had stolen a missing camera. Each 'expert' was told before the test was administered that a particular employee was suspected, but a different employee was identified for each tester. In fact all the employees were telling the truth and no camera had been stolen but that didn't stop the 'experts' identifying the 'suspected' employee as the guilty one in each case.
Teachers when told the same class is full of bright children or children of lower intelligence tend to teach to the level they have been told about and so produce matching test results.
Look at some of the assumptions you have made about other people, or even about yourself.
Have your expectations lowered your standards?
Would other people respond to a greater challenge?
The scientist Richard Dawkins tells a story about his wife. She hated her school and wished she could leave. In her twenties, she disclosed this to her parents and her mother was aghast 'But darling, why didn't you come and tell us' Her reply, 'but I didn't know I could'.
We all live with a lot of unchallenged assumptions about our lives, some date back to childhood. It's good to remind ourselves that we have far more choices than we realise, if we are prepared to deal with the consequences.Indeed accepting the possibility of choice opens us up to dealing with the barriers to us living the life we dream about.
You can...experiment to find out what works best for you, and if you feel you don't have a real choice about something you want to change then it's time to start examining what gets in the way and perhaps choosing to do something about that.
You can....change your mind, your beliefs, your relationships, and with each choice comes consequences and it's up to you to decide if you can deal with the results of what you have chosen.
You can...challenge authority, teachers, doctors, politicians. Nothing is written in stone, the choices you make are the tools you use to bring about change, they are ways of gaining control over your life.
Today, you could live by the motto 'I can if I choose to' and if the choice is too difficult look at what gets in the way.
(My thanks to CC for helping me make sense of this idea)
A man went to visit a friend in his country home. In the middle of the night, the man got up to go to the bathroom and found a huge deadly snake coiled up on the floor, ready to strike him. The next morning the host awoke to find his guest dead on the floor, lying next to a coiled up piece of large rope. He had died not of a snakebite, but of fright. He was, of course, just as dead as if the snake had been real.
Not all fears are false, but many are and even more are exaggerated in our minds.
Think back to a situation from the past that frightened you and notice both how you coped and how in practice it probably turned out to be less frightening than your fear.
Now think of a current situation you face, or a situation you have avoided because of your fear and consider how the same situation might look in twelve months time.
There is the often quoted phrase, you have nothing to fear but fear itself, and that's true sometimes, but some fears are well grounded and need to be faced with courage.
However they are rarely as bad as you believe they will be before you start to take action.
Today, you could take that action.
When you were born it was without thoughts of criticism or of self doubt. You didn't come into this world giving yourself, or others, a hard time. These were all approaches you had to learn, attitudes that were passed on to you. It's not your natural voice that runs you down from time to time.
We all get messages from childhood, 'pride comes before a fall' 'too big for our own boots' and they are usually well intentioned and have some truth. But their constant repetition, the negative comments of parents and those with authority can lead us to believe the self critical voice is a valid one.
Certainly hold yourself to a high standard but don't run yourself down in the processes.
And make sure what was passed on to you is not what you pass on to others.
If it feels like this doesn't apply to you, read on, it almost certainly does.
Here is a three step process for today.
1. Write down anything you feel guilty about, something done or not done.
There are two categories:-
There are events that you can do nothing to change, no action is possible, they are past and gone.
For these situations move on to item 2.
Then there are situations where you can take appropriate action, either to make up for what you have done or where you feel you should have done something and didn't.
Here write down the action you can take and when you commit to taking it before you move on.
2. Separate yourself from your actions.
Acting stupid, and we all do, doesn't make you stupid. Screwing up doesn't make you a failure.
You are far more than your worst moments, and possibly somewhat less than your best ones.
3. Forgive yourself.
It can be a decision you make; where appropriate take the listed action first.
It can be a letter you write to yourself and then let go of by disposing of it.
It can be sharing what you are doing with a loved one, or a higher power.
Whatever it is, do it and do it today.
(My thanks to CL for helping me make sense of this idea)
This is a simple exercise which will help clarify which areas of your life you need to give attention to.
In each of the categories below give a mark of 1 to 10 to indicate your level of personal satisfaction.
Health - exercise; weight; general physical well being.
Relationships - partner; friends; family.
Activity - career; leisure; relaxation.
Finances - income; expenditure; debt.
Self esteem - how you feel about yourself.
It's an obvious conclusion to give more attention to the areas with the lowest scores.
It's also amazing how many people don't do that.
Don't confuse your career with your life.
And for those of you without a career:-
Don't confuse your relationships, your home, your hobby, your beliefs etc with your life. It's great to have priorities, it's not so good to have only one of them.
Here are some reasons for this.
A full life needs variety, too narrow a focus makes you dull to others.
Creativity thrives on variety, one area of interest helps with another.
Life opportunities are just too many to turn them all down except one.
Today, you could expand your horizons a little.
Richard Alpert, a Harvard university professor who later became a spiritual writer known as Ram Dass was sending out copies of his latest audio tape when his Dad, a noted lawyer told him he wasn't charging enough, the market would stand more. Ram Dass replied with reference to a case his Dad had undertaken for his brother, Uncle Henry which had gone to the Court of Appeal. "I guess you charged your brother a lot for your work" he said. "No of course not" replied his Dad, "He's family, he's your Uncle Henry" Ram Dass continued to pack his under priced tapes into postage bags, "Everyone is Uncle Henry to me" he said.
Who is family? There is no simple answer to that question except that we are all members of the wider human family.
Most of us are more affected by the death of a stranger in our neighbourhood than the death of a dozen unidentified people in a train crash in a foreign land.
If we really cared about the starving abroad, or in our own country, how could we sit down to a bigger and better meal than we need without feeling guilty?
We were rightly horrified when 3000 people died in the Twin Towers. A greater number die every day from malnutrition and poverty related illness.
This item doesn't even suggest answers, just suggests the questions are worth asking and considering.
There is one big difference between a reason and an excuse.
With a reason we will accept our personal responsibility.
With an excuse we can put the blame on outside circumstances.
It's sometimes a subtle distinction but the effect of making it is significant.
If I am late because of transport problems and see that as an excuse I am less likely to apologise, less likely to make better plans next time, less likely to hold myself to a higher standard.
If I am late because of transport problems and state that as a reason I recognise I could have left earlier, that someone has been inconvenienced and I can determine to do better next time.
Today, you could decide not to make excuses, even if there are reasons.
No, this isn't giving permission to act regardless of the feelings of others.
But it is a statement of how cause and effect works out in relationships.
If you want to experience friendship...decide to be friendly when you meet people.
If you want to experience respect...show respect to people you come into contact with.
If you want to experience understanding...try showing more understanding of others.
If you want to experience anger...show anger to others, it rarely fails.
It's also true of rejection, being ignored, discounted, dismissed, etc.
It's interesting how often we act as if the opposite is true.
Billy Connolly, the comedian, is married to a psychotherapist. She tells of two clients of hers, a mother and daughter who were sitting in her waiting room for their appointment. Billy came by to see if she was free and in typical manner asked the two clients what their problem was. They explained that had come for therapy because they were not getting on. He replied 'Why did you ever think you would'.
Sometimes things just are the way they are, we don't take to some people, some circumstances are not as we would wish them to be, but, and here is the clue to making things better, how things are is just how things are, events don't have feelings.
To move past difficult times we need first to accept them in their current state and then we can see if improvement is a possibility.
Sometimes it isn't and then we need to recognise when a situation is unsatisfactory but not likely to change and leave it alone, spending our time and energy on things more likely to bring us rewards.
And even as you read this you might be thinking this idea is wrong, particularly at this time of the year. You have so much to do; so many things demand your time, so much needs to be accomplished. Yet there is a place where there is no rush; it's just that we don't often spend time there.
There is no rush in the present.
If you are truly in the here and now you can't be in a rush because that state belongs to future expectations. That's not to say the present can't be busy, the here and now can be, and usually is, very active. But that feeling of being rushed depends on some future and yet unrealised objective.
If all this seems unrealistic, try it out. Concentrate on the moment and see if things change for you. You won't get any less done and there's a good chance you will do more by making fewer mistakes.
Today, you could experiment with this.
'Procrastination is the thief of time'...don't you just hate it when old sayings turn out to be completely true.
So, right now write down three things you have been putting off.
Select one of them and decide the action you are going to take.
Take a couple of minutes to visualise how you will feel when it is completed.
Don't try and make things perfect, accept any progress however small.
If you are still struggling tell a friend of your intention and get them to hold you to it.
TNT 'Today! Not Tomorrow!
Most of us are not comfortable if we tell lies to our family, our friends or even strangers.
There is something deep within us that wants to be straight with people, to tell it like it is.
It's interesting how we can forget this when it comes to our communication with ourselves.
So here is a simple exercise and if nothing comes up congratulate yourself on your honesty.
Take a piece of paper and without giving this much thought write down:
Three ways in which you lie to yourself.
Then write down the true situation that applies to each of those items.
Now, put the paper away for a week and then look again to see if the situation has changed.
If not you might want to take action to start being more honest with yourself.
In 1935 when Albert Einstein, the great mathematician, arrived at Princeton University he was asked what he would require for his study.
He replied, "A desk, some pads, a pencil, and a large wastebasket -- to hold all of my mistakes."
That is such a refreshing attitude. We live in a time when people, organisations, governments stop trying new things in case they get them wrong.
Everybody is held to account and there is nothing wrong with that in principle but we end up feeling to have tried our best and failed is unacceptable.
In the public realm it's usually the media who emphasise failure, except their own of course, and the effect trickles down to all of us in our daily life.
We can learn more from our mistakes than our successes but to do that we have to take a risk, the risk of failure.
Today, try something you might fail in, see what you learn and allow yourself to feel OK whatever the outcome.
You deserve the best; you deserve to have the advice and support of someone who has taken the trouble to get to know you, who understands your inner thoughts, who can truly have your interests at heart.
And I know just the person for you; in fact they are reading this item right now.
For this to work you need to be able to stand back from your normal perception of yourself and look at how you are through different eyes.
Here is a suggested exercise.
Place two chairs opposite each other, or two cushions on the floor.
Occupy one space and think of an issue, a question, a problem that is currently on your mind.
In an ideal world say it out loud to the empty space, this helps but it's not essential.
Now, get up, leave the part of yourself with the problem in the original space and move to the point opposite.
Spend a few seconds allowing yourself to hear what the person opposite just said and see what insight you have to offer them.
You can swap over to keep the dialogue going for as long as there are still things to say.
If this doesn't work quickly it's probably not for you and you have just spent five minutes sitting down, no bad thing in my opinion.
Altruism is defined as the unselfish concern for the welfare of others and is considered one of the highest of human qualities.
Now I'm not certain the title of this item is the truth but here is an alternative explanation for what is called altruism:-.
We all act in a way which maximises our pleasure and minimises our pain.
Someone who devotes their life to serving others, seemingly without regard for themselves, does so because that is the sort of person they see themselves as being, and to do differently would give them more overall pain than pleasure, even if self sacrifice seems to act against their interest at one level in total it must give them more pleasure than pain otherwise they wouldn't do it.
Two things flow from this understanding.
First you can take responsibility for how you act. If you feel resentment at acceding to the demands others make on you its resentment at your own standards, you are acting that way because you choose to, not because you have to.
Second if overall you only do what works, you can start to look for the payoff if you find yourself acting in ways that don't seem to serve you. You don't do things without a payoff even if that payoff may be difficult to find so look for your higher gain, approval, praise, avoiding rejection. If you can create better ways of satisfying these needs you will find it easier to change unwanted behaviours.
All that being said, sometimes there is something so magnificent in the way human beings can act it's best to be lost in wonder rather than look for a more ordinary explanation.
The approach of a New Year is a traditional time to think about clearing out clutter.
We often start with material possessions, disposing of things we no longer need and sometimes we stop there.
Here are some more areas you might want to consider for a clear out.
The grudges you carry; the ways of acting that no longer work; the friends who leave you feeling drained; the objectives you know in your heart you are never going to devote enough energy to.
Drop from your schedule things that no longer give you what you seek in life; cancel or don't make appointments that don't serve you; stop mortgaging your life without reward.
We would fight to save our lives for a major threat but seem willing to let it go in bits and pieces. Enjoy the inconsequential when you decide to but also make sure it's a decision, not something that just happens.
Assume you didn't need the approval of anyone, didn't need reassurance, didn't need to meet the demands of others or please them.
How would the life you would lead under those circumstances differ from the life you lead now?
Note down the differences, these are the price you pay for relying on your transactions with others for your self esteem.
Now ask yourself simply in each case, 'Is it worth it?'
Sometimes it is, we all like positive feedback, we all like to feel accepted sometimes.
But if the price is that for a significant part of your life you are trying to meet your internal needs from external sources you might want to look to change your attitude so you can stop living a life dependant on the reactions of others, particularly since that reaction is something you can't control.
Think of a time when you were at your best, when how you felt and acted were just right for the situation you were in. Perhaps you showed courage, ingenuity, compassion, understanding. Whatever these positive qualities are they are still in you and they are resources you can call upon any time you need them.
If right now you are feeling less able to deal