July 1: Today, you could...

Today, you could decide to be miserable.
Make up your mind to be down on yourself, to pick out the worst in everything.
You can do it. And, if you don't fancy that, you could do just the opposite.

Today, you could recognize the truth about people without problems.
The truth is, they are dead, and if you had a choice, you wouldn't want to swap places with them. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this.

Today, you could choose to decide on the attitude you will adopt towards everything.
Stop allowing the world and other people to decide how you should live. You deserve better.

July 2: The frog in water

It is said that if you put a frog in cold water and gradually apply heat, the frog will stay in the container and be boiled to death. If you put a frog into hot water, it will jump out at once. The reason given is that the frog cannot detect the slow change in the temperature (I've never tested this for myself).

If you take a few minutes right now to look at some aspects of your life¯your relationships, your health and your finances¯would you find situations that have taken you over so gradually, that you haven't noticed the process?

If you suddenly arrived in the life you now live instead of growing into it gradually:

What might be the situations you would welcome?
What might be the ones you would shy away from?

July 3: Just because someone asks you a question, doesn't mean you have to answer it

I guess we all know that is true, but how often do we act as though we do?

Here are some other examples:

Just because someone asks you to do something doesn't mean you have to do it.

Just because someone asks you to contribute doesn't mean you have to.

Just because someone wants to borrow from you doesn't mean you have to lend.

Who will run your life today¯you or the rest of the world?

July 4: Sometimes, the worst thing

Sometimes, the worst thing you can do for those you love is what they could or should do for themselves.

This is only true sometimes, because it's great to be able to offer others help. It makes us feel good about ourselves when we have been supportive of those we love.

But it's a thin line between being supportive and undermining others, however well-intentioned our efforts may be.

Today you could choose to be aware of this distinction.

July 5: Making a difference

In the late 1960s, my wife was walking along Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill, London, dressed in an outfit that was not unusual for that time, but which could best be described as very colourful. An old lady stopped her and said, "My dear, I just wanted to tell you how lovely you look; you are brightening up the street."

My wife still remembers that compliment paid to her almost forty years ago.

This just demonstrates the kind of power our words can have.

Think back to an early compliment you were paid and remember how you felt.

Then recall an occasion when you were unfairly criticized and the effect that had on you.

You could say something to someone today that will turn out to be a positive memory for them forty years hence.

Why not take the slight risk and do it?

July 6: No one on his deathbed ever said...

The usual quote is: "No one on his deathbed ever said, 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office'."

And that's certainly something many of us need to remember.
We can each add our own ending to the sentence, using aspects of our lives to which we devote more time than they deserve.

Today, try to add a few of those that are relevant to your life, because it's useful to identify them while you still have time to make changes.

Here are some suggestions:

No one on his deathbed ever said:

I wish I'd spent more time watching television.
I wish I'd spent more time arguing with friends and family.
I wish I'd spent more time worrying about things.

July 7: Don't try to be perfect

There are two good reasons for this:

1. If you get there, it leaves you nowhere to go next.

2. You will make those around you feel inadequate.

Make self-improvement a journey without a destination.

July 8: Notice what works best for you and do more of it

Take a few moments to review your relationship or your life and observe what works best for you. How is what works any different from what does not?

Suppose nothing works? Try doing something different from the usual and notice if it improves matters or makes them worse. If you notice an improvement, repeat it; if not, move onto something else.

July 9: Leaving the village

This is a story that occupies a place in many cultures. But I think it's time to change the gender of the main character.

A young woman decides to explore beyond the village in which she has spent all her childhood. Many wise people counsel her against this venture, but some do encourage her in her quest. So, she sets off along the mountain trail, pausing at the top of the path for one last look back at her home a place full of those she loves. She has many adventures during her journey and after some years, decides it is time to return to the village and share all she has learnt with its residents.

Although she is welcomed back, some of the villagers regard her and the new ideas she has brought back with suspicion. As time goes by, she has to resist reverting to her old life in the village and to hold on with great determination to the insights she had gained while she was away. Her life, along with that of the whole village, is enhanced by the new learning she has brought with her.

There are many ways of responding to this story and you should allow it to mean whatever feels right for you.

I will ask just one question:
If the whole world followed you, would you be pleased with where you took it?

July 10: Loving someone can be a decision you make

In the early years, love can be a heady mixture of passion and desire. It's exciting, stimulating and for some people, this can last for a lifetime.

For others such intensity can become too dominating. It's just as valid, particularly later in a relationship, to make a decision to love someone as it is to be head over heels 'in love'.

Perhaps, today is the right day to reaffirm your decision to love someone.

July 11: The two wolves

Following the 9/11 attack, a man said to his son, "I feel like I have two wolves fighting inside me. One is angry and simmering with feelings of revenge. The other is still determined to be gentle and loving."
"Which one will win?" asked his son.
"Whichever one I choose to feed," his father replied.

Feelings, good or bad, don't survive without being nurtured. It's up to us which ones we feed when a conflict rages within us. In the end, the negative feelings tend to feed on us, but the positive ones nourish us.

Today, you can make a choice about which feelings you wish to feed.

July 12: You can't plough a field by turning it over in your mind

Our internal world is important. How we observe and describe things creates our experience. Yet, if we stop there, we stop too early. Action not only brings about change in the external world, it also initiates change in our inner world.

If we love others, but refrain from telling them that we do, the process remains incomplete.

If we want to make a difference, but don't take action we sell ourselves short.

If we want to be fit, but refuse to exercise, we will be no nearer our goal.

What area of your life can you take action on today?

July 13: You can only say "yes" if you can also say "no"

It's a choice in the true sense of the term, only if you have the freedom to choose the alternative.

Just consider a situation where you have said yes, and ask yourself if you could have said no, not hypothetically, but in practice.

If you could, indeed, have said no, you made a genuine choice. If not, you didn't.

July 14: Strike when the iron is cold

When is the worst time to deal with anger?
When you're angry.
The same is true of jealousy and other such emotions.

The trouble is, when we don't experience a particular emotion, we don't feel the need to deal with it either. Yet, when we are actually in the grip of the same emotion, we have the least resources at our disposal to handle it effectively.
To be able to return to problem areas when our most intense feelings have dissipated is a skill we should master.

Today, look at or discuss with someone how such difficulties might be dealt with if they arise in the future.

It's by no means an easy task, but it's less difficult than trying to deal with anger when you are angry.

July 15: Today, you could...

Today, you could replace judgement with understanding.
Imagine how you would feel, if those close to you tried to understand you rather than judge you. Then be that way with them.

Today, you could decide to start forgiving.
Forgive the world for not being the way you wanted it to be. Forgive others for the wrong they did you in the past. And forgive yourself for every mistake you have ever made.

Today, you could refuse to participate in situations of conflict.
If you opt out of conflict it probably can't take place and certainly can't involve you.

July 16: An old man reviews his life

An old man sat reviewing his life. He had lived too long. One didn't expect to attend the funerals of one's children but he had been to all three of his. Ill health had exhausted his savings. He was dependent on others for almost everything. In his despondency, he felt he had wasted his time here on earth. No one who had benefited from his being alive was around any longer.

A few thousand miles away, a middle-aged woman was telling her grandchild about a magical experience she'd had when she was young. She had been lost and was deeply upset. A middle-aged man had sat down with her, comforted her and told her he would help her find her parents and that the feeling of sadness would pass. He said to her, "You know, in the end, everything passes. Nothing goes on for ever."

Those words and the kindness with which they had been spoken had changed her life. They went on to change the life of her granddaughter as well. That middle-aged man who had comforted the woman in her childhood was the same one who felt he had not contributed in any way to the life of others.

You just never know the effect you have on others. So, live today as though it's an important date.

July 17: There are no justified resentments

At the simplest level, resentment damages the person who harbours it more than the person towards whom it is directed. It's obviously not a smart move to cling to it.

A Chinese proverb says:

"If you're going to pursue revenge, you'd better dig two graves."

Perhaps, for the sake of your own health, today would be a good time to let go of an old resentment.

July 18: Relationships are a mirror

Relationships can reflect back to us aspects of ourselves we don't much care for and it seems easy to blame our partner for how we end up feeling.

The image, however distorted, is still ours. You don't have to stay in a relationship that distorts who you are, but it can be worth spending time checking that image to see how much of it is a true reflection of yourself.

If being with someone¯a relative, friend or partner¯often makes you feel bad about yourself and that doesn't happen when you're with other people, you may want to ask yourself if this is a relationship you should let go of.

July 19: What is courage?

Many "people of courage" say the same thing: It's not the heroic deed itself, the risk-taking act in an emergency situation that defines true courage, although it should be given its due.

True courage involves the day-to-day confrontation with difficult problems and the feelings of despair they engender while getting on with life in spite of it all.

So, if you keep going today despite feelings that might be weighing you down, you belong to the ranks of true heroes.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather, the judgement that something else is more important than fear." ¯ Ambrose Redmoon

July 20: No one owes you anything

The Buddha said, "Never take anything that has not been freely given." To ask from others what they are unwilling to give helps neither the one who asks nor the one who refuses. Others don't owe you anything. Of course, you don't owe them anything either.

The acts of giving and receiving can express the very best sentiments of humanity.

If your heart and your head tell you today that's the way to go, then go there and enjoy the experience to the full.

July 21: Learn to play Mastermind

This is a game where one player sets out coloured pegs behind a screen and the other player tries to reproduce the colour and the order in which the pegs have been placed, first, by guessing, then by taking his cue from the clues available to him: White pegs for the correct colour in the wrong place, black pegs for the correct colour in the right place. Without the clues, the player would just go on guessing and the game could take a lifetime to be over.

Look for clues in your relationships by studying the response to things which work and to things that don't. If you notice the clues, you are more likely to get the result you seek; if you don't, it could take a lifetime for you to do so.

Look out for clues today; they will be there.

July 22: What is the smallest step you can take now?

We all like to take big steps and move rapidly towards our goal, it's exhilerating and exciting.

Sometimes, however, the way you feel will not help you make any major progress. But that does not mean you cannot move forward at all. Perhaps, the smallest task is all you can manage today, but it's still worth carrying out. It could be any of the following:

1. A fifteen-minute walk or a good stretch to further a fitness goal.
2. Not buying something you can do without to achieve a financial goal.
3. An offer to help despite not feeling like it to further a relationship.
4. Leaving some food on your plate to help you move towards a weight goal.

July 23: Don't worry about the world

It will overwhelm you and prevent you from being effective in areas where you can make a difference.

You can't do everything; there just isn't time. But there is a lot you can do. So, get on and do it and let go of the worry about the big things that you aren't directly responsible for.

Today, resolve to be effective in areas where that's a real possibility and let go, at least for the moment, of the bigger issues over which you have no influence.

July 24: The search for the secret of life

He awoke one morning, convinced that this was the day he would discover the secret that would change his life. For several months, he had been feeling it was close and now was the time to take action. He set off on his quest with a few possessions, pausing to look back at his home and wondering how long it would be before he saw his own front door again. He kept to a straight path despite many obstacles. Several months went by, and he faced and dealt with many dangers, his mind focused, all the while, on his quest.

After two years, he arrived, tired and dusty, at a plot of land that fitted the image in his mind. With the strength his travels had helped him to develop he began to dig up the ground. And there, a few feet below, was the treasure he had sought for so long. He lifted it up and straightened up before prising it open. It was then that he realized he was in his own back garden. His trip around the world had brought him back almost to the point from which he had started.

This is a very old story and you probably guessed the ending before you got to it. I think there are two questions we can ask ourselves:

1. If the back garden represents our inner life, could it be that we already have the answers within us?

2. Could our hero have just gone out his back door and found the secret? Or was the journey away and back essential to the process of discovery?

What would be your answers to these questions?
Does this affect how you will spend today?

July 25: Dangerous animal

A sign at the zoo read: "This animal is dangerous; it defends itself if attacked."

There's usually a reason for the aggression other people display. It's useful to ask the question: Why do they/ I feel attacked in this situation?

There are insights here for us to gain and we can choose to modify either our behaviour or our reactions.

July 26: Does this free me or restrict me?

Personal freedom is not important to some people, but for those who give it high priority, this is an important question to ask, particularly about relationships and possessions.

Most things offer freedom, but demand something in return. For example, a vehicle offers freedom, but also demands financial resources and maintenance. So, perhaps, the relevant question is: Does this give more than it demands?

It's particularly applicable to the relationships in your life, be they existing ones or those you are anticipating.

Today, make a list of five people and five possessions in your life and ask yourself if the equation in each case is balanced enough to work for you.

July 27: Simple and easy

Sometimes, people presume that the answers to their problems cannot be simple, because life itself is far more easy. But "simple" and "easy" are very different words.

Answers can be "simple", in other words, straightforward. But acting on a simple solution can be very difficult indeed.

It's an important distinction to make. Otherwise, we may end up discounting the simple answers.

Today, look for the simple answers, even if they turn out not to be easy.

July 28: Relationship exercise

This won't work for every couple, but setting up a 1-10 scale can be of help in enhancing relationships.

You can either take your relationship as a whole or just one aspect of it, like communication or love life etc.

Think about your current level of satisfaction on the 1-10 scale with 1 as the lowest possible score.

Let's say your result for your chosen area is a 5/10.

The question to be asked is not "Why have I not obtained 10/10?", but "What would a 6/10 look like?"

A maximum score might not be available right now, but that doesn't mean improvement is not a possibility today.

July 29: How does this person make me feel about myself?

Given that our relationships with others easily become complicated, as their history and emotions collide and combine with ours, asking yourself this question can offer important insights into what is going on.

As in all things, the head and the heart work best together. The answers you obtain may help them to do that. Here are a few examples:

Someone you spend time with makes you laugh at his jokes. You enjoy his charisma and strength. Yet, after he has left, you feel depleted, diminished, tired. Perhaps, you even have a headache.
These are important warning signs, and you may decide to withdraw from this relationship to preserve your own energy.

Someone you spend time with is rather quiet, not the life and soul of the party. But after she leaves, you feel rather content with life and find yourself smiling at something the two of you shared.
You might want to reach out and explore the possibilities of this relationship.

Someone you spend time with is sad and depressed and you end up feeling the same way. Watch out. They may unconsciously be using your energy to boost theselves rather than engaging with you.

Someone you spend time with is sad and depressed and you end up feeling you have helped them.
This is a positive experience worth repeating. Chances are this person will end up feeling supported and be prepared to change.

Here is another way of asking the same question: Which way is the energy flowing?

July 30: A short poem by Robert Burns

A man convinced against his will

Is of the same opinion still.

Reason and logic have their uses. They are great for planning and can be the basis of sound decisions.

They are, however, of limited use when it comes to dealing with feelings, particularly, when you are being logical and someone else has the feelings!

July 31: The job I might have enjoyed

A therapist drove to his office on a Monday morning, feeling the burden of his work weighing heavily on him. The previous week had been particularly exhausting and he knew his diary was full for today and for the early part of the week ahead. With a heavy heart, he stopped to buy petrol and as he went to pay, the attendant gave him a cheery smile and wished him a good day.

He drove on, reflecting that in that one simple gesture, the man at the garage might have made as much difference to his frame of mind as he did to his clients' in an hour of therapy. Suddenly, a simple job involving routine but friendly contact with people seemed very appealing.

He arrived at his office, thinking about the lack of purpose in his life, to find that his first appointment was with a new client who had arrived for his first session.

To the therapist's standard opening question of "How can I help?", came the reply, "Well, I think I'm wasting my life. I serve people at a garage and I can't stand the monotony of my work and the lack of human contact."

The lives of others are rarely as they seem to us on the outside.

"Most people lead lives of quiet desperation," Thoreau observed.

Today, keep that in mind when making judgements and feeling dissatisfied with your lot.

© 2017 David Mills