June 1: Today, you could...

Today, you could give to someone, perhaps anonymously.
You could give to someone who can't give back. See how you end up feeling

Today, you could learn to say, "Oh, ---- it!"
And come up with a word you are comfortable with to replace the blanks. Say the word with a big smile and an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders.

Today, you could look for the funny things in your life.
And just start laughing, even if the world doesn't laugh with you you will still have fun.

June 2: Whose voice is that?

It's sadly common for adults to take on the negative voices of their childhood. If you've ever said to yourself, "How could I be so silly?" it's time to stop and ask whose voice that is?

Here are some other phrases that might be familiar:-

I'm not good at this.

It's bound to end in tears.

That's typical of me.

Some people have had a more positive upbringing and it could be worthwhile using the messages they received when talking to yourself. They are still challenging but positively so.

You can do it if you try hard enough.

You've got the talent, now use it.

You can do better than that.

June 3: You can't cross a chasm in two small steps

Sometimes a bit by bit approach can get you where you want to be, such as weight loss, saving money, learning a language. Other times change requires a leap of faith, such as major career move, resolving a broken relationship.

It's would be a fine life skill to be aware of which approach is most appropriate. Starvation diets rarely lead to consistent weight loss and those who edge towards marriage can find later they feel they never made a proper decision.

Is there something you need to decide today?
Is it a step by step decision or a leap of faith?

June 4: The greatest love

The greatest love you can show others may sometimes be to leave them alone. This can be the most difficult thing to do when those we care about are involved, particularly when they are going through difficult times. Of course, it's not always the right approach.

It's particularly difficult to maintain this hands-off approach with children when they seem troubled. But sometimes, the best way to help people is simply by doing nothing.

Think about a situation where you might have become over-involved and ask yourself if those you care about would benefit from your letting them be for a while.

June 5: What would you do if you couldn't be criticized?

It's sad, but true, that while growing up, most children hear far more negative comments about themselves than positive ones. And since we were all children once, the kind of things we head influences the way we think about ourselves as adults.

We have all been told at one time or another, that something was being done "for your own good". The fact is, it usually wasn't. Most of us have heard the phrase, "This hurts me more than it hurts you." It is almost certainly not true. You will all have your own examples of such situations.

So, part of the challenge inherent in this question is to overcome the way you were conditioned in your childhood to respond to adverse criticism.

The other part has to do with ensuring that you don't pass on to your own children or those of others, the legacy of negativity that might have been handed down to you in childhood.

June 6: The feeling of joy at sudden disappointment

This is a fascinating idea. If one of the purposes of our life is to resolve our inner conflicts so that our internal and external lives are properly aligned, an unexpected spurt of negative feeling can be welcomed as a sign that we need to work more on ourselves and on our perspective on life.

For most of us, it is difficult to imagine ourselves feeling positive about a disappointment. But it is a constructive step towards self-awareness. Now might be the time to look at situations where you know you tend to overreact and ask yourself what lessons you need to learn from them.

June 7: I've dealt with that

There's an old story about an employee at her annual performance review. She'd had a very good year and almost every comment about her was positive. As the session was about to end, her boss expressed concern that she tended to set unrealistic targets for herself. She seemed incapable of tolerating failure. She said she would take this on board.

Meeting her boss a week later, she remarked that she had pondered over what had been said at her performance evaluation and had introduced some modifications in her approach. "So now," she concluded, "I must be perfect."

This may well be an apocryphal tale. But the fact is, I have met many people who are intent on becoming perfect. I've found most of them to be tense and uptight and I've never managed to relax in their company. A better goal to set yourself would probably involve a combination of growth and acceptance. It's a version of the serenity prayer¯accepting the things you cannot change and having the courage to change what you can.

June 8: Change is not painful

It's resistance to change that hurts the most. Even though you create your own experience of the world, there are certain changes you can't prevent. For example, your children will grow older¯and so will you.

When change is inevitable, it might be better to come to terms with it, just as it would be easier to ride a horse in the direction in which it is going.

What can you accept today that is going to happen anyway but so far you have been resisting?

June 9: Snapshots and video

We have all seen photographs of ourselves that fail to do us justice. Usually, these are the ones we throw away. We don't see them as being "us".

On the other hand, a video is likely to give a more accurate impression of who we are, since it is a recording that covers a certain period of time.

Why then do people so often hang on to the snapshot of the careless comment from others, the unintended insult and the harsh word later taken back?

So throw these away along with the bad photos. If the words do not fit the usual attitude of the other person then discard them, don't keep the worst, keep the best..

June 10: The Mad Wal-Mart Experiment

I received a lovely email from a friend in the United States of America. She wrote about approaching a "rather ferocious back-combed, blonde assistant" at Wal-Mart where she had gone to get a new watch battery fitted. My friend was determined to make the experience a pleasant one for both the assistant and herself. By maintaining her pleasant manner, smiling often and expressing her gratitude for a job well done, she succeeded in brightening up the day for both of them.

Now, I happened to know the shop assistant and understood why she had looked a bit formidable that morning. Her house had been burgled the previous evening. Given her state of mind, her concentration had wavered while she was driving to work, causing her to have an accident.

After meeting my friend, the shop assistant had felt a lot better about her situation, remembered that she was insured for both events and went home to enjoy a light-hearted evening with her friends and family who also benefited from her cheerful company.

I know what my friend wrote about was true. I have no idea if there is any truth to the second paragraph but there could be and that very possibility makes the whole watch-battery transaction still more worthwhile.

Why the "MAD" Wall-Mart experiment? It stands for "Making A Difference", which is precisely what my friend did.

You will all have a chance to do the same today, tomorrow and for the rest of your life.

June 11: You cannot "not communicate"

There is a big difference between talking and communicating. You can certainly choose not to talk, but that's also a form of communication.

You can smile, frown, opt out, opt in, be neutral, betray prejudice, not return a call, avert your face¯they are all communications of one kind or another. Not communicating isn't an option..

Since you are going to communicate anyway, whether you want to or not, why not take charge of the process and assume responsibility for all your communications?

Express yourself today, verbally or non-verbally, to the best effect and do so in the best interests of everyone concerned, particularly, yourself.

June 12: No matter how thin you slice it

No matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides.

It's a sound test of the depth of your understanding to try and explain the position of someone with whom you disagree and ask him to confirm whether you are, indeed, right about how he feels.

Try out the experiment today and ask the other person to coach you until you get it right.

Understanding is not the same as agreement. But it is a big step towards resolving differences.

June 13: Everything in life

"Everything in life should be as simple as possible ...but not more simple." ¯ Albert Einstein

There is a certain elegance in true simplicity, be it a solution to a problem or the design of a building.

When things are simpler than they should be, there is often a sense of something missing.

How simple can you make today without omitting something vital?

June 14: Doing more of the same

If you have a problem in your relationship there is little point in doing more of what has not worked in the past. More of the same action almost always produces more of the same result.

A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

It's time to try something different, change creates change.

Notice what tends to make things better and do more of it.
Notice what tends to make things worse and do less of it.

Simple advice but over time it can transform a relationship, and a life.

June 15: Today, you could...

Today, you could challenge your beliefs.
It's worthwhile to ask yourself if a belief contributes to your well-being; and it's fine to change your mind about it, if it doesn't.

Today, you could decide to set your own pace for the next twenty-four hours.
Then slow down or speed up to meet the day's demands.

Today, you could enjoy silence.
Just be quiet and still for five minutes and see if it makes a difference.

June 16: How heavy is this glass of water? (1)

A lecturer raised a glass of water in his hand, extended his arm and asked, "How heavy is this?"

The answers ranged from 300 gm to 500 gm.
The lecturer replied, "The actual weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I try and hold the glass. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, my arm will start aching. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, the actual weight remains the same. But the longer I hold the glass, the heavier it becomes."

So, where does this apply in life?

1. To an unkind comment someone may have made about you once.
2. To a time in your life when you didn't behave as well as you could have.
3. To a disappointment you experienced when an expectation was not met.
4. To a difficult childhood, a divorce, a job loss ... you can fill in the rest.

The burden gets heavier, the longer you carry it.
You either say goodbye to the past or you say goodbye to the future.

June 17: How heavy is this glass of water? (2)

A lecturer raised a glass of water in his hand, extended his arm and asked "How heavy is this?"

The answers ranged from 300 gm to 500 gm.

The lecturer then observed, "The actual weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I try and hold the glass. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, my arm will start aching. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, the actual weight remains the same. But the longer I hold the glass, the heavier it becomes.

So, where does this apply in life?

Same story; different commentary.

This also contains a message about how to handle stress. It recommends taking time off while you put down the burdens you shoulder, so that you can gather the strength to pick them up and carry them again without collapsing.

It's amazing what human beings can deal with when they have to. We often hear stories of others who have handled their problems with courage and feel, "I doubt I could cope as well as they did." Your ability to cope with stress, like your ability to hold a glass of water at arm's length, is greatly increased, if you take regular time out. And as with the glass of water, it doesn't have to be for long.

Here are some examples:

A five-minute period of quiet contemplation can transform a morning or even the whole day.
Sitting in the car and leaving behind the day you have just spent can enhance the quality of your evening.

A physical stretch lasting a few minutes can create a surge of positive energy.

A couple of minutes spent writing down a list of the things you should be grateful for could improve your mood.

A short run can help you cope more effectively with a long day.

June 18: Limit your relationships

Limit your relationships to what you have in common.

No relationship, however strong, can provide each person involved in it with all that they need. Most relationships require new inputs from outside experiences and these do not, necessarily, have to be shared. In stretching a relationship to include everything that is of interest to each partner individually, both of them end up doing things that either one or the other doesn't enjoy. This can be the breeding ground for resentment, a major relationship killer.

Examine your relationship today for what it can provide and determine what you should look for elsewhere.

June 19: Nelson Mandela

Shortly after his release from imprisonment, Nelson Mandela received a phone call from then US President Bill Clinton who congratulated him on securing his freedom. In the course of the conversation, Clinton asked him, "Surely, after such an experience of incarceration, you must still feel some anger towards those who kept you in captivity?"

Mandela replied, "No, I realized if I didn't let go of my anger, those who imprisoned me would still be in control of a part of my life."

Holding on to negative feelings from the past implies that we have given away our power over our mental well-being. Such feelings curb our freedom by allowing external forces to control us. I'm sure there are good moral reasons to forgive our enemies, to let go of anger and hurt. Purely on the basis of self-interest, however, of keeping control of our lives and enhancing our sense of freedom, it's an affirmative, if difficult step to take.

What negativity can you let go of today to enhance your personal freedom?

June 20: Experience is not what happens to you

It's how you react to it.

If it were not so, everyone would experience the same event in the same way. And we're well aware that does not happen.

So, do you have a choice in how you respond to events?

All I can say is your life will work better, if you act as though you do have a choice.

June 21: The miracle question

If you were to wake up tomorrow morning and find that your relationship was exactly the way you wanted it to be, what would be different?

What would you be feeling?
How would you act?
How would others react to you?

It's useful to know what is tied up in our problems and one way of finding out is to imagine our life without them.
Sometimes, our problems constrain us from leading our lives freely. Often, however, they protect us from going overboard and indulging in excesses.

See where the answer to the miracle question takes you today.

June 22: The "scar face" experiment

Participants in this experiment were fitted with a fake facial scar and informed that they were to be interviewed to find out how their deformity influenced the way they were treated. Just before the interview, the scars were put through last-minute touch-ups. In actual fact, however, and unbeknown to the participants, the scars were removed entirely.

Right after the interview and in almost every case, the participants offered all kinds of examples of how their "deformity" had invited a negative response from the interviewer. Amazingly, in some cases, this conviction could not be shaken, even after they were shown on video that their scars had been removed before the interview.

According to a familiar quote, "We don't see the world as it is; we see the world as we are."

What this experiment proves is the power of our self-image and the way we find evidence of how we are being treated, even where none exists. It's a very good rule of thumb that when someone behaves badly towards you, it's much more about them than it is about you. But if you're convinced people are reacting badly to you because of some failing of yours, you will find the evidence to support your view, even if it's not there.

June 23: Turning towards difficulty

It's a very human trait to turn away from our problems, to avoid facing tricky situations. For some people, confrontation is a real challenge; for others, trying not to regard everything in life as a confrontation can be a problem.

What would your life be like, if you decided to face situations you found hard to deal with and even welcomed them as a learning experience?

In the short term, your life might become more difficult. But in the long term, you could find your resources enriched and strengthened and your sense of freedom greatly heightened.

June 24: How to have a bad relationship

Try giving lectures and advice, especially, to your partner to whom you justify them as being "for your own good".

Say: "Why don't you just try to...?"

Try: Loaded hints, pleading and begging.

Use: Long, resentful silences, as in "Just see how you have made me feel!"

Try: A sentence that starts with any of the following:

"If you really loved me..."
"After all I have done for you..."
"Anyone with any sense..."

Put: Your life on hold, waiting for your partner to change.

Best of all: Compare your relationship with that of another couple.

June 25: Not in a shadow

During a television interview, the son of author Maya Angelou was asked, "What was it like growing up in your mother's shadow?"

He replied, "That's funny. I always thought I was growing up in her light."

It's said the Chinese use the same symbol for "problem" as they do for "opportunity". And it's certainly true that the context we create for the "facts" of our life largely dictates our experience.

Take one area of your life that you have difficulty with and ask yourself this: If I interpreted this in a positive light, how would it change my daily experience?

Observe the kind of answers that come up for you and see if you think it's worth making the change.

June 26: You can have anything you want

But not everything you want; there just isn't enough time. Your life involves choices.

Letting go of dreams can be painful, but sometimes, you have to do so to enable other dreams to thrive.

Since there is not enough time to do everything you desire in life, it is crucial for you to let go of the trivial, so as to be able to concentrate on what has the potential to make a difference.

Today, there is no point in majoring in minor things.

June 27: If you face a problem in your relationship, it does not mean that your relationship is the problem

No one comes to a relationship without a history. While that history may not belong to the relationship, it usually affects it.

When two histories meet each other head-on, the problems that arise can get complicated.

If you find yourself facing the same problem in a number of your relationships, you can be fairly certain that the problem is you and not the relationship. So, work on yourself and leave the relationship alone to sort itself out later.

June 28: Relationships can't provide you with everything

It must be fantastic to have a relationship that satisfies all your wants and needs, everything you require, in fact, in one warm, secure, permanent liaison. It must be like having a home that gives you all you desire, so much so that you never need to leave it!

Relationships can give us great joy and satisfaction, but they can't fulfill all our needs. Ultimately, the responsibility for your happiness lies with you, not with your relationship.

A relationship also needs the stimulation of new experiences from outside sources to keep it alive. Or it will atrophy and decay.

June 29: I'm not a carer

An elderly taxi driver is seeing a therapist to help ease the stress of looking after his ailing wife. His story unfolds and he talks about his alcoholic mother and how he had to protect his younger brother from her rages. When he got married, he and his wife had to bring up a severely disabled child whom he has been looking after. And now, his wife has Alzheimer's disease.

The therapist says, "If you pause to think about it, you've been a carer all your life."

The taxi driver replies, "'Carer' is a modern word. What I've been is a son, a brother, a father and a husband."

I find this a very moving statement indeed. It reveals a dignity and a set of values we might be in danger of losing in our "blame and claim" society. Some of the pain we experience can be eased. Some of it has to be endured as best we can.

June 30: What you think of me is none of my business!

It's largely outside your control how people see you and react to you. Your own response to them is a reliable measure of your personal freedom. If you are over-anxious about being liked, you are choosing to be trapped in a world made by others.

Very few people will see you as you want to be seen. The difference between the way you are and the way they see you reveals more about them than about you.

Your job is to be you and allow others to deal with being themselves, which includes their opinions about you.

© 2019 David Mills