Today, you could enjoy every step of the journey that is life.
Don't wait till you get to your destination to experience the pleasure.
Today, you could make a small adjustment in the direction you have chosen.
And this time next month, you will find that the difference between where you had expected to arrive and where you have, in fact, arrived, will be significant.
Today, you could cherish your dreams.
However unrealistic they may seem now, they represent something important about you.
Would you choose to have the feelings you are experiencing right now?
If not, how would they be different?
I'm not suggesting that all our feelings are completely within our control; that seems to me an unrealistic position to take. But we can exercise our influence over most of our feelings to some degree.
So, if the discrepancy in your life between how you feel and how you want to feel is fairly wide, take a risk. Start behaving as if you could just decide to feel differently about things.
It might not do away with the gap altogether, but it may well minimize it. For that alone, it is worth making the effort.
I've never taken much comfort from the there's-always-someone-worse-off-than-me approach to life. It seems to suggest that the suffering of others should, somehow, make you feel better.
However, the idea that other people actually believe they would be happy if they had what you have, might make you pause to consider how many of your concerns and worries arise from how you have chosen to think about them.
You could spend today appreciating how lucky you are.
It can be therapeutic to tell your story to others, to explain the difficulties you have experienced. You need to ask yourself, however, whether by doing so, you are relinquishing your negative feelings about the past, clinging onto them or even allowing them to build up.
The clue to the answer lies in examining the effect the process has on you. As you talk about them, are your negative feelings subsiding, staying the same or increasing?
If the process of talking does not reduce your feelings, you may need to modify your approach, perhaps, even stop sharing your experiences with others.
All you have at your disposal is the present. You have no choice at all as to whether you should spend it or not. If you do not appreciate the moment before you, including this one, and fail to use it to your best advantage, it will have spent itself and be gone, never to return. Where you do have a choice is in the manner in which you decide to spend the present.
Time spent either brooding over the past or speculating about the future is definitely not an intelligent use of the limited resource that is the present.
Of course, it makes sense to invest some time now in an activity that will yield benefits in the future. This might include planning a holiday or learning a skill, among other things.
The trick is not to regard the anticipated benefit as just in the future, but to find ways of enjoying the process here and now, today.
It's so easy to blame others, be they parents, partners, big business, unions or government. But the result is that they are the ones in charge of your life.
However powerless you may feel at times, it is best to act as if you were in charge. By doing so, you increase your chances of getting what you want.
And were allowed to choose one¯but only one¯of the following:
1. To have a secure income, allowing you to live in comfort for life.
2. To have an extra seven years of additional healthy living.
3. To have invented something significant, but without any personal credit.
Which of the above would you choose and what does the choice say about you as an individual?
You've probably heard the expression, "You have nothing to fear but fear itself". Well, it certainly contains elements of truth, though it rarely feels like it. What is important here is to recognize what you fear and identify it by giving it a name.
So, right now, write down three of your greatest fears. When you've done that, you have already taken the first and, possibly, the biggest step forward in trying to conquer your fear.
What we name and, thereby, give concrete shape to, we can deal with.
What remains formless and unarticulated grows to assume unmanageable proportions.
Next, against each of the fears you have listed, write down one action¯not necessarily a major one¯that you can take in the next forty-eight hours to overcome it.
If you take this action and repeat the process over the next thirty days, you will notice that a month from now, your fears are going to be significantly less.
Choice usually operates within a framework. For example, we have a choice of careers to pick from or a choice of films to see.
True freedom involves stepping beyond all frameworks and creating a world entirely of our own making.
It may still resemble the one we are already living in, but we can claim it as entirely our own.
Today, you could undertake a mission to make people smile.
Keep score. Try and reach double-digit figures, then add one, because you won't make it without smiling yourself.
Today, you could observe children, on TV, playing in the park etc.
A child has this unique ability to enjoy himself thoroughly. Remember you used to be one yourself sometime ago.
Today, you could acknowledge that there are no ordinary moments in life.
Every one of them is full of possibilities, options and choices. Ordinary life, you will discover, has extraordinary potential.
We tend to rely on and, therefore, confine ourselves to what we are good at. Yet, sometimes, that is not the best approach to a situation. We need to venture into other areas too, where we might be less competent. There are many first-rate business people, for instance, who find that their business skills earn little appreciation from their family.
Many profound thinkers are unable to cope with situations where speedy decisions are imperative, pondering over a problem for so long, that when they are eventually ready to take a decision, it is too late. Many a good dinner-party host has lost a great deal of money when trying to run a restaurant.
Sometimes, your best skill is not the most appropriate one for a particular situation. It would be a good idea to examine this issue today.
An interesting experiment and a possible way to bring about change in yourself and in others is to act as if life were already just the way you wanted it to be.
Since the only thing you can hope to exercise control over is your own response to a situation (and some of us have great difficulty even doing that), its worth testing this out for a day or two to see if it makes a real difference.
When you spring-clean your home, you sort through old clothes you don't need and possessions you have no use for anymore and either give them away or throw them out. Though it can be a satisfying process, it's surprisingly difficult to let go of what we know we don't need.
How about doing the same in other areas of your life? What grudges or resentments could you let go of? Which ideas no longer serve you? Are there any thought-patterns you have no use for now? Try throwing them away as well.
You may have to do this kind of internal spring-cleaning more than once, because old grudges and resentments, along with behaviour patterns that are of little benefit to you have a habit of returning. But it's worth the effort. You will end up, as in the external world of material possessions, with space for things that serve you better.
Sometimes, that's the choice you have to deal with. Do you cling to your past beliefs, long after they have ceased to be of use to you, or do you recognize that life is a process and that your beliefs can be as subject to change as everything else?
If you hold on to your views just to prove that you're right, you may end up being enslaved by them. This can be as true of minor opinions that may involve, for instance, your feelings about an injustice that was supposedly done to you, as of your convictions about life in general.
Always remember that neither will events change nor others behave differently to accommodate your views about them.
Work towards bringing about a change in yourself. If you are forever trapped by your demand that external factors, over which you have no control, should change to suit your convenience, you cannot describe yourself or your situation as free.
It's a fascinating idea that we are all born with a purpose, that we have been sent to this world to attain a particular goal. Even if that's not how you see the world, you could spend a few minutes asking yourself what that purpose, if there was one, could be for you.
This statement then becomes a very important one:
Don't die with the music still in you.
People are usually capable of drawing up a long list in answer to this question, for their partners, but the question here is about you.
Write down three times: "What I bring to this relationship that is unhelpful is" and complete the sentence with three different answers.
Then decide if you are willing to make changes to improve the situation.
Mozart was a great composer, and in the opinion of many people, the greatest there ever was. The music that flowed through him seemed to be a God-given gift. As a child, he wrote music that was the envy of adults. At one point in his life, he was surrounded by admirers. The world lay at his feet.
He died virtually alone, ignored and penniless.
If no one saved Mozart from his sad fate, who do you expect will rescue you?
Perhaps, today would be an appropriate time to start working towards being your own rescuer; your waiting for someone else to turn up might just waste your life.
If you stand on the top of a cliff and look down at the sea where a fast boat is cutting across the waters, you will notice the wake spreading out like a fan behind it. If you didn't know better, you might assume that the wake itself was driving the boat. But you do know better. You are aware that the boat has an engine and a set of controls operated by a driver. The wake is just the trail left behind by the boat as it moves forward.
Substitute your life history for the boat's wake to complete the metaphor. Our past does not control or propel our life; it only seems that way sometimes.
As far as your life is concerned, you are the driver sitting at the controls. You can start the engine and choose the speed at which you want to progress and the direction you prefer to move in. You can follow a path that is based on your history. Or you can choose to do otherwise.
Your history is the trail you leave behind.
We usually need to make a lot of assumptions in order to feel upset about something. It seems as if a part of human nature is programmed to take everything personally. But it's certainly not the best guide to clue us into a given situation.
We often assume that when other people behave in a certain manner, the reasons for their conduct are the same as those that would have motivated us, had we chosen to behave in the same way.
Perhaps, the most important thing to remember when challenging the assumptions on which our response to a given situation is based is the following: It's hardly ever about you personally.
So, here's a question to ask when someone or something pushes your buttons:
If I assume it's not about me, then what could it be about?
The answer could spare you a lot of suffering.
Today, you could make up your mind to improve something.
It doesn't matter what. Just decide something specific that will be better by the time you go to bed.
Today, you could be creative.
You can come up with unusual options to ensure that life is closer to the way you wanted it.
Today, you could be firm in your resolve.
You could decide on something, ensure that you remain focused about it and keep going in the direction of your goal.
Sometimes, that is the only choice you have. Facts rarely change the nature of a relationship. Being in the right rarely changes feelings. So, if you want to experience more love, both in giving and receiving it, forget who is right and concentrate on being loving.
What could you give up today to enhance your relationships?
The following is one of my favourite counselling questions and I invite you to ask it of yourself and write down the answer: "What would someone have to know about me to understand me in a way most people don't?"
We all want to be understood. At the same time, we want to avoid feeling vulnerable. There's a conflict here. To be fully understood, we have to let our guard down and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. If you remain aloof and allow no one to get close to you, you are unlikely to be understood either.
So, first answer this question, then decide to what extent you are prepared to open yourself to those close to you. You don't have to disclose all at once, but it would be useful for you to understand what that "all" is, on your own terms, and make a start.
How we describe what happens to us creates some of our experience of it.
If we refer to something as "terrible", we will not feel the same about it as if we label it "inconvenient". You can examine your life and find your own examples.
I'm not suggesting you lie to yourself, or to others, but given a choice lighten your description and so lighten your experience.
A good question to ask, when you are feeling upset over something.
We are often quick to lend a negative meaning to something and voicing our opinion of the "true" meaning gives it strength.
Stop and ask the question above. There is no right answer, but you could choose an interpretation that makes you feel more at ease with an event or a comment.
Very often, things that are done or said to us by someone are not about us at all. Rather, they say more about the situation in which the other person finds themselves.
To quote the title of a popular book: "What you think of me is none of my business."
The answer, more often than most of us think, is the following: You do!
We live in a world where "experts" are easily available to offer advice on almost every conceivable problem. Much of what they have to offer is positive and of some use. That doesn't necessarily mean it will work for you.
You are unique. It means that while you can benefit from the views and insights of others, the final decision about what works for you is yours. Don't give away your power to decide for yourself.
Here are some thoughts from other people on this issue:
"If someone throws you a ball, you don't have to catch it." ¯ Richard Carlson
"Vote with your feet; it's best to avoid people and situations you know drive you crazy." ¯ Stuart Wilde
"If you want the world to be kinder, then be more kind." ¯ Dan Millman
I have had counselling clients who would get annoyed with themselves when a negative or adversely critical thought strayed into their mind. In fact, they sometimes became so angry about it, that they would infuse enough energy into that particular thought to stay around for quite a while.
There are disciplines that can help control the thoughts that spring up in our minds. But it is usually enough for us to restrict the space we give such thoughts in our daily lives.
We have a choice not to dwell on negative things.
If action is needed, we can act. Otherwise, we can fill our minds with what is positive and life-enhancing.
Asking questions can yield the answer to many issues, but they need to be the right questions. There's a big difference between:
How can this be solved? and How can this be lived with?
Why did this happen to me? and What can I do about this?
Does my life have a meaning? and What meaning can I give my life?
Why do people hurt me? and How can I be less affected by others hurting me
Try and see if you can come up with a question today that seeks to empower you instead of making you feel vulnerable and helpless. It will make a difference.
In the conventional sense of the term, simplicity, as opposed to complexity, implies the facile, bumper-sticker type of understanding that is easy to come by and just as easily lost. It usually doesn't demand effort and is often not even grounded in experience. It does not go deep.
The other kind of simplicity may be identified by the same name, but involves a different experience altogether. It's often the outcome of enduring and dealing with hardships and indicates the position we arrive at after we have reflected and worked on our perspective on life and on ourselves.
Here is part of a T. S. Elliot poem that says it far better than I can:
"And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
In the long term, few people are going to remember what you did. Still fewer people will remember what you said.
Everyone will remember how you made them feel.
So, in a world of plans and objectives, competitive education and financial and business achievements, in fact, in whatever world you inhabit, be sure to observe how people feel in your presence. That's your real legacy.
No, the answer is not: "You are", this is a relationship.
The answer is: You both are. But does that make the relationship a 50:50 equation?
The best way to make a relationship thrive is for both of you to take 100 per cent responsibility for it.
It means that you can't hold back, even if your partner is giving less to the relationship than you are, because you regard yourself as fully responsible for making it work.
This isn't good maths. It may not even be fair. But it does seem to work.
Our imagination is a wonderful gift and with it we can summon anyone we want to help us. It takes a little practice to get fluent at this, here is what to do:-
Sit quietly for a few minutes and then create a picture of yourself in a favourite location.
Imagine being joined by the person from whom you want help and advice.
Tell them, quietly in your mind, what your situation is and ask for their thoughts.
Then sit still until your imagination lets them speak and listen to what they have to say.
They can be real or fictional, experts or friends, family or famous.
It's OK to have fun with this.