Five beautiful things

Today I am delighted to be welcome Tara Mohr to Reach Our Dreams. Tara is the author of Wise Living, a beautiful blog that is all about living simply and meaningfully. You can connect with Tara on Twitter or if you enjoy this interview why not subscribe to hers RSS?

I’m always looking for new ways to wake up to the life in front of me. This week I started playing with the idea of “five beautiful things.”

In any moment, particularly if I’m feeling stressed or out of sorts, I look for five beautiful things in my midst. I really look at them. I take them in—not just with my eyes but also with my mind and my breath and my heart. I spend a few moments just looking.

This morning, I’m in a bustling café. It isn’t particularly beautiful. But in a moment of feeling kind of bummed out and rushed and anxious, the thought popped up: look for five beautiful things.

The moment I raise my head, I see the red-gorgeous leaves of the trees out the window. Intensely rich as bowl of dark cherries. Hovering slightly in the wind, patiently waiting for our attention. Bold and unapologetic as they wait. Had I looked at them before this morning? Yes. Had I seen them? No.

Next, the face two seats down from me at the café. Clear, pale, freckled, trustworthy, unusual and familiar feeling all at once. Beautiful.

The bright green skirt of the woman walking past me, the green of summer. On this early day of spring, that is in itself a proclamation of good things to come.

The photos above the espresso bar, which I’ve seen at least a hundred times before. Three in a row, frame in arches. In looking at them I start to appreciate the miracle of someone taking the photograph, and the miracle of someone else framing them that way, the miracle of someone conceiving a design for this place. And then I start to feel the miracle that it is all here, and I’m here too. The miracle of a Saturday morning that is, that is now.

By the time it’s time to look for item number five, everything is looking beautiful. The white coffee cup is beautiful. It’s all starting to feel vibrating and alive and miraculous and now. (And I’m not even caffeinated yet).

So number five is, shockingly, the stop sign, right outside the window. It’s become stunningly gorgeous sometime in the past five minutes. It probably couldn’t have been beautiful thing number one, but through these eyes it’s a vibrant red. It’s the perfect shape composed above the green vines below and the brick building behind.

I’m left with this: There’s a way in which life is about looking. Looking closely. Looking with the intention to see beauty. Looking with curiosity and alertness. Looking with reverence for now.

Looking changes everything.

Right now, before you finish reading this post, and click over to the next window, will you find five things of beauty, of striking mystery, in your midst? Five things that are amazing out of their aliveness? Start with one or two, and take them in through your eyes, your mind, your heart and your breath. Spend a few moments with each, and the rest will take care of themselves.

I’m curious to hear what that was like for you. And I’d love to know, what does “life is about looking” mean to you?

Love,

5 Practical Ways to Feel Better Instantly

We all have times when we feel bad or just need a boost. It is useful to have practical ways to deal with these times. Below are some of the practical ways that I have learnt that help me feel better quickly:

1. Meditation

Meditation is one of the most powerful techniques that I have found to feel better quickly. I spend ten minutes each morning in meditation. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. You can sit in silence. Observing your breathe is another good way to start meditating. I use a guided meditation CD. Don’t worry about ‘doing it right’. Just get started by setting aside ten minutes to sit in silence.

Meditation can diminish the effect of external influences. When I am meditating it is a way for me to switch off and press pause on my worries and day to day concerns. I don’t try to stop my thoughts completely. I have found that observing them and letting them flow through my mind is much more effective than resisting them. I always feel refreshed and centred after meditating and able to be more at peace in my day to day life. I read somewhere that an hour of meditation can leave you as refreshed as eight hours of sleep!

2. Emotional Freedom Technique

Emotional Freedom Technique is a fairly new discovery to me but has become something I now use regularly. Glen from ViperChill recommended this link on a recent post. It worked the first time I tried it and I have started using this technique whenever I feel a negative emotion or when I feel bogged down by something.

I would highly recommend taking them time to go through this introductory video. I shared this link on Twitter recently and Nate over at The Way That You Wander tried it too with . He shared the results on this post: Get a Burst of Energy.

3. Exercise

Exercise is a sure fire way to feel better instantly. An even better way to feel better instantly is to exercise outdoors. Recent research shows that just five minutes of exercise outdoors can make a huge difference to our overall health.

My favourite ways to exercise currently are walking, running cycling and yoga. I haven’t always exercised but I have started making exercise part of my day to day life in the last couple of years and it has made the world of difference to my emotional and physical well being. I run near our home which saves time and money compared to going to a gym. I practice yoga by following a DVD at home and walk and cycle to save using my car where possible. Removing barriers to exercising, making it part of my day to day life and ensuring I enjoy the exercise I do has helped me want to do it more. I now exercise every day and it never fails to make me feel good. It’s also very good for your skin too!

4. Connect With Inspiring People

Connecting with inspiring people is a great way to feel better instantly. One of the first things I wanted to do when I came off the road in my car last year was to connect with my online friends. I felt so supported and it reminded me that I am part of a really inspiring and loving community.

If you feel like you don’t connect with enough inspiring people, seek new friends out. As I shared, being part of this online community makes a real difference to my life. You could join a new club or start a blog or maybe reach out to someone in your life that you find inspiring but haven’t got to know as well as you’d like. The people we associate with on a regular basis make a big difference to our outlook in life.

5. Affirmations

Affirmations are a great way to feel better instantly. We are actually all using affirmations all the time anyway. “I am not a people person” is an affirmation as is “I am a successful, happy person”. The trick is to be aware of our thoughts and replace negative affirmations with positive ones. I have found using affirmations very powerful, particularly when said into a mirror.

To learn more about affirmations I recommend You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. This is one of the first personal development books I ever read and in my opinion one of the best.

If you have never heard of affirmations before it might seem a bit of an unusual approach but I would recommend giving it a try. I will leave you with an affirmation that I love from Louise’s book that you can use:

“Deep at the centre of my being there is an infinite well of love. I now allow this love to flow to the surface. It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness, my very being and radiates out from me in all directions and returns to me multiplied. The more love I use and give, the more I have to give, the supply is endless. The use of love makes me feel good, it is an expression of my inner joy. I love myself therefore I take loving care of my body. I lovingly feed it nourishing foods and beverages. I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly responds to me with vibrant health and energy.. I love myself therefore I provide for myself a comfortable home, one that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in. I fill the rooms with the vibration of love so that all who enter myself included, will feel this love and be nourished by it. I love myself therefore I work at a job I truly enjoy doing, one that uses my creative talents and abilities, working with and for people that I love and that love me, and earning a good income. I love myself therefore I behave and think in a loving way to all people for I know that that which I give out returns to me multiplied. I only attract loving people in my world for they are a mirror of what I am. I love myself therefore, I forgive and totally release the past and all past experiences and I am free. I love myself therefore, I love totally in the now, experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future is bright and joyous and secure for I am a beloved child of the universe and the universe lovingly takes care of me now and forever more. And so it is.”

How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser

Are you a People-Pleaser? Are you someone who always puts other peoples’ feelings above your own or someone who makes the pursuit of other peoples happiness your main aim in life?

You become a People-Pleaser when the balance tips and the boundaries between your own happiness and other peoples become blurred.

Helping others is great when done genuinely. People-Pleasing is different from a genuine interest in other people. At the heart of this issue is the fact when you are in people-pleasing mode, you have lost sight of what makes you truly happy, let alone anyone else.

Here are some lessons I have learnt that have helped me:

1. Be Authentic

Authenticity is the nemesis of People-Pleasing. People-Pleasing is all about getting others to behave in a certain way to make you feel better. Being authentic is being real. There is no agenda; there is just you. It isn’t hard to start noticing the difference between authenticity and People-Pleasing, Authenticity feels real and honest. You have no agenda and are transparent. People-Pleasing on the other hand feels insecure, fragile, phony and desperate. Start identifying your feelings and which mode you are in. Start choosing authenticity.

2. Listen to Your Feelings

Your feelings are a communication. They are there to tell you something. Start listening. One trap I have fallen into in the past is listening to your feelings and then justifying them away. For example, if I feel disappointed with someone else and notice that feeling, I then go on to justify the other person’s behaviour i.e. “they are going through a hard time”. It is useful to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand what is going in for them, but it is important to learn to take the time to understand what is going on for you too. You don’t have to solve the problem straight away or get rid of the feeling. Learn to really listen to your feelings without judgement.

3. Realise People-Pleasing is Not “Nice”

One of the things that made a real difference to me is realising that People-Pleasing is pretty sleazy. It robs you of your self esteem and doesn’t leave the people you are trying to please with a good experience of you. People-Pleasing is one of those behaviours that sounds “nice” but which is actually the opposite. People-Pleasing isn’t really about others and making a difference, it is all about you. For example you might say “I haven’t heard from you for a while, I have been worried about you” when what is really going on is “I am not really worried about you, I just want to make sure you still like me”. We don’t say these things, but other people pick up on them anyway.

4. Let Go of Control

People-Pleasing is controlling. To make yourself feel better you need others to be ‘pleased’ or ‘happy’ with you. Imagine what pressure that is for the other person! Take a moment to remind yourself of a time that someone has been a People-Pleaser with you and how this experience made you feel.

I have noticed that when I am in People-Pleasing mode I take other peoples moods personally. I see someone is upset and I worry that I have upset them. I search my mind for ways that I may have upset them and want to apologise or at least find a way to make them happy again, even if it is nothing to do with me! Again when I am like this, it’s all about me. trying to make others feel good so I can feel good again! Realising that other people have the right to be happy or unhappy has been a huge realisation for me. That might sound kind of obvious, but when I am in People-Pleasing mode, someone else being unhappy isn’t ok. It makes me feel bad and I want that feeling to go away as soon as possible!

Learn to accept and allow others just as they are.

5. Learn to Be OK with Upsetting People

“You can’t keep all the people happy all the time”

I am not advocating being a jerk here, but it is a fact of life is that you can’t make everyone happy all the time. What you can do is be authentic and do what you feel is right. We all upset others at times. It is inevitable. Sometimes people are jealous; sometimes they don’t like other people being happy or successful and sometimes they may be upset with you and they just don’t know why! You cannot be responsible for other people’s happiness but you sure as hell are responsible for your own.

(Note: This isn’t an excuse not to apologise if you are in the wrong. Learn to listen to your intuition and be honest. Ask yourself: “Is there something I need to take responsibility for here?”)

6. Please Yourself

Learning to please yourself is one of the most important things you can do. Looking for outside validation stifles your inner voice and makes you small.

You are not small. Whenever you feel small you don’t feel good. That is because it is not true. You are huge. You are here to shine.

Start learning about you. What makes you happy? What lights your heart up with joy? Some people are so used to thinking about what makes other people happy, that this really is an alien concept. If this is the case, start finding out today. When someone asks you what you fancy for lunch don’t say the usual “I don’t mind” or “Whatever you fancy”, take a moment to think about what you would like to eat and let the other person know. Step by step you start getting clear what makes you happy.

People-Pleasing robs you of your natural expression and joy in life. As I shared, these are some of the ways I deal with this tendency in myself. Are you a recovering People-Pleaser? I would love to hear about your experiences.

How I found a balance

Since I wrote recently about taking a step back and how I was dealing with overwhelm I thought I would update you and let you know that I have achieved my goal and life is much more balanced and happy for me now.

I honestly feel healthier and happier than I have in a long time. My passion for this blog is as strong as ever and I have been enjoying my life immensely both on and offline.

I wanted to share with you the lessons I have learnt recently and what has made a difference to me personally as it seems that this is an issue that many of us are dealing with at the moment. For example, Matt Chevy over at Life without pants wrote an insightful and very relevant post on this very topic this week and hit on some great points about what many of us seem to have been dealing with recently. So without further ado, these are the things that have personally made a difference to me:

1. Disconnecting

Not reaching for my laptop / Blackberry every spare moment I have has made a huge difference. Previously if I had a spare half an hour I would jump on the computer (usually to check Twitter, stats etc) but I have been making a habit of checking myself when I feel like doing that and seeing if I really needed to. If not, I have been choosing another activity, maybe a leisurely cup of tea or reading a book. This has helped me slow down and enjoy my spare time rather than filling it with computer activities that can usually wait.

2. Prioritising

I have stopped worrying as much about keeping up with reading other blogs. I worried about this initially as I don’t want it to seem that I am not interested in reading other people’s blogs as this just isn’t the case. However, the truth is that it was becoming overwhelming trying to keep up with reading and commenting on a certain amount of sites per day as I had been. I accidently deleted my RSS feeds (about 30) last week. Initially I was really annoyed that I had done that but I realised it was an opportunity to revaluate my reading habits. My new list includes 8 feeds and this has helped me feel much lighter about blogging. I still read other blogs not in my feed regularly and of course, not to be missed posts are always shared on Twitter. A consequence of taking the pressure off myself in this area is that I have the time to read and absorb the posts I do read and also made room for myself to find some fantastic new blogs such as far beyond the stars and Rowdy Kittens.

3. Enjoying life

I have been doing lots of fun things in the last few weeks. Adrian and I have been doing lots of cycling and getting out and enjoying the fantastic sunny spring we have been having in the UK. We have also been walking, going to the beach and catching up on some great films on DVD (“Men who stare at goats” is a big recommendation!)

4. Being present

I am not sure if I have become more present because of these changes or vice versa but either way I have had a definite increase in peace of mind and the feeling of being in the present moment. I have really been enjoying each day! I have started meditating again and as I shared above, I have been taking the time to enjoy activities other than being on the laptop. These have made a big difference to being present.

5. Enjoying my work

I am really enjoying the mentoring work I do with local universities as well as the administration work I do the rest of the time. Both are really enjoyable and satisfying. I am also fortunate that my schedule at the moment means that I don’t do a full eight hour day on any of the four days I work. This means that there is time each day to be outside enjoying the good weather, exercising and generally enjoying life outside work as well.

6. Starting the day well

One bad habit that I noticed last week was switching my laptop on as soon as I got out of bed. I usually have enough time at a computer each day to do what I need to do, so I don’t really need to do this. I noticed that when I do this, it makes me a little more anxious and less grounded before I start my day. I have now stopped switching my laptop on first thing and have been taking the first hour of the day to enjoy breakfast, spend time with Adrian and meditate. This change has made a huge difference as it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

In terms of this site I have been writing more than usual and have been doing lots of guest posts so the changes I have made are definately helping me to be more effective and productive as well!

These are the things that have made a difference to me recently. I would love to hear from you. Have you been struggling to find a balance or does this come easily to you? Have you got other tips that you would like to share?

Wherever you go…

“Wherever you go, your mind will go with you.” Osho

I was watching a TV programme this week (yup…lots of day time TV this week due to the snow! :) ), where each week a family decides whether or not to emigrate to New Zealand or Australia from the UK. Each member of the family votes whether they should go or stay at different points in the programme and part of the decision making process includes a visit to the country of choice and a chance to look at possible property and jobs out there.

This week the programmed featured a family who said the main reason they wanted to emigrate to New Zealand was that they felt like they were overworked and wanted a change in pace. They talked about this a lot. On arriving in New Zealand however, the father, who was the one who they said spent too much time at work, found a job with a vineyard which he was really excited about, which would include working weekend and evenings and overtime for at least two years to get experience. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that decision, but watching this programme it was obvious that something didn’t add up. What they were saying they wanted and the actions they were taking were not congruent. As one of his daughters (about five years old) said, “Daddy could get a job working less hours in the UK.” The predictable scenario here is that they would create the same situation in New Zealand as they had in the UK.

Watching this episode made me think. I’m sure we’ve all done this – changed our circumstances in the hope that we will be different. Travel and moving are fantastic and I have done a lot of both in my life, but if you are expecting a place to make you different, you will be disappointed. You will not magically have more time or be different, just because you live in a different country. Yes … move, travel, experience the world! But know that for our day-to-day experience to change, we fundamentally need to change ourselves first.

“Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau

What’s your experience?

Thank you and update from Reach Our Dreams

As the year comes to an end, I wanted to firstly say a massive THANK YOU to each and every one of you for reading this blog. I started this blog at the end of July, and it has been such a great learning curve and just a real joy becoming part of this community and developing Reach Our Dreams. It means a lot to me that you read my articles, leave great comments, cheer me and each other on and share your stories. I really appreciate your support and look forward to many more adventures and dream-reaching in 2010!

You will notice when you visit my site at the moment, I am in the process of changing the design of my website. It is a work in progress, and I still have some work to do (putting images back in etc) but I hope to have everything sorted by the New Year.

Thanks again!

Jen

Are You Dreaming Patiently?

This post is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic two-month journey of over 50 guest posts. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

There’s a lot of talk these days about going everything we can to reach our dreams…wait, where am I?

Yeah, so all that talk about reaching our dreams, throwing a middle finger up to the naysayers, and doing whatever the hell you want – it sounds great, and I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t be doing all that.

What  a lot of people don’t want to admit is that breaking all the rules and achieving the impossible doesn’t happen overnight – and when we can’t see the end, when our dreams seem too far away, that’s when we lose hope, slow down, and give up.

Take a deep breath and take wisdom in the words of GNR. All we need is just a little patience.

I want to write a book…several actually. I want to start my own business, open a coffee shop, travel the world, the works. I have a list (literally) of things I want to accomplish in my life -those BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) that loom over the long and windy road ahead of me.

The difference between me and a lot of people is that I’m willing to work, and work hard, to achieve these dreams. I’m patient enough to know that I may have to work at a non-dream job to gain experience, and, you know, make a little money – ‘cause that’s nice too.

The first step is identifying what your dreams are – no matter how ridiculous or far off they seem – if you don’t know what you’re working toward, if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, you’ll end up wandering around in the dark without a flashlight. And FYI, no dream is ridiculous if YOU believe in it.

The next step is to start doing something about it. If you want to be a writer, start a blog, buy a spiral notebook, head to your local Starbucks and start writing things down.

If you want to start a business – do some research, open a savings account, set a budget, and get to work.

It’s nice to talk about dreams – it’s fine to lay in bed at night wondering “what if” – but things only start happening when you start taking action – and things have a funny way of happening sooner when you set goals to work toward.

And don’t get discouraged – don’t expect things to happen all at once. It’s OK to take things slow – it’s OK to relax and enjoy the ride along the way.

I’ll be the first to tell you that life’s rules are meant to be broken  – that you shouldn’t settle for the routine, but don’t get so caught up on the end goal that you forget what life is really all about. Living.

Note from Jen: A big thank you to Matt for visiting us on his Guest Blog Grand Tour. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend a visit to Life Without Pants for a perspective on life less restricted!

Balance

Being honest, balance isn’t something I would say is natural to me. I don’t mean the physical act of balancing (I’m pretty good at that , but rather the skill of approaching life equitably and with harmony.

When I enjoy doing something, I want to do it all the time! I’ve never gone completely overboard but I know there is definitely a strong tendency within me, to be like this. In my twenties, when I used to go out to bars and clubs, I would smoke and drink, like there was no tomorrow. It was a lot of fun at times, but ultimately there is a tomorrow (until there’s not…if that makes sense! ;) ) and then there is an obvious cause and effect to that behaviour.

Not just in case you’re thinking, “oh gawd, Jen’s here to rain on my parade!” …I’m really not. That was great fun, if that’s what you want to do, and I strongly believe that if you are enjoying yourself and not hurting anyone, then all well and good. :) However, something I wanted to share is that I am finding I am enjoying “balance” these days. Maybe it’s getting older, as I never used to be a fan of balance! I am 34 this week, and I definitely enjoy different things these days than I would ten years ago, I think that’s often a natural thing in life. Neither is better or worst. We just change.

What got me thinking about this topic, was the recent posts by Karen at Dreamin’’ the Life. Karen has blown me away with her honesty and courage, in sharing that she is currently battling an addiction to alcohol. Someone commented on one of her posts, that we are all addicted to something. Whether its gossip, the internet, chocolate or alcohol. I think that’s true. If I’m really honest with myself, although I might not be facing the same challenges Karen is right now, I know I have that tendency within me, and I am not sure, that giving up certain things in my life, would be that easy.

So as I said, I have realized recently, there is a lot to be learnt from balance, specifically I am learning that self discipline can actually be very freeing. Letting yourself do, whatever you feel like, can feel good in the moment, but can quickly feel bad if done too often.

One of my favourite writers; David Turnbull recently write a post where he shared that he found it useful, when writing to:

“Stop when you don’t want to stop. Are you in a killer paragraph? Writing something that’s so amazing that you feel like you’re going to explode in a burst of ecstasy? Stop writing. What?! Stop writing. Why? Because you’re in a good zone, but that good feeling is fleeting unfortunately and it needs to preserved.”

I think there is so much wisdom in what David says here, and it can be applied to any area of life. Continuing to do something fun, can be great, but there is something to be said for ‘preserving’ that feeling, and knowing when to stop.

Personally I have found that I get out of balance when I don’t listen to my feelings. Like a parent who sets healthy boundaries for their children, I have started to notice that when I do this for myself, and stop when I know to stop, or getting the things done first that I don’t want to do, there is a palpable sense of satisfaction. Another important thing to mention here is the importance of the ability to say “no”. As I shared in the post in the link, learning to say “no” has made a huge difference to my life, and the ability to balance what I want.

A further positive effect of being more balanced for me is that I notice I am starting to achieve more and I am clearer about what it is I want to achieve. I get inspired very easily, but left unchecked I can have lots of inspiration and not much follow through. I am realising the value of persistence and consistency.

I don’t want to take all the fun out of life and of course, at times good old fashioned spontaneity and throwing caution to the wind, can be the best thing to do. However at other times, delaying gratification and learning self discipline, can add another layer to life and our enjoyment of it.

We are all different. Your journey with balance may be very different to mine. I’d love to hear about yours.

My first guest post

Hiya! I wanted to let you know that I am taking Reach Our Dreams on the road this week, for my first guest post. I am delighted that Dani at Positively Present has agreed to put me up.

My post is called Are your goals fun? I’d love to see you over there and hear what you think.

I highly recommend Dani’s site. “Positively Present” means living in the moment and searching for the positive in every situation. Dani writes awesome, thought provoking and inspiring posts that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. 

Hope to see you there!

Jen xox

In search of happiness

How often have you thought…when this happens, or I buy this,”I will be happy”.

We’ve all read about how things or people don’t make us happy but I for one know that, however many times I read this, I still manage to pull the wool over my eyes one more time!

For example, recently my husband and I decided to buy a netbook. Now these days I’m pretty self sufficient and don’t want a lot, although my new found geek does lust after technology (particularly the apple mac 🙂 ), suffice to say I was pretty happy to get this. But a few days down the line, with installation problems galore, the shine had come off. We have since sorted these problems, but there was a great lesson in there. Things don’t make you happy!

Another reminder has been in being offered and accepting a new job this week. I’ve been looking for a new job for nearly a year now and I am really happy that I have got one, and this one in particular. It is exactly where I wanted to work and opens up lots of possibilities around my mentoring and coaching work. I am really happy….now….but it took a few days to get there. I just wasn’t as happy as I imagined I would be.

Now before you think, maybe she’s just hard to please or never happy (which may be the case! 😉 ), I do think this is a common malaise. We convince ourselves that when this or that happens, things will be better. However enlightened we think we are, it’s easy to fall into that trap! When we meet “the one”, or achieve that goal, life will be better.

Just another reminder, the present moment is all we have.

So, this week, I’m working on being grateful for what I have (my new netbook and job, as well as many other blessings) and reminding myself that happiness isn’t dependant on anything ‘out there’. I have all I need to be happy right now. I just need to keep on remembering it! 🙂

How do you remind yourself that happiness isn’t ‘out there’, but here in the present moment?

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