Constricting our lives with assumptions

I had a bit of an ‘aha’ this week when I realised how much I approach things having already decided how they’re going to go. It was a bit of a shock, I can tell you, because I pride myself on being a glass-half-full kinda gal.

This revelation showed itself through a course I’m on at the moment about Happiness. When I was about 12 I decided that people didn’t get me. It stuck, but with lots of training and personal development I thought I’d made peace with this particular old chestnut ….. but noooo.

Could this be, I wondered, why I find it hard to get my fabulous program Future Self Now out to a wider audience?! If I’ve already decided in advance that people don’t get me, how can it possibly be allowed to fly?

I love it when we name things. It’s like  using  flourescent light to reveal fingerprints. Clues are revealed! I’m not going to be able to turn this thing about being ‘got’ on its head overnight but I can be more concious of it. I can catch myself in the act and when I do that, it’s no longer running me.

Have a look at this for yourself. Think of something that is important to you and then write down what you might have already decided about how it’s going to go, before it’s been given a chance to unfold. For instance – you might be going to a meeting tomorrow. Have you already decided that the others there will be hostile or, perhaps, apathetic? Have you already decided that they won’t take you seriously? Who would you be if you didn’t go in with this expectation? Open, light-hearted, confident?  How might this affect others around you?

When you start to think about this, you’ll see that there are all sorts of assumptions that we make about our day. “Washing up is boring!” “Fred will be ineffective”, “Tomorrow will be busy and tiring”. Try and catch these as much as possible and ask yourself, “Is that necessarily so? How could I approach this in a whole new way?”

I have a friend who tries to change her routine as much as possible – drying herself after a shower in a different way, putting things in different cupboards in her kitchen to keep herself guessing, even hiding her shoes. I can see now why she does it. So much of our lives can be automatic and when it’s like that we lose the ability to be fresh, alert, present and alive.

Life as a mountain river

I love the analogy of a mountain river for our lives. We talk about the importance of  ‘going with the flow’ but of course life will bring up blockages. It’s the nature of things and part of the fun of living. None of us want our rivers to be straight and featureless and we certainly don’t want them to stagnate. We didn’t come here to get things done, we came for the thrill of the journey.

Where there are rocks and eddies in our rivers the energy of the river picks up and becomes more powerful. The same is true in our lives. There’s that old saying, “what doesn’t kill me will make me strong”. It’s a dramatic way of putting it but true nonetheless.  If we can still fog a mirror then we will have rocks in our river. Some of these will feel jaggedy and huge, some will have become smoothed and rounded over time. If we keep our rivers full of water, (i.e. we attend to ourselves and attempt to live as close to our truth as possible), then a lot of these rocks will simply be submerged and become harmless. If our water levels are down, (because we are overwhelmed by circumstances and negative emotions), then all these rocks will stick up and get in the way of the flow.

It is normal and healthy for us to have rocks in our river – without these our flow would not have an opportunity to pick up energy – just don’t let your water levels go down so far that these rocks hinder the flow to the point that life feels like a trickle!

Thank goodness life is not linear

I’m back! Phew – bit of a wipe-out there for a week.

The curious thing about illness, I feel, is that it seems so often to coincide with an inner need for change. I noticed when I went from life coach to public workshop leader in 2002, I got ill. When Guy left the company he’d been working for for 18 years and became independant, he fell sick. Rudolf Steiner talks of illness and fever as the means by which we can ‘melt away’ an old way of being and bring in the new.

So, on the other side of this threshold I am seeing things differently. I realise I got a bit too caught up in my work with Future Self Now to be able to see anything else. I had got it into my head, I think, that there was only one way to my goals and if I could just find out where that elusive road lay, I’d be sorted.

But of course LIFE IS NOT LINEAR. I see now that there are a thousand different ways to my Future Self and many of them may look  counter-clockwise. That’s good. The unexpected, the tangental, is what keeps me on an edge – the creativity flowing  – and not getting stuck in stale expectations

So, life will not look the same from now on. I want to be alert to creating new habits, shedding old prejudices. Hoorah, I say! I am going to dip my finger in more pies and see what comes out. The plum, (the reward), I’m certain, will be new energy, new ideas and new beginnings.

Tripping up

Mixed emotions today. I woke up this morning determined to bring a new kind of seriousnes to my business practices. I would wake early, do my morning writing and an hour’s work before getting the children ready for school. Then, I would work every morning from Monday to Thursday, not allowing any kind of interruption. Seemed like a good plan – still does in many ways – but what came with this determination was also the lurking spectre of self-flagellation. I had been lax. I hadn’t brought enough weighty intention to my business dealings. I should act more professionally. I should ‘show some oomph’ as my mother used to say.

It was my friend Kelly who caught this, in a conversation we had later. All good, she said in a nutshell, but didn’t it all seem rather heavy? Er, …yes. Great catch Kelly. I got quite emotional as I cottoned on to the extent to which I had been building up a massive expectation to come up with THE answer – to know how to write THE killer workbook, to attract OODLES of new clients and interest in Future Self Now. In short I had got distracted by the long range whilst forgetting about what there is to do right now under my nose.

This reminds me of a video I saw this week that uses that classic gag in old black and white movies where a character trips up on an obstacle because he’s too focused on what’s in the distance …with painful consequences. Here’s the video – made by a man protesting about dangerous bus lanes in New York.

So, I’m off to bed now, thankfully being a lot less hard on myself and having trained my focus back to the here and now.



Creating new rules for your happiness

I stumbled across this article today (see below) and I think it’s excellent. I urge you to try the suggested exercise – I tried it and realised I had these weird rules for my happiness which included – ‘Guy must be in charge of all the finances’ and ‘the children must fit in with my program’. Yikes! Velly inter-est-ing.

So here are some of my new rules for happiness:

  1. I feel a sense of adventure
  2. My curiosity is piqued
  3. Weird juxtapositions
  4. Smiles and laughter from the children and Guy
  5. I am open to serendipity
  6. I  embrace the magic of the unexpected
  7. I celebrate the success and abundance of others as evidence of the possibility of my own abundance
  8. Gaining by losing
  9. Moving my body
  10. Being punk-girl


Here’s the article:

How to Be Happy at Work

If you’re unhappy at work–or anywhere else, for that matter–it’s because you’ve made yourself unhappy. There’s an easy way to change that.

By Geoffrey James |  @Sales_Source   | Jan 30, 2012


 Let me start off with a little story.

I once knew a saleswoman–young, divorced–who got a diagnosis of breast cancer.  She had to work and raise two kids while fighting the cancer. Even so, she managed to be happy at work, noticeably happier than her co-workers.  In fact, she not only won her battle with cancer but subsequently became one of the top salespeople at Bristol Myers.

She was not, as it happens, naturally cheerful.  Quite the contrary.  When she started full-time work, she was frequently depressed.  But she turned it around, using the techniques I’m going to provide you in this column.

That saleswoman once told me: When you’re unhappy, it’s because you’ve decided to be unhappy.

Maybe it wasn’t a conscious decision; maybe it crept up on you while you weren’t looking–but it was a decision nonetheless.  And that’s good news, because you can decide instead to be happy. You just need to understand how and why you make the decisions.

What Are Your Rules?

Happiness and unhappiness (in work and in life) result entirely from the rules in your head that you use to evaluate events.  Those rules determine what’s worth focusing on, and how you react to what you focus on.

Many people have rules that make it very difficult for them to happy and very easy for them to be miserable.

I once worked with a sales guy who was always angry at the people he worked with. The moment anything didn’t go the way he thought it should go, he’d be screaming in somebody’s face.  He was making everyone around him miserable–but just as importantly, he was making himself miserable, because just about anything set him off.

For this guy, the everyday nonsense that goes on in every workplace was not just important, but crazy-making important.

I once asked him what made him happy.  His answer: “The only thing that makes this !$%$#! job worthwhile is when I win a $1 million account.”  I asked him how often that happened.  His response: “About once a year.”

In other words, this guy had internal rules that guaranteed he’d be miserable on a day-to-day basis, but only happy once a year.

One of the other sales guys at that firm had the exact opposite set of rules.  His philosophy was “every day above ground is a good day.”  When he encountered setbacks, he shrugged them off–because, according to his internal rules, they just weren’t that important.  When I asked him what made him miserable, his answer was: “Not much.”  When I pressed him for a real answer, he said: “When somebody I love dies.”

In other words, the second sales guy had rules that made it easy for him to be happy but difficult to be miserable.

I’d like to be able to write that Mr. Positivity regularly outsold Mr. Negativity, but in fact their sales results were similar.  Even so, I think Mr. Negativity was a loser, because he lived each day in a state of misery.  His colleague was always happy.  He was winning at life.  He was happy at work.

Make Yourself Happier: 3 Steps

The saleswoman who had breast cancer was happy, too, and this is the method she used to make herself happy:

1. Document Your Current Rules

Set aside a half-hour of alone time and, being as honest as you can, write down the answers to these two questions:

  • What has to happen for me to be happy?
  • What has to happen for me to be unhappy?

Now examine those rules.  Have you made it easier to miserable than to be happy?  If so, your plan is probably working.

2. Create a Better Set of Rules

Using your imagination, create and record a new set of rules that would make it easy for you to be happy and difficult to be miserable.  Examples:

  • “I enjoy seeing the people I work with each day.”
  • “I really hate it when natural disasters destroy my home.” 

Don’t worry whether or not these new rules seem “realistic”–that’s not the point.  All internal rules are arbitrary, anyway.  Just write rules that would make you happier if you really believed them.

3. Post the New Rules Where You’ll See Them

When you’ve completed your set of “new” rules, print out them out and post copies in three places: your bathroom mirror, the dashboard of your car, and the side of your computer screen.  Leave them up, even after you’ve memorized them.

Having those new rules visible when you’re doing other things gradually re-programs your mind to believe the new rules.  You will be happy at work.  It’s really that simple.

Oh, and by the way … That saleswoman? She was my mother.


The lost post

It was pointed out to me that this post (which I wrote last Wednesday) did not make it to you – that’s because I published it in the wrong place. Duh! As I refered to this post in last Friday’s post I thought I better properly publish it now.


F*** It!

Woke up this morning with all sorts of intentions. Loads to do. Lots of balls to start rolling.

Got the kids off to school and….. nothing. Went back to bed. Slept. Tried writing. Nothing. Stared out of the window for a long time. Still no oomph. In fact I started getting a headache.

With help from my friend and coach, Kelly, I started to realise that my head was so full of  ‘things to do’ and ‘shoulds’ that a mini rebellion was taking place in my body. Mutiny!

So I gave in and let myself take it easy. I suppose I must need it. In fact later, in Sainsbury’s cafe, (managed at least to get some shopping done!), I even found myself writing a rebellious letter to the Universe:

“Why do I have to do all this stuff?”

“Who the f*** cares anyway?”

“I can do anything I want?”

And so on… it felt good to vent. Very good. Once I’d said it, it was gone.

I realise that we all have this need to rebel sometimes. We need to know that we are not robots – we are ‘us’ and we can jolly well do things our own way!

Do you need to break out of the mould a bit? Are you feeling trapped by your own assumptions and the (perceived) expectations of others?

It’s time to rebel.

  • Take a day off – lie in bed, stay in your pyjamas, watch movies
  • Get in the car and drive – no destination required
  • Throw an egg into the bath (weird, I know, but I did it once and it felt good)

Go on – be a devil!

Beware the expert!

Since my last post, (find it here), thankfully, things have turned around. The trouble, I discovered, was that I’d got caught in a web of ‘out-there-ness’. I was paying too much attention to what I thought others wanted me to do and had projected myself outwards. The present moment, my sense of Me and my body were lost in the ether.

I know this is not uncommon. It’s happened to clients of mine who, usually in a flush of enthusiasm about a new project end up drowning in ill-fitting advice. One client, keen to set up a website for his business, for instance, found himself confused by the myriad of experts available to him and ended up with a product that in no way reflected who he is.

Beware! Many a great plan has died a death under the kosh of the perceived expertise of others. Don’t subsume your unique way of doing things to someone who may have different motivations and values to you.

The secret is to look at what’s out there, (lots of great stuff now we have the Internet of course), and take it with a pinch of salt! Look at it and ask yourself “how much of this can I ‘own’ or adapt as mine and what should be discarded?

Celebrate and nurture your You-ness. Because there will only ever be one of you, no-one will have the answers that are the exact right fit for you – except YOU of course!

‘Me’ and ‘Everythingness’

Tonight I’m finding myself in a very different place from yesterday. After a lovely day completing Christmas shopping with the children and feeling a wonderful sense of unity with them, I had moved from self-doubt to a conciousness of Flow.

Then came a phone call from Guy.

His father is very ill in hospital at the moment and he is understandably worried. He wants to visit him, but he wants to do it around work commitments. He wants to go on Friday and come back on the night of Christmas Eve.

I’m not at all proud to say that I wasn’t altogether understanding. The part of me that wants our children to have a special Christmas time with us as a family, the part of me that is afraid of what missing their Dad does to our children, the part of me that really misses Guy, balked. And yet, I knew that sounded terrible. Of course his Dad is top priority right now.

And so a dance has begun inside of me – the pull of what my ego wants and what in the grand scheme of things is about an honouring of something very big – the bond of father and son – eternal love nurtured over 57 years. It’s hard to express, but I know that this for Guy IS bigger than our Christmas this year and that it’s important that I let that be.

I have been helped in this realisation by a friend who (probably not-so) serendipitiously sent me this extraordinary video tonight. I urge you to watch it. It explains such a lot to me about these two sides we have inside – the conciousness of something much, much bigger than ourselves and, at the same time, the conciousness of ourselves as separate and unique.

Don’t Hold Back the Smiles!

As you know the byline to this blog is “How happy do I dare to be?” Today I went to see my daughter’s class perform the play ‘The Ballad of Saloman Pavey’. It was wonderful – they were all so enthusiastic and clearly having a lot of fun. On my way home I found myself wanting to smile ‘out loud’ but resisting it because I didn’t want to look kooky.

Isn’t that interesting? It made me wonder how often we do that – suppress a smile. What if we didn’t? What if we unashameably just let loose with the smiles whenever and wherever we felt like it? It made me come up with a new resolution:

I promise myself that I will no longer disallow a smile.

I just did some very quick online research into smiling and of course there are all sorts of quoted benefits – internal and external. Notably when we smile we immediately improve our energy and, externally, we are much more attractive to others. Not rocket science but something, I suspect, we forget.

Another concept I like is that of the ‘Inner Smile’. This is conjuring up the thought of a smile to soothe ourselves inwardly. Here’s a lovely guided mediatation I found that uses this:

Also try using the inner smile to direct towards someone else. I love this one and have used it quite often in the past. The idea is that you sit, (say in a doctor’s waiting room), and turn your attention to someone in the room. Without needing to look at them you can smile lovingly and inwardly towards them, sending them warmth and good feelings. It’s also really effective if you are about to meet someone who you might be conflicted about. Just approach them with an inner smile and the whole dynamic will change for the better.

Smile. Smile. Smile. You know it can only do good to you and those around you!

The two wolves in my heart

It’s been a day that’s had me wondering why I got so ‘hooked’ last night at the parents’ evening. It seems to me there’s some great learning here for me – not only around compassion (for others and myself), but also around not giving my power away.

I’ve heard the parable  in this video before but it’s an apt reminder for me to be careful where I put my energy.