Monday, 28 December 2015

How to create a 2016 to be proud of...

Cast your mind back to where you were at this time last year. What did you want to change? What did you want from 2015? Have you achieved this?

As we all know New Year's Resolutions are notoriously tough to stick to.  Maybe we need to try a new way of setting our goals and working out what we really want.

Try these 3 steps...

1) Visualise your year ahead and commit this to paper 
2) Really imagine the feelings you will experience as your vision becomes reality
3) Let these feelings drive you to take small steps to create your best year yet

Get creative 

Set aside some time, lock yourself away and dream up how your 2016 is going to look and put this vision on an A4 sheet of paper.  Draw it, doodle it, write it - do whatever feels most natural to you.  It just needs to display how your ideal year will look.

If you want to find love in 2016, write that this year you will find a partner.  If you want to expand your horizons and move abroad put that in your 2016 manifesto. Using a good old fashioned pen and paper rather than typing works better too as the process of writing takes longer so further in-beds your vision in your brain. Remember to dream big, but do be realistic.

Once you're done, put your A4 sheet of paper somewhere you'll be able to see it regularly and 'keep your eyes on the prize!'

A while back I read a book which really encouraged me to try this type of approach which I've been putting into practice ever since and not just at New Year.  I strongly recommend a read of Just Ask the Universe

Igniting the rocket fuel...

Ask yourself how will you feel when you make your vision a reality?

By carrying out the process above you are really imagining your dreams becoming a reality which will ignite all kinds of positive feelings and emotions which act as the rocket fuel you need to really make the necessary changes to reach your goals

Don't lay down the law by setting rigid resolutions - I must to do this, I must do that.  Instead really get a sense of how you want 2016 to be for you and set little goals each week using your vision as the driving force behind your goals.  Take baby steps, keep the vision in mind, really connect with why you're doing it and where you want to be.

It's so important that you have the will to create this reality so ask yourself how much you want this. This will be a good indication of how successful you'll be.

And the biggest motivation?  

...Imagining yourself when you sit down at the end of the year and assess how far you've come.  You may not have lived out your exact vision, or your vision may have changed along the way, but with a little imagination, belief and by regularly setting mini goals, you'll have made positive change in your life and the origin of that has come from what you truly want from your year rather than what you think your new years resolution *should* be.

Above all, have fun with it, you can literally write your future so get creative and ENJOY!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Are you successful?

Many of us measure our own success against what others are doing in their lives. You look at someone you grew up with who has a high powered job, earns a fortune, lives in a five bedroom house with the love of their life and two kids. You may compare their reality to your own and conclude that they are more successful than you. Is that really true though?

Comparing myself to others is something I have been guilty of, and probably something we all do from time to time.  Looking at others in my peer group who are seemingly more "successful" than me is only going to do one thing - make me feel fed up.  That person earns more money than me, has a bigger house, a better car, a fruitful career. This kind of mentality will not get me anywhere so, for some time now, whenever those kinds of thoughts enter my mind, I stop them in their tracks.

So if we are not measuring our own success against the success of others how do we measure it? How about measuring your success against your own success code?

Success for one person could look totally different to how success looks to someone else.  It's a case of working out how you define success and concocting a plan as to how you are going to achieve it.

What's important to you?

Sit down and make a list of all the things that are really important to you in life.  Be completely honest as this list is only for you (unless you'd like to share with someone else).  On this list could be anything - money, family, acceptance, health, fitness, charity, love, career, travel.

This list you've created will give you an indication of the kind of life you want to live and what's truly important to you.  You may spend every waking hour thinking and worrying about your job, but your job may not feature anywhere on your list.  What does that tell you?  Maybe too much time and focus is going into something that's not important to you.  This exercise can be quite telling and may help you to re-evaluate what is actually significant to your life, and what's not.

Your success code

Your list of what's important to you shapes your own personal success code.  Study your list and start making a new list (I love lists!)  This time you are writing down the things which create your success code.  You are answering the question - What does success look like to me?  On this list could be things like - owning my own home, having a family, having a career that helps others, bringing up your children to be good people, seeing the world. Your success code is personal to you and it's for that reason that you can't compare your success to others.

Measure success against your personal goals and live by your own success code.  

What next? 

So you've worked out what's important to you and how success looks to you, what's next?  Take your lists and really work out how you are going to be successful.  By that, I mean how you are going to live a life that aligns with what's important to you. Consider your long term goals - imagine yourself living a successful life in five years from now.  How will you get there?  Break it down into smaller, short term goals.  If one of your goals is to find love, take action. Start a new hobby to meet new people or sign up to online dating. Before you strive to become a successful person you need to start with the basics and work out what success means to you. You may climb the career ladder in your chosen career gaining authority, wealth and admiration from others along the way, but if this doesn't match what's actually important to you, how can this be defined as success?  

Am I successful?

I have taken the steps above and so have a clear sense of what success means to me. For the first time, all areas of my life are aligned with my list of what's important to me, and this is not by accident. I sat down to make this list a couple of years ago, and since then I've been making small changes, and taking action to make sure my reality is in line with what's important to me.  In this sense I'm successful, but success is a continuous journey and there are more goals on my (many) lists which I am working towards.  Putting focus and energy into my own success and happiness stops me comparing myself to others which can only be a positive thing.  I aim for a successful week, a successful month, a successful year and I measure this success against my ever evolving lists of goals and hopefully, one day, I'll be able to conclude I've had a successful life.  

Figure out what's important to you, create your success code and live your life by this.  

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Story of the control freak bride: When life throws you lemons...

It's been a while since my last post as I've been in the midst of wedding mania - I've had both my own wedding and my best friend's wedding so it's been a busy time to say the least but now "normal" life is resuming...

I don't think I can find a word to sum up the last couple of months - a whirlwind is probably the best description.  The last two months have undoubtedly contained some of the most amazing, special and happy moments of my life... do you see a BUT coming??!!... but I've also learnt a lot about myself and about life which I realise sounds very dramatic, but it's true.  It's been quite an eye opening time actually.

I am an organiser, both in personal and professional life, and organising is what I do and I what I love. Fellow organisers may relate to the fact that, with being organised, also comes the tendency to be a bit control freakish!  I've always recognised this in myself, along with being a bit of a perfectionist.  You can probably see where this is going... and you probably think I'm going to say I turned into a control freak and total Bridezilla over the colour scheme and all the little details of the wedding but not at all.  I *think* in that respect I was quite a chilled out bride.  I admit that I spent HOURS planning everything and making sure everything was as we (mainly me) wanted it but I didn't let it drive me mad as I could also see the bigger picture and that weddings are about way more than the little details. 

Without sounding like I'm blowing my own trumpet, over the years I've got used to putting in hard work, time and effort and usually getting the results I've aimed for.  My dad always says that if you work hard it will pay off and I am totally with him on that.  However, there are some things that are out of your control and not everything is going to be perfect all of the time, no matter how much positive thought and positive action have gone into them. It would seem that until recently I was a somewhat unaccepting of this fact of life.

I won't bore you with the details but we had a whole host of issues with our tipi company meaning the final days before the big day weren't as chilled and enjoyable as I'd envisaged, quite the opposite. Unfortunately the day itself wasn't without its misfortunes either.  My poor nan was taken ill in the house on wedding morning (with me getting ready upstairs none the wiser!) so she was unable to make the wedding. This also meant that other family members weren't there.  And then due to separate reasons, and again reasons outside of anyone's control, one of my beautiful bridesmaids had to leave the wedding after the ceremony.  My poor sister had to break both pieces of news to me - I didn't envy her, no one wants to give a bride bad news on her wedding day, let alone two pieces of bad news! Whilst both pieces of news were very sad to receive, especially after being so ecstatically happy just moments before, the day did include moments that were truly amazing.  After the wedding it took me a while to digest everything and filter out the good moments from the not-so-good moments but I think I've cracked it now.

As lots of girls can no doubt relate to, a lot of day dreaming time goes into wedding planning and even before we meet 'the one', many girls have imagined their most perfect wedding day, so I suppose anything, even a tiny thing, that stops the day being as perfect as it should be feels like a shame.  I was relaying my wedding day dramas to some girl friends and one of them said something that has stuck in my head and given me the basis of this blog post - she said that accepting that things aren't always perfect and not always in my control is a good lesson for life and she's right. 

On the honeymoon and in the weeks after the wedding I've taken this fact of life on board and given it a fair bit of thought.  I've said before in this blog that we control our own happiness and I do still stand by this but the wedding day has also made me realise that sometimes life happens and things may throw you off the happiness bus and there is nothing you can do about it! I'm proud of myself though as, on the whole, I made sure I didn't let the sad things overtake everything else and made sure I soaked up all the other happy times.  In fact, I had to practically be dragged out the tipi and off the dance floor at the end of the night.

Going back to the statement which I do still stand by, we do make our own happiness and part of this is accepting that sometimes a few lemons are thrown our way.

I am choosing to remember and cherish the good times and the happy moments which really have been in abundance over the last few months.  I've been so lucky to find someone to spend my life with (and who'll put up with me) so that's something to be extremely grateful for every single day. All the other moments of fun and happiness we've enjoyed really are the icing on the cake.

So what has my wedding day experience taught me? It has taught me that as much as I naively thought I could, I simply can't control everything.  Life happens and that's just the way it goes.  And what's key to remember, and this is what I think I've done successfully, is not to focus on the not-so-great stuff, but to focus on the blooming marvellous stuff and that's what's important. So here's to cherishing the happy times, accepting the things which we can't control and when life decides to throw you some lemons...grab the salt and tequila!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Do What Makes Your Heart Sing

This will be my last blog post as a "single" woman as, this month, I get legally married and next month is the big day where we exchange vows and rings in front of our nearest and dearest at my family home in Essex... followed by one big party! Whilst I am obviously exceedingly excited about this, I'm also making sure I don't wish the days away. The weeks to come are going to be filled with so many special moments with those I love the most and I am going to treasure every single, teeny weeny second.

It's a time for reflection at the moment and I've been thinking about the things that really make me happy and at the top of the list has to be friends and family and I'm hugely lucky that the coming couple of months are going to be jam packed with fun times with these people (especially as one of my oldest and best friends gets married the month after me - double whammy!)  The preceding months have been filled with another favourite thing which is organisation and planning so it's been a pretty good year so far.  Having a whole year dedicated to doing so many things that I love has made me realise that it is so hugely important to fill our time doing the things that fill us with happiness.

A while back I came across this quote: "Do what makes your heart sing" and I think about this a lot.  We all have things that really do make our hearts sing.  For one person it could be baking (trust that to be the first thing to spring to mind) and for the next person it could be working out at the gym.  I'm sure you can think of at least one thing that, when you do it, you lose all sense of time and before you know it, hours have gone by. When this happens it's a good sign that you are doing something you love.  Many things have this effect on me.  A perfect example is one of my favourite things - chatting to the girls (how many times have we looked at the time and about three hours have passed and we're still sat in the same place chatting away?)

Life is increasingly busy for us all and there is always something else we *should* be doing whether it's answering an email, working late etc. but what about the things that make us really happy? So often these things end up at the bottom of the list.  The things we'll only do when we have finished all the other things.  Doing what makes your heart sing is, to me, a little holiday for yourself amidst the utter craziness of modern day life.

When we 'grow-up' it's all too easy to get overcome by responsibility and the daily grind and forget to schedule the most important things in life - the things that make your soul happy.  Isn't that what life is all about - having meaningful experiences and making sure we put our happiness and the happiness of our favourite people first? Sadly, we are increasingly reminded of how life is so short and so precious so if our hearts can sing just a few times a week (or even a day) then we are onto a winner.

Everyone talks about the post wedding blues and people have asked - what will you do once it's all over?! It's easy to get bogged down with the detail when it comes to planning a wedding and that's why I'm making sure that simultaneously to all the logistics and organisation I'm mentally gearing myself up for the next chapter as a married woman (holy moly!) I'm so excited to shift my focus to building upon my life with my husband-to-be and creating more happy memories and more goals for the future but above all, making sure my heart keeps singing!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Appreciation for friends, sisters... and solutions to complex beauty dilemmas!

I saw this notebook in a shop and it caught my eye for three reasons:

1. It's so true
2. It's what I harp on about all the time - that it's so important to be grateful
3. It summed up my week 

One day this week I had a stinker of a day.  I was working from home, manically busy and had a headache from hell.  I was not a happy bunny at all but then my day improved when I received post that evening; a card and adorable little gift from my lovely friend Lucy, all the way from Singapore.  It honestly made my day and as I read the really thoughtful words in the card all my stress (and even the headache) disappeared and I felt so grateful to have such a wonderful friend.  In fact, this moment of extreme gratitude and happiness started me on a spiral of recognising things I'm grateful for, even just little things and this truly brightened up the following day.

Lucy's card and gift marked a shift in my attitude.  I felt great after receiving it (especially in contrast to how I was feeling beforehand).  So much so in fact, that the next day, I paid attention to the little things I was grateful for and doing that made me feel pretty darn happy.  When you feel down, you pick up on all the things in life you are not happy about and when you feel happy, you pick up on the good stuff.  It's addictive.

Now this is very trivial (well not to me) but for some time now I've been fretting about my eyebrows... yes, my eyebrows.  In a nutshell, I'd had a nightmare eyebrow wax a few months back and am now trying to to get them back in a decent state for my wedding.  Anyway, I couldn't decide where to get them done, how many times before the wedding, what method of hair removal etc.. (I'm sorry if this is horrendously boring)  Anyway, I was being extremely indecidive but when I articulated all my very "serious" worries to my sister she made it oh so simple and solved all my problems.  So, after weeks of pondering eyebrow-gate I made up my mind and headed straight to make all my appointments in the lead up to the wedding and felt a million times better.

After that I couldn't stop thinking - what would I ACTUALLY do without my sister?! It is not just the eyebrow related wows she gets to hear about, it's EVERYTHING.  All day it kept popping into my head that I am so, so, so lucky to have my sister. It sounds silly for something so unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) but being made to feel so much better about something by someone else really is something to be thankful for.

Then I was off again and kept thinking of the other things I was grateful for and more good things started happening - just like a magnet, my positivity was attracting more good things. Emails came through that I had been waiting for, I negotiated a good deal on a drinks trailer for the wedding, I received great feedback from a Life Coaching client and many other things which I've actually now forgotten but at the time they made me happy.  When something good happens, I think just taking one little moment to be grateful and do a little internal celebration dance to yourself makes the world of difference to your attitude - and your attitude is something we have control over so why not embrace the freedom you have to make yourself feel happy?

So here's to friendship, sisterhood and taking a little moment to be grateful for the amazing things, the good things and even the everyday things we can easily take for granted... oh and finding a solution to eyebrow dilemmas!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Quarter Life Career Crisis?

I'm approaching the big 3-0 (well not until next year, but it's not far off) and I am no stranger to a quarter life career crisis, in fact I sometimes feel like the past eight years have been one big career crisis.  In saying that, I've always said that I don't think I'll do one thing for my whole life and why should I? We change so much as the years go on. I'm certainly very different to the person I was when I was frantically riffling through university prospectuses wondering what the heck I was going to study for my degree.

I've always envied people who know what they want from the age of 16 and have gone out and got it, climbing the ranks and ending up with a good, steady job that they enjoy, but it's not happened that way for me. I've always had a nagging feeling there is something else.  Most of my career to date has been in TV production which I have to say, on the whole, was great. It wasn't without it's struggles, as with any career, but I loved the buzz, the hard graft ethic it instilled in me and all the fun and friendships that came along with it too, but for many reasons, I always knew it wasn't forever.  

Before I knew it responsibilities and grown-up stuff crept up on me - a mortgage shortly followed by a marriage proposal and the realisation that I needed to do something about the little voice in my head telling me that there is something else out there for me.  Whatever I've done career wise I've always worked really hard but I think I became tired of putting in the hours for someone else and wanted all that energy to go into something I love.

I find that it's quite rare to speak to people who really do love their work and when you think of the number of hours you spend at work (a lot!) you're throwing a hell of a lot of your life down the toilet if you are not truly happy in what you do.  

In terms of my long term plans, they are very much still in the making but with regard to my mindset towards my career I feel I've come a long way, even if my actual progress is just a few baby steps towards my eventual goal of having my own business and having control over my time and the flexibility to live life how I want to live it.  

Everyone has their own list of what they want from their career and their life and if I could say one thing to anyone going through anything which may resemble a quarter life career crisis it would be to listen to yourself and if your chosen career isn't in line with what you want from life, change it. Changes don't have to be forever, I left TV and tried PR for a while which wasn't right, so went back to TV but who cares? Just because we are supposed to be 'growing up' at this age it doesn't mean we have to find the career that we are going to do until we retire.  I intend to try out lots of things, and for me that's what life is about.  There is so much out there and how exciting to have so many options and opportunities.

The starting point to tackling a quarter life career crisis, I think, is intention.  For example, the intention to have more free time, to earn more money, to get that promotion, to turn your hobby into your career, to love your work.  From there, your thoughts become focused on your intention and your goal, which in turn pushes you into action slowly but surely (if you want it badly enough).

I am a big fan of watching motivational talks on You Tube (seriously, I could spend hours listening to Oprah's words of wisdom!) If you find a good one, they can give you a real lift when you are feeling well and truly stuck, or even when you know what you want but just need a big fat injection of inspiration to go out there and get it.  If you have a spare 6 minutes have a watch of this one - Anthony Robbins: Find Your True Gift and Maximise Your Career

As well as being exciting and liberating, change of any kind is really hard, but then so is settling for something which, for whatever reason, doesn't quite cut the mustard.   

Sunday, 5 April 2015

It's all in the smile

My friends and family would say I’m a fairly cheery person who, more often than not, has a smile on my face. Don’t get me wrong, there are of course times when I feel down right miserable and mustering a smile is a challenge too far, but for the majority of my waking hours I choose to be happy. 

But what comes first, the smile or the happiness?

Most of the time life makes me smile but I’m not grinning from ear to ear 24/7 (who is?!) so sometimes the smile has to come first, like on a recent miserable Monday morning...
I would have loved to indulge in my bad mood but wouldn't inflict this on my colleagues so arrived at work and unleashed a giant (admittedly forced) grin as I personally feel there is nothing worse than working with people who constantly moan and skulk about the office. With my smile, I literally felt my sour mood ease in seconds and my happiness levels soared. I know full well that if I'd not forced that first smile I would have spent one whole day of my life with, in the words of my dad, “a face like a smacked arse.”  Where's the fun in that?

And it's not just me who is a big fan of the smile. There really are proven benefits.

Smiling = feelings of happiness as proven by a psychologist whizz called Robert Zajonc in 1989. The subjects of his experiments were asked questions that pinpointed their emotional state before and after smiling, and they overwhelmingly scored happier after smiling.
Smiling makes you look good - 70% of us find women more attractive when they smile, than when they wear make-up according to a study by Orbit Complete. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t look a darn site better when they smile, as opposed to frowning or grimacing at every opportunity. Laughter lines trump frown lines any day!
A smile is contagious. Studies have shown that if someone flashes you a smile, responding with a frown is really quite hard. Smile and the world smiles with you. Corny, but oh so true.
A smile reduces stress - Even a forced smile can reduce your stress levels and make you feel happier as the act of smiling naturally releases endorphins (happy hormone) and lowers cortisol levels (stress hormone)

So if you’re not convinced by the above, try it yourself. Smile now, right now, and see if you feel any different. It really is very hard to smile and feel miserable at the same time. Check out this clip of Dr Michael Moseley proving this point with the people of Edinburgh who apparently are prone to being a bit glum -MakeYourself Happier Using Only A Pencil - BBC One

If you do nothing else today, SMILE!