Lessons from a Bicycle

How often do we use the saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle”? It is usually used when we need to do something which we haven’t done in ages and it’s meant to portray the idea that once we have learnt something, we never forget how to do it. There is a gentle smugness that comes with this, a confidence born of experience, the evidence of which provides safe, secure feelings. This side of a lesson learnt is so easy and comfortable that we often forget how it felt on the other side, the before side, when we didn’t know how.

Not many of us remember those first attempts at riding a bicycle. We may, if conscious enough, realize the skill it takes when teaching our children to ride. Training wheels have made it easier but before training wheels… We froze with fear, fell, tumbled, wobbled, crashed, kissed the dirt, and landed in rose bushes. Physically we got cut, scraped, bruised, bumped, grazed and sometimes even broke. Emotionally we laughed with nerves, cried with pain, yelled with frustration, giggled with embarrassment and eventually crowed with delight. Throughout this process we were drawn forward by the thrill of what life would be like if we could ride that bicycle. Nothing could distract us from our mission. Our imagination kept us focused on the goal, the rush of wind in our face from our daring speed, the power of being able to drive and control this glorious machine and the freedom it symbolized. It didn’t take long to realize that if we wanted to stay on top of this sensational ride, we had to keep moving. The minute you stopped moving forwards, you fell off, the ride ended and so did the rush.

As we grow older we hang up the bicycle and forget the lessons it teaches us. We get so caught up in our fear of learning new things that we deny ourselves the dream. We see the cuts and bruises, the grazes and the breaks. We imagine the frustration, humiliation, pain and embarrassment we will feel if we fail or don’t “get it” quickly enough.  We convince ourselves that it is not worth the effort to change because we have forgotten that the other side of learning, the “I did it” side, holds the reward of the rush, the power, the control. So we stay where we are, sitting on a wall, feet dangling while we watch others on their “bicycle of life”. We envy them, what they have, how much fun they are having and we wallow in our misery. We see only their rush, not their tumbles, and we grumble that they have it so easy. We convince ourselves we can’t do it, give ourselves really good reasons why it won’t work, satisfying ourselves that it is beyond our control, so not our responsibility even to try. We stay stuck.

Habits are patterns of behaviour which keep us feeling safe. But habits also keep us living the same day over and over again. If you want a better more fulfilling life you need to do things differently. You need to learn new ways of doing things. We can only grow through change, because let’s face it, you cannot grow and stay the same, they are flip sides of the coin, like light and dark, speeding and standing still. Make each day different by doing small things differently. Walk a different route, drink from a different cup, sit in a different chair. Your quest doesn’t have to be as huge as learning to ride a bicycle. You can start with small steps, one small change every day.

Decide what it is you want and keep focused on the ride, the rush of achievement.  When you tumble or land in a rosebush, get up and keep trying. Remember that if you want to reach your goal, if you want to feel the wind in your face as you ride down new roads, you will have to learn, change, grow and always keep moving…

How Big is your Character?

When last did you hear someone say “It’s character building”? Growing up, this was the standard response to any tale of hardship. It frustrated me no end. How big was my character supposed to be? When was it big enough to stop building, stop suffering? What is character anyway and why is it so important that it has to grow so big?

Character is who you are on the inside and how you present yourself to the world on the outside, your unique qualities. Years ago people spoke of virtues but now we hear about values,  habits of behaviour. Many of these are developed at a young age, without our choosing them. They are thrust upon us by parents, teachers, TV and the behaviour of others. Someone with a strong character displayed values of integrity, commitment, loyalty, ambition and perseverance. While someone who lied, cheated, was dishonest or unreliable may have been described as having weak character.

Today, I don’t hear much about character. Now we talk about rights. Bad behaviour is justified by your right to free expression or overlooked due to your sad, neglected or difficult upbringing. We use an abused past to condone our abusive behaviour, poverty gives us the right to steal and laziness is blamed on our genetics. Our younger generations are growing up without the boundaries offered by values and character. We are so concerned about adding to their stressful lives that we are stunting their characters and in so doing, we are slowly losing our own.  We excuse our physical laziness with the belief that life has become too busy for exercise. We don’t have time to cook our own nutritious food or get enough rest. “Fear Of Missing Out” has destroyed our commitment and social status has corrupted our integrity.

The world has changed so much over the last thirty years. As I have grown older, I have become more confused about who I am. I have been told I am over sensitive, up tight, prissy, a goody two shoes, too serious, old fashioned, insecure and a perfectionist. Personal development has brought my attention back to values and character. Now I realize that I value integrity, commitment, self-discipline, self-responsibility, courage and kindness. These are the character traits that are important to me. Looking back, the people who hurt me so deeply, who shamed me for these values and confused me, those people have different values.

I feel a weight lifted, unburdened. I can be me and be proud of who I am, proud of the character that I built through difficulty, endurance and perseverance. I feel huge gratitude for the lessons I learnt and the people who offered those lessons. Understanding has brought the realization that a character is never big enough. A character needs guarding and constant work. It is so easy for bad habits to creep in; little things which break down your character and diminish you. I always have the choice of who I want to be. If I find myself lacking, it is up to me to consciously fill that gap with a new value and to practice that value until it becomes habit, thereby building and strengthening my character, becoming a better human being.

Humanity is made up of characters, you and me. If I want to help the world, to better humanity, then it is up to me to stay conscious, keep learning, keep improving myself and keep moving…

New Beginnings

At the beginning of each New Year, I like to set up a plan for the year. What do I want to learn? Where do I want to go and how can I make this year better than the last?

Before we know it, the year sweeps us off our feet and we are thrown into the frenzy of life, treading the same familiar path as before, unless we plan otherwise. We call these plans Resolutions, and we all know how those good intentions dissolve in the hot summer sun.  We start out really well but then the Peanut Gallery of your mind gets involved and everything unravels.

Your mind is part of you, but it’s not you. That Peanut Gallery of conversation which you hold with yourself is there to keep you safe but it rarely is supportive. On the second day of your new fitness routine, the Peanuts start to discuss the merits of starting slowly. Perhaps I should take tomorrow off so that I don’t get too stiff. Next Monday would be a good day to start again. But on Monday you are still a tiny bit stiff so the Peanuts suggest starting tomorrow. The days go by and the resolution is starting to fade. This is when the Peanuts suggest starting in February…

Being aware of what you are thinking is key to maintaining momentum with the changes you want to make in your life. The thoughts are just bubbles of information and you do not have to listen to them. When an unsupportive thought happens, consider it and then decide if you are going to follow the Peanut Gallery or take back your power with a more supportive thought. You always have the choice. The Peanuts will try to convince you that you must eat that piece of cake because it will be the last one for a long time. Really? When it comes to curbing food temptations, I find that telling myself “Not this time” really helps.  I am not giving anything up forever, just in this moment. Next time I get to choose again. Practice makes perfect and practicing making good choices makes it easier to choose well in future.

So my wish for you for this year is that you may be aware of what you are thinking, that you have the power to make good choices and that your resolutions bring about the changes you desire.

Happy 2019. Until next time, Keep Moving…

A Piece of the Puzzle

I made sure my children played with jigsaw puzzles as they grew up, for brain development and hand eye co-ordination. They started with very basic 6 or 8 piece puzzles and built their way to hundreds of pieces as they grew older. There is an addictive excitement to watching the picture grow as more and more pieces are added. Each piece is a surprise. Some pieces make no sense when you look at them individually, but placed in the right place, in context with the other pieces around it, its purpose becomes clear. With all our travels, we always seemed to lose one piece from a puzzle. One feels such disappointment when the last piece is missing, the picture can never be completed. Each piece of the puzzle bears a responsibility to complete the picture. There is a sensation of closure, a task completed when you insert that last shape. The picture gels, it is whole and it is as it should be.

I have done a lot of work on myself in the past few years, training, new ideas, delving into quantum physics, self-help books and courses, on and on. I found myself feeling quite confused with the paradox of oneness and separation. In our human form we are undeniably separate but how do you bend your head around the idea that we are all connected. How can I be both at once? How can I be me without hurting, upsetting or neglecting those closest to me?

Think about a puzzle made of millions of pieces. Each piece is unique. It has its own particular colouring, shape and place. You cannot put a piece in the wrong place. We humans are the same. When we own our “place” we are content and comfortable but if we try to be in the wrong place, if we try to force what we are not, life feels wrong. We battle, nothing wants to work and we feel anxious and unhappy.

Each puzzle piece is surrounded by others but the colours and details that it bears are unique. Each separate piece of the puzzle has a purpose, to be a piece of the picture. We, too, each have a special place and purpose in this world. Who and what we are, impacts on those closest to us. So when we put our needs to one side, in favour of others, we make life difficult for ourselves and for those around us. When we neglect our own human needs, we become “needy”. We compromise our values and get lost in a wilderness of limiting beliefs. Like a poison, this negativity spreads to those around us. As they pull away from the negativity, we feel more separate and alone which makes us more “needy”. In short, we get bent out of shape when we try to please everybody around us.

I realised that I need to own the picture on the piece of the puzzle that is me. I can’t change the picture or the pieces around me. I am in this particular space for a reason, so I need to be my glorious, unique and separate self. Without me, the Puzzle of Life is incomplete. As long as I honour my human needs, my values and my beliefs, I will be the right shape to fit into my world. Trying to be what I am not, means I don’t fit, and this just leads to misery. When I embrace my unique shape, I support those around me, giving them what they need to connect. That certainty of how we fit together brings us all peace and security. It is when I am not separate, when I try to be the same and to fit in, that I have no place in the whole that is the Puzzle of Life.

I wish I had understood this when my children were small. I would have taught them the importance of being a unique piece of the Puzzle, knowing they are good enough, just by being alive. That each of us has a very precious purpose which can only be fulfilled when we accept who we are. Our duty is not to conform to ever changing whims of society, but rather to own our uniqueness. Being who we are makes us separate from everybody else, but it also enables us to fit into, and be a part of, the puzzle that is life.

Until next time, keep learning to keep moving…

True Colours

As a child, I loved a new pack of crayons or Koki pens. The potential of those unused, pristine colours was inspiring and I felt compelled to test each colour to see how it looked on the paper. There were usually eight or sometimes twelve colours in a pack. I remember once receiving a pack of twenty five colours! Glorious, wonderful variations of green and peach, lilac and tan, colours I had never had before. Each colour was unique and beautiful and I loved that. There was a feeling of let down and disappointment when two colours, though different in their outer wrapping, proved to be the same on paper. I felt cheated.

So why is it that as humans we strive so hard to be like others? We want to look like others, dress as others dress, have what others have. We are so afraid to own our style and uniqueness. We judge ourselves against others and what others will think of us and our work. That age old fear of failure, of not being good enough, is lurking in the depths of us all. It limits us, curbs our potential. We try to emulate others by doing as they do and so we fail because we cannot be what we are not. An orange crayon can’t be blue. It can only be orange, glorious in its own right with its own unique potential. Just think how orange turns the sky from summer-day blue, to a vibrant sunset.  Because we judge ourselves to be “less than”, we think others will think the same. We rob the world of our own unique contribution and we cheat ourselves of our sunset potential.

Each and every one of us has a purpose for being here, one which only we can fulfil. Do we not owe it to the world to do whatever it takes to find our unique colour and add it to the box of crayons? What drives you? What do you love? Do you love something because it stirs your soul or because a significant other loves it? Do you love something but pretend not to for fear of judgement or ridicule? Own you, be you, love you and don’t be so quick to judge. Self-judgement disempowers you and steals your gifts from the world just as a box full of only red crayons steals the delight of a child. Draw what you love, film what you love, do what you love. If you HAVE to have a fear, which you don’t, let it be a fear of NOT. Not saying your say, Not showing your idea of beautiful, Not sharing what makes your soul sing.

From this moment on, make a deal with yourself to pick your colour, love it, flaunt it and never hide it in favour of another. Being you will only deepen and enrich your colour, so find more that is you, grow and learn and Keep Moving…

Life de-‘FINE’d

Everyone knows it’s not cool to complain so we speak in code instead. You bump into a friend and exchange greetings. “How are you?”  How often do you use the word FINE to convey the politically correct, seemingly all happy response? FINE can mean many things, but it rarely means fine; the dictionary definition of the word which is…  “quite well or satisfactory, in a good, acceptable or comfortable condition” (Encarta Dictionary).

If you have just come from unsuccessfully trying to query your municipal account, you are probably feeling Flippin’ Irate, Nettled and Explosive. But we don’t generally feel this way all the time. A new Mum may be Feeling Isolated, Near tears and Exhausted while someone who has started their own business may be buried in Filing, Invoicing, Networking and Excel sheets. Someone who suffers from depression may find themselves Feeling Ignored, Negated and Exiled. Many of us are trying to lose weight but when we are not coping with life, and when we are feeling Flipping Insecure Neurotic and Emotional, we Feel an Intense Need to Eat.

You may argue that it’s OK to say FINE, that maybe you are having a good day. Wouldn’t it be better to say “I feel amazing, thank you”, fantastic, glorious, awesome, inspired perhaps? This is what I call a “Quick Fix” for your toolbox. Just saying these words puts a spark in your day and a little more spring in your step. It lifts your spirits and those of the people you meet. We are so serious and so afraid to be happy lest we shine too brightly. Happiness is contagious, or so the saying goes, but I find that heavier emotions like worry and doubt seem to poison a room so quickly. Happiness dissolves like mist in the morning sun and gloom descends. Everyone is FINE. Work is FINE. School is FINE.

Next time you catch yourself using FINE to define your day, figure out what it stands for and then choose a better word, one which uplifts and inspires you. We make our lives what they are. We choose the narrative. So make your life a better one by choosing better words.

If you find your life to be FINE and you don’t seem to be able to lift yourself to brighter things, contact me and we can set up a free session to help you define what is missing and how to move forward and Keep Moving.

Chocolate or Vanilla

Imagine baking a delicious, chocolate cake. You would need cocoa and chocolate and all the other yummy things which make a cake chocolate. Now imagine that you bake a chocolate cake every week. After a while you start to get bored with chocolate cake and decide you would like a vanilla cake for a change. You gather all your delicious chocolate ingredients, mix them together and put the cake in the oven to bake. You have heard about the power of positive thinking, so while your cake bakes you focus on it being a delicious, vanilla cake. You smell the vanilla, you taste the vanilla, you see the delicate pale cake in your minds eye. Imagine your disappointment when a chocolate cake emerges from the oven. “So much for positive thinking,” you think to yourself. But people tell you to persevere, so you do, week after week, and it’s always a chocolate cake.
This is how we live our lives, always doing the same things, and expecting life to get better. You need to go back and look at how you are doing life. What are your ingredients? Make a new list of ingredients and then bravely mix a different cake. It may take some trial and error, some flops and failures, but you will get there if you keep trying. When you invent a new recipe for your cake, you will need to look back at the last attempt and see how it can be improved. Or will you get wrapped up in the misery of failure and go back to baking a chocolate cake, all the time complaining about how unlucky you are and how miserable life is when all you can bake is chocolate cake.
Failures are only bad when we ignore the opportunities they offer us to learn and improve. Positive thinking alone is not worth much when we keep doing the same things in the same way. If you want a different life, you need to do life differently. Being positive changes your perspective but you have to take action to initiate change. Here is a challenge to get you started… Choose one thing which your inner voice tells you to start doing but you don’t. Or one thing which you know you need to stop doing and don’t, you just ignore it, you put it off for another day.
Make that day today. Do it, tick it off, get it done. By doing one thing differently you will have changed the recipe of your life. Just like using vanilla in a cake instead of cocoa. Life is a really big cake with lots and lots of ingredients, but if you change it just a little every day, it will be quite different in a month or a year.
It just takes one change to break the inertia. After that it will be easier to keep moving…

It’s a Girl’s Life.

Who are you? A man may answer this by giving his name and occupation, both of which may stay more or less the same throughout his life. “I am Fred and I am a geologist.” As a woman, I have had a different experience of life. As a child I was somebody’s daughter. Then I became somebody’s girlfriend, fiancé, wife. I didn’t work then, so I was categorised as the wife. As the years passed I became pregnant and fulfilled the role of incubator for nine months, not that this became any official listing in my resume. The official appointment of Mother, on the other hand, was quickly added with the arrival of my daughter.  “I am —-‘s wife and  —‘s mother”  Unofficially, at the same time, I was the delegated milk bottle. If the baby was crying, the only one who could remedy the situation was The Milk Bottle. Mother was a really BIG job. The job description looked like this…Cook food for man and child, feed child (and later, after my second child was born, children) cleaning of children, cleaning up after man, cleaning house, nursing man and children, knowing where everything in the house could be found (including things like car keys, wallets and butter!). Later teacher of children was added as I had to home school for a number of years. Other menial jobs included driver, sport coach, peace keeper, dictionary and general helper-with-anything-and-everything.

As women, our role is re-invented every few years. We shift roles to accommodate those we love and many of the roles are never relinquished. We are forever someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, sister, mother. Each role demands different expectations, compounding over time until we have forgotten who WE are. Without these roles, who is underneath all the work?

If you find yourself resonating with this, then today is the day for you to choose to change, choose YOU over all the noise of life and start a journey of discovery. Who have you become? What do you love? What do you hate? What is your life purpose? It is never too late to start living your own life. This may feel scary and seem impossible but you don’t have to do this alone. My work as a Life Coach is to support and guide you as you find a better, more fulfilling life. Your life is yours and yours alone, to do whatever you wish. That doesn’t mean you can’t share your life with loved ones and family, it just means that you also have the right to fulfillment. To you, that may mean having a new career or a new hobby. It could be to feel more emotional stability or more spiritual connection. Before you decide that there isn’t time for such a pursuit, let me remind you that as a woman, there is never time for self unless you choose to make the time. Don’t wait until your life has passed you by. Start finding yourself today.

Once the journey has begun it’s easy to keep moving…

Birdsong and Cloudscapes

Birdsong, it’s the start to every day. Even before the light of morning has eased through the darkness, the crow of the roosters and the sweet warble of thrushes, trickles into my consciousness. It is a new day, a new beginning, a chance to start over and do better than yesterday.

I am a morning person. I love the early hours when the village sleeps. I love to be outside, exploring today’s world. It is my way of practicing being in the moment, conscious. The sun catches clouds and they blush with its first rays, cerise, pink, apricot or gold. Sometimes great sheets of colour fill the sky and other times there are just wisps. The sky is never the same. Once that gift of the new day has gone, it’s gone forever. It is never the same again. Did you see it, or did it pass unnoticed?

We miss so much in our world because we are busy, rushing around DOING instead of taking time to just BE. Our stress levels rise and our worlds shrink. We get into the habit of Doing. When last did you hear the song of a robin or watch the rain fall?  We allow the gifts of the day to pass us by without a second thought.

Night and day, heat and cold, winter and summer: all things have their shadow side, their opposite. So too, Doing and Being. There is balance to our world and when ignored, our lives become off kilter. This is when dis-ease creeps in. First it may be anxiety and later depression. The blood pressure rises and so does the weight. We start with medication and as we get older, the amount of pills we drink gets more. We tell ourselves it’s because of our age. We fill our lives with the noise of TV and news, Facebook and Internet. We are numb to nature and the world around us.

If this resonates with you, start to make small changes. If you are not a morning person, make a point of noticing the evening sky. Take time to be really conscious whether you are stroking the cat or raking up leaves. Be aware of what you smell, hear and see.  Connect with something and you will connect with yourself, you will feel an energy stir within you, a swelling in your heart. Notice beauty in whatever form, feel grateful for what you have and for what you see. Gratitude is the best medicine there is and the more you practice being present, in the moment, the more gratitude you will feel. Every time the sun rises, you have a new day to practice with. Don’t wait for tomorrow, start today, start now, and keep moving…