I got this book yesterday and wanted to share the story behind it.
I’d heard of the author, David Schwartz, from a workshop I attended where the presenter talked about a formula that Schwartz uses – it’s based around how we actually have waaaaaay more years than we think we have to accomplish big things. It was a life-altering concept for me – and I’ll write about that some other time. But this book has been on my ‘want to read’ list (a very long list) for over a year.
I spend a lot of time in the ‘Personal Development’ section of Dymocks. On Friday, I saw this book there for the first time. I considered buying it, but there were two other books that I also wanted, and so this one was again sent to the waitlist.
But then on Friday afternoon, I was trying to watch a YouTube video and the obligatory ad came on. After 10 seconds I was able to skip the ad, but I’d been drawn in by it. It was a young entrepreneur, giving a tour of one of his mansions, but also talking about the three things that he says are a must for people to do if they want success. Before he got into that, he mentioned that one of his own mentors had spoken to him about this book by David Schwartz! I was surprised by the coincidence of this book turning up twice in one day.
Then lo and behold, I got an email that night from a personal development expert whose list I’m subscribed to, and she was talking about the very same book! Yep, three times in one day. I actually just closed my computer at that point because I couldn’t believe that this was anything other than a sign from the universe that now is the right time for me to read this book!
So yesterday I ducked back into the bookshop and grabbed a copy. I had some spare time between appointments and so I lay down in the sunshine and started reading. I’ve only read 28 pages so far, but my copy is already full of sticky flags and notes filled with quotes and key concepts that speak to me.
I dare say I’ll write more about some of these concepts when I’m finished. Without getting too fluffy about mysterious forces at work, I really feel that this is the right time for me to be reading this book. I’d love to know if any of you have read the book, or have you ever felt strongly compelled to read a certain book at a particular time?
Be honest. Ever made a New Year’s resolution? Ever actually KEPT one?
I’m not sure of the exact stats but a massive percentage of New Year’s resolutions are broken by the end of January.
At the recent conference I attended, acclaimed positive psychology lecturer Dr Tal Ben-Shahar spoke about how we often know what the ‘right’ thing to do is, but this isn’t enough to get us doing it. And yet, there are things we do every day with very little effort – such as brushing our teeth. We don’t need to find the motivation to do it. We don’t need to wait for inspiration to strike! We’ve created a ritual, and so we have to work too hard to achieve it. Tal suggests that we should break down the things we want to achieve into small chunks, and work on creating one new ritual at a time. When one has been cemented, you can start on a new one.
This got me thinking about the things that I’ve been achieving over the last couple of years. Two that immediately sprang to mind were giving up soft drink, and losing 10 kilograms. And I did both of these via small, incremental changes.
See, it works both ways. You can create a new habit by starting small and slowly building it. And you can stop an existing habit by gradually cutting it down.
Until recently, and as far back as I can remember, I consumed soft drink daily. I found that cool, sweet fizz more refreshing than any other food or drink. Then I started to learn just how bad sugar is for the body and the brain. And I tried to quit a few times – went cold turkey. Depriving myself of it was the worst possible thing for me – it consumed my thoughts until eventually I’d give in and binge on it! It never stuck.
At some stage last year I decided to simply cut down and drink less of the stuff. This was less overwhelming for me. Initially I replaced soft drink with 100% fruit juice. Yes, I know it still has a lot of sugar, but it was about half the sugar of soft drink – an incremental improvement. I allowed myself two days per week where I could have a soft drink. Yes, I tracked this in my diary (left-brained + perfectionist = no surprises there). Then I started to replace the juice with water. Then I only allowed myself one day per week to have soft drink.
Before I knew it, I’d gone a whole month and I hadn’t had a single sip of soft drink. And I didn’t even miss it.
I’ve done a similar thing with exercising and losing weight. When I stopped dancing and cheerleading, I put on a LOT of weight. I felt totally helpless, it seemed like too much weight for me to ever get rid of. And I’m not a fan of going to the gym, or bootcamp, or anything like that. A couple of times I tried to get up early in the morning and go for a run, that failed miserably. But then I realised that something is better than nothing. So I started to walk.
I started as soon as I got home from work. Didn’t even let myself sit on the couch. Just got changed (didn’t even sit down to change my shoes) and walked 10 minutes in one direction, then turned around and came home. Easy. Something I knew I could achieve. Once that became my daily habit, I started making the walk longer, until eventually I was walking for a total of 50 minutes. Now part of my walk is actually on the sand at the beach, to add another level of intensity for myself.
And yes, by doing this, I lost 10 kilos, without having to indulge in exercise that I hate, or be yelled at by a personal trainer.
This can work for anything. Want to write a book? Start by committing to a sentence a day. Sit at the computer until you have written that sentence. Soon that will become easy, and you can move to two sentences, a paragraph, a page, etc. You will build momentum. Want to learn a new language? Start with one new word or phrase per day. Build it up.
We have to train ourselves when we are trying to do something new, so that we don’t get overwhelmed, feel that it’s all too hard, and give up.
So here’s my advice:
Don’t make resolutions just because it’s a new year, or a new month, or you’ve been to a seminar, or you’ve read something that changed your outlook. Take time to work out where you want to be and how you are going to get there. It is never too late to make a fresh start. Take your time and make sure that when you start writing your next chapter, it is your story, and that you haven’t accidentally picked up someone else’s book.
Where do you want to be in a month’s time? In exactly the same place you are now, or do you want to grow in one way or another?
Start to make those incremental changes. Don’t try to turn your life upside down – just focus on one thing to get you going. Commit to it! Start small, and then build.
If, at any time, you decide you are on the wrong path, don’t be afraid to set a new goal, and change your direction.
Incremental change is better than ambitious failure (Tony Schwartz)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and whether there are any changes that you plan to make, by creating new habits or cutting out old habits! Comment below, or come and chat on Facebook or Twitter!
I recently spent four days at the 2016 ‘Happiness and its Causes’ conference and associated workshops. What an amazing trip it was for me! Between attending the scheduled presentations, visiting ‘The Wellness Show’ expo, reconnecting with people I met at last year’s conference, and forging new friendships, I was left feeling exhausted and inspired at the same time.
I didn’t think anything would top last year’s conference (Hello! The Dalai Lama was there!). But I think this year was even better. A big part of that is probably due to the growth that I’ve experienced in the nine months since then. It provided me with a good base for this conference to build on.
I’ll write more about various parts of the conference over coming weeks. I couldn’t possibly sum up four days of amazingness in one blog post, but there are definitely many things that I want to share.
If you want to read some brief snippets, just visit my Twitter page (you don’t have to have a Twitter account to read my tweets). All my tweets from the conference are tagged with #happinessconf.
For me, the theme of last year’s conference was compassion, empathy and love. This year, the theme that resonated with me was life purpose, and knowing the ‘why’ behind the things you do. It gave me goosebumps to hear the presenters talk about this, as I now fully understand my own purpose. And this blog is part of it – sharing what I’ve learnt and experienced. And I’m finding that everything in my life has become aligned with this.
But it wasn’t always like this for me.
I remember a time when I thought that my opportunity to do something worthwhile had passed. I thought it was too late for me.
And I blamed this mostly on myself – on my life choices. There were times when I wished that I’d gone to university straight out of school, instead of choosing to study dance full time. Or that I had gotten a job straight away, and saved enough money so that I then had more security to step away and do something that really matters.
But then it dawned on me. It’s NEVER too late. There are ALWAYS opportunities. Yes, you might have to adjust the steps that you take to get there. But just start moving. Who cares if you have to move in teeny-tiny steps? A step is a step.
Our life and our happiness are within our own control. But we can’t move forward if we are holding onto negative things from the past, and that includes blaming yourself or holding onto regrets.
Personally, I try to do something every day that is linked to my purpose. I even have a checklist to mark this off so that I don’t let myself get off track (told you I’m incredibly left-brained!).
So my question to you is, what will YOU do today to help steer your life in the direction of your choosing?
‘Be an active co-creator of your life, not a victim. Let go of the blame and resentment.’ (Petrea King)
I’d love to hear your responses and thoughts on this! Feel free to comment below, or come and chat on Facebook!
Last year I was fortunate to win tickets to ‘Happiness and Its Causes’, an annual conference on happiness and wellbeing. Now I’m sure we’ve all seen people return from a conference or workshop (and maybe it’s even happened to you – it’s definitely happened to me) and they’ve called it a ‘life-changing experience’ and are gung-ho about making changes in their lives… a few days later nothing has changed and the experience is buried under everyday life, and the enthusiasm once felt has quickly been forgotten.
For me, this conference truly was a life-changing experience.
I’d been working through a few difficult things. My relationship of five years had ended around nine months prior. I’d been through a period of depression. I found myself in an environment where you’d pass someone you knew in the corridor and they’d look down at their phone rather than engage with you. I thought the world was a bit of a grey place.
And then the wonderful Langley Group ran a competition to win tickets to the conference. My entry was a photo on Instagram where I wrote about gratitude, and when I found out that I was one of the winners I reached ‘dance around the house’ level of excitement.
I try to go for a walk along the beach every day. I call it my 'sanity walk' because no matter the weather, getting out into the fresh air reminds me how big the world is, and how small my problems are. I am grateful that I live near the beach and can witness a unique sunset every time I go for my walk. I am grateful for my health, and to live in an area that is unpolluted and safe. I may not have everything I'd like in life, but I have an awful lot to be thankful for! #langleyHIC #gratitude
What an amazing experience it was. The conference was held at Luna Park in Sydney, and featured speakers such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ruby Wax, Gretchen Rubin, Ben Lee (including a live performance), and Barbara Fredrickson. The talks and workshops were thought provoking and at times very emotional.
Also present at the conference were the Gyuto Monks of Tibet, who performed blessings, chanted, and spent two days creating a sand mandala. At the end of the two days, they performed a dissolution ritual, ending in all the sand being swept together. We were each given some grains of sand that are believed to promote healing, peace, and love because of the work the Monks have done with them.
So many lessons about how the journey and the process are far more important than the end result and any material possessions. It was a true honour to have seen this first-hand.
One of the most positive parts of the conference was just being among people whom I felt I fit in with. I really felt like I’d found my tribe. I realised that those people I pass in the corridor each day probably have their own stuff going on, and that’s OK because they need to travel their own path. But that’s not what the entire world is made up of. Suddenly the world seemed a lot brighter.
I came back home knowing that I’d had a truly life-changing experience. I had a stronger sense of compassion, a renewed sense and understanding of love, and a deep feeling of calm. I knew these feelings weren’t going to fade. I felt a sense of clarity throughout my entire being.
I’d been reminded who I am and what my core values are.
Ten months later and I’m getting ready to go to the next Happiness and Its Causes conference. The change in mindset has stuck. A friend asked me the other day why I think it has stuck so well and what the difference was this time compared to others. I reflected back to when I was learning to manage my perfectionism and the times when it all seemed like too much work. I wondered why I had to create a whole new me and was tempted to just slip back into letting myself worry about insignificant details and taking notice of everything that’s wrong in the world.
Then I read this quote:
‘Unfuck yourself. Be who you were before all the stuff happened that dimmed your fucking shine.’ (Padhia Avocado).
And that’s what hit home for me. I wasn’t always a stressed-out, highly-strung person that others avoided because they were scared they’d say the wrong thing. Yes, I’ve always noticed spelling errors around me (and probably always will), but in the past I didn’t waste time and energy worrying about them. Somewhere along the line, I’d gone from being a cheerful, positive person into someone who was a walking bundle of stress from concerning herself about things that ACTUALLY DO NOT MATTER.
Once I realised that it was all about returning to who I am at the core, I was able to strip back all the garbage that I had LEARNED. And my experience at the conference was just another reminder of who I really am, and what my core values are.
I haven’t created a new me; I’ve just gone back to being the original me.
First and foremost, I’m a perfectionist (in recovery). This is something I’ll write more about in future posts, as it’s a huge and important part of my life. I spent the majority of my life not actually knowing that I’m a perfectionist (although I think everyone who knew me realised). I was diagnosed around 4 years ago. I call it a diagnosis as it came as a massive shock to me, and it took me some time to accept and understand it. It has also taken time, research, and a lot of work to get to a stage where I consider myself as being in recovery. There is no cure. But perfectionism can be managed, and you can learn to use it to your advantage.
I’m very left-brained. I tend to analyse most things. I’m rarely late and not much gets done without first being on a list. But my level of compassion and empathy is growing. As I learn more about myself and how my mind works, I respect that others also have reasons for behaving the way they do.
I’m a massive believer in creating your own happiness through gratitude, and of steering your life in the direction you want it to go – even if it takes time and effort to get there. I’m a lifelong learner. I love passing on what I’ve learnt and encouraging others to live with purpose.
I’ve wanted to start a blog for a long time. I love to write. It’s how I express myself best. I’m an introvert, and a real reflector – after taking in new information I need time to absorb it and to turn it over in my mind. And when I’m ready to ‘talk’ about what I’ve learnt or what I think, I like to take the time to do it through the written word.
But for a perfectionist, starting something new is hard. I have incredibly high standards for myself, and the thought of creating my website and publishing my writing and my thoughts has left me paralysed with fear the many times I’ve tried to do it. I just want to put stuff out there that I’m proud of. It may seem strange, but I’m not worried about what others think of me. I just feel I have to get everything ‘right’ for my own pride.
So here I am, finally. The thing that has made me push through my fear is my desire to help others who may be experiencing similar things to me. When I first discovered I was a perfectionist and realised the negative impact it was having on my life, I did a lot of reading and research but I found very few people whose stories resonated with me. I’ve been on a HUGE personal development journey over the last few years – I’m really hoping that by sharing what I’ve learnt I might be able to help others.
Thanks for visiting, and feel free to leave comments and suggestions as I find my feet here! You can also subscribe to my newsletter, like my Facebook page, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss a thing.