helpgrowchange

Picking up past projects

I read an interesting article the other day about how Isaac Asimov could write as much as he did. One of the main points that struck me was how he wouldn't stay "stuck" on any one thing. If he did feel like he was stuck, he'd simply move on to another project he had on the pile.

With my renewed focus on writing and planning some future pieces, I decided to look through my unfinished projects to see if anything came up. This snippet of a fictional story I started about 2 years ago stuck out, which I think you might find quite interesting.

I would love to know what you think?

Sam couldn’t wait to get out of the soaking rain and into the air-conditioned train. She couldn’t handle the rain matting her hair and ruining the collar of her favourite work blouse. Once aboard the train, she located a row near the back of the carriage where a tired looking, dark haired man sat by the left window, trying to fall asleep. An old man in a beige trench coat sat at the right window. She decided to sit next to the old man, thinking that she wouldn’t have to contend with snoring, or awkward positioning from the potential sleeper leaning over in his sleep.

Sam usually didn’t mind sleeping passengers on her commute, she just didn’t feel like it today. She had had a rough night with her toddler. He had come down with a fever yesterday and tended to overreact when he wasn’t well. After being woken up throughout the night, Sam was not in the mood to contend with discomfort.

“Good morning," said the old man with a smile as she sat beside him. Wow, what a voice, she thought to herself. She smiled and replied, “and to you”. “You look a little tired this morning, bad night?” he continued. Soothing, like honey on a warm slice of toast. “Yeah, my 3-year-old son is sick, and has a tendency to keep the household awake.” “That’s a shame,” he said. “I remember when my boy was that age. He would be very similar to your son.”

A crystal-clear image of a young boy emerged in her mind. This man’s voice. It’s rapturous. Why do I have such a perfect image in my head? The man continued with his resonating, pure voice “He would cry and cry. In his eyes, his mother was the only person who could comfort him”.

Just then, Sam was sure she heard a crying child – softly, almost as if it was at the far end of the train. The crying died down to a whimper, and a mother’s soft soothing murmur could be heard. Out the corner of her eye, Sam thought she saw a woman sitting in the empty seat across the aisle. She rocked gently, whispering soothing words in this child's ear. But when she turned to look, there was nothing. What the hell? She shook her head telling herself that the lack of sleep must be playing with her head.

The dark-haired, sleepy passenger across the aisle opened his eyes as Sam was watching. He glanced at the seat beside him, just where Sam's vision had been, shrugged his body uncomfortably, and closed his eyes again. Did he notice it too? Surely not, she thought.

Who is the old man? Why is his voice so captivating? Did Sam really see the woman and child?

Intriguing, I think I might just carry on this little project.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this snippet. 🙂

My family’s health and cherishing every moment

My friend has Hydrocephalus. I cannot begin to understand how hard it must be to live with something like that or any other debilitating condition.

I know of someone else who’s child suffered leukaemia, another person who’s wife is suffering cancer, and I’ve also worked with people who have keeled over with a heart attack or were killed in a tragic motorcycle accident.

These events and conditions of people that I am close to (and converse with on a daily basis) bring me to think about my own life and the health of my little family – and just how lucky and sheltered we are.

There is just no time to waste in our lives.

Every moment should be cherished.

But it’s not that easy, is it? Life gets in the way. Children whine, and bad customer service ruins our days.

It’s simply impossible to breathe in the moment all day, every day. I feel it, and I’m sure you do too. Everywhere on the Internet nowadays, we are being bombarded about mindfulness and embracing the Present. I struggle to do this all day.

What I have found, though, is if I consciously take a couple of minutes first thing in the morning and when lying in bed before I go to sleep, I find myself growing to appreciate a whole lot more in my life.

Make a conscious effort twice a day

In the morning I really concentrate on my first sip of water. I feel it across my tongue and travel down to my stomach. How the cold spreads across my chest. I truly try to appreciate that I am able to afford this drink and am able-bodied enough to lift it to my mouth.

I take just another moment to really feel grateful that all I needed to do was turn the tap and water filled my glass. I didn’t have to fight for it or walk 3kms or even boil it first.

Try it for a week. You might surprise yourself.

Then, just before sleeping, I tend to rewind my day through my head and highlight about 3 things I’m grateful for that happened. They are not always ‘big’ things.

Remember, it’s the small things that can be the most important.

For example, I might be grateful that we could afford a healthy dinner (and that my wife loves cooking healthy dinners ), or that I got a window seat on the train to the office, or that my house is still standing after the earthquake we had today.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to follow these articles plastered all over the Internet saying you have to do it all the damn time. Just take a little of your time each day to acknowledge just how lucky you are.

What I fear the most

What is it that you fear the most? Heights? Spiders? Being rejected? I fear looking stupid in front of other people. Yeah, I’m hesitant of heights, can’t touch any animal with 6 legs or more (or no legs for that matter), but the one that really keeps me in my shell is embarrassment.

This is usually encompassed in activities such as dancing, being silly, or attracting attention in public. I don’t know what it is, but there is just a mental block when it comes to doing something in public.

I’ll go crazy and use dancing as an example.

Dancing is ok if I’m performing the minimal side-to-side stepping, but anything more and I risk looking like an idiot. My two-footed failed jive will be the laughing stock of the dance floor. The legend of my drunken-like stumble will grow. I’ll be laughed at for years to come.

I know it is stupid to think this, I guess that is why it’s called an irrational fear, right?

Just saying that out loud sounds stupid. In other areas of my life I push to challenge myself – I take opportunities at the office, I randomly navigate new ways to a destination using my gut for direction, I show my true self through this blog for all the Internet to see.

Yet, I still can’t bust a simple move on the dance floor, or risk being generally silly in public. I must look composed and professional at all times.

I don’t think it’s a neurotic fear, one that will make me freeze up or pass out. I believe it’s just one of those things that I have just never been comfortable with, and over time it has developed into a fear.

There are those unfortunate people that have real, life threatening fears. The type that cause heart failure or worse. The fears in those people seem to be more deeply rooted in their souls. You can feel the fear emanating from them when they are faced with it.

It can be scary watching people when they are faced with their true worst fears. It is so unpredictable as to what they will do or how they will react. Are they going to freak out and run? Are they simply going to faint? Or will they confront it?

Human nature is unpredictable at best.

I really should confront my ‘fears’ before they really do grow into these gripping fears that will freeze me up, and not be able to react when the time is required. I wouldn’t want to be caught in a life or death situation and freeze up due to a stupid fear I have.

I’m lazy, though, and will probably not tackle these fears until absolutely required. That will be to my own detriment, I understand that.

But what is a guy to do?

My Sunshine Award nomination

No matter what anybody says, we all love a little recognition. We all appreciate a little acknowledgement for the effort we put in. Something to show that what we’re doing is being heard.

This is what happened recently when Titia from w{e}mbrace nominated me for a Sunshine award. Thank you, Titia. Thank you for taking the time to remember my blog. It makes me glad my message is getting through to at least one person.

The Sunshine award is an award bloggers pass on to other bloggers to encourage them to carry on with the great work they are doing.

The rules:
According to the rules, a nominee should:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate other bloggers for the Sunshine Award.
  • Write the same number of questions for the bloggers you nominated as you received with your nomination.
  • Notify the bloggers you have nominated.

Titia’s questions with my answers:

Why did you start blogging?
I wanted to make a positive impact on the world around me. My blog allowed me a place to take the words out of my head and put them somewhere. As I published more, I discovered people were actually reading my stuff, and it was changing their lives. That’s why I continue to blog.

If you could give other bloggers one tip what would it be?
Be yourself. Don’t try too hard to fit in with what the masses are writing or doing. There are other people out there like you. They will read your articles, they just need to find you first (which comes down to content marketing).

Bonus tip: have an effective content marketing plan if you want to be found. And no, I don’t have one…yet. 🙂

If you had unlimited funds what would you do with your time?
Tough question. I certainly wouldn’t be sitting on my ass. With unlimited funds, I think I would find ways to make environmental sustainability attainable and affordable in my community/town/country.

What are you most grateful for?
My loving wife who has supported me since we met. My 2 healthy young boys. A roof over my head at night. Everything else is a bonus.

If you could change one thing in this world, what would it be?
Our world will never be perfect, no matter what we change. But I think money has a lot to do with the state we’re in at the moment. So, I’d get rid of money. No more rich/poor. No more societal status. No more corporate greed. Eventually (hopefully?) it will be a world of bartering and re-use, rather than a money-making machine.

What’s one of the top things on your bucket list?
To fly. Whether it be a glider, or hand glider, I want to be soaring through the air with no machine noise.

My questions to my nominees

  1. What inspires you to be the person you see in the mirror?
  2. What phrase or quote do you tell yourself when you’re in need of a self-peptalk?
  3. What are you most grateful for?
  4. What is your favourite post on your blog, and why? (Be sure to include a link)
  5. What awesome lifehack have you discovered recently that has made you more productive?
  6. If you could gain any superpower you wish, which would it be and why?

My nominated blogs

Mind Fuel (http://mindfuelstuff.wordpress.com)
Paul Jarvis (http://pjrvs.com)
Skye Water (http://skyewater33.wordpress.com)
Winnie Lim (http://winnielim.org/)

Life is passing you by, and you don’t even see it

As you sip your cup of tea this morning, while you get ready for another monotonous day, have a think about this; Your life is passing you by, and you don't even see it.

"What?!" You might say. Bear with me for the length of this article, and see if you have the same reaction when you reach the end.

How does your day look today?

During the work week, it might look something like;

  1. Wake up, get ready for work. Be groggy. Mope around the house while dreading the day ahead.
  2. Commute to work. At the same time every day, following the same (or similar) path.
  3. Perform said work. Deal with the same political crap each day. The same feeling of being overloaded and underpaid. Dream about how you would rather be home.
  4. Commute home. At the same time every day, following the same (or similar) path.
  5. Perform the same nightly chores. Make dinner, bath the kids. Watch mindless T.V., read a book. Ask yourself whether it's the weekend yet.
  6. Go to bed.

What about the weekend?

  1. Wake up.
  2. Feel too lazy to do anything productive, so go shopping instead.
  3. Feel guilty, do house chores anyway.
  4. Do an activity you enjoy like biking, hiking, sewing.
  5. Visit friends, watch a movie.
  6. Go to bed.

For some of you, that might seem ok. It's about taking life one day at a time, right? Doing what needs to be done, rather than what you want to do. It's the right thing to do…

I say bollocks to that!

Why? Why do we allow ourselves to be restricted like this. We are naturally curious beings. We love to create, to learn, to understand the world around us. Yet we have been trained and guided into submission.

You are living your life with a false sense of achievement. Take a few seconds and think back over the last 6 month to a year. Ask yourself what have you achieved?

Maybe you finished reading a book? Watched a season of Game of Thrones? Achieved level 100 in the game you're playing? What have you actually achieved? Ultimately, not much.

A whole year has gone by, and you're still in the same place you were before. Doing the same thing, with the same concerns, fears, and worries.

I used to be like this – I still am. I get lulled into a false sense of achievement when I have a slight change in schedule, performed an extra house task, or even wanting to buy a newer phone.

These are not achievements.

They still sit within your comfort zone. And before you know it, months have passed – years have passed. How often do you hear people say that the years are flying by? It is because we are stuck in a monotonous rut.

What happened to your dreams of the future? How have you tested and pushed yourself? Have you taken action on them? Or come up with excuses.

I performed this little exercise on myself. 2 years ago, it would have looked rather mediocre, with the only real difference being me starting this blog and doing some freelance writing.

In the last year, though, my life has changed. My family's life has changed. Our eyes have been opened to the possibility that we can break this mould we're in.

To give you some context, I've run 2 10km races, I've studied social psychology, Neuro-linguistic programming techniques, and social media marketing, I've changed my eating habits to cut out sugar (mostly), and spent more time with my boys than ever before. My wife and I are starting businesses (which is extremely new to us).

Although these are only small changes, I've had to push myself mentally and physically. It's surprising to see how far we can go when we step out of our comfort zone.

What is really interesting, though, is by experiencing all these new factors in my life, this past year has felt longer. I've enjoyed each day a lot more. I am paying more attention to what's in front of me, rather than waiting for a T.V. show tonight or the lazy weekend.

I urge you to change something in your schedule today. It could be the spark to break you out of the monotony you've been feeling for a while.

You are more than the chores you need to do, or the work you need to attend to. Take the plunge and do something you're not entirely comfortable with. You won't regret it.

Productivity Tip #2 – Schedule your time (and stick to it)

Ever had the feeling where you have had such a productive day? A day in which you believe your time was utilised as efficiently as possible? An amazing feeling isn’t it? I bet those days are few and far between.

The reality is more likely that most days you find yourself snowed under. You are reactively attending to tasks and feel scattered all over the place. Because of this, you are not getting much done at all. You feel despondent, demotivated, and become even less productive. And so the cycle goes…

In my Productivity Tip #1 article, I stressed the fact that you have to make time to manage time. My second tip (and this article) is along the same vein, but it’s about applying focus at a higher level (in-between the scurry of our day-to-day tasks).

It doesn’t involve dumping your workload on someone else, or throwing your laptop in the bin. It is about scheduling your tasks so you can focus on one at a time.

Our brains get tired too

Like you, I have a crapload of things going through my brain at any one time. I’m thinking about the tasks I need to do today, and what I need to do after that. I’m reminding myself I must pay the gas bill before Thursday, and I need to publish this very article tonight.

It’s exhausting. Our brains are wonderful miracles, but it can only do so much – especially after constantly being pushed to the limit. Our brain is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it needs rest too.

In order to do this, we need to move some of the tasks we actively think about into ‘autopilot’. The autopilot is our sub-conscious, allowing a whole range of habits and behaviours to occur without using much brain power. How do we do this? It’s as simply as setting a schedule.

I have a fulltime job, yet I still need to write new content for this blog, be a family man, learn new things, and enjoy life. Last year, this was a nightmare to maintain. If I didn’t do something one day, I’d feel anxious that I had missed it. I constantly felt under pressure to be doing something.

I felt I was missing out or being lazy. It eventually got to the point where I stopped blogging for a while.

Set aside time for specific tasks

Then I came across a workbook suggesting to set aside certain days for certain activities. I did exactly that, and what happened next was amazing. I no longer had to worry that no writing was being done – as I knew it was planned for Monday. I no longer had to feel bad if I didn’t go for a run, as I knew it Saturday was run day.

The simple matter of setting a day of the week to focus on one task (other than all the usual day-to-day grind) really eliminates the background nagging in my mind. I can remind it to shut the hell up and I’ll deal with the said task on the allocated day.

If you are struggling to keep up with all your life tasks. Try setting particular days for certain tasks. For example, here is mine;

  • Monday: Article day (write articles, plan new article ideas, prepare this week’s article).
  • Tuesday: General blog/home tasks (budget, ideas, research, etc)
  • Wednesday: Watch at least one TED Talk.
  • Thursday: Learning day (Go through study material if I’m on a course, or read a self-study book).
  • Friday: Finish off any other little items.
  • Saturday: Run day (run further than 5km).
  • Sunday: Rest day.

Why not set a simple schedule such as this? You won’t be disappointed.

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