Not Happy!

I feel like you’re average mechanic!

old car parked near tree
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You know the story about the mechanic, it can apply to gardeners as well.

Everyone else’s car (or garden) is immaculate while the mechanic’s car is a bit dodgy, and the gardener’s garden could do with some TLC.

That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. Not great!

I could go on a “poor, poor pitiful me” but who really cares? I mean that genuinely. We’re all going through something. I’m just publishing it.

There are two reasons I’m writing this:
  1. I’m learning to touch type and one of my goals is to practice for 15 minutes every day. And increase that by one minute every day for 30 days. Meaning by day 30, I will be touch typing for at least 45 mins every day. It may mean, by that time, I will be touch typing full time.
  2. The second reason is I want to write a post per day for the next 30 days as part of a plan to reignite some energy and momentum in my day. This will also help with the practice of touch typing.
The Next 30 Days

I’ve decided to add some other items to the list for the next 30 days. The category in brackets is the primary area I hope to benefit.

  • Drop 10kg – this is more an outcome of some other actions below (Health)
  • Touch typing as mentioned above (Productivity)
  • Consume no sugar and no grains (Health)
  • Run 4km per day – this may be a brisk walk as I acquired a couple of blisters yesterday when trying some new shoes (Health)
  • Blog post every day as mentioned above (Hobby)
  • Purchase no new things – there is one purchase I need to make, I’ll share what and why once it is complete (Finances)
  • Do not purchase shop coffee – this will be a significant challenge (Finances)
  • No alcohol – also a bit of a challenge as I so like a nice red (Health)
  • Finish reading a textbook – Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman (Education)
  • Finish reading a novel – The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Recreation)
  • Journal every day – this post is a result of this morning’s journal (Health)
  • Practice Active Constructive Responding (Relationships)

This may seem like a lot to take on. Perhaps it is, but many of these things are common, every day things that simply need focus and attention.

I have typed this as best I can by touch typing so I can tick that off for today. And as this is a blog post, that has been accomplished as well.

Tomorrow will be an update on my progress, how I’m feeling and what changes I’m sensing.

We are what we eat!

red framed eyeglasses on newspapers
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There are a number of ways to be happy. But all the ways I can think of have one thing in common: the present.

You can’t be happy in the past: it’s over. (Yes, you can be happy with the past!)

You can’t be happy in the future: it’s not here yet! (Yes, you can look forward to your future!)

But you can only be happy … now! Even when the future finally arrives, it transmogrifies into … now!

And, with that massive scientifically proven statement, let’s look at a facet that can affect our happiness.

What we consume.

I’m not talking about food but information.

A topic like this can go off on all sorts of tangents and we are all individuals so not every tangent will apply to everyone.

Let’s bring it back to ourselves. The rest of this article is for you to think about you! It has really made me think about the information I consume.

Is what we are consuming adding to our happiness, our contentment, our goals? Or is it debilitating?

I have a really good Twitter feed. The people I follow are inspirational and positive for the most part, many are quite witty and I enjoy their content. Some go off on rants then apologise then rant again. (I mute them for a while. Like sending them to the naughty corner! πŸ˜‰)

But I’ve begun to notice my mood as I scroll through the feed, the same on Instagram. Am I being fed? Am I leaving the feed better than when I started? That is what I’d like to happen. Selfish? Possibly! But it’s my life and I want to be happy, content and satisfied for as much time as I can. Don’t you?

As Marcus Aurelius is often quoted, which also applies to our media based interactions:

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

So the tough times, awkward situations and difficult people are going to occur. Why would I not seek to control what I consume if I can?

(To be fair, the people I work with are some of the best people I have ever worked with, so, there is that! πŸ˜€)

Even reading inspirational posts can leave you dissatisfied (I could never do that! It must be wonderful for them. If only I had the willpower!) We start off full of enthusiasm and then realise maybe we haven’t got what they clearly have!

This is not to say we shouldn’t read great works, and work on improving ourselves. Not at all. But we need to start where we are and not assume or think we get a head start based on someone else’s experience or story. And, sorry to say, are all stories true?

My point about consumption is to be cautious with what we consume. Can we use the information immediately? Can we apply the same rules as the author? I’d dare say, in most cases, no!

What to do

Many people I know, and I have done this, do a regular review of what they are consuming. Turning off the mainstream news is a start. Most of it is negative and many times, sensationalism. (They have their job to do, after all, which is sell information and product.)

And then we can look at our social media feed. Is it feeding you positively? Or is it leaving you a little despondent? Take the time to identify what is causing the downward trend and ask yourself if you need this. Maybe not. Unfollow.

Before I am accused of being a killjoy, I’m not suggesting you cut everything off! Not at all. But I am suggesting we look for those avenues that take us toward what we want a little more carefully.

The TV (or the Demon Box!)

One the areas I have taken to edit is the TV. I don’t think I’m an orphan here. I hear of a lot of shows that dramatise discord and conflict and many enjoy these. My wife included. She loves her crime shows. I admit we did watch Breaking Bad and The Good Wife in their entirety, among others.

Lately, I have decided to not get “caught up” in these types of shows simply because they depict conflict as part of their premise and I don’t need any more of that. I prefer a calming evening. We do watch re-runs of Friends, Big Bang and Brooklyn 99, Spy and I am enjoying the Welcome to Wrexham series.

As I am trying to convey, it’s not about total elimination of TV or other media but the discriminate review of what we consume to improve our mood, outlook and overall well being. As a very specific example, while we enjoy the Friends series, neither my wife and I can watch the episodes with “on again off again Ross and Rachel”. Others love that!

If you are engaged by certain elements of the media and they help you grow and be a better person, go nuts. The opinions above are mine, in an attempt to demonstrate the choices we have to enjoy some peace and solitude when we want it. And to gain control of what we consume to help us access that peace and solitude any time we like.

Just like too much coffee can give you the jitters, perhaps too much consumption of certain media can too. And also like coffee, some can consume coffee late at night and still get a good night’s sleep. Others … can’t! πŸ˜΅β€πŸ’«

As always, you be you!

Not everyone is triggered by the same inputs. And, as I said in my opening, this can go off on many tangents that affect everyone differently. I’ve used examples to help you review your situation to help bring a little more joy and happiness to your “now”.

I hope, in some way, I’ve triggered some positive action for you.

We become what we consume.

As a man (person) thinketh, so is he!

James Allen
The Test

Now you’ve read the paper, it’s time for the test, if you wish to play! πŸ˜‰

For the next three days, check what you consume and mentally give it a tick or a cross. If you’re really keen, write them down in columns of “good vs evil” – just for fun. After three days, decide what you want to do with your lists!

No Comparions

You be you!

cheerful pregnant couple touching tummies and making grimace while standing near white wall
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A quick back story:

Years ago I was in a church where there was the discipline of morning prayer. You could do this at home but, if you were a “disciple”, it was better to be seen at the church building praying, anywhere from 6am to 8am.

The discipline of a morning meditation* was really good. The need to be seen? Not so much. In fact, if you missed attending for a couple of days you got the “didn’t see you at morning prayer, brother!” So there was this expectation and, as young me, there was always the pursuit of trying to be better. Again, nothing wrong with that.

One day, I overheard a friend say he got up at 4am to pray. Holy prayer mats, Batman!

Not to be outdone, I also got up at 4am to pray.

This was hard! Partly because of another church custom: fellowship.

This was coffee and food after church to be friendly to others, encourage each other and build relationships. Another plus for church and similar communities.

But going to bed after 10:30 and getting up at 4am was a tough gig. Not to be deterred, I stuck it out for a couple of weeks. But in the end, it was too much. I had to pack the 4am starts in and try and be a normal person.

A month or so after that, feeling like a failure in my prayer habits and clearly a very unspiritual disciple, I mentioned my efforts to my friend.

He laughed: “You obviously didn’t hear the whole conversation!”

“Oh?”, I responded, wondering what I had missed.

“Yeah, what I was saying was I had got up at 4am one time to try and it was hopeless. It was stupid. I get up at 6:30 every day!”

Needless to say we both had a good laugh!

It’s obvious to say we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others but we tend to do this without thinking.

Here are some things to consider next time you’re scrolling Social Media:
  1. What is their background? What do they bring to the situation you don’t know about?
  2. What do they not say? This isn’t the sin of intentional omission, it could simply be they have information, skills, knowledge they take for granted they wouldn’t even think to share. For example a blogger with experience in journalism.
  3. What effort do they put in that we can’t see? We only get to see the end product in many cases. I like it when people on YouTube give us a behind the scenes look at their set up. It brings a whole lot of context.
  4. Don’t be a literalist. This is taking everything at face value. It becomes a binary argument: this OR that. Rarely is that the case. There are so many shades of grey! (More than 50, I’d say!)
What to do:
  1. What do you admire about the person? Admiration is great, we need role models. What attributes do you see that you would like for yourself. Write them down.
  2. Allow space for yourself. You are not, and cannot, be them. You can be you. What does that mean? Write it down.
  3. What are your goals in this area? Have you defined them clearly? Write them down.
  4. What tasks need to be addressed for you to fulfil #2? (you be you)
  5. What actions can you take to start completing those tasks? When can you do the first of those tasks?
To Finish

Another erroneous comparison I have made.

I follow Yiannis Christodoulou, on Twitter (@Yiannis_83). With 83 being in his profile I assume he is 20 years younger than me. He is quite the accomplished triathlete in his age group. But I assumed he had been doing this since he was a kid. I assumed he’s been brought up swimming, running and riding for decades!

If I compare myself to him, I probably can’t emulate his feats.

Au contraire!

Read his tweet of 4 days ago:

Used with kind permission from Yiannis


He only started swimming 10 years ago! And he started to run! And yet he has achieved so much!

We can be very fickle.

We see people who have made it and we think we can do exactly the same, without knowing their background.

We also see people who are accomplished and we think we can’t emulate them, without knowing their background.

If that isn’t an endorsement for you be you, I don’t on know what is.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

Admire their feats, sure and now start where you are.


*Funny that back then we referred to meditation as new age woo-woo! (Maybe they still do!) πŸ™„

Also, thanks to Yiannis for allowing me to mention him and his success in his journey!

Being Happier?

orange mason jar in body of water
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Have you noticed your self talk? Is it predominantly positive or negative? For most people it’s negative. Over 80% of our thoughts are negative, according to one study.

We beat ourselves up constantly over little things that don’t matter. What’s more, we do it over and over. So one possibly bad event, turns into multiple bad events simply because we repeat it. According to this article, your subconscious can’t tell the difference between a real or imagined event.

So we can literally make shit up and the mind and body will react as if it is real. Seriously, the truth is, you can make this shit up!

I often have conversations in my head about real and imagined scenarios. We all do this, don’t blink at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Off we go on our little, pointless tangents, often over inflating the situation and you can feel your heart rate increase.

We feel ourselves getting angry, anxious or even depressed. It’s like we are in a hole and the world is closing in on us. Hope is futile and we look for a doughnut shop, a couch and a soppy movie! Or a beer!

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What to do

When I was listening to Sam Harris’s meditation app Waking Up, Sam would lead me through a meditation and the challenge, or suggestion at the end, was to notice the “moments” between commitments. Say between meetings, or conversations, or when moving from one room to another, or heading out to lunch or coming back from lunch. Simple, everyday moments we all have.

Sam would instruct me to take a moment and determine to respond, rather than react. To take a breath and notice the breath. To be mindful rather than be on autopilot and rush to the next thing!

To be honest, it took me a while. I’d get through my day and and realise I had missed all the opportunities to “notice the moment”. You can imagine what that self talk was like!

But then, one day, I did notice. I literally caught myself saying, “I am leaving this meeting and I’m heading out to get something to eat.” Bingo! I had slowed down enough, or become aware enough, to notice a moment.

Noticing moments allows you space to take conscious action.

In terms of working on your self talk, take notice of your internal conversations. Determine the difference between a real conversation you are working through versus a rant that will never see the light of day.

When the rant is in full swing, notice it, and shut it down.

I do this all the time now and it really helps my mood and reduces my stress or anxiety.

I will literally notice the conversation in my head and call out the exaggerations. I’ll say to myself, “That didn’t happen, drop it!” and I stop the conversation in my head. I then put on the “half smile” I talked about here to move away from the dark clouds in my head to the sunshine.

We can’t always control what happens to us and we can all get caught out by impulsive self talk. But if we start to notice these moments, we can begin to respond and not react.

Sometimes just reading something like this is enough to trigger the ability to stop and notice.

Other times we need to be more conscious about this.

I suggest writing something down to read each morning. Or, as I have also done, I write what I want to be conscious of at the top of the page in my notebooks where I write my notes of meetings during the day. This way it’s always in front of me.

On days I forget, I simply remind myself I get another chance tomorrow!