Optimism … easier said than done?

This time last week I wrote about a couple of people I spoke with during the day. Both were facing major issues – one was dealing with sickness in the family and the other had serious business problems.

Today I caught up with the business person again and ventured to ask her if she had any success in fixing a major piece of machinery. Last week she said it could not be fixed and she would miss out on the busy holiday season. Today she was much brighter as she told me the problem was resolved. She said she had a couple of really tough days worrying about going broke.

I was really pleased to hear the good news. It is so easy to get overwhelmed when things don’t go the way we expect.

optimism

Our inability to control everything

serenitySome days I worry about what might go wrong and then I remember that I cannot control everything around me. Even when I plan everything perfectly there is usually something that can throw me off course. When I remind myself of the limits on what I can control, I am able to let go, be more relaxed, and go with the flow.

Today I spoke with two people with situations way beyond their control. The first person is a man I met for the first time. He told me about his adult daughter suffering a serious illness and her need to move permanently to the other side of the country to receive specialist medical treatment. The outlook is not good. I commented that sometimes life doesn’t turn out like we expect it to.

About an hour later I was talking to a business owner and asked if she was ready for the busy tourist season nearly upon us. She told me how a critical part of equipment has broken down and is unable to be fixed in time to reap the rewards of the tourist season. It will have a major impact on the viability of her business. She was close to tears as she shared this with me. Once again I commented about life not turning out as we expect it to.

I was moved by these two people and the honest sharing of their personal experiences. It also reminded me to be grateful and not to stress when life doesn’t follow my own personal script.

A story about an old man (fiction)

old manI visit my elderly aunt every week. She is in the dementia ward of the local Care Village. She turned ninety recently. I notice each week that there is a fellow sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. He has a beautiful smile and says hello to me as I pass by.
As time goes by, we start to exchange a few words about the weather or comment on the flowers in the well-cared for grounds.

Sometimes my aunt is agitated and doesn’t want to see me so I spend a bit more time with ‘the old man’ sitting outside. One day I introduce myself as Jenny and he tells me his name is Bill. Bill is also in his early nineties but he still has his wits about him. I often wonder about his past as he doesn’t seem to have any visitors and he doesn’t give much away about himself. He always asks after me and my family though. I can tell by the lines on his face that he has seen a lot in his life – not all of it has been good either.

Over the next weeks and months we get to know each other a little better. My aunt doesn’t even know who I am now but I still visit once a week and tend to spend a bit more time chatting to Bill. He tells me what mischief my aunt has been up to over the previous week. She keeps wanting to go home and tries to escape at every opportunity.

One day, I will muster up the courage to ask him to tell me a bit more about his life. He prefers to be the one asking the questions.

It just so happened that my most recent visit fell on Father’s Day. My Dad passed away some time ago and I spontaneously bought a box of chocolates for Bill. I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I casually gave them to him, saying, ‘I thought you might like these, Bill’. I was a bit nervous as I was unsure how he would respond. He was very quiet at first, then I noticed his eyes brimming with tears. I touched his hand and sat quietly beside him.

‘It is so kind of you, Jenny. I want to share something with you – if you have the time?’

‘Of course, Bill’, I replied.

He sat quietly and I could tell he was summoning up the courage to speak. He said, ‘I always look forward to your visits. I know that you really come to see your aunt, but I like to think that you come to see me too. You see, I don’t have any family. My parents died years ago and I had no brothers or sisters. I married a beautiful girl, Kathleen and we had a daughter called Jenny – just like your name.’

Bill paused again to catch his breath and then continued, ‘When Jenny had her tenth birthday we took her to the Zoo as a special treat. She really loved nature and especially animals. It was on the way home that our lives changed forever. A drunk driver went through a red light and smashed into our car. Kathleen and Jenny died that day’. He paused again, tears rolling freely down his cheeks now.

He went on, ‘I was in a coma in hospital for two weeks after the accident. When I came around and they told me about Kath and Jenny, my world fell apart. I didn’t want to go on living without them. Physically I got better over time but I was emotionally dead from that point on. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and years. The pain is still with me today, like it happened yesterday. However, I slowly learned to see the good in the world again. That is why I like to sit outside and look at the gardens and watch the birds. And now I am an old man.

Your kindness is like a ray of sunshine in my life. Please forgive me for my emotional outburst today, but it is so long since anyone has shown me such kindness. Thank you Jenny.’

I was very moved by what Bill told me and I wrapped my arms around him and no words were needed.

 

Is perfection over-rated?

No matter how much personal growth I experience, there are times I am disappointed when I don’t meet my own expectations. I don’t know where this comes from – but every so often this little voice tells me I am not good enough. Is this something we all struggle with? How do we silence that voice of doubt?

Perfection

Do you ever think “I can’t do it”?

I am currently reading “The Confidence Gap – from fear to freedom” by Dr Russ Harris and published by Penguin Portfolio.

I bought the book some time ago and read some of it and then left it sitting on the shelf. I have had some confidence issues so I thought I had better read some more. I am getting more out of it this time. I am learning (again) about listening to my thoughts and the chatter that goes on in my head. I sometimes think things like, “I can’t do that as I would get too stressed”, or thoughts along similar lines.

The author suggests we listen to our thoughts and then acknowledge… I just had a thought that said … “I can’t do that as I would get too stressed”. He recommends a range of strategies to help us get unhooked from our thoughts. He says that when we fuse with our thinking we cannot see the difference between who we are and what we think.

The next step is to say to myself … I just noticed I had a thought that said … “I can’t do that as I would get too stressed”.

It is amazing and sometimes alarming to listen to the array of thoughts that go on in my head. It is so easy to undermine our selves by giving credibility to these thoughts. I am not my thoughts however if I get hooked into thinking in a particular way that isn’t helpful then I allow these thoughts to decide how I live my life. I think I will read some more …

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Perserverance

I am feeling a bit stressed about completing my writing studies in the next two weeks. I still have a few hurdles to jump over and know I have to work hard to achieve a good result. I confess to a great fear of failing. In reality, failing this unit would not make much difference to my life but I will be really disappointed in myself if I don’t succeed.

PV1There is also a sense of loss at completing my studies. It consumes my time, energy and interest and there will be a gap in my life once I am done. I find this hard to explain. Maybe it is about being part of something bigger – a sense of belonging to a student community (even though the study has all be online).

PV2

Then there is that great sense of achievement at completion and success – or gratification describes it more accurately – overcoming something difficult and feeling stretched and experiencing some personal growth.

PV3

Finally, for me, study is about wrestling with something in my mind – that is not about ME – something bigger than myself and something that better engages me to the world I live in, day-to-day.

So – PERSEVERE I will and hopefully I will meet my goal of a qualification at the conclusion of my study but also greater knowledge about writing and the industry.

And… if I don’t pass – the world will not end – I will have still learned a lot – and well, let’s wait and see…

All I can do is do my best 🙂

Life is good, but …

I must be the most ungrateful person around. I have just landed a writing job for one day a week. I am really enjoying my studies even though I am feeling under time pressure a little. We are having guests for the weekend and I need to tidy up the house. So if that is all I have to worry about, then I am a very lucky person. A bit of hard work and a little stress in the next few weeks won’t do me any harm at all.

Hard work

Wasted days and wasted nights

Tell us your tried and true techniques for focusing when that deadline looms and you need to get work done. In other words, how do you avoid wasted days and wasted nights?

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To find a way through the overwhelming confusion, I will usually do a mind map – basically writing down every possible thing that is on my mind. Often I will cover a page and it doesn’t have to be neat. Then I may group some sections together using different coloured highlighters. They may be a group based on topics such as: jobs needing doing in the house, assignments due, appointments to be made or to be kept.

When my page is sorted into chunks I will then put them through the following:

URGENT/IMPORTANT

URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT

NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT

NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT

As you would expect, I then deal with the URGENT/IMPORTANT tasks first, taking one at a time.

Another strategy may be to negotiate for more time if you have a legitimate reason. You need to be kind to yourself and not apply too much pressure. By being under pressure and stressed, it will impact on your ability to do the task anyway – it may even block you from getting started.

When all procrastination is out of the way – just put one foot in front of the other and start doing what needs to be done!