Adulting, Anxiety, Books, Mindfulness, Motivation

Fail Safe

Challenges are supposed to make you happy. The novelty alone should stimulate your mind in a positive way. However failure is often an inevitable part of this process. To at last succeed after various unsuccessful attempts can bring about deep feelings of satisfaction. I think that’s why people often highlight the importance of failure. I’ve often heard the phrase “anything worth doing is worth doing badly” thrown around in relation to this.
That all may be well and good for those seemingly self motivated, glass half full kindof people. But for some of us, even after we finally overcome the hurdle, satisfaction is not the feeling which we experience. Instead we look to the ground in shame wondering why it took us so long, when everyone else seems to fly through life with ease and control.
I’ve been reading “The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success” by author Megan McArdle. It’s good. It’s very good. I suggest you read it.

According to McArdle, failure will occur because the universe is uncertain. It’s not necessarily due to a lack of preparation or perfunctory attempts. Success isn’t something you are, it’s something you develop and failure is necessary for this process. In learning to make mistakes, we also learn to understand them and thus how to correct them.
The truth about failure is that it’s hard. It’s extremely difficult in fact, to pick yourself up and start all over again. To stare down whatever it was that knocked you on your ass, take a deep breath and charge in to battle it once more. The book argues that much of this struggle is due to an ingrained fear of failure. It’s something that our parents and school (or really any early validation system) is responsible for. It occurs because we are taught to focus on the final product and ignore the earlier drafts. In fact quite often we never even get to see the earlier drafts.

While some mistakes deserve punishment, most are those we make as we learn. When we begin to do something we’ve never done before. When we write the first chapter, when we edit it, when we re-write it, and even when we edit the revision.

Maybe the reason it’s so hard is that failure is essentially forcing you to change. It’s basically telling you that whatever you are doing doesn’t work. Try again, but try something else. It forces you to grow and realize that there is more than one way to approach a situation, and that some methods are more effective than others. The worst thing you can do is get yourself into a position where you cannot fail. If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.

So instead of avoiding failure, we must train ourselves to be more resilient. Take small calculated risks, so it’s easier to stand up after you topple over. Don’t place blame, not on other people and not on yourself. There are a multitude of reasons something you were striving for failed. Don’t be conceded and assume it was all because of you.

Anxiety, Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Quiet Time

Meditation is the practice of quieting your mind. This is no easy task. So I’m reading “The Meditation Transformation” by Jennifer Brooks.

The book begins with a spiel on what meditation is and several pages explaining the benefits of a daily meditation practice. I’m not going to lie, I skipped this part. Having already read a plethora of articles and enduring various conversations with my therapist, doctor and naturopath about the benefits of meditation, I felt I had a thorough grip of the material.

Following this was a list of excuses commonly used by individuals who are beginning a meditation practice, to condone their defection. This part was actually useful in describing the ideal environment for meditation: Quiet, private and comfortable. It should be noted that thus far the book wasn’t particularly exciting…

That was until I arrived at chapter 5: Alternatives to Meditation. This chapter looked at visualization, guided imagery and relaxation, all of which can be classified as forms of meditation that seem to be more accommodating to the over active brain. For example when utilising visualisation, instead of simply focusing on your breathing you will instead dedicate your meditation time to painting an object in acute detail in your mind.

Chapter 6: Not All Meditation is Created Equal also explores alternatives to typical meditation practices. It covers exercises such as movement, body scan, mindfulness, walking, concept, gap, empty mind, mantra, vibrational and transcendental meditation. Each of these exercises is explained in detail and is easy to comprehend through its step by step layout. I should mention at this juncture that currently this e-book is free to download at the amazon/kindle store, so I would highly recommend picking it up.

Overall this was an extremely informative book, full of great techniques and exercises to bring to your meditation practice. Perfect for beginners like myself.

Adulting, Anxiety, Books, Mindfulness, Motivation

Journaling

I recently picked up a self help guide titled: “100 Days of Gratefulness: A Gratitude Journal” by Amy J. Blake. Although I’m not entirely sure if you could call it a guide per se, it’s more like a journal with prompts. Each page is titled with a question, such as “How am I fortunate?” and then it gives you space to provide an answer. Ideally you would tackle one question each day, spending approximately ten minutes on your response. There are one hundred questions in total, all of which ask you in one way or another what you are grateful for.

I’ve read books on the power of gratefulness before, and I am quite aware of the positive effects this practice can have in your life. However it can be difficult to get started. That’s why having a journal with pre-designed prompts can help. It makes the entire process a lot easier by incorporating more structure to the practice and through it’s one question a day set up it can assist in making gratefulness a habit.

You don’t necessarily need to buy a journal like this one either. Any notebook will do, just google gratitude prompts to obtain the questions. Then take some time each day to answer one, I personally like to write a response with my morning cup of coffee. There is just something substantial about writing your responses down, about taking the time to really collect your thoughts, which makes journaling a great medium for practicing gratefulness. In the past I’ve simply spouted lists of things I’m grateful for at random times throughout the day, but the intention behind writing makes it more meaningful.

Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Happy Memories = Smiling Mind

While reading the “Smiling Mind: Mindfulness Made Easy” by Jane Martino and James Tutton, I came across many, and I do mean many, really useful mindfulness exercises. I find it extremely helpful when self help books become instructional, it makes it so much easier to put the theory into practice. It’s also makes it less stressful to glean results. Exercise 9 was one of my favourites, so I thought I’d share it with you. However I would definitely suggest picking up this book for more options. Alternatively there is also an app you can download and a website to visit.

So here we go:

Step 1: Sit or lie down, but try to maintain an aligned posture as you do so. You can use pillows or folded blankets to help ensure support, but be sure you feel comfortable in that position.

Step 2. Take some deep breaths, and observe how it goes in and out of your body. You can even place your hands on your belly and feel it expand and contract.

Step 3. Recall an experience or situation which made you extremely happy. Try to remember it in great detail, consider the sounds, smells and sights. See if you can relive it using all of your senses.

Step 4. Notice the physical sensations this memory elicits. Where and how do you feel happiness? Is it a warmth in your stomach? Do you feel butterflies? Take some deep breaths and explore these sensations, but be sure not to identify with the emotions. The goal is to observe rather than to experience.

Step 5. Take a few deep breaths and this time try to recall an unpleasant experience or situation. Something that made you feel angry or sad, and once more see if you can relive it in great detail.

Step 6. Once again explore the physical sensations this memory creates. Where does it manifest physically, and how is this different from the sensation of happiness? Let yourself observe the differences between them, while taking a step back from actually feeling these emotions.

Congratulations! You are all done. How do you feel?
Personally I really enjoy this exercise, it makes me feel in control of my emotions and more aware of how I am physically processing them. The breathing also allows me to stay calm, and see those situations in different ways.

Please let me know if you tried and enjoyed this exercise, or if you have any mindfulness exercises or books to recommend. I’d very much appreciate it.
Until next time 🙂

Books, Mindfulness, Minimalism

Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondō has an enormous title. However as it’s really interesting and also has a Manga version, I will forgive the grievance. As far as I’m concerned Marie Kondō  can do no wrong!

Once you put your home in order, your life will change drastically. It’s the MAGIC that this book talks about. Success is 90% your mindset, but If you don’t acquire the correct technique you will undoubtedly rebound in your progress.

In terms of technique:

You just need to look at each object, one at a time, and then decide two things:
1. Whether you want to keep it?
2. Where you want to put it?
That’s it.

Undertake this process by category rather than by location. I.e. Clothes, books, eating utensils as opposed to lounge room, bedroom, bath etc. And start with the least sentimental categories, the practical stuff before you work your way through to the physical and emotional baggage.

Most importantly though, you need to tidy up all in one session. Get it done and dusted and you will find that it’s easier to maintain.

There are obviously many other components of this process, this is just an overview so read the book! You won’t regret it.

Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Minimalism, Motivation

One Thing

Change One Thing” another relatively small self help book by Sue Hadfield, is in some ways pretty straight forward and predictable, and yet it remains entirely helpful for the self help novice. It’s premise is simple: making just one change (however small) can impact the rest of your life. Although throughout its pages it suggests many small changes to assist in projecting this impact.

The past is over and only exists when you choose to recall it. Therefore you cannot let it get you down, instead see your mistakes or regrets as examples of how change will come to you whether you invite it or not. Start being pro-active about this unstoppable foe: Change!

• Motivation
It all begins with motivation. You want to be aware that you are living a life worth living while living it.
• Identification
Know who you are and what it is that you want. Know your values and embrace them.
• Recognition
Having purpose in life is in many ways more powerful than having your perceived “needs” met. Don’t delay following your purpose because you have yet to meet those needs. It’s like saying “I can’t do something until I get a better job” when by following your purpose or passion your inner life would be happier and that in turn would colour your outer life. A great life can be as easy as fulfilling your own potential.
• Procrastination
Procrastination is basically resistance to change. It stems from the belief that you either aren’t capable of change or you have to wait until change comes for you and you have no other choice. You may seek instant gratification and therefore become impatient with those small steps that eventually become a big change, or are a perfectionist afraid of making a mistake and therefore put things off. Instead of focusing on the negative outcomes try focusing on the positives.
• Inspiration
Clarify your goals, success comes from preparation, planning, research and staying power. So prepare! Research the changes you wish to make and ask questions about the process from people who have already been there, done that. Look at how these changes align with your values.
• Preparation
Keep on learning, keep on gathering information and prepare yourself for the inevitable setbacks. Success isn’t about luck it’s about persistence.
• Implementation
It’s all about finding time and working towards your purpose. There’s a danger in being busy doing things that don’t bring value or joy to your life. Don’t let life become a treadmill where you loose track of your values or purpose.
• Determination
Start now and keep going. Resilience is key, and a part of that is understanding and welcoming obstacles as a chance to see how far you come and re-evaluate your plans.

It’s all relatively obvious, but empowering regardless. A great book and one that actually takes the time to identify and describe the entire process from start to finish. Which is actually quite a unique feat for a self help book.

Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Anchor

Another rather wonderful mindfulness exercise: dropping anchor.
Basically this is a technique to assist you in releasing yourself from your everyday automatic pilot. It’s about focusing on your physical self in that particular moment, so you are able to fully implement mindfulness breathing and observation strategies.
It is very simple. You begin by planting both feet on the floor. Once you attain stability, begin tuning into the sensations in your body. Notice your legs and the feel of the floor, what they are touching, what are they connected to, everything including the heat within your own body. Slowly work your way up noticing your breath, your chest rising and falling. Feel the air come in and then out.
Take the time to really be in your body and to enjoy the sensation of being alive. Observe your body. Anchor yourself in the present moment and just breathe. Then start observing the things around you. The way your body interacts with these things.
I’m finding it to be a very useful tool in calming myself down. Distracting myself from any momentary stress.