Good things are happening too

The last month has been challenging for so many people, to say the least. In Canberra where I live, we’ve been surrounded by devastating bushfires for the last couple months, we’ve had heavy smoke haze trapping everyone indoors for weeks at a time due to the hazardous air quality, then we had a storm that produced giant hail stones bigger than golf balls, followed by dust storms. Mother Nature is seriously pissed off about something!

In my personal life things have also been rough – I lost my darling Grandad who I adored, and at the same time my toddler had a bad ear infection that made him a bit annoying and very sleepless… which meant I was also a bit annoying and very sleepless. 

A combination of crazy weather, grief, and fatigue had lead me to feel lower than low. But I wasn’t the only one. People all around me have been commenting on how terrible 2020 is so far. The mood everywhere is dark and depressed. Most people in my city have been badly impacted by the weather somehow, either by losing their properties down the coast, being cut off from their families, or having their car and/or house destroyed by the hail storm. 

So recently when my husband and I were having a conversation about how incredibly shit things were going so far this year, I had to put a stop to it. I was feeling such a sense of doom and despair, and by continuing to list all the bad things, I was only emphasising the negatives. So I suggested we try listing all the GOOD things, and it really did help to turn the mood around.

We started by looking for the blessings amidst the terrible events:

  • we weren’t directly impacted by the bushfires;
  • our little guy coped super well with being trapped inside because of the smoke;
  • the hailstorm that damaged thousands of cars and property missed our suburb;
  • my Grandad’s death was fast enough that he didn’t suffer, and slow enough for us to gather and say goodbye;
  • and our kid is pretty amazing even when he is in pain and overtired.

We then moved further out from the shitty events and looked at other things that had been happening in our lives:

  • My husband gained a new client;
  • my work was going well and offering me great support and flexibility;
  • our little one is making incredible progress with his development and is (usually) so well behaved and funny; etc.

We finished the conversation feeling much lighter, happier, and more grateful. The conversation led on to discuss these great things in more detail so that we no longer realised we were making a list of good things – we were just talking about something that made us happy.

It’s such a weird time in Australia with all these natural disasters and bizarre weather events. Everyone is unsettled and disturbed by it. It’s serious stuff, and the impact on people is undoubtedly huge. But we need to remember that good stuff is happening too. That’s not at all to say we should dismiss people’s feelings or their need to talk about their struggles. But we need to help each other stay afloat and not be dragged too far under by the sadness and fear.

Stop saying “I don’t know”

How often do you respond to questions with “I don’t know”? For me, it’s a lot. “I don’t know” what I want for dinner. “I don’t know” what I should do about my career dreams. Or “I don’t know” what to do about some difficult relationships.

Maybe you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Or you don’t know how to leave that shit head boyfriend who makes you feel bad all the time. Maybe you don’t know why you can’t lose weight or can’t get the job you want.

I challenge you to pretend you do know. Then what would the answer be?

Maybe “I don’t know” is just the lazy answer. If you really had to come up with an answer to your problem, what would it be? Throw some ideas out there and see if any of them grab you.

I think sometimes we pretend we don’t know as protection. We don’t want to admit what we really do know, because then we might have to commit to something. Or we might fail somehow. But staying stuck in the “I don’t know” is its own kind of commitment. You’re committing to staying stuck, dissatisfied, and powerless.

So next time you catch yourself saying “I don’t know”, stop and think about what the answer would be if you did know.

If you want to talk through some of your “I don’t knows” with me, get in touch for a free initial coaching session. There is absolutely no obligation to continue with any paid coaching.

People will try to bring you down

So you’ve developed an interest in self-improvement. You’re committed to developing your skills, your emotional intelligence, and achieving your goals. GOOD FOR YOU. 

But before you go too far, can I give you a tip? 

The first thing you need to develop is a thick skin and some resilience. 

Because as positive as your personal development is, people will try to bring you down. You will be accused of being up yourself, self-absorbed, self-obsessed, and having a “superior attitude”. 

People are often threatened when they see people they know and love changing. Maybe they feel judged, or just annoyed that things are different. Maybe you don’t like to do the things you used to do with that person anymore. Or they just can’t relate to you anymore. Whatever it is, even when you don’t intend to treat people differently, they can sense that things are different and that’s uncomfortable for them. 

That doesn’t meant that what you are doing is wrong. It doesn’t mean you have to go back to that train wreck of a person you used to be – even if that was the person they liked better. It might just mean that you need to find new people who do like who you have become. 

I can tell you that this will also be an uncomfortable change for you. It will hurt so badly to hear these things from people you were previously close with. Try to remember that they aren’t necessarily trying to hurt you. They just don’t understand you anymore. 

You can either try to help them understand where you’re coming from, or you can move on. I like to give people a chance to understand, but if they continue to insult me or bring me down, I know that it’s sadly time to move on. Because self-improvement isn’t about changing other people. It’s not your job to make them understand, or to change how they think. It’s your job to keep trying to be a better person than you were yesterday. Send them some love and keep living your life your way. 

**Please make sure you are not in fact being a jerk to people. 

Kindness in the midst of disaster

If there’s one thing you can be sure of during any crisis in Australia, it’s the amazing display of human kindness that comes out.

Right now, we are experiencing bushfires like nothing that’s ever been seen before. The fires are wiping out massive areas of land, property, animals, and human life. People are losing everything they’ve worked for and everything they’ve known. Areas that aren’t currently directly impacted by fire are instead impacted by heavy smoke, road closures, and the constant threat that fires could start nearby at any moment. Anyone with TV or internet is exposed to 24 hour coverage of devastating images and stories from the fire grounds.

I have shed many tears over the past days as I empathise with those who have suffered this trauma. But you know what really gets the ugly sobs going for me? It’s the incredible compassion and kindness that is being shown all over the country.

People are opening their homes and businesses to those who have been evacuated. Donations of money and goods have been overwhelming. Individuals and organisations are doing what they can to ease the suffering of the animals that have been affected. Truckies are travelling long distances to deliver donated hay bales to affected farmers. Journalists are offering comfort and compassion during emotional interviews.

The outpouring of compassion is beautiful and touching. But it’s not endless. For in a few weeks when (hopefully) this disaster will have settled down, people will get back to their own lives while others are left to rebuild what is left of theirs. The images and stories will decrease over time and we will begin to forget the high emotions we all felt in the early days of January 2020. We’ll go back to road raging each other and complaining about mundane things.

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash

But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all continue to share some of this kindness and compassion throughout the year. We have seen that we all have the capacity for extending our love and generosity beyond our own families. Perhaps now is the time to think about what goodness you can contribute to the community as the year goes on. Join a community group like Rotary? Regular donations to charity? Volunteering? Maybe you just want to put a reminder on your calendar each month to check in with a lonely neighbour and take them a meal. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, but lets take this feeling of goodwill and carry it on beyond the current disaster. People who have been directly affected by the fires are going to need support for much longer than the news cameras are on them.

There are big changes that are needed at the Government level in terms of climate change. But instead of only focusing on that, I hope we can all focus on what we can do as individuals to bring more kindness into a world that is suffering. What are you achieving by spewing blame and hate about one Prime Minister from behind your keyboard? Try spreading something positive instead. Do some good in the world, and commit to carrying that beyond this moment of crisis.

Why set a yearly reading goal?

I am obsessed with hearing and reading about people’s goals. I think it’s fascinating to hear about different ways people are striving for change or improvement in their lives. And one of the really common goals I see is a reading target. People seem to like challenging themselves to read a certain amount of books in a year, or simply just to “read more”.

I’ve always been a book worm. But the last few years I decided to jump on the bandwagon and set myself a reading goal. I didn’t even know why… guess I just thought it would be an easy and enjoyable goal to aim for. But then I started discovering some unexpected benefits of setting this type of goal.

Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash
Reading goals can bring unexpected benefits.

How a reading goal can impact your life:

Reading opens your mind.

Whether you’re reading fiction or non-fiction, books can open your mind to new ideas, cultures, and experiences you never would have known about otherwise. Studies have shown that keeping an active mind may help to ward off Alzheimer’s.

You’ll use your time better.

Having a difficult reading goal encouraged me to get the hell off time-wasting social media apps and read books instead. At all those little moments when I’d normally open Facebook and scroll mindlessly, I’d remember my reading target and switch to my Kindle app or BorrowBox instead. I always felt much more satisfied with spending 5 or 10 minutes reading a book than scanning rubbish on Facebook. I even ended up deleting my social media apps so now I only get on Facebook for around 10 minutes a day on my laptop when I’m doing it with purpose.

You’ll take more time for yourself

On days when I arrived to work early, I read. When I was finished my lunch and tempted to end my break early to go back to work, I read. Finding opportunities to have some me-time can feel rare, but only because we are always rushing to the next thing. Having a goal of reading a certain number of books helped me put me-time above donating my time to work or other unnecessary demands.

You might make new friends.

My strong interest in reading has helped me make great connections with new friends who also read. Any reading nerd will understand the excitement they feel when they come across someone who shares the same favourite author! And apps such as Goodreads allows you to connect with others simply over books. No need to see what they ate for dinner or what political crap they’re rabbiting on about… you can just see what they’ve read recently and how they rated it! I’ve found heaps of great new books (and friends) this way!

You’ll experience mental health benefits.

When life gets a bit rough, getting lost in a book for a while can be excellent medicine. At the time of writing this post, there are devastating bushfires raging through Australia, wiping out huge areas of land, wildlife, property, and human life. It’s terrifying, heartbreaking, and as with any kind of crisis or natural disaster, addictive to watch the coverage on TV or social media. We can get hooked on following the live feeds which just repeat traumatic images and stories again and again. Waiting for new information, you are exposed to such extreme emotions and it’s hard to switch off. So today I’ve reminded myself of my reading goal and switched off from the repetitive live feeds for a while, giving my heavy and anxious heart a break from it all.

You’ll increase your intelligence.

I can get totally wrapped up in the story for the whole time I’m reading it. But as soon as I move on to the next one I completely forget the last one I read. Sometimes I can’t even remember if I’ve read the book at all! But every now and then I’ll come out with some little fact or piece of knowledge that shocks myself as much as everyone around me. ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ I find myself wondering. In most cases, it was from a book I read. Even the fiction books I’ve read have increased my awareness of stuff that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. This helps me to contribute to conversations, occasionally know an answer at a trivia night, and stay interested in the world around me.

My reading goal for 2020

My goal for 2020 is to read 28 books. These will be a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and I’ll be tracking them on Goodreads. Last year my goal was 25 and I reached 28, but it was challenging to get to that number so I thought I’d increase my target to that this year.

Do you have a reading goal for 2020? Even if it’s just 3 books, try setting yourself a goal and see how quickly you can tick it off. You might just find some unexpected benefits like I did!