How to use your energy for the things you value most

WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?

Life gets busy. So busy in fact, that some days you skip breakfast, drink too many coffees just to try and keep your energy up, and snap at your loved ones because they just don’t get it. You probably don’t even mind being a bit busy – it’s better than being bored, right? But you take on more and more… and more… until you’re completely overwhelmed and heading straight to Burnout Boulevarde.

Every now and then you need to remember to stop and reassess your priorities. It can be so easy to get caught up in what’s urgent, what you feel obliged to do, or what other people need from you. When this happens, we tend to forget what actually matters most to us. And what matters most is what we should be spending the majority of our energy on.

For example, my family and my health & wellbeing are two of the top most important things to me. But when life gets busy, I tend to spend LESS energy on those things, and in fact sabotage them! When work gets really busy and stressful, I’m less inclined to spend quality time with my husband and I get frustrated with the baby being so needy. I spend all my energy on work and then I’m too tired to make healthy meals so I eat crap and don’t fit in any exercise.

What makes it so tricky is that my work is important to me too. But is it MORE important than family and health? Nope. So why does it get more energy than those things? It shouldn’t.

How you spend your energy should reflect your values.


Rank your values

Take a few minutes to list all the things that are important to you.

Now rank the top 5.

This can be really hard, but be honest with yourself. No one else needs to see this.

Here’s an example, but your list might contain totally different things, or in a totally different order.

List your top 5 values in order of priority

Rank your energy expenditure

Now you have to be even more honest with yourself… how are you currently spending your time and energy? Again, rank it from highest to lowest, and remember you’re just looking at the top 5 energy consumers in your life.

If it looks like this:

  1. Work
  2. Facebook
  3. Reality TV
  4. Sobbing into my wine glass
  5. Commuting to and from work

… then you’ve got a problem to fix.

Match ‘em up!

Once you’ve identified what’s important to you and how you’re currently spending your time & energy, it’s time to make some changes.

How can you re-structure your time and prioritise the things that are most important to you?

Sometimes just becoming aware of the difference between your priorities and your energy expenditure is enough to start making small changes.

But sometimes you need to make some really big, tough decisions. For example, if your job is sucking the life out of you but doesn’t even rank on your Top 5 values, it’s time to start looking for a new job. If your family is draining all of your energy but they’re not the number one value, you might need to start setting some boundaries and putting other things first.

Wrapping up…

This is a great exercise to do when life is getting busy or overwhelming, or when you just can’t seem to fit in things that are important to you. You might like to do this exercise as part of a regular review of your life and goals.

Remember that the point of the exercise is not to rank things that you think should be important to you. It’s not about ranking what other people value. It’s about what YOU value. If you really value reality TV more than work, GREAT! Make sure it ranks higher and find ways to put more of your energy toward that. This is all about identifying what you value most, and living for those values.

I hope you find this helpful and would love to hear what you think of the exercise.

How to keep your study motivation

How to keep your study motivation

Ahh the fresh start of a new school year. An exciting time for academic high-achievers! Your study motivation is high. This’ll be the term you stay on top of everything, submit stuff early, and get top marks in every assignment.

Your new books are just waiting to be filled with neat, organised, colour-coded notes. Your desk is clean and tidy. The unit outline reassures you that this subject is totally manageable… as long as you keep up.

But those first couple of weeks are a bit of a chore to settle back into school/uni life. The sun is still out and there’s too much stuff happening on the weekends. You’ll catch up next week.

Before you know it, your desk is scattered with junk, you don’t even know what week you’re up to on the unit outline, you haven’t started reading the textbook yet, and you’ve got two major assignments due next week. Panic and dread sets in. It’s so hard to catch up now.

I’ve been there.

It’s not just the bludgers that experience this cycle. Even nerds get the blues. In fact, I’d guess that nerds especially get overwhelmed, fall behind, and lose their study motivation.

And just so you don’t feel offended by me calling you a nerd – I’m a nerd. I love nerds. I think we should embrace our nerdiness. Plus “nerd” is easier to write than “academic high-achiever”.

There were so many times in my degree that I thought about quitting. I always got great marks, but I had to work so hard for them. And that made it hard to keep up with the rest of my life.

But instead of quitting, I used these strategies to get my way to the finish line.

8 TIPS TO GET YOU THROUGH THE SEMESTER

Alter the deadlines.

If you’ve got several assessments due at the same time, stagger them out a bit. Obviously you can’t extend the deadlines without getting approval, but you can bring some deadlines forward. By marking the due date in your calendar as a week earlier it a) gives you buffer space in case you get sick or something goes wrong, and b) separates the due dates out so that if things do get left till the last minute, it’s just one assignment at a time.

Avoid extensions.

Obviously there will be some situations where it just can’t be avoided, but if you can, resist the temptation to ask for an extension. All it does is kick the can down the road and make it a problem for your future self. Just get it done, even if it means sacrificing some social stuff, or some sleep, or some marks. I can hear the nerd in you gasp. Yes, I said you might lose some marks. In reality, you probably won’t, because you’re a nerd and you’ll do a great job anyway, even if it is last minute. Just get it submitted and move on to the next assessment so you don’t lose time on that one as well.

Break it down.

Have a look at the separate parts of the assessment and try to break it down into manageable chunks. Make each chunk it’s own mini assignment and set a due date for each part. Have a rough plan of how many words need to go into each part to make up the entire word count. Use your calendar or diary to plan out when you will work on each part. Leave time at the end to pull it all together.

Take note.

There are so many different ways of taking notes and it really is up to you to find a way that works for you. Personally, I prefer to hand-write my notes. Otherwise I just mindlessly type out the whole textbook and that’s kinda pointless. I ended up with a pretty good system for note-taking but it took me ages to get there. Let me know if you want more info on how I did it. But once you find a way that works, and start taking great notes, pulling the assignment together is actually the easy bit!

Keep your eye on the prize.

Imagining this moment is what got me through so many crappy assignments! (I looked a lot better in my visualisations though…)

There’s nothing worse than having to give up things you love (ie. time with friends, sleep etc) to work on a mind-numbingly-boring assignment. It makes you hate your course, your teachers, your non-studying friends who are free from this shit, and your life in general. So the key is to look past the immediate pain-in-your-arse and remember what the final goal is. Why are you even doing this course? How’s it gonna feel when you’re done? Picture yourself with that silly hat and gown at the finish line. And get the boring-ass assignment done so you can get back to your life!

Sharpen your focus.

Don’t spend ALL your time thinking about your studies. But the time you do spend, make it laser focused. Use the time well. There’s nothing worse than spending the entire weekend “studying” when realistically you’ve spent half of it on social media.

My favourite method of focusing is the Pomodoro technique. You set a timer for 25 minutes and work your little butt off. Then when the timer goes off, set it again for 5 minutes and do whatever you want in that break. Then set it for another 25. There are apps available for this – just search ‘pomodoro’.

Another tool I use is music. I can’t listen to anything with words or I start singing and paying too much attention to the music. So I just listen to instrumental playlists on Spotify. If you search for ‘study music’ or ‘focus’ or ‘concentration’ there’s heaps to choose from.

Sometimes it also means working at a different time of day to what you’re used to, or in a different physical environment. Perhaps at the library or a café. Find what helps you focus and keep doing that.

Have a countdown.

Sometimes keeping a countdown can be motivating. Total up your assessments for the term/semester and feel the satisfaction of crossing each one off. Or, countdown the weeks left until the next holiday. Count down the units you’ve got remaining in the course, or the days until you graduate. Seeing continuous progress can help to keep you focused and motivated.

Buddy up.

Find someone who has a similar study motivation as you do. Someone who takes it seriously and will support you in whatever way you need. Just talking through your assignment with someone who’s willing to listen will help you to clarify what it is you need to do. They don’t even need to be studying the same subject… or studying at all… but if they know it’s important to you and they’re willing to support you, even just knowing they’re on your side cheering you on can be enough to keep you going.

KEEPING PERSPECTIVE

Most importantly, keep some perspective. My friends will choke on their wine when they see ME giving this advice… but it’s really not the end of the world if you don’t get the High Distinction. I know it’s tough, and it may reduce your future options if you don’t have the marks your aiming for, but it’s more important that you finish the course with your sanity and health intact.

If you’re looking for professional support to get through your studies and keep your study motivation up, I’d love to help you out. My Study Coaching is tailored to your needs and we can do a one-off session here and there or a whole semester package to keep you on track. You let me know what you’re looking for and we’ll work it out from there. I’m not gonna get all salesy on you coz I know you’ve got bigger things to worry about right now. So feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call and we can work out a sweet deal. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep that new-semester feeling all semester long?

Okay, now stop procrastinating and get back to work.

5 Things my Yoga Teacher Taught Me That Changed My Life

5 things my yoga teacher taught me that changed my life

My first yoga teacher was a gentle, earnest, spiritual, and funny woman. When I started yoga, it was because I had quit smoking and was trying to find some other way to calm my mind and improve my body. I was at the beginning of my path to self-improvement, and Penny, my yoga teacher, was a strong supporter and guide. Without even realising it, she did so much to inspire me.

We became friends and she followed my progress with interest. I was honoured when she asked me to do some early editing of her audiobook, and I was always inspired by her constant search for ways to improve herself and to learn as much as she possibly could. She was in her late sixties, but had so much enthusiasm and zest for life.

I was so sad to learn this past week that she passed away recently. We hadn’t kept in touch these last few years after I moved away, so I wasn’t even aware that she was ill. I regret that I didn’t do more to stay in touch with this wonderful woman. Despite not staying in touch, she frequently pops up in my mind. She was such a positive influence for me, and there are many things she taught me that are always coming up in my day to day life.

5 things my yoga teacher taught me (that aren’t yoga postures):

Never stop learning.

Penny inspired me to complete my degree and then keep on learning.

Penny had such a thirst for knowledge and made me realise how fortunate we are to be able to learn pretty much anything we want. She struggled with technology but there was no way in the world she was ever going to let it beat her! I used to think I’ll just finish my degree and I’ll be done with education. But Penny inspired me to think of all the things I’d love to learn one day, and now I can’t ever imagine not working at learning something. I’ve developed her enthusiasm for constantly learning. Whether it’s through formal education channels, or teaching yourself something through YouTube and online tutorials, the possibilities are endless.

You can control your mind.

There are so many things in the world that are beyond our immediate control. But Penny taught me that no matter what is going on around you, the one thing you have full control over is your mind. With focus and practice, you can take yourself to where you want to be emotionally and spiritually. In times of intense fear and danger, I was able to remain somewhat calm by using this skill.

You don’t have to be the best, but you do have to be better than your previous self.

I’ve always been a bit of a high achiever, but I’ve never been the best at anything. The feeling of total inadequacy has been a constant thing in my life. Penny taught me through yoga that it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing or achieving. Their experience is different to yours. What matters is that you are working on being better than you were previously. I have taken this and applied it to all areas of my life. Instead of the constant feeling of inadequacy, I now have a frequent feeling of achievement because I know that however far from perfect I might be, I’m still better than I was before. And that’s progress. Penny was always far more excited about progress than she was about complete mastery!

Be true to yourself.

Penny was passionate about a lot of things. A lot of those things were a bit weird. She had some spiritual practices that would raise eyebrows simply because they were out of the ordinary. We would go out for lunch to a café and she would bring out this little gadget and put a tiny portion of her food inside it. The first time this happened I was very confused. Was she taking some home for a pet mouse or something? No, it was an offering to the Gods, she explained nonchalantly, then proceeded to say a prayer and then urged me to eat. While I did not feel the need to take up this practice (mainly because I don’t like to share my food), I loved and respected that it was an important practice to her, and she would not allow others to modify it.

I’ve since learned that this is a pretty common practice in some religions, but it was very rare to see it occurring in a public place in the country town I lived in.

You can teach others even while you are still learning yourself.

Penny had an expansive knowledge of yoga, but she was very open about the fact that she was still learning herself. There were some postures that she could not quite master, but she would still teach them to others and would show great excitement about the fact that we were all learning together. By being open and upfront about what you do and don’t know, and by continuing to learn with your students, you can in fact be a better teacher than one who believes they have mastered the subject and has nothing more to learn.

I will continue to miss Penny and to think of her often, because she truly helped to change my life. The principles I’ve mentioned in this post are some of the main drivers of Fly Life.

A challenge for you:

Think about who has inspired your beliefs, your behaviours, your dreams. Who do you want to be like?

Sometimes it’s not until someone is gone that you realise what a huge influence they have been in your life. So today I challenge you to think about who inspires you, and why. What have they taught you, or how have they changed the way you do things? If you want, you can just do this as a private exercise, but I’d love it if you would share your thoughts in the comments!

Personal Development: ‘Fly Life’ Style

Personal Development: ‘Fly Life’ Style

Personal development is such a huge field and probably means different things to different people. My interest in personal development started at a time when I realised that I couldn’t always change a situation, but I could change how I respond to it. I could change myself. So I started making tiny changes that rapidly built up until I was actually quite a different person to who I started out as.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve reached the end point in my personal development journey. I think it’s a lifelong pursuit to be a better person, to be someone you’re proud of, to live a life that you love and are proud of.

I’m not out to “fix” anyone or tell people what’s right and wrong. I’m just enjoying my own path to self-improvement and I like to share my own experiences and some things I’ve learned along the way through my studies.

My view on personal development, and what I hope to bring you through my blog, is this:

Personal Development Fly Life Style.

Always try to be a little bit better than the person you were yesterday.

Try to make someone else’s day a little bit better than it was before they interacted with you.

Be conscious of what kind of person you want to be, and work toward it.

Make gradual changes, have a go at new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking.

Life is a constant experiment. Have fun testing what works for you and what doesn’t.

If you don’t like something, change it, or at least change how you respond to it.

What it looks like in practice:

Some days you might experiment with developing a small habit, like say for example, making your bed or doing meal prep for the week. Other times you might experiment with something huge like starting a new career, studying a new field, or ending a toxic relationship.

I’m focusing big this year on just trying to always be a little bit better than I was before. Personal development is NOT about being better than someone else. It’s not about proving anything to anyone else. Really, it’s just about being who YOU want to be.

Even when I’ve had a bad day, I feel okay when I can go to bed knowing that at least I tried to do something positive about it.

You with me?

So if this seems like your version of personal development, self-improvement, growth…. whatever you want to call it… come hang out with me. Follow my blog, subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, or send me an email now and then. Let me know what you want to read about or talk about. Tell me what you find useful. Share your tips or experiment findings with other readers! Let’s make each day a little better than the one before.

9 Steps to Quit Smoking for Good

Quit smoking once and for all

9 TIPS TO QUIT SMOKING FOR GOOD

I had my first cigarette behind the chook shed with my best friend when we were maybe 13. It’s such a funny memory now. We had stripped down to our underwear so that our parents wouldn’t smell the smoke on our clothes. But I was still convinced three days later that mum might smell it on my breath. So I vowed after that first smoke that I would “quit smoking” because the stress of hiding it was just too much for me.

I think I was 16 when an older friend bought me a packet of smokes to help me get through a break-up (who does that?). With a whole packet of my own to practice on, and older friends to impress, it wasn’t that long before I was hooked. From the age of 18 I was smoking about 30 cigarettes a day. I tried to quit smoking on many occasions, using many different methods. It just never lasted.

I was in a relationship where my boyfriend smoked (even more than me), many of my friends smoked, and I spent a lot of time in the pub (when smoking was still legal inside). Smoking had just become part of my life.

What made it so hard to quit smoking?

I guess the hardest part of quitting was that part of me loved smoking. I loved the feeling of calm that came over me when I lit up. I loved that it was a good excuse to withdraw from a group for a brief period to step outside. It gave me something to do while I sat on my veranda for hours at a time. I loved the feeling of a fresh new pack each day in my hands.

All of this sounds so crazy now. But I was so attached to smoking at the time that the idea of quitting was just torture.

Deciding to quit smoking

In 2011 I decided once and for all that I wanted to quit. I thought about it for a long time and argued with myself. Sick of going through the pain of quitting only to take it up again, I wanted to be sure this time that I was ready. So I thought hard about why I wanted to quit.

At the time, a beautiful woman with a connection to my family was dying of smoking-related cancer. She had been one of the most vibrant, dazzling women I had ever met, and though I didn’t have a particularly close connection with her myself, her situation had a huge impact on me. She wrote about her cancer experience, and her regret for smoking. I read every word and thought about the fact that this woman had lived such a wonderful life and positively impacted so many people, and her impending death was going to shatter so many hearts.

And here I was, living a very-less-than-ordinary life, not making a positive impact anywhere, but smoking my little lungs away. I didn’t expect that my death would have quite the same impact on people, but I also realised that it wasn’t fair to put my family through it in any case. Smoking was something that I could choose to do or not to do. To quit smoking was one small way that I could show my family I loved them – not because they wanted me to quit, but because I didn’t want them to suffer the pain of watching another loved one die an avoidable death.  

But that wasn’t my only motivation.

Other reasons I quit smoking

  1. It was getting bloody expensive! I was spending a huge amount of money on smokes and missing out on other things. It sucked being broke all the time.
  2. I was a bit ashamed of being a smoker, so I spent a lot of time trying to hide my smoking and to make sure I didn’t smell offensive. This was effort that I realised I could spend on more interesting tasks and activities.
  3. I would get very anxious if I thought I’d be in a situation where I couldn’t easily have a smoke. I would even avoid certain situations if necessary. It was tiring having to plan ahead for smoke breaks all the time.
  4. I never had enough time for things I wanted to do. But I was smoking around 30 cigarettes a day. Each smoke would take about 5 minutes. That’s something like 2.5 hours every day that I was spending just on poisoning myself! Ridiculous!
  5. I don’t like being dependent. Whether it’s depending on a person or a thing, it makes me uncomfortable. I like to know that I’m in control of myself, and I certainly wasn’t when it came to smoking. I was entirely dependent on Peter Jackson. While I sometimes tried to fool myself that I was smoking because I chose to and because I enjoyed it, the reality was that I was smoking because I had come to depend on it.
  6. I was sick of being sick. “My immune system is weak” I would moan every time I got sick. Colds, flu, and chest infections were so frequent, and they would be severe and last a long time. I would be embarrassed every time I got sick, because deep down I knew that I would be a lot healthier if I didn’t smoke.

9 Tips to Quit Smoking Once and For All

Quit smoking once and for all

Focus on why you want to quit.

No matter how big or small, think of as many reasons as you possibly can that you want to be a non-smoker. Forget about the things you like about smoking. Don’t worry too much about all the things you hear about how bad smoking is (although it’s all important and valid). Really focus on your own reasons for quitting, like I did in the list above. Also, it helped me to think about it as “reasons I want to be a non-smoker” rather than “reasons I want to quit smoking”. It just felt more like I was moving toward something positive rather than moving away from something that I had somewhat enjoyed. I’m a big believer that you can’t quit an addiction until YOU want to and until YOU are ready. It doesn’t matter what everyone else’s reasons are – you have to convince yourself that YOU want to quit.

Give yourself a time frame.

Rather than just aiming for one solid quit date, give yourself a time frame in which to quit. You might aim for a week or a month (you probably don’t want it to be too much longer). As I spoke about in another post, I knew that telling myself I’d quit on the 1st of January was a mistake. That time of year is still too relaxed and full of social activities, and that’s when I knew I’d find it difficult to quit. The possibility of falling off the wagon once or twice was also strong, so I decided I’d give myself until the end of January to be a non-smoker. This worked. On the 9th of January 2011 I had my last smoke.

Identify linked habits.

What do you do that is linked to your smoking habit? Is it something that you can give up or change, perhaps temporarily? I quit drinking at the same time as I quit smoking. The two often went together for me, so it would be much harder to stay off the smokes if I was having a beer or wine. Giving up drinking and smoking was effing hard, but it was easier than only giving up one at a time. I drank soda water from a wine glass to make it feel like I was still enjoying a special drink until I got used to not drinking. I stayed off the booze for about 9 months I think, and by the time I allowed myself to drink again, the association had been broken. By then I loved being a non-smoker.

Track and reward your progress.

Do something that will help you see and celebrate your success. I literally gave myself gold stars. I had some pretty, sparkly gold star stickers like these ones. It might seem like such a small thing, but I think it was one of the key drivers for me. The satisfaction of putting that sticker on the calendar at the end of the day was huge. And gradually, my calendar started to look SO FREAKIN’ PRETTY! It sparkled and glowed and congratulated me every time I walked past it.

Focus on a project.

Distraction is your friend!I focused on decluttering my house. With all this extra time on my hands, I needed something to keep me occupied. So I worked on going through each room in my house and getting rid of anything that was just clutter. Not only was my body starting to feel cleaner, but so was my house. Admittedly, in the early days I was such an emotional wreck from the withdrawals that I probably threw out more than I normally would. My thinking would have been along the lines of “If I can’t smoke, then what’s the point having all these things? Life is going to be miserable anyway – INTO THE BIN!!!” (It wasn’t my most rational period).

Introduce self-care.

You’re going to feel pretty crappy for a little while, but I promise it gets better. In the meantime, do things to pamper yourself and make yourself feel good.I made a habit of regularly having a long luxurious bath with candles and a book. Also, I started eating better because I had more money for good food, and more time to cook it. There was a huge cupboard in my house full of lovely pampering products like hand creams, moisturisers, bath gels, etc. So, I started trying to use some of those each day. Now that I didn’t stink of cigarettes, I could appreciate the beautiful scented products on my skin.

Practice yoga/meditation.

Even in five-minute blocks, it can be a great replacement for smoking when it comes to stress relief. When I quit smoking, I joined a yoga class. I was so nervous and made sure I got a spot in the back corner. But it soon became my new addiction as I developed an appreciation of my body, extended my skills each week, and learnt beautiful relaxation techniques which were much more useful than smoking.

Have a trusty sidekick. 

Find a non-judgmental support person who will encourage you. The day I quit smoking, I had a brand new packet of smokes in my bag. My best friend, a non-smoker, was always supportive of my efforts to quit, without being a bully about it. I knew I could trust her to guard my “emergency pack” and that she wouldn’t let me have them unless it was really, really desperate. Knowing that I already owned a pack prevented me from going and buying more in the weak moments. But knowing I’d have to ask my friend to give them to me made me consider whether I really needed them. She was so strong – there were times in those first weeks where I was crying and really struggling to break the addiction. It would have been much easier for her to hand me the pack and shut me the hell up, but she never did. She just kept telling me how proud she was of me, and how well I was doing. You need to have someone on your side.

Acknowledge the difference.

Try to be really conscious of how different you feel. The first few days were usually the hardest for me, but even several months later I’d have weak moments where I’d really miss smoking. So I tried to always be mindful of how nice it felt to breathe fresh air, to have time that I could use productively, to not be sick all the time, to have more energy. Even now, eight years later, I’ll occasionally walk past someone who’s smoking and I’ll get a bit of a craving. So instead of thinking about how smoking felt, I force myself to think about how I feel now.

How I feel now, 8 years later

I’m so glad I quit when I did. Without a doubt, it was bloody hard. Addiction is a beast of a thing, and I was so heavily addicted to cigarettes that there were times I thought I didn’t want to live if I couldn’t be a smoker. Crazy huh? I’d tell myself things like “you’ve gotta die of something, may as well be something you enjoy.” But since quitting, I’ve discovered things I enjoy even more, and they’re not even gonna kill me!

I rarely get sick now (although that changed recently when my baby started day care and started bringing a heap of germs home). Even when I do get sick though, I recover a lot quicker.

I now own a house, a car, and plenty of nice things and I go on real holidays. Yeah, so I have a mortgage, but even that would have been impossible with how much I was spending on smokes.

With all the extra time (and self-esteem) I had when I quit, my life started to turn around in so many more ways. I took up study, I joined volunteering groups, I got a job I loved, I left a toxic relationship and built a loving, respectful relationship. It was such a huge turning point for me.

Most of all, as a non-smoker for 8 years, I FEEL FREE.

To sum it up:

If you’re considering quitting smoking, or some other habit that you don’t want in your life, do it.

  1. Start by focusing on reasons you want to be a non-smoker.
  2. Set a time-frame where you will work on quitting. Aim to quit as early as possible in that time frame, but give yourself some leeway if needed, and then keep trying the next day.
  3. Identify your habits that are linked with smoking, and either change them or quit them as well.
  4. Track and reward your progress. This might be something as simple as gold stars on the calendar, or perhaps you’ll buy yourself a treat with the money you’ve saved on smoking.
  5. Focus on a project to keep yourself distracted. This will also give you something to show for all the extra time and energy you have.
  6. Introduce self-care and pampering to get you through the crappy feelings of breaking the addiction.
  7. Practice yoga or meditation. Even if you just use YouTube to find some quick 5- or 10-minute videos, it’s a great replacement for the stress relief that you once got from smoking. I know it’s not everyone’s thing, but at least give it a try.
  8. Have a trusty sidekick. Having someone to support you is really important. Also remember that there are resources like Quitline to get counselling and support.
  9. Acknowledge and focus on all the positive differences throughout your quit journey. Every time you have a craving, think instead about the things that have improved since you quit.

I’m not saying that you’ll never feel like smoking again. But using these strategies has helped me to remain a non-smoker, even through some really difficult times.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any other tips to suggest. Or feel free to email me if you have any questions or would like some support to begin your journey toward being a non-smoker.

Good luck – YOU CAN DO IT!

Books I read in 2018

books i read in 2018

I had a goal of reading 25 books in 2018. I made it to 20 and I’ll probably finish one more before the year is out. So close!

Here is a round-up of the books I read this year. I love to read, and I love it when I can recommend good books to others.

But a big problem I have is that even when I super-duper LOVE a book, I quite often completely forget the details, or even what it was about! All I remember is that I loved it and I couldn’t put it down.

So I thought this would be a good exercise in trying to stretch my memory back into the books I read this year.

Before we go further I should let you know that this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase one of the books on this list after clicking on the link, I get a small commission. It doesn’t change how much you pay for the book, just puts a little moolah in my pocket. The links are in the titles of the books and also if you click on the images. Clicking on the links will also let you read full reviews and descriptions on Amazon.

Emma’s 2018 bookshelf

Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

Book cover: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

This Goodreads Choice 2017 winner has a rating of 4.37 stars and over 171,000 ratings. So I was pretty confident that it would be a good book, and I was right. From memory, it was about a family torn apart and children stolen as part of an adoption scandal. It was really heart-wrenching, and even more so when I realised it was based on a true story.

The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams, Katie Kirby

Book Cover: The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams, by Katie Kirby

Absolutely hilarious!! My mother-in-law gave me this book after we called our baby Archie. My husband and I often give voices to our dogs and our baby, making them “say” ridiculous and grown-up things. This book was written from the perspective of a 2¾-year-old boy with a very naughty grown-up attitude! It had me shaking with the giggles and tears rolling down my face. If you’re looking for something quick and easy and funny to read, this is the one.

We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter

Book cover: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

To be honest, I can’t remember much about this book. I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads, which generally means it didn’t make me cranky or bore me to tears, but I just didn’t love it enough to rave about it. It was about a Polish Jewish family surviving under Nazi occupation. There were a lot of characters to follow, and it was a good story with some quite interesting bits. But nothing that really stuck with me.

The Ladies of Missalonghi, Colleen McCullough

Book cover: The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

I pretty much love anything written by Colleen McCullough (author of The Thorn Birds). And this book was no exception. A nice easy read. Set in the Blue Mountains. Can’t remember much more about it but I rated it 4 stars!

Bittersweet, Colleen McCullough

Book cover: Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

This one was okay, but not one of my favourite Colleen McCullough books. Set in Australia during the Depression, and telling the story of four sisters finding their independence in their nursing traineeships. I only rated this one 3 stars.

The Judge’s Wife, Ann O’Loughlin

Book cover: The Judge's WIfe by Ann O'Loughlin

I really enjoyed this one. It’s about a young woman uncovering secrets and mysteries from the past. A 1950s love story and scandal. Intriguing and emotional.

The Alice Network, Kate Quinn

Book cover: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

I loved this book! It tells the story of one woman working as a spy in France in the Great War, and an American woman searching for her cousin in 1947. The two storylines are quite different but come together nicely. I think it took me a while to get into one of the storylines, but once I made a couple of little connections, I was good to go.

Once We Were Brothers, Ronald H. Balson

Book cover: Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson

This story begins with a Holocaust survivor pointing a gun at and accusing a wealthy American businessman of being a Nazi officer. The story is of the lawsuit that follows, and the memories of a Jewish boy whose brother became a Nazi. I enjoyed this book. It only got three stars from me, but I can’t remember what dragged it down. Overall it rates 4.37 stars on Goodreads with lots of ratings, so maybe it was just my mood at the time.

The German Girl, Armando Lucas Correa

Book cover: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

I only rated this one 2 stars, which is a pretty rough rating from me. I just kept waiting for something to happen. It was a weird and confusing story and I can’t tell you much more about it!

Sisters One, Two, Three, Nancy Star

Book Cover: Sisters one two three by Nancy Star

This is another one I loved at the time but then forgot all about. It digs up family secrets and unravels mysteries that have shaped the personalities and relationships in the story. Complex mother-daughter relationships, flawed but interesting characters, and a secret reveal made this an enjoyable read.

The Smallest Part, Amy Harmon

Book cover: The Smallest Part by Amy Harmon

This was a beautiful story of love, friendship, and loss. I liked the characters and it was a nice easy read that I found hard to put down. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a couple of Amy Harmon’s books and liked them, so I might check out some others in 2019.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

Book cover: Quiet by Susan Cain

This book is often referred to in personal development, happiness, and personality discussions. I’m very much an introvert myself, which influences a lot of my personality and preferences. Learning more about what that means and how I can still thrive as an introvert has been life-changing. This book was interesting and easy to read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who thinks they are an introvert.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book cover: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I always try to fit in a couple of “classics” and this was one I had been curious about for a while. I didn’t love it. It was only toward the very end that I started to actually develop any interest in it, and it clawed it’s way back up to 3 stars. I was left wondering if maybe I just didn’t “get it”. Perhaps it’s the sort of book I’d enjoy more if I was forced to study it deeply and discuss the various themes. But I’m kind of glad no one is going to force me to do that.

Beartown, Fredrik Backman

Book cover: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I have found my new favourite author. I loved ‘A Man Called Ove’ which I read last year, so I decided to give the author another go. Beartown was incredible. I could not put it down. It explored some really powerful themes and emotions in a really accessible, realistic, and often-amusing way. I was just blown away by this book.

Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper

Book cover: Out of my Mind by Sharon M Draper

I love books that are written from a child’s point of view. And I love working with people with disabilities and discovering unique and wonderful things about them. This book is about an eleven-year old girl with a photographic memory and more intelligence than anyone at her school (including the teachers). But she also has a disability which involves no fine or gross motor control, and she is non-verbal. So she’s usually perceived as being unable to learn. Until she gets access to a communication device that has the potential to change her life. Unfortunately, a device alone is not enough to give a person equal opportunity. The prejudices and attitudes of society also have to change. This was such an easy-to-read book. I think it’s actually written for young people / kids. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winging It, Emma Isaacs

Book cover: Winging it by Emma Isaacs

If you ever find yourself unable to start something because you don’t know how, or because you don’t have everything perfect, you should read this book. We too often get paralysed by our fear of looking silly or of failing. But sometimes you just have to take a leap and then figure it out. I’m doing more of that as I get older, and sure sometimes the plan changes mid-way. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. But other times it grows into something more than I could have expected. This book reinforces that.

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, Stephen Guise

Book cover: Mini Habits by Stephen Guise

This guy has come up with the idea of breaking habits down into something so small that you can’t NOT do it. For example, his goal of getting fit was broken down into just one push-up per day. He finds that once he does the one push-up it’s easy to do a few more. And over time because he has succeeded every single day, it builds into a more positive self-belief which makes it easier to build on the habit. However, one of his other “mini habits” was to write just 50 words per day, and sometimes it’s very clear that the book has been written that way. It jumps around a bit, and his enthusiasm and energy is clearly portrayed in the writing, but it sometimes felt like following a kid with ADHD and a belly full of sugar through a busy carnival.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, Fredrik Backman

Book cover: My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

Ah, another one from my newest literary love. This book had me laughing and crying. Again, exploring deep themes with humour and incredible writing. It used an interesting technique of delving into some fantasy and fairy tales, which, if done by any other author would probably annoy the hell out of me. But it was done in such a clever and tolerable way that it did not ruin the book in any way for me. This book also sets a bit of background for another one of his which I’ll get to shortly.

#GIRLBOSS, Sophia Amoruso

Book cover: #girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

From dumpster diving and eBay selling to CEO of a multi-million dollar company, Sophia Amoruso tells her badass success story. This was a motivating and inspiring read, and I would especially recommend it to girls who don’t necessarily fit into the “standard” expectations of society. The girls who have the smarts but don’t like school, or can’t find a job they can stick with.

Britt-Marie Was Here, Fredrik Backman

Book cover: Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Okay, as soon as you finish reading this post, you need to go and buy ‘My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises’. Read it, and then URGENTLY buy and read this one. I loved it so much that I started fretting when I got more than halfway through because I didn’t want it to end. But I couldn’t put it down. I was reading while cleaning my teeth, I was reading in my car if I got to work a bit early, I was reading at 3am after feeding the baby. You don’t actually have to read ‘My Grandmother…’ first, but I’m glad I did because there’s a character in that one (Britt-Marie) who is then the main character of this one. I loved that it built on what had already been painted of her in the first book. My husband actually got a bit irritated with my constant giggling as I read this book. I just loved how well it was written, and how such a pain-in-the-arse character became so lovable and heroic.

The winners

My favourite fiction book was Britt-Marie Was Here, but it was very hard to choose between the Fredrik Backman ones!

Favourite non-fiction was probably Quiet by Susan Cain.

My goal for reading books in 2019

I’ll aim for 25 books again in 2019. I think I managed to get through as many as I did this year because for the first few months of the year I was breastfeeding and up a lot during the night when it was quiet and I had to keep myself awake. So I’m not sure if I’ll get as far in 2019, but I’ll try. I love that reading opens up my mind to new ideas and different lives. I like a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, classic and contemporary.

Join me on Goodreads

I love to get recommendations from other people. Reading is so much more enjoyable when you can share the experience! Let me know any of your favourite books or authors in the comments, or join me on Goodreads.

#19for2019 – My 19 Goals for 2019

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After listening to the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin & Liz Craft, I’ve decided to set my own #19for2019 list of goals. These are some things that I’d really like to do in 2019. As I was writing the list I thought I was being pretty realistic, but after looking back on it I’ve realised it’s actually a bit ambitious. But I like to be ambitious! 

I’m publishing my list even though that scares me. I don’t like to share my goals because I worry about what people will think if I fail. But I think it’s also a great way to stay motivated and accountable. I’ll check in every now and then and let you know how I’m going with the list! 

So here it is… my #19for2019:

#19for2019
#19for2019
  1. Start swimming lessons with Archie 
  2. Rejoin Rotary
  3. Write an e-Book
  4. Learn & use Pinterest better for my blog
  5. Catch up with a friend at least once a month
  6. Run my first workshop/seminar for Fly Life
  7. Get my backyard sorted
  8. Get security screens installed
  9. Have a weekend away by myself for writing
  10. Plan a surprise weekend away for my little family
  11. Read 25 books
  12. Declutter my house
  13. Cook a new recipe once a fortnight
  14. Attend a blogging/business event
  15. Have my women’s health check up 
  16. Move more – steps, yoga, swimming, SOMETHING
  17. Weekly gratitude practice
  18. Write every day
  19. Experience something new with Archie every week

So that’s my list! Now I’m going to have fun planning and plotting and scheduling some of this stuff into my diary so that it doesn’t get forgotten… 

Want to join me? Try to think of 19 things you want to do in 2019. I’ve made mine a mix of big projects, regular activities, new habits, and things I can tick off relatively quickly and easily. I’d love it if you share your list with me! 

Start planning now for your best year ever!

There’s something at this time of year I get even more excited about than Christmas. Don’t get me wrong – Christmas is great. I love the special time with family, the music, the food and drink, the games… and of course I love tracking Santa so I know when it’s time to go to bed.

But there’s something else that I get really excited about, but I never tell anyone. It’s the approaching new year. A fresh start! The opportunity for new goals and resolutions! A brand spankin’ new diary!!! Squeeeeaaaal!

I really do believe that you can start a new goal or a new resolution any old time. But at the start of a New Year is obviously the ultimate starting point.

This gets a little tricky in one way. Here in Australia we are still often in holiday mode right throughout January. Even if we’re back at work, the long summer days and hot weekends tend to mean more socialising and relaxing than normal. Which in turn can be detrimental to your goals… unless of course your goal is to socialise and relax more.

So the way I handle this is to treat all of January as my starting point. I work on my new goals with the plan to have them firmly in place by the end of the month.

Make the whole month the starting point, not just Jan 1.

For several years I tried to quit smoking. I tried at all different times of the year, but it was always a New Years Resolution. It was eight years ago that my resolution changed slightly. Instead of “Quit Smoking on January 1”, my resolution became “Be a healthy non-smoker by the end of January”.

Quit Smoking
I had the whole month to practice quitting, but after I got through the first three days I knew that it wasn’t worth going through it again. So I quit on the 9th of January 2011 and haven’t looked back.

I was still on holidays from work for that first week of January, so trying to completely stop smoking during that time would be a disaster. Like it had been every other year! But every other year when I failed on day two and had a cigarette, I just accepted that I’d failed my resolution again, and went on smoking.

This time though, things were different. During that first week of January I would think about quitting every time I lit up. I would try different techniques like delay and distraction for as long as possible. But when I eventually caved and lit the cigarette, rather than calling myself a failure, I acknowledged that I was making progress and there was still time to quit before the end of the month.

The last time I smoked a cigarette was 9 January 2011. Almost 8 years ago. I was successful that time for a number of reasons, which I’ll write about in another post, but one important reason was that I’d given myself some room to move. Maybe that would work for your resolutions, and maybe not. But it’s something to consider!

All I know, is that year I changed how I approached my New Year’s Resolutions, and that was the beginning of a totally new and happier life.

Start planning now.

Anyway, back to my geeky excitement over the prospect of setting resolutions…

New Year’s Resolutions are too important just to make on a drunken whim on New Year’s Eve.

Start thinking now about how you want next year to look. More than that, how do you want it to FEEL?

Imagine this: It’s this time next year. You bump into an old friend who asks how your year has been. Your response is: “2019 was my best year EVER! Nothing could have been better!” Now pick apart what things might have happened during the year that could lead to that statement.

You might have just identified some goals to work toward!

Start thinking now about how you want 2019 to look. Having the plan formulating in the back of your mind will help set you up for success.

There’s no need to sit and do a whole planning session right now. I’m sure there’s a million other things you need to get done before the fat man in red turns up. But I think it’s good to at least have this stuff swirling around in your mind so that when you do sit down to do some serious planning, you’re already primed.

Looking back on this year.

I think it’s always important when looking forward to your new goals, to also reflect on the past. It’s good to recognise what went really well, because this encourages us to keep going. Acknowledging what the challenges were helps us to plan for similar situations in the future.

Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself:

Ask yourself some big questions to reflect on the year that has just passed.

  • What has gone particularly well for you this year?
  • Did you achieve something great?
  • What did you work really hard at?
  • What is your happiest memory of the year?
  • Are there things you could have done better?
  • What things about the year do you wish you could have changed?
  •  What was the hardest thing you faced this year? How did you get through it?

These questions might also feed into how you setup your resolutions for the New Year. We want more of the good stuff and less of the crappy stuff!

Set aside a planning date.

Those days between Christmas and New Year are a beautiful time to set aside some time to sit and work through all of this in detail. You are setting your year up for happiness and success, so it’s worth putting a little bit of time and effort into.

Set yourself up for an explosion of possibilities!

For me, I’ll be trying to put aside a couple of hours at least. The house will need to be quiet. I will need a glass of wine and a clear desk. I’ll reflect on 2018, and plan for 2019. Perhaps I’ll consider the different domains of my life and have resolutions for each one. Maybe I’ll think about doing my own Happiness Project (which I’m currently reading). Or maybe I’ll have an overarching theme for the year that I’ll break down into goals.

Ohhhhh the possibilities. I can’t wait to let my mind explode with ideas, visions, goals, and plans.

And perhaps in another 8 years’ time, just like my quit-smoking achievement, I’ll be able to identify this as another significant turning point in my life.

Will you join me in setting up 2019 to be your best year ever? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Let’s NOT catch up before Christmas!

She’s making her list and checking it twice. Make that six times. Because even though she looked at it five other times, she was also juggling a screaming baby, trying to get the washing in, doing some overtime, and answering a bajillion questions from her husband. So she forgot what was on the list.

But now she’s checked it six times and rushed out to get some late-night groceries after the baby has gone to bed. Don’t worry, daddy is home with the baby! She’s madly trying to find everything in the store and wondering how far in advance she can buy Christmas food. Will it go bad? Will it get eaten before Christmas meaning not only that it goes BACK on the list, but so does a new pair of jeans in a bigger size?

She’s just remembered the Christmas party this weekend that she needs a Secret Santa gift for. Add that to the list. She’s wondering if she’s got the energy to get a few gifts from K-mart after this since it’s the only place she can think of that’s still open at this hour.

And then she turns the corner and sees a familiar face. It’s an old friend she hasn’t seen in a while. They have a great chat about how busy and stressed they both are. And then comes the dreaded phrase she knew was coming…

“Anyway, let’s catch up before Christmas!”

WHYYYYYYY dear God?! WHYYYYY?

One of two scenarios often happen next:

  • They agree on a time and place and she goes home feeling more overwhelmed and stressed.
  • They agree to catch up but don’t arrange anything specific so she feels stressed anyway and awkwardly avoids that friend until the same thing happens sometime next year.

Now step this way, and stay with me…

Imagine for a moment. You’re working at a retirement home and there’s an assembly for all the female residents. Tom Jones swaggers in and promises to take one lucky lady out for dinner. The first person to reach the stage wins.

Suddenly you have old ladies who haven’t walked in years leaping out of their wheelchairs. Others are whacking the competition with their walking frames, with a strength they certainly didn’t have when you were asking them to move from their bed to the chair.

Nobody gets between Martha and Tom Jones

Hips are breaking, wigs are flying. You’re trying to push three wheelchairs at a time so as not to show any favouritism. Martha reaches the stage and Harriet screams that Martha’s a no-good lesbian cheat. (Harriet’s not a nice person actually, and we’re secretly glad she didn’t win after this snarky comment).

The residents from the dementia ward next door have just arrived and most of them believe they’re under attack. And now you’ve been informed that you must assist everyone back to their rooms within the next ten minutes…

Hectic, right?

This scene is maybe a bit fun to watch,  but also panic-inducing and very alarming! That’s what life is like in the lead up to Christmas. (I promise I’ll work harder on my metaphors).

But seriously, life is crazy at this time of year. So unless there’s some urgent pressing reason you NEED to catch up with that person in the very near future, DON’T!

Catch up after the craziness when you can relax and enjoy!

It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them or value them. It means that you value your sanity. And it also means that you value that person enough to want to save the catch-up until after Christmas, when things are quieter and calmer. When you can relax together and laugh about all the family madness you’ve both experienced over Christmas.

I’ve started politely declining invitations to catch up before Christmas. Most people understand when you say that you just can’t fit more in but would love to catch up after Christmas.

You know that quiet period when you feel a bit lost because all the excitement and madness is over? You’ve come out of your food coma and you’re ready to face the world again. The only thing you really should be doing is that big decluttering project that you swore you’d do in your holidays… THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME to squeeze in those extra catch-ups!

So do whatever is right for you in the lead-up to Christmas. If catching up with friends is what gets you through the season, do it. But if it adds a layer of stress, just lovingly say no. Arrange a later session instead. Start the new year with some fun social engagements to look forward to.

How do you feel about pre-Christmas catch-ups? Love them? Hate them? Think I’m just a grumpy loner who doesn’t get it? Let me know in the comments!

Surviving grief

So many people I know and love are grieving at the moment. I have been absorbed in my own grief for the past two years after my friend was killed in a tragic theme park accident. Dealing with grief has been one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. So to witness my loved ones experiencing it now is tough. There is nothing I can say or do to make it better for them.

My husband’s cherished grandmother passed away very recently. The grief has hit him hard. For many years she has been warning the family that she won’t be around the for the next Christmas. So I guess in a way we all thought we were prepared for this. But you can never really be prepared to lose someone you love, regardless of their age or the circumstances leading to their death.

Other friends and loved ones have recently lost their dads, their mums, their brothers, their sisters, their partners, their pets, their mates. And they weren’t prepared either.  In fact, most of the deaths were sudden and unexpected.

Grief is an emotion that can have more power than anything you’ve experienced before. It hits you when you least expect it. A smell, a song, an object, a phrase… tiny details that trigger massive waves of emotion.

Not the kind of waves that lap at the shore, either. The kind that knock you over, drag you under, and throw you around until you don’t know which way will bring you back up to the air.

Over time, you might learn to let the wave drag you under. You’ll learn to stop fighting it,  just give in to it, knowing that once it does its thing, you’ll eventually float back up to the surface.

Soon, you’ll start to see the wave coming, and you might learn to swim into it, making it a much less frightening experience. Eventually, the waves will mostly just lap at the shore. Consistent, frequent, but manageable.

And then it will only be the very occasional moments that you’ll get hit by a strong one again when you’re not looking. You’ll be dragged under, tossed around, and eventually come back up for air thinking, “where the hell did that come from?”

Surrender to the grief and let love be your lifebuoy.

They say grief is the price we pay for love. When you’re experiencing grief, it makes love seem too expensive. Like if you knew it was going to cost this much, maybe you would have left it on the shelf. But in time, when the initial pain has dulled a little, you remember all the happiness. You realise that the value of the love was much higher than the cost.

 

So surrender to the ocean of grief. Love will be your lifebuoy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Grief is a very normal and healthy emotion and process. But if you are having difficulty dealing with your grief and need support, please speak with a professional or someone you trust.