Write every day to free your mind

For the last couple of years I’ve been setting myself a goal to write every day. All my life I’ve dreamed of being a writer, and one thing I know about a lot of professional writers is that they write every single day. They don’t just sit around and  wait for inspiration to strike. They pick up their pen, or sit at their keyboard, and write billions of words of utter rubbish. And somewhere among all the rubbish, they come up with beautiful gems.

Each time I set this goal to “write every day”, I reason with myself that it only has to be a small chunk of writing. It’s not like I have to write an essay or a novel every day. It can just be a brain dump of all the cray-cray stuff that whirls around my head day in and day out.

For example: “I wonder if my pepper feels smug that it gets used more than the salt. Or does it feel overworked and resent the salt? Does the salt feel unloved? Maybe I’ll put some salt on my veggies tonight.”

But despite the very low bar I’ve been setting for my daily writing, I found that I just wasn’t doing it. Until a few weeks ago when one morning I decided to just write. I had nothing interesting to write about, so I decided to go with a stream of consciousness style. This is the type of embarrassing drivel that you hope no one ever comes across in your notebook. It’s completely uncensored, often nonsensical, and entirely boring to go back and read through.

In the process of this first day of my “every day” writing, I was crapping on about how I just haven’t been able to achieve this goal in the past and I didn’t know why. And then I asked myself, “what if you did know why… what would the answer be?” And I came up with a gem.

The gem wasn’t in the beauty of what I had written, but the process of writing it. I was able to dig up the answer to my problem. The reason I haven’t been successful in this goal is because I didn’t feel like it was a valuable use of my time if I wasn’t writing something that could be published. It felt self-indulgent and pointless to just be writing a mundane journal entry. I didn’t see the value in just writing for the sake of writing if I didn’t have something specific and interesting to say.

But in that very entry I had proven to myself that there could be value in just writing for the sake of writing! I had answered a problem that I’ve had for years.

Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way recommends writing “morning pages”. Morning pages are just three pages of hand-written stream-of-consciousness (AKA drivel) every single morning. It clears all the rubbish out of your head and makes way for creative and clear thinking. Cameron explains that morning pages help us get “to the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods.”

So for the past few weeks I’ve been writing morning pages every day and I think I’m now on track with achieving this goal from my 20for2020 list. I allow a bit of extra time in the mornings so that I can write these pages in my car before I head into work. I’m sure I look like a total creep sitting in my car in the dark underground car park with my notebook, but hey, it works for me!

Most days the three pages are utter crap and I would be mortified if anyone ever read them. But there have been a few entries already that have produced gems – solutions to problems, brilliant ideas, and seeds of thought that may grow into something amazing in the future.

Whether writing is your jam or not, I encourage you to give this a go – even if it’s just for one week. See what kind of magic comes out of your mind when you give it access to ink and paper. Maybe you’ll solve some problems that have been bothering you, or maybe you’ll set free an amazing idea that has been brewing in your unconscious mind. If nothing else, you might just unload some of the rubbish that’s been rattling around in there so that you can think more clearly. It gets easier (and kind of addictive) once it becomes part of your daily routine.

Let me know if you try this and if you uncover any gems.

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My 2020 Theme Word: Responsibility

“You have to start taking responsibility,” my exasperated dad would cry to us kids when we were younger. We would roll our eyes and mutter “whatever” as we tried to skulk away from his complaints. Whether it was leaving our stuff lying around, avoiding our chores, or being general shit heads, “taking responsibility” seemed to be what we were lacking.

Taking responsibility has been a recurring theme in things I’ve been listening to (Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School) and reading (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson).

But it’s not just about picking your stuff up and doing your chores. It’s about knowing that you are responsible for how you think, feel and act. Sure, things happen in life that are way beyond our control, but what we CAN control is how we think about those things and respond to them.

It was taking me a while to get my head around this concept. When someone suffers any kind of abuse it’s important for them to understand that it’s not their fault. And now we’re going around saying they have to take responsibility?! Mark Manson has explained this so clearly: Fault and responsibility are two different things.

Someone else may be at fault for something they have done to you, but it is your responsibility to respond appropriately to that action and move forward. Some will remain traumatised and take on the identity of a victim. Taking responsibility means accepting that even though you didn’t ask for this event to happen, it did happen, and now it’s up to you to get through it.

My theme word for the year

My personal theme for the year 2020 is “Responsibility”. I’m working on taking more responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and actions.

No more blaming other people for how I feel. Every time I catch myself resenting someone or feeling as though they have caused me hurt or inconvenience, I remind myself to take responsibility. It doesn’t matter what they have said to me – I’m the one who has taken that on and made it mean something hurtful. I’m the one who can either let it drag me down or let it go and continue living my good life. I’m the one who needs to take responsibility for my feelings.

In The Courage to be Happy by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi, they say we need to stop talking about “that bad person” or “poor me”, and instead talk about “what should I do from now on”. I love that! It’s so much more hopeful and uplifting than rehashing the crappy stuff.

Taking responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and actions, is actually super empowering. It helps me feel more in control of my life and less like a victim. But it takes work! It’s like constantly having my dad in my ear: “You have to start taking responsibility!”

A late addition to this post:

As I was finalising the draft of this post, my dog heard a noise outside our house and barked as he leapt across my lap. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I half-dropped my laptop, pressing a number of random keys as I tried to grab it. So while I’ve just told you how I’m going to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility, I do blame my dog for any random typos in this post.

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My 20for2020 goals

The moment you’ve all been waiting for (haha)… I’m finally publishing my #20for2020 goals. In 2019 I tried Gretchen Rubin’s idea of setting small(ish) goals for the year rather than a couple of big resolutions. I didn’t tick everything off my list, but I did alright. The key was tracking my progress. Once I stopped tracking, I started forgetting about all the things I was working towards.

So this year, I’m setting 20 goals. Some relate to health and wellbeing, some relate to my physical environment, others relate to career goals, relationships, and community. We’re a month into the year and I’ve been working on some of these already.

Here’s my list of #20for2020:

  1. Run 5km
  2. Donate blood
  3. Read 28 books
  4. Introduce at least one new Rotarian
  5. Run my first Fly Life workshop
  6. Landscape backyard
  7. Have a weekend away for writing
  8. Declutter my house
  9. Have a skin check
  10. Physical activity every day
  11. Weekly gratitude practice
  12. Write every day
  13. Improve my greetings (show warmth and be less awkward)
  14. FebFast – no alcohol for the month of February
  15. Catch up with friends once a month
  16. Date night once a month
  17. Blog at least 24 posts
  18. Make an extra $1000.00
  19. Reduce waste
  20. Complete 3x 30-day meditation streaks

I’m planning to blog about some of these goals in future weeks, so if there are any you are particularly curious about, let me know in the comments! I’ll be explaining why the goal is important to me, how I’m working toward it, and how I’m succeeding or struggling with it.

I’m super excited about my goals. Although 2020 has started off pretty rough, knowing that I’m already making progress toward these things is a bit of a boost.

Have you set any goals or resolutions for the year? I’d love to hear about them!

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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Reviewing my #19for2019

At the beginning of 2019 I set myself 19 goals rather than one New Year’s Resolution. Now we are almost at the end of the year so it’s time to do a review of how I went!

I was doing great until I stopped tracking my progress. For the first 5 months or so I kept a detailed chart and it helped keep me on track and remind me constantly to keep working at my goals. Once I let that go it was harder to stay focused on those goals. But I still think I went okay.

Here are the results:

  1. Start swimming lessons with Archie – Achieved! He has participated all year and made the most amazing progress. For the first 6 months of lessons I bitched and moaned every week because it was a hassle and he didn’t seem to be enjoying it or getting anywhere. But then he started loving it and making great progress so now I look forward to it every week and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it.
  2. Rejoin Rotary – Achieved! I have joined a Rotary club again and I am enjoying being back in this community organisation where I can help make a positive difference in the world while making good friends at the same time.
  3. Write an e-Book – Not yet. I didn’t get around to this one but it’s still a long-term goal.
  4. Learn & use Pinterest better for my blog – Not really achieved. I dabbled. I’ll get back to it.
  5. Catch up with a friend at least once a month – I think I would have achieved this but I stopped tracking it so I couldn’t be sure. Tracking this one definitely helped me to make social plans when ordinarily it wouldn’t have taken priority in my mind. And I think I’m getting better at doing this now.
  6. Run my first workshop/seminar for Fly Life – Not yet. Maybe 2020! I had big plans, but then life got weird and this got sidelined until I can put all my energy and focus into it.
  7. Get my backyard sorted – Not yet. My backyard still looks like a sad little neglected desert. Maybe 2020. I thought I’d be able to do a lot of this myself but as is always the case when men get involved, it got too complicated and I lost interest. I just wanted to stick a raised garden bed in a corner, but no… first we must install drainage and blah blah blah… too hard.
  8. Get security screens installed – Achieved! Well, my husband really achieved this one but only because I nagged enough so I’m still claiming the victory.
  9. Have a weekend away by myself for writing – Not yet. Still definitely on my list though.
  10. Plan a surprise weekend away for my little family – Achieved! We had a lovely weekend I would like to do something like this more often.
  11. Read 25 books – Overachieved! At the time of writing this post I think I’m up to 28 and now I’m trying to see how close to 30 I can get, but I don’t think I’ll quite get that far.
  12. Declutter my house – Definitely not achieved! Every now and then I would work towards this a little bit but it was a drop in the ocean. Still so much work to do on this one!
  13. Cook a new recipe once a fortnight – I think I would have achieved this one or at least come very close to it. I have been trying heaps of different recipes and really enjoying cooking. It’s a bit harder now that I’m working full time again, but I still try to throw something new together as often as possible.
  14. Attend a blogging/business event – Not yet. This one will remain on my list.
  15. Have my women’s health check up – Achieved. I got this one out of the way early in the year.
  16. Move more – steps, yoga, swimming, SOMETHING – I did pretty well with this one, particularly while I was tracking my progress. I was going for walks most days before I started working full time a couple of months ago. Things have slipped a bit since then so it’s something I want to focus on again in the new year.
  17. Weekly gratitude practice – Not really… tracking this one helped but then I just kept forgetting. It makes such a difference though, so again, one that I will continue to work on in 2020.
  18. Write every day – Nope. I need to identify my barriers to this because I just found it really hard! But it’s still something I would like to be able to do.
  19. Experience something new with Archie every week – tracking this one was helpful because once I stopped tracking it I forgot to keep searching for new things. Also, when I went back to work full time it became much harder to fit new things in every week. But we did pretty well with this one and discovered some new places and fun activities!

Overall I did pretty well with my #19for2019. Focusing on this list for the year truly made me enjoy life more. The year had its challenges but looking back on what I achieved and what I enjoyed showed me that it was a pretty great year overall.

Achievements don’t have to be huge or impressive. Tiny positive tweaks are still life-changing.

Now to start planning my #20for2020!

What were your goals for 2019 and how did you go with them? I really love to hear about other people’s goals, so please share with me in the comments. Are you setting any new goals for 2020?

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That jerk is just afraid: a tactic for dealing with difficult people

Difficult people have the power to ruin our day… but only if we let them. Now, I know that’s usually easier said than done. But I recently discovered a way to reclaim my power when dealing with a jerk.

The next time you’re dealing with a difficult person, I want you to think about what they’re afraid of.

The story…

This particular A-hole that I dealt with several months ago was so aggressive, abusive, and intimidating. I lost sleep because of this dude, and anyone who causes me to lose sleep and is NOT my toddler, becomes my number 1 enemy.

Anyway, fast-forward a few months and I have to deal with him again. I got the sweats, the racing heart, the shaky hands. I started trying to think of ways to get out of it. But then I stopped and thought about why he was such a jerk. What was driving his shitty behaviour?

The answer was FEAR. He was advocating for his son, and he was so terrified of what life has in store for his young guy. The fear of losing control of things as his son got older was just too much for him to bear.

Hey, I could relate to fear. I would also feel desperately afraid in his situation. And I’d also probably forget my manners if this fear was overwhelming me. I’ve got no doubt that can be aggressive and intimidating if I feel the need to protect someone I love.

So now I was on the same page as this man. It didn’t make his previous behaviour okay, but I guess it made it a bit more understandable. I could now work with him and try to keep the conversation reasonable, or at least end it with some respect and empathy. Which is what I did in the end.

The common factor

So then I started thinking about some other ‘difficult people’ I’ve come across. Fear was a common factor. There was always something I could identify that they were afraid of and that probably drove their behaviour.

In none of the circumstances did understanding their fear suddenly excuse their behaviour. But it gave me a different perspective, and a new way of approaching them… or walking away from them.

Give it a whirl

If you’re dealing with a difficult person, I’d really encourage you to take a step back and think about what it is they might be afraid of. You don’t have to call them out on it. Just keep that thought to yourself and see if you can approach them a different way. Or… walk away confidently knowing that they may be afraid of something, but they have no right to make you feel afraid of them.

Let me know if you try this exercise and if it helps you deal with a douchebag. If you need some targeted help with conflict management, feel free to get in touch.

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