One of the little things that I ask of people that I coach and mentor is a very simple and mundane thing – I ask them to make their bed every day. It only takes a minute to pull the duvet up, straighten the pillows and make sure it all looks good.
It really seems so silly, that such a small thing would have such a big impact, but it really does. Making this task automatic means that you achieve the first task of the day before you even leave your room, and by doing it, it sets the mind up to “do more” with the day. It also gives you a little lift when you see it later, especially if you come home after a crappy day.
Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.
If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack (—rack— The Navy term for your bed.)
It was a simple task–mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs – but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
This one’s actually not that easy to write… The concept is a slippery one, and I keep false starting the writing in my head, I suspect because I’m holding on too tight to the concept! (I also have “Let It Go” from Frozen in my head, which is both helpful and not in equal amounts! 😉 )
It is a counter intuitive concept after all, in some ways. We all carry baggage, both good memories and bad, and generally, these memories shape how we interact with the world. This can keep us trapped in the past, very much preventing us being present in the now.
And whilst knowing how the world works can be a good thing, letting go is very scary. After all, some of the things that we carry that drag us down we don’t even consciously think about any more. The negative experiences become part of “us” – But letting go of these negatives means removing known structures, removing the “comfort blanket” of what we think we know about how the world works.
And of course, as we know, the Amygdala likes keeping us in known past patterns, because “change is bad right?”
However, we don’t need to make a fuss about letting go, we just make the choice to see how are Amygdala is working and simple brush past that. In essesence, there is nothing to it but to do it.
Take Wednesday just gone for example. Around 2 weeks ago, my Central Heating Boiler started making very very loud noises and then turning itself off after running for 4 hours or so.
I’m pretty hands on, so I do the obvious stuff; check the water pressure, check the condenser outlet isn’t blocked outside, bleed the radiators to get rid of air then re-pressurise the system. But nope, if anything, the noises be worse and it starts turning itself off even more.
It’s overdue servicing anyway, as I’ve been a bit lax with managing that. So, I ring the servicing company and I’m quoted £95 for the service and an additional £85/hr call out for the repairs labour.
I’m good with that, the company are a good & reliable company with well trained staff, not rip off merchants at all.
So, the chap turns up and does his thing. The boiler was in generally good shape, but what was causing the noise and turning off issue was Limescale gunk build up in the Condenser trap (the other end of the pipe I checked outside!) – which had built up cos of my lax servicing.
So, how is this about letting go? As I was brushing my teeth Wednesday morning, waiting for the repair person to show up, my brain leapt to “what if my boiler is totally broken… where will I find ~3K from?”
Which could have causes a spiral panic, and all the yukky fear that goes with that. Instead, I then just saw the thought for what it was, shook my head at the silliness of the thought and let it wash out as a negative voice thought… I let it go.
That thought came from a scarcity mentality, from the past when where I worried about money and lived a small life because of that. Now, because I know the universe has my back and I let abundance in, this story also has a good ending – As it was a simple fix, the admin lady back in the office only charged me for 1/2 hour labour, so the bill was actually £42.50 less than expected!
So, how do we go about being able to let go? It’s nothing but simple practice really; the brain is a bit like a puppy, it runs around enthusiastically, going everywhere willy nilly in the territory that it knows. What we have to do is obverse our own thoughts, and when they start to stray into negative patterns or repetitive thoughts, we simply have to “pick up the puppy”, acknowledge that it was getting a bit wild running about over there in the past and bring it back to the present.
The more that you do this, the better you will get, as by seeing your own patterns you can then learn that they are just that, repetitive patterns, and that by holding onto them, you are almost certainly not serving your higher good.
Conversely, we don’t want to stop the puppy running about, because we would lose inspirational thoughts, what we want to do is just observe and train our puppy to walk the lighter, more inspirational paths, and generally leave the dead-end negative ones alone; just take a sniff at it, know it’s not worth the effort and then pass it by.
Whilst doing this day to day is good, you might want to kickstart the “puppy-training” learning process with a touch of meditation. Have a go and see what arises for you. This is a short meditation, will take around 15 minutes.
Find a comfortable posture for you.
Sit, stand, lie, whatever you want and however you can be relaxed. Close your eyes or not as you feel. Become aware of your breathing and take slow full belly breaths. (Often, we breath in small pants, with only with the top of our lungs, meaning we are really not taking in enough oxygen to keep our brain working at optimal speed)
Then, notice, right now, the position of your body has ended up in and how it feels.
Are you balanced through your spine, or are you canted to one side? Can you feel any physical tensions in your body? Do any parts feel warm? What about cold? If there is tension, or pain, could you give it a description? A shape, a colour or a texture? Be aware of these tensions. Also, what happens to the tensions and pains as you become aware of them? Do they release or stay with you?
Next, become aware of emotions that are touching you at the moment. What happens when you observe your emotions? Can you rate how strong the emotion is? At this point, don’t try to let go, just feel it. Counter-intuitively, putting effort into letting go creates more tension – instead, simply become aware of it, acknowledge it and allow the emotion to take its course. If you want to laugh, laugh! If you want to cry, or yell do so. There is no wrong here, it’s all good to simply feel. Us “logic based westerners” generally don’t do enough of it. Take a good belly breath or two. If any of the feelings lingers on, for the now, be okay with that, and accept it as it is. If things do linger, there are other tactics that we can use to process these, but that’s not a topic for right now. Just know that you are going to have more work to do later.
Finally, are you willing to let go of anything that you found out?
Is there anything that you’re now holding on to that you can see isn’t serving your higher good? Take a few more belly breaths and just relax. Let whatever it is that you are ready to let go of just drain softly away as you breathe, trusting that you have within you all that needs to be known.
Have a good stretch and come back to the day.
Reactivate the body with a yawn and a good old glorious stretch, wiggle your fingers and toes, shake out your hands, stand up and gently jump or wriggle.
Are you willing to Let It Go? Once you’ve stopped humming Disney, leave me a comment below about how this experiment works for you, and especially how it feels, even if those feelings are negative. Because, as I said last time, negatives are as valid as positives for self-learning, as all “feels” are generated by the Limbic brain in the now. Once we know where we stand, we can start working on connecting those dots!
Following on from the thoughts in my previous post “Crap in = Crap out“, I wanted to write a little more on what I feel is the best nutrition, and, even if you don’t agree with me 100%, some guidelines how to choose foods that are good for the body generally.
So, what do I view as good nutrition?
I base my food choices around Optimal, Sub-optimal and Non-optimal. I personally ban nothing, I just chose to avoid things that I know are non-optimal. After all when something is “banned” or “bad” then, by that nice twist of human psychology, we generally want it all the more.
Broadly speaking, the foods I eat are:
Optimal (eat freely and with gusto!):
Plentiful amounts of meat, fish, fowl, green veg (brassica), eggs, cheese, cream, butter, olive oil, herbs, spices.
Sub-optimal (Eat with care, enjoy the tastes):
Moderate amounts of all other non root tuberous vegetables (peas & corn are not vegetables, they are beans & grains respectively), veg from the onion & garlic family, seeds, nuts (peanuts & cashews are beans), berry fruits (inc tomatoes.)
Little bits of non potato roots (swede, turnip, sweet potato, carrots etc), 70% dark chocolate, cocoa powder, red wine. Beans are a borderline case, extra care advised.
Non-Optimal (really not good for the body, enjoyed without guilt once in a blue moon, if at all):
Sugar, all grains (rice, bread, pasta, cake, biscuits, crackers) & white potatoes.
However, even if you don’t agree with me on the above, there are still a few factors that I’m sure that we can agree on.
Choose and prepare actual food.
This is really a cornerstone of self-care. And usually, knocking up a nutritionally valid meal takes just as long as one that is devoid of nutrient value. Why stint yourself? It takes me 15-20 mins to prep and cook most of the meals I eat, and I know exactly what went into every mouthful I then take.If you are choosing “ready-meals” (let’s face it, everyone does once in a while!) a good thing to bear in mind is the ingredient list – Does it have ingredients in it that you wouldn’t cook with/couldn’t find as a home cook?
Check that label, 6 ingredients or less is a good start. If there are more, ensure that these ingredients that are not chemical “Fillers” “Flavours” or “Enhancers”
Never choose “diet” products – They are usually sugar and chemical laden monstrosities!
Look at the ingredients for two well known brands of “Diet shake” (low-fat then low-carb)
Atkins Ready To Drink Vanilla Shake 330Ml
Ingredients: Water, Dairy Protein Blend (Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Caseinate), Sunflower Oil, Stabilisers (Cellulose, Sodium Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Carrageenan, Potassium Phosphate), Acidity Regulator (Potassium Citrate), Flavourings, Sweeteners (Sucralose, Acesulfame-K), Salt, Colour (Riboflavin)
I am sure you will agree with me, neither of these are at all real food… Consuming these types of product do no honour to your body at all. Remember, Crap in=Crap out!
Make time to eat, and eat mindfully and conscientiously.
Eating food is something that most of us tend to “fit in” to a busy life – we grab a quick sandwich between meetings, or mindlessly grab “something” to eat whilst doing other things. We also graze on “snacks” as we work or watch telly… And again, none of this values your body.
Eating mindlessly means that you are not paying attention to the signals your body will send you about being satisfied. Grazing especially, where you are constantly chewing and “topping up” your stomach, and hence suppressing natural signals, is not at all how we evolved to eat.
Myself, I always ensure that I take my lunch break and take my time over eating. I’m slightly less mindful than I might be, in that I read my book whilst I eat. However, taking that break from my day re-energises my brain for a good afternoon of productivity!
When I cook my dinner, I enjoy eating it. Again, I’m generally watching something as I eat, but I’m also taking my time and enjoying my food, and not just stuffing it into my face as fast as I can.Thinking about what I’m eating also allows me to listen to my stomach – if I’ve cooked too much, I’ll know it. I will then stop (no fake imperative to “clean the plate” for me!) and (generally) fridge what I’ve left over, for consumption later or more often the next day.
So, my challenge for this week: At work next week, when you eat lunch, do nothing but eat lunch. For the period that your food lasts; no books, no chatter and definitely no work! Enjoy the food, and indulge in the sensations it gives. Revel in how it tastes, it’s smell, how it feels in your mouth. After you finish eating, read a book for the rest of your lunch hour, or if your lunch room is more social, chat with colleagues about anything but your day-job – do not dash back to your work. Take time to breathe and digest.
Commit to doing this at least once next week and leave me a comment below about how this experiment works for you, and especially how it feels, even if those feelings are negative. Because negatives are as valid as positives for self-learning, as all “feels” are generated by the Limbic brain in the now. Then, we can start working on connecting those dots!
One of Resistance‘s biggest allies is our fear of “doing it wrong”; In western culture (and a couple of others also, most notably Japan), we are taught from the get go that everything has to be perfect at first creation, and that failure is something to be avoided at all costs.
Thinking mindfully however, where we learn that All life experiences teach you, these days I’m not afraid to fail. Some of the best things I’ve learned in life have been through monumental cock-ups.
For instance, in my day-job, in my early days of working with Group Policy Admin, I learned how the system worked through a huge error – I didn’t realise that unless you saved the policy work done a certain way, the system didn’t retain the security filters placed on it – and so I hid everyone’s C:\ drive, rather than just the C:\ of the intended group of computers.
This mistake was easily undone, and the cock-up I made here, along with the lesson I learned from making it, saved me from doing something with the system at some point down the line that would have been an million times worse!
I have a very healthy attitude to failure now – I approach all things in a state of playfulness – which is the state that the limbic brain likes the best. Yes, making mistakes is disruptive, so learning, testing and planning before hitting the go button is the way I do things now, knowing that I have the skills to ensure success, so it will probably be OK, but also knowing that if I do break it, I also very much have the capability to fix it again.
It’s that pushing through to ensure that things do work out OK if they do go wrong that is the key. For instance, as an inventor, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked him, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
There is also another dimension to ‘You can’t do it wrong’ however, which is all about second guessing oneself. This is more the “will I make the wrong choice” type of doing it wrong than anything else – and it’s again firmly rooted in resistance as your amygdala feeds past experience feeling/memory into your current choice giving fear for the future outcome.
Combating that one is a mixture of being present in the now and trusting your gut feeling to instinctively make the right choice. A choice made in the now will always be the right one, as you will have collected enough information about the issue for your subconcious to know what is right, even if your concious mind hasn’t caught up yet. You just need to be still and listen to yourself.
However, listening to the fear feedback loop caused by your amygdala’s need for stasis will lead to procrastination and inaction. Unfortunately, your Amygdala has a loud voice, and so learning how to reach past that and get out of your own way whilst making a choice is an art in itself.
If you think it all sounds like a great deal of effort, you are not wrong. And Resistance will try and make you not learn the skill at every turn. It is well worth being persistent however, and even though it took me a couple of years to even begin to get the trick of getting out of my own way, learn to find the quiet in the now and make that choice, the only time I ever receive a bad outcome is when I’ve second guessed myself. I’m still on the journey with this one, but every time I practise the skill, the easier it is to exercise it. And life is just so much easier as a result!
Are you ready to join me? Make a commitment now to be present. Leave me a comment below about your experiences in this area, and we can start working on connecting those dots.
I’ve been doing personal development work the last 10 days or so, working on some of my “money stuff”, generally working on discovering and clearing my money blocks, creating an abundance mindset and specifically around making crucial mindset shifts for making passive income (Disclosure: Affiliate links) because hey, I want to create content and courses that improve the world, be a successful female entrepreneur role model for the next generation and gain clarity in my own world so I can help you to connect your dots and improve your life!
I love Denise Duffield-Thomas, she is just so down to earth, practical and totally speaks to the way I think about life. (NB: This is so important. You must resonate on a positive and human level with the people you work with and listen to in life. A good coach will turn you away if she feels that you will not work well together. Stress and combat over “personality-issues” do not make for successful self-improvement!)
Some of the work I’ve been doing has been all about my “sitting still”; being in the moment, breathing, focusing and listening to various messages. This made me think about how we “fill up our eyes” these days – using our Smartphones (Which are actually the ultimate personal computer) and tablets to “just check in”, “play a game” or various other activities that really just waste time and aren’t really engaging with the world or ourselves.
I remember when I was a kid, technology was really just breaking into the home environment, the mobile was a good 15 years away. So, as well as watching telly, I read books, played out, built things, made cakes, talked to my friends for hours on the phone. I could also “sit still”, because I didn’t feel the need for the “need to be doing” i.e. 100% engagement/stimulation, at all time. I look at my behaviours now, and the behaviours of my friends children, and we are all attached to our technology! We are “filling up our eyes” with minutae, most of which we don’t actually need to know, and some of which (especially for children) isn’t actively developing cognitive connections.
I’ve not denying that our level of tech. can be very useful; it is definitely life improving, and provides valuable learning and problem solving tools, but I’ve actively had to remember how to reach stillness again, remind myself that I can “just sit”, that I have no need to get agitated if my phone is not in my hand if there is nothing else going on, that it doesn’t matter if I’m not checking FaceBook or Twitter (the information I really need will find me) and to sit, breathe and also engage to absorb knowledge when I’ve been actively learning new stuff.
I feel that losing this stillness is a big issue. Having stillness in life allows for “reset” time, for me, this is the time where I engage with my orchids, dye my yarn, or just sit for 15 minutes on a sunny day enjoying the like on my face! I also have concern for the kids who have not actually learned about this stillness in the first place. Yes, we all know that kids run around and pretty much never sit still, but when they do sit down, I see the automatically reaching for a device as potentially not the best idea for them…
So, can you sit still? Summer’s the perfect time to start to regain this vital skill. This week, I want you all to get out from behind your desk at lunch, go sit in the sun (Or, if you are like me, “sun-adjacent” i.e. in the shade!) and just be in the world for 15 minutes. Enjoy the sun, listen to the world around you, breathe and don’t touch your tech. during that time. Note how it makes you feel. Are you calm and enjoying the time, or agitated that you are taking time out and can’t “fill up your eyes”. Afterwards, are you feeling energised and ready to get back to your day with renewed vigour (hint: this is the desired outcome! 😉 ), or did you just feel a bit silly and fidgety, or that it was a waste of time. Leave me a comment below, and we can work on finding the moment and connecting those dots.
I love my orchids. I love the colours of their blossoms, the way a fresh flower looks like it’s covered in glitter. I feel happy when their leaves are rigid and shiny, and I love the stillness that my 10 minutes of orchid checking gives me everyday.
A while back, my friend Ann got given an orchid as a house warming present. She was rather scared that she was just going to kill it off, like she had with previous orchids, so she asked me for some pointers.
Most people buy (or are given) Phalaenopsis orchids as the most common ones in the shops. Their blooms are beautiful and, despite the myths to the contrary, are the easiest of all the Orchidaceae genera to care for.
The most common reason why people “fail at orchids” is that they treat them like a normal house plant: park them on a sunny windowsill, water them every couple of days “so they don’t dry out” and often leave them in the puddle of standing water that collects in the base of the pretty ceramic pot they come in.
However, this is exactly the opposite of what they need. They need minimal fussing, dappled sunlight and only a sparing amount of water. This is because they naturally grow attached to the bark of trees in the canopy of the Rain Forests, where life is generally humid but not very out-and-out wet.
Importantly, as well as water, their roots also need both light and air, as Phalaenopsis’ photosynthesise with both leaves and roots. Orchids ship in clear pots for this reason. (Although, some companies pack their orchids with moss into a rubbish flexible PVC pot – these orchids will need re-potting as soon as they finish flowering, as the moss will be stopping air getting to the roots).
Because the roots need air, any standing water can very quickly cause root rot.
The plant usually remains in bloom for ~3 months, the flowers die off then fall off one by one. This is totally normal and not a sign that the plant is dying at all. Also, the very bottom leaf turning yellow and detaching on occasion is also totally normal, this is simply natural wastage, usually in response to humidity levels.
So, this translates at home to:
Usual household temperatures, anything from 16°-28° is generally good. The occasional overnight drop down to ~10° will cause new flower spikes, but consistent cold is bad.
Either a north facing windowsill, or a windowsill that generally doesn’t get more than 2 hours of direct sunlight per day.
A “Drench watering” every other week (or weekly if it’s very warm) – Hold the pot under a running tap – tepid water, not cold – for a minute or so, also running the water over any aerial roots, then leave to drain totally. Ensure that minimal water remains in the pot, do this by tipping the pot at an angle, this will drain the water that has collected at the bottom of the pot.
Getting water on the leaves isn’t an issue, but ensure that you don’t get water in the crown. If you do, remove the puddle immediately with the corner of a paper towel. Crown rot will happen if you leave the puddle in there.
Not moving them around too much – picking them up and plonking them down too often “just to peek at them” is bad. Visual inspection and touching the leaves to check rigidity is good, but you only really want to move them around to water them as above.
If you notice the bark drying out quickly, or your house is not very humid then mist them every other day as well. Leaving them above the water line on a water filled pebble tray is also good.
On visual inspection, you are checking that the bark is not totally dried out (generally, condensation on the inside of the pot should be visible right up until the day before drench watering) and the leaves are rigid – if the leaves are floppy, the plant is dehydrated – Either mist the plant and the bark heavily, or consider a drench watering. If they are wrinkled, and water is being supplied on a regular basis then the roots are not supplying the leaves with water for some reason. That’s the subject of another article!
Talking to your plants when you inspect them is totally allowed, even encouraged! Giving living things your total focus give you happiness and keeps you in the now. There is also documented science that plants that are spoken to nicely grow better. 🙂
There are “advanced class pointers” around feeding, re-potting and how to spot issues, which I’ll be writing on in coming weeks, but using these basic tips will keep your orchid thriving and blooming for many years to come. Following these pointers, Ann’s orchid is very happy, and has thrown both a new leaf and a new flower spike!
Have I inspired you to get an orchid, or to start growing things on your windowsill? I do hope so. Leave me a comment below, and we can start connecting those dots.
I feel that finding your particular creative “thing” is very important – because creating is all about focusing in the now.
Being creative talks directly to your Limbic brain. This the part of your brain that has no language, no sense of time, and can put no context to anything you experience. It’s where your gut reactions, your “feels” originate.
When you say “That doesn’t feel right, but I don’t know why” about something, that’s your Neocortex (or Rational/Cognative brain) trying to rationalise and contextualise the emotion being passed to it by your limbic brain in that moment – and failing. Because you can’t rationalise gut feelings. They just are.
The Limbic brain responds to images, colours, smells and textures – It’s working with the information your senses provide it in that moment, and only in that moment. Which is why mindful/positive thinking and creativity are so powerful.
The limbic brain responds to creativity by producing a state of happiness, a “this feels right” vibe – As a result, these positive vibes translate into your “this is how life is now” vibes, rippling and manifest themselves through your whole life.
By doing your chosen act of creativity – painting, cooking, dyeing, knitting, origami, bonsai, decoupage, etc. etc. – you are being fully committed to the moment. Consequently, this creates “good feels” in your Limbic brain. Which ripple wonderfully out into your life.
Me? I get my creative on by dyeing and by knitting. I love playing with colour, feeling the textures of the fibres, creating wearable art.
So, how do you get creative? Has my video peeked your interest? Do you now want to throw colour at things? Or do you get your art on in a totally different way to me? Leave me a comment below and we can start working toward connecting those dots.