So, this blog is about creating a life that feels as good as it looks on the outside.
Plus, a wise person once said if we’re trying to make people more like us, then we’re only really loving ourselves.
I’ve had to ask myself whether this blog was an endeavour to get people to become more like me, but I find most of these points a real challenge myself, so that can’t be the case.
So, I’m writing this for the very reason that I’m not an expert. A pep talk to myself, I suppose.
Sorry if any of this nudges you out of your comfort zone. But, as you can see from the image above, it’s so totally worth it. Look how ridiculously happy I am.
I see it like this: Dancers stretch their bodies to become better dancers. It makes sense that the same would apply to life. #StretchGoals
So, I’ve listed SEVEN ways to take life up a gear. This is by no means a conclusive list. But the beauty of the chosen few is that you don’t need to wait for anyone else in order to begin. The power of one.
1. EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable -Mary Oliver
One of my frustrations is when people say something’s not their ‘thing’, when they’ve never tried it.
I’ve discovered that it’s often not that they don’t want to branch out, but that they’re scared to.
If you’re never scared, you can never be courageous. (An irrefutable fact that instils more unease in me than embracing the unknown).
A courageless life begs for revision.
Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick wrote:
‘Ignorance is the parent of fear’
Possibility exists. Don’t project onto the unknown. because it’s just that. Unknown. Surprise yourself. Blow your own mind. Make it possible.
2. DO WHAT YOU LOVE
When you’ve had enough of expanding your horizons, always come back to doing what you love.
I’ve discovered that I have to be intentional about making this happen.
My diary is full of appointments, dates and time with friends. It’s sadly devoid of time to be creative.
Write into your diary the things that bring you joy.
Make space to lose yourself in these things.
Do the things you’d regret NOT doing.
3. BE UNEXPECTEDLY GENEROUS
I don’t just mean buy your friend a coffee or set up a standing order to a charity. These are things that you get direct recognition for. A warm, fuzzy feeling archived in your mental scrapbook.
I mean shatter expectations and conventions. Go BEYOND. Do something you won’t receive approval for.
Sometimes I read something that sticks. This pin below was such a quote: Never suppress a generous thought.
It is now my personal vow to do just that. If a generous thought pops into my head that stretches me but would bless someone, I endeavour to follow it through.
Generosity, by definition should cost you something.
I mostly give to people who give back. I feel challenged to do more.
Recently, I’ve been inspired by unexpected gestures. And mostly from people who owe me nothing and who I can’t pay back. Create a distinctive culture by adjusting the palette of your life. Add warmth to people this winter.
Oh and don’t forget, it’s ok to be surprisingly generous with yourself too.
4. PUSH YOUR PHYSICAL LIMITS
I would like to establish that when I signed up to do the half marathon last year, I was not a runner. Like, not at all. I signed up because I no longer had a valid excuse not to.
You’re not born a runner. Sure, some people are naturally better at it. That’s true for anything. I want to shatter the illusion that ‘not being a runner’ carries any weight. Zilch in my book.
I made a public ‘yes’, accounted for my training in my diary and committed to being as ready as I could in eight weeks.
I didn’t get the best time, or wait until I was really good. No, I simply turned up at the right time and kept moving.
Did I get the bug? If this means an unrivalled sense of euphoria every time my feet married the pavement, I’d have to go with…no. But it was a significant couple of months. Lifting the ceiling higher will have a profound impact on your life. That’s something I can promise.
Just sign up and crack on. Commit to the training and you will get fitter. As for me, I’m looking into my physical challenge for 2016. Watch this space.
5. ENCOURAGE OTHERS
If you think something great about somebody, just say it. What is the point of a kind thought left unsaid? Unspoken compliments trapped in one’s mind serve no purpose.
This is a challenge for me. Even as I write this I’m aware of how much I hold back.
Don’t get me wrong, reticence has its place and suits certain personalities.
But if my motivation for withholding encouragement is down to competitiveness, fear or not wanting to inflate the recipient’s ego, then that’s on me.
A willingness to encourage, relies in large part, on adopting an ‘abundance mentality’.
Knowing there is no less room for you when someone else is thriving.
A fear people have is that if they raise someone else, they lower themselves simultaneously. What if the space within which you could exist and thrive wasn’t absolute? A world in which we’re all able to thrive. Fully. Admiring someone else, doesn’t have to mean questioning yourself.
Look for the best in those around you and build them up. Do it in a verbose, flamboyant way or more laconic and considered. You may even enjoy yourself.
E.E. Cummings sums it up quite nicely:
6. ESCAPE THE ORDINARY
Once encouraged, you’ll feel freer to shake up your weeks. Be spontaneous. Make things happen. Have breakfast with a friend before work. Drive to the beach at midnight. Book a flight to somewhere a bit different. Go for a walk completely unplugged, without your phone. (You never know, you might even find a better connection).
This is me about to hurtle through the sky at 30,000 feet on a Wednesday morning back in September. A. Wednesday. Morning. My colleagues came to support me and some even joined me on the jump itself!
7. BE ALONE
After all of this you’ll likely want a bit of down time. A taste of the hermit life (which I’ve experienced a little more of since my last blog).
This is an interesting one. For some, time alone is vitally frequent and for others it is avoided. But I like to think it’s necessary for everyone. You can begin anywhere.
Go to the cinema, pop to read in a cafe or go the whole hog and book a solo retreat. (The latter is something I intend to do, at some point, maybe).
To be able to enjoy time alone provides the capacity to enjoy others’ company without becoming dependent on them or reducing them to a need rather than a joy. They’ll no longer be a ‘means of escape’ but a choice. And cherished as such.
Bonus: you can be a glorious mess when you’re alone. Embrace it. Sob. Sing loudly. Talk to yourself in the mirror.
Oh and you can REST. Stop. Exhale. Listen. Maybe even turn your phone off. Too far? Sorry. *On a side note, that’s actually what I’m doing for lent. Boycotting the digital realm for one solitary, life-affirming evening each week.
*Why not join me?