Category Archives: action

4 Secrets My Snowman Showed Me About Having A Positive Spin

 

He was my first snowman.

My cheeks were red with excitement and the cold.  All he needed was a hat and I ran indoors to ask mum if I could use one  of my knitted ones. With great ceremony I put it on his head and then stood back. He was as tall as me! He was smiling, and I’d made him all by myself.

That night, while I was getting ready for bed I heard an ominous sound. I knew what it was, it was the sound of water dripping. The icicles by the back door were melting and the snow looked different somehow. I stared put between my curtains at my snowman in the middle of the garden and tears crept down my cheeks.

Next morning he was gone. Just his blue knitted hat lay on the emerging grass, with his lumps of  coal eyes.

Last week I thought about that snowman.

I thought about the snow we’d just had and how people reacted to it. I realised that my long-ago snowman had started me on the road to having a Positive Spin.

Here are the 4 Snowman Secrets to having a Positive Spin:

1.   It’s  too easy to say ‘No.’

The day is snowed heavily we could have easily said ‘No’ to going out. After all, the house was very cosy, we had stuff we ‘ought’ to have been getting on with. But out we went. What we would have missed if we’d stayed in!

Exquisite beauty, twigs transformed, a silent world, a traffic free road and childlike fun.

I’m going to try to say ‘Yes’ far more in my life. What about you?

It’s so easy to feel wary, scared, afraid of change. But when we say ‘Yes’, we rarely regret it.

2.  We must appreciate people while they’re with us.

I was so sad when my snowman ‘died’. I’d only just met him and he was gone again.

I don’t want to sound morbid, but it’s often not until people leave us that we realise their importance in our lives.We must tell them how much they mean to us, show them we value them and give them hugs, virtual or real.  It never seems to be the right moment. I’m going to try to tell them more often …

3.   We must be proactive.

If I hadn’t built my snowman that day it would have been too late. It didn’t snow again that winter. I would have missed it.

It’s the same with life’s opportunities. If we don’t ‘seize the day’, the day will be gone. When we have the chance to learn something new, travel to a new place, make a new friend, we must take it. Before the opportunity disappears.

4.   Take that risk!

We went to see the children sledging. It was a delight to see them. And then, as you know from this post, I was offered the chance to join in. It would have been so easy to say ‘No’. But I said ‘Yes’ and took the risk. If I’d waited for another day, the snow would have melted, and who knows when another chance would come? When will we next get snow?

Chances to do new things will come your way. Follow your instinct. If it feels right, do it! New course? Learn to dance? Learn to ski? Why not!

I realise that having a Positive Spin is not practical all the time. But once you start to develop the habit, you’ll be surprised, as regular readers will know.

It’s like rolling a snowball. It grows… and grows…

… until it’s a way of life.

I’ve chosen to seize the day and upgrade this blog.

There’ll be a new look very soon! I could have waited until another day, but I decided the time was right. I’ll enjoy developing  and improving it for you, I’m certain of that.

Are you going to miss out on a magical, exciting experience?

Or are you going to say ‘Yes!’ and develop your Positive Spin?

What are you going to say ‘Yes’ to in 2011?

Do tell us. We all need some inspiration…

Header by cursedthing, post pic by theirhistory, on Flickr.

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How To Customise Your Christmas and Cut the Stress

Do you sometimes feel it’s all too much?

Do you feel caught in a Christmas trap?

I used to. I worried about every aspect of the approaching ‘Festive Season’, feeling far from festive. And then my son, who knew how I was feeling said this:

‘Mum, why don’t you choose the parts of Christmas that you like and leave the parts you don’t like? You don’t have to do all of it!’

I was reminded of when I bought my new Mini.

I knew the colour I wanted but that was it. The salesman had to talk me through how I could customise my new car. He explained which features came as ‘Standard’ and then presented me with choices for all the rest of the spec. Bit by bit I built up the picture of the car I wanted, choosing fabric or leather seats, interior and exterior colours, automatic or gear shift and so on.

The Mini I collected bore very little resemblance to the one in the brochure because I’d chosen how I wanted it to be. I’d ‘customised it’.

You can do this with the Christmas holiday.

 There are no rules apart from the fact that we all celebrate (or not) on the same day. You do need to be positive and assertive (not arrogant) but with a bit of practise, you can do this!

What comes as ‘standard’?

  • A day for giving gifts
  • Food
  • Decorations
  • A tree
  • Cards
  • Family time
  • Parties
  • Carols

You will want to add more to my list but let’s look at the first three.

How to customise.

  • Gifts.

You need to get ahead on this one, if you’re going to change from the ‘standard’ requirements. If you want to change who you buy for, perhaps only for children and not for adults, let people know your intentions well in advance, to avoid embarrassment or upset. It’s not easy to change a long-established routine but it is possible to do it if you are sure that’s what you want to do.

You could write down what you’ll say and even practise saying it until you’re confident.

  • Food

Ok, so the turkey roast followed by Christmas pud, mince pies, large amounts of cream and custard, is fairly ‘standard’. But you can customise!

Christmas food should be special. That get’s hard to do when we have the ridiculous amounts of ‘special’ food in the shops all year round.

One way to customise your Christmas food is to choose your favourites. If you love fillet steak but it’s a rare treat, or your mother is coming and her favourite is steak and kidney pie then that’s what you have! Try to have the food that’s a ‘treat’ for as many of your guests as possible.

If you choose to spend the day with your OH then it’s easy to have your favourite food but it can still be done with the family. Not everyone wants turkey when they can have it on any day of the year.

  • The family.

Not so easy to customise but not impossible. Here are a few suggestions:

Decide, well in advance, where you and your family want to be for Christmas. At home? On holiday? At your parents? Your parents at yours? Once it’s decided, stick to it. A few feathers might be ruffled but there’s no rule that says you have to do what you always do. You can change the habit, if it’s a habit you don’t like…

Do you spend much of the holiday driving your children to see step – parents, grandparents, divorced parents, so much so that everyone’s bad-tempered and the children hate it? If it’s what you want to do, and most importantly, if it’s what the children want to do, fine. If not, decide how to customise.

It’s about forward planning. It’s about taking the ‘I ought’ out of the equation and replacing it with ‘I’m happy to’.

I was delighted, and still am, with my beautiful blue Mini. Every time I drive it I smile. (Except in snow.) It suits me fine but I know it wouldn’t be everyone’s choice.

You can customise Christmas, to suit your capabilities, needs, emotions and stress levels.  It’s not selfish in a bad way, it’s simply deciding what you can cope with. As my son said, so wisely, you can include the parts you love and leave out the parts that concern you. That way, you might even enjoy it!

How do you deal with the varying ‘obligations’ of the Christmas season?

Are you changing things this year?  

 Have you ‘customised’ Christmas?

Do pass on your hints and tips.

 

Header by cursedthing, post image by the mullett, on Flickr.

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How To Be Brutally Honest With Yourself and Still Remain Positive

Guest post, especially for us, by Kiesha Easley from WeBlogBetter…  Thank you Kiesha.

I won’t lie, being completely and brutally honest with yourself is not the most pleasant activity.  In fact, it can get down right ugly.  Especially, if like most people, you’ve done some things in your past that you’re not too proud of.  No one likes to think of themself as the bad guy, but it happens.

What’s even worse is that while we’re doing hurtful things to people, it rarely bothers our conscious until the consequences slap us in the face.

When I think about how I used to treat my younger sisters when we were kids, my heart often aches with shame. I really neglected them and avoided spending time with them like the plague.  I’m nearly 10 years older than them and as a teenager, I just didn’t want to be bothered.

I’d yell at them and kick them out of the room without a second thought, and taking them to the playground was out of the question.

After we grew up, things got a little better, but nothing to receive awards over.  Yet, despite all of this, I was surprised and hurt when-

I overheard my sister tell someone that I wasn’t as nice as everybody thought I was.

Ouch! That hurt and my first response was sadness, as if I were the victim, when really what my sister was saying was totally true.  How nice could I really be if I could treat my sisters the way that I did?

I took some time to reflect on it and realized that the truth is that no matter how hard I try to be nice to others, sometimes I get grumpy. Most mornings I’m grumpy and unpleasant to be around.  I don’t like admitting it, but it’s true.  In order to be able to love and live with myself, I have to simply accept that fact.

The good news is that nobody has to be perfect; everybody is flawed in some way.  So why do we expect to be any different?

There are tons of things about myself that I don’t like, but I’ve learned that once I acknowledge the flaw, I can make a choice to try to improve the things that I can and learn to be at peace with things that I can’t.

That’s how I’m able to be brutally honest with myself and still keep a positive attitude.  That’s what keeps me from constantly blaming others; that’s what helps me accept responsibility for my actions.  Sometimes, I just have to apologize for being a jerk, and then do what I can to fix it and move on.

Have you ever been around someone who couldn’t accept responsibility for their actions to save their life? 

I know a few people who are always blaming others for their mistakes. They do this so much that even when there’s no one around to blame, they will still manage to find an excuse. If one night while driving alone, they ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle, when asked why they did it, they’d quickly blurt, “It wasn’t my fault! I was distracted because my girlfriend keeps stressing me out!” instead of accepting the brutal truth that they simply weren’t paying attention.

You don’t have to hate yourself for mistakes you’ve made. In fact, being able to accept the truth about yourself and still love yourself is a sign of maturity and integrity.

So what about you?

Do you ever have a hard time loving yourself when you think about the things you’ve done wrong over the years?

What do you need to accept about yourself?

 

Header image by cursedthing, post image byAnita Robicheau, on Flickr.

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What Will You Risk For The First Time This Week?

I thought I was good at it.

Taking risks, I mean. I’ve certainly faced some fears (see my This Is Me page) and taking risks? Not a problem. Except this week…

The fear of an event is nearly always worse than the actuality, so I’ve read. I believe it’s true but I have to force myself to act on it sometimes.

I remember the waterfall in the Lake District.

We'll have to turn back

The roar of the torrent, the spray everywhere, the sheer height. I was overawed by it but somehow we had to cross over to the other side or else turn back.  I stood and stared, fear fluttering in my chest. 

As I stood there getting more and more scared, my attention was caught by a child in a red jacket, and his dog. He was running along, in front of his dad, clambering up the grassy path towards me, heading for the edge of the water fall. Then he disappeared from view and I assumed the path cotinued through the gorse bushes at the side.

I was still wondering whether we should turn back and take a different track, when there he was, on the other side of the waterfall, his red coat zig-zagging away and his dog following.

His dad was close by where I stood.

‘He’s crossed over! How on earth has he done it? Surely it’s too risky!’

He smiled.

‘We often come this way. If you go round the corner you’ll see the stepping stones! They’re slippery but it’s OK to cross if you take care!’

This week I’m taking a ‘risk’ with my blog.

I’ve decided to update this site and move on to the next stage of blogging.

Here’s how it’s going so far:

  • I decided I want to make the change.

Making the decision to make any change is often the easiest part. It’s only in your mind at this stage. No risk yet.

Writing it down can make it more real, so long as you don’t tell anyone, then you can still ‘turn round and go back’.

I did exactly this: I wrote down my plans to up-grade, but kept it to myself.

  • You seek support

If you’re scared to take the risk by yourself, look for someone to guide you.

Want to change career? Travel alone? Learn to ski? Write a novel? Talk to those who’ve’ been there, done it and got the t-shirt.’  I love this Danish Proverb: ‘He knows the water best who has waded in it.’

I did exactly this: One of my blogging friends, Arvind Devalia has indeed ‘been there, done it…’ and he is a consultant in this area. He will guide me through the whole process and I need have no fear.

  • What if?

Yes! I said it.

What if… I can’t manage the change?

OK, but what if I can, with Arvind’s expert help?

There’s always another way, just like the stepping stones that were hidden from our view that day. When we want to make a change or take a risk, it seems scary at first. But once you’ve thought it through, decided, and found support you’ll be so glad you did.

And, by the way, the view from the other side of the waterfall was stunning…

‘Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.’

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now it’s your turn.

What will you risk for the first time, this week ?

Header image by cursedthing, post image by 

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I Have Something To Confess, How About You?

I hate cooking!

I sat down in my steaming hot kitchen, put my head in my hands and cried.

My face was flaming, there was ‘stuff’ on every work surface, recipe books were smeared with flour, the oven was working away, dishes were piled up, dirty pans that won’t go in the dish washer waited,  and I was in despair.

We were giving a ‘dinner party’ for  six guests (I know, not exactly a crowd) and I’d been running round in circles since early morning. I thought I’d been looking forward to it. I’d written my lists, done the shopping, even  laid the table. But the fact remained – I was in tears.

Apparently I’m not alone.  A recent press survey reported that many of us find the whole dinner party thing more stressful than seeing the bank manager or commuting to work!

So what’s the problem?

Here’s my Positive Spin.

  • I don’t like being ‘judged’.

There are so many cookery shows on TV and it looks so easy! They’re run by real chefs, all with years of training and experience,  owning  successful restaurants. Of course their meals are amazing. That’s what their diners expect! Of course I can’t match their expertise. But somehow, when I have friends around for dinner, because I’m not a natural cook, I feel judged.

  • I don’t want to ‘fail’.

I feel embarrassed if my roast potatoes aren’t perfect, my sauce has lumps (surely not!) or the steaks are over/undercooked. I worry that my menu won’t live up to expectations.

  • I feel out of my depth.

At the last dinner party I went to there were three desserts.  I just can’t compete!  What will they say if I only produce one! I don’t know how to make filo pastry by hand, unlike my talented friend. I’ve not mastered the art of home-made ice cream or perfect cheesecake.

And so it goes on.

So! What can I do about it?

  • I need to get ‘real’.

Sharing a meal is a way to get together and enjoy one another’s company. If cooking for a dinner party puts me out of my depth then I need to be very brave and say, ‘ We’d love to see you for dinner. I’m not too confident about cooking so we’d like to take you out instead.’

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, there are plenty of great pubs in the UK that serve moderately priced meals and even more choices in the US.

  • I can cheat!

There’s an amazing array of food out there, ready cooked. Indian food is especially plentiful and not expensive. I’ve found fantastic savoury pies, casseroles and pasta dishes on sale in some butchers’ shops, along with fruit pies, crumbles and mousse. Sometimes I buy the main course but make the dessert. Or I make a really easy but tasty and interesting starter.

I always tell my friends that I cheated and they don’t turn a hair. At least, not so far as I can tell. It’s their company that’s the most important part of the evening.

  • I must live in the real world.

Everyone has skills. Everyone. Not everyone is an expert cook, home decorator,  dress-maker…. whatever. It’s time  to stop stressing about it and simply confess that I don’t enjoy trying to cook restaurant style food for guests. It’s silly to pretend otherwise.

There! That feels better…

How about you?

Is there anything you need to confess? Go on, you know you want to…

You’ll feel so much better if you do!

Header image by cursedthing, post pic by lisaclarke, on Flickr.

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And The Award For Most Boring Person Goes To..

Me, Me, Me!

One of my Face book friends commented after reading this recent  post

‘So many people are wrapped up in themselves, I often wonder what people know about me.  I’m a good listener but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like people to show an  interest in me. People are often all about – Me Me Me !’

I decided to give this some thought and look for the Positive Spin:

Are you listening to me? 

Why do so many people think it’s always about them?

I’m sure you can relate to this….

I’m at a social gathering. I don’t know many people but I start to engage the guy next to me in conversation. He tells me his name, what he does (see this post), and off he goes…. He talks about his amazing job, his amazing family, his amazing holiday and after 15 minutes or so he’s asked absolutely nothing about me. I try to edge away to find someone to have an actual conversation with. 

A conversation!

That’s where more than one person talks and where people listen to one another.

So what’s the issue here?

  • What’s the point of a conversation?

We have conversations because we want to get to know one another. To do that we must share information, ask questions, listen to one another. We must pass the ball around.

  • Conversation is a skill.

It’s not an easy skill to learn. It’s a bit like a game of tennis: the two people take it in turns to ‘serve’. While the other person is ‘serving’ we must focus on them completely. Sit still, don’t fidget, and listen carefully to what they’re saying. Try to pick up some mutual subjects or threads that you can serve back to them later, when it’s your turn. But try not to interrupt.

  • What if it’s never ‘my turn’?

Sometimes the conversation never gets off the ground: it’s a monologue. Not easy. What I try to do is listen for a pause, however small, and perhaps ask a question, or pick up one of the topics they mentioned and add a remark or two. Perhaps change your sitting position or even fidget a bit to alert them that you’re still there! I’ve even resorted to saying, ‘Your holiday toSouth Africa/Barbados/Bournemouth sounds fun. I went to Edinburgh for a trip last month. Let me tell you about the highlights.’ If they still don’t let you ‘have the ball’ you have to make an excuse and find someone else to talk to.

  • It’s natural, even though it’s bad manners and rude.

It’s natural for some people to believe that they are the most important person in the room.

It’s just the way they are used to behaving. They assume that everyone wants to hear what they have to say. They have been allowed to get away with it. They seem oblivious of the problem because no-one has made it clear enough that it’s annoying.

They won’t change their behaviour because we’ve let them carry on ‘carrying on’ and they remain unaware of how selfish and boring they are.

We have to show them that we don’t like it. If they don’t listen to us at all, if they don’t have a conversation with us, we need to move on to someone who does. And there will be lots of people who are interested in listening as well as talking.

Next time you are introduced to someone new make sure that you:

  • Listen with real interest
  • Make eye contact, for a few seconds
  • Ask a question
  • Use their name, to help you remember it!
  • Don’t interrupt
  • When it’s your turn, don’t deliver a monologue!
  • Remember how it feels when the other person isn’t interested in you and do as much as you can to show that you’re interested in them. (Even when they’re not Angelina Jolie  or George Clooney…)

How do you deal with the ‘Me,me,me’ types?

What’s your Top Tip for my Facebook commenter?

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This is Me… But Who Are You?

 
 

and who are you?

You’re at a party.

You don’t know many people there. Not yet, anyway. It would be so much easier if everyone had a label pinned to them. No need for all the preliminaries, at least you’d know a bit about them to get the conversation started. You’d like to disappear, run away…

He’s coming over. The balding man in a drab jacket. Very British. Doesn’t look at all interesting. You take a deep breath, try to find your friendly face and say,

‘Hello!  I don’t believe we’ve met! I’m Trish. I live next door.’

He beams. ‘Hello! Good to meet you! I’m Henry. I’ve just moved here.’

(And you know exactly what you’ll say next, don’t you?)

‘Nice to meet you, Henry.  And what do you do?’

He looks down at his freshly polished shoes.

 ‘I’m one of the Queen’s body guards!’

You stare at him for a moment. Surely not. He looks so… ordinary. You grin, embarrassed and then the grin turns to a genuine smile and you say,

‘I’d love to hear more, Henry! Are you allowed to talk about it?’

He fetches you both a drink and you talk animatedly for the next half an hour. He’s such a compelling story-teller you realise he’s quite the most interesting man at the party.

I have just up-dated my ‘This is me’ page. (It’s at the top of this page.) I’m following the A-List Bloggers Boot Camp and this was one of the tasks in our first assignment. It’s hard knowing what to put in and what to leave out when I’m writing about myself. I want to connect with you but I don’t want to be boring about it or you’ll fly away!

The process of up-dating made me think about how it’s so easy to judge one another with very little information. When you meet someone for the first time, what impression do you give? What information do you give them? And what do you leave out?

Communication is what it’s all about. So much confusion and misunderstanding results from poor communication.

Here’s my Positive Spin on How To Communicate.

  • Tell the truth.

How often have you heard someone boasting about their achievements? Exaggerating their successes? Why do they do it? Because they’re scared of not measuring up, not being good enough. They have low self-esteem. Do you find yourself exaggerating sometimes?

  • Watch and learn.

At this time of year you’ll have plenty of opportunities to watch people at social events. Focus on one person who is communicating well. Does he talk more than listen? Look at his body language, how he stands, how much eye contact he makes. Pick one aspect to try out  in your next conversation. I promise it works! I’ve done it…

  •  Listen more than talk.

It’s easy to talk too much when you’re nervous. We all do it. But one of the secrets to good communication is to focus on the other person. Completely. Make them feel as if there’s no-one else in the room. Listen, but don’t chime in with what you’re dying to say. Wait. Ask questions. Ask them to tell you more. And whatever you do, don’t look around to find someone more interesting to talk to. You know how that feels, and it’s not good.

What would you write on your ‘This is me’ page? 

More to the point, what would you leave out?

What do you think is the secret to good communication?

Do tell us, we all need all the help we can get!

 

Header image by cursedthing, post image by Dustin Diaz, on Flickr.

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