Sunday, 9 November 2014

Coming To An End To Find A New Beginning

I didn't know how I was going to start this post. To be honest, it was something that I was toying with all day, trying to find the words to explain what I'm thinking.

The thing is, I'm going to be stopping this blog.

I'm not quitting blogging altogether, lord only knows that my rambling needs an outlet, it's just that after taking the commitment to sit down and write this blog I've realised something.

I'm not entirely happy with the content that I've been putting out.

It's not been my best work (I know it's not been my best work) and one thing that is vital to my writing is that I give it everything that I've got and that I push the boundaries- something which I haven't been doing with this blog.

So, I'm going to take some time away to think about what I really want to talk about. I want to create a blog that I can be proud of, rather than something that feels more of a chore than a pleasure.

Sometimes, we need to start again to get to where we want to be. It can be scary and feel as though you're diving into the unknown but to me that's what writing is all about: testing the waters, trying new things and seeing how far you can go.

This isn't goodbye but rather a bye for now. I will be back and I'm sure my blog and my writing will be better than ever.

Speak soon,

Mary Lou xx

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Should You Do NaNoWriMo: Yes or No?

So, unbelievably, it's that time of year again where many writers across the UK and beyond begin the annual challenge of NaNoWriMo.

Image from NaNoWriMo official site

For any of you that don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Writers who choose to take part have exactly one month to complete a brand new 50,000 word novel or else lose the challenge.

The one thing that's guaranteed? There will be blood, sweat and tears but if you do it you're in for a sense of great accomplishment.

Personally, I've decided not to do NaNoWriMo due to being in the middle of a novel already (where I have set my own deadline of having the first draft completed by 31st March) as well as a hectic personal and professional life. There is often a lot of debate over the usefulness of NaNoWriMo with both sides arguing the benefits and repercussions of the challenge and so I thought that I would list them here so that anyone who was considering doing the challenge, or who was considering doing the challenge next year, might get to see both sides of the argument and make their own judgement.

Firstly, I like to think of myself as an optimist, so here are the reasons for doing NaNoWriMo:

1) It gives you the kick up the bum to actually write a novel.

This is one of the key arguments to take part in the challenge. When you know that you have 30 days to get 50,000 words down, you'd better believe that you're going to get writing- how else are you going to meet that target? I don't know about you but I can't type in my sleep! Even according to their website it's all about 'valuing enthusiasm, determination and a deadline.'

2) It shows you what you're capable of.

Let me guess, when you first heard the idea of writing a novel in 30 days part of you went, "Pfft, yeah right!" The thing is a lot of people have. A lot of people have taken up the challenge and succeeded, showing that they could push the boundaries and that they didn't have as many limitations as they originally thought.

3) It's something that you can say you actually did.

Some people climb mountains, others trek across the Sahara Desert, you? You completed NaNoWriMo. It's something that you can look back on and say, "I did that."

4) It introduces you to a community of writers.

Whilst doing the challenge you can speak to other writers via the forums on the site to ask for advice or to give each other encouragement. What's more, the challenge is widely discussed in the writing community and you can often find posts or groups discussing the challenge on social media platforms such as Google + or Facebook.

5) The challenge forces you to establish a routine and focus your thoughts.

You don't have time to be messing about! Having such a strict deadline means that you need to learn self-discipline and quickly if you hope to win. This means knowing what you're going to be writing each day and working out when you can take the time to fit in roughly 1,666 words a day! Tricky stuff!

Now for some of the reasons why you shouldn't:

1) Personal schedule

Let's face it, November is a busy time. It's on the run up to Christmas (Thanksgiving for some), work naturally gets busier and a lot of the time is spent trying to juggle a lot of balls in the air. Do you really have the time to throw NaNoWriMo on top? Between trying to get the shopping in, trying to do X Y and Z and keeping up to date with what's going on with the family, can you fit in 1,666 words?

2) You are working on other projects.

If, like myself, you're in the middle of a novel or are working hard on a competition submission, you may not have the time or desire to drop it all to try and write a novel in a month. You may have your own tight deadline to work with which means that you can't be distracted from what you're trying to do.

3) You may not be willing to go through the rollercoaster of emotions.

While some may say that pushing yourself to the limit is all part of the fun, you may be unwilling to go through the stress of trying to complete the challenge in 30 days. Do you work well under pressure? If not, you may want to reconsider doing this challenge. If the thought of trying to meet the target brings you out in a cold sweat, it may not be for you. It's also important to consider how you'll feel if you don't complete it. Will it have a damning affect on your confidence if you don't win? Will it benefit you in the long run and inspire you to try harder next time or make you want to cry in a corner somewhere? Think about it.

4) How will you feel looking at your (let's face it) rushed first draft?

Let's be honest here. The first draft of anything is always awful. We read it whilst peeking through our fingers, grimacing at some of the embarrassing choice of words or cringing as a cup magically moves from a character's hands to the sink. It's never a pretty sight. Keeping this in mind, how are you going to feel when reading over your 50,000 words only to see all of the inevitable mistakes and clumsy spelling mistakes that are going to be in there? Will you lose that victory glow when the reality hits of what your month of hard work has churned out? Will the product of your hard work and dedication be receiving a one way ticket to the bin? Was your idea that good after all or did you just waste a month typing an idea that has a plot hole the size? Hm...

5) You're happier writing a novel at your own pace.

We're all different, what's more is that we all write differently. While the actual process of typing or writing a sequence of words down is the same, the way we get to that process can vary from person to person. Some people spend months planning every detail before writing the first word while others let the words run out of them and see where the story goes as they write it. The point is, no two people have the same way of writing a novel so to ask people to all write a novel in 30 days is a tall order. While some people may be perfectly comfortable with the challenge, others may want to take the time to chew things over during the time spent actively writing. I have often found myself having to mull a chapter over for a few days before finishing it or having to write the outcome in various ways before settling on what will happen to that particular character in that particular scene. We're all wired differently and so therefore there is no sure fire way to get every single writer to go ahead and write a novel at the same time, it simply won't work for everyone.

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo or have you decided not to? Why? Let me know!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Right, raise your hands, who's bottling something up right now?

No matter if you're an extrovert or an introvert, emotions can be tricky. While they are a natural part of being human and give us the ability to feel empathy or follow a set of morals, they can also cause us problems.

They can cause us to have strong reactions at inappropriate times or make us want to behave in a way that could mean problems later on. They can cause us to want to lose our temper or have us cry when we need to keep a level head.

Emotions, if we let them take hold of us, can get in the way.

So, what do we do when we feel one build up inside of us and we can't release it? We store it for later.

Whether it's the red hot fire of anger or the twitchiness of anxiety, we smother it down and make a note to deal with it when it's more appropriate.

But what happens when we don't deal with that feeling? What if we leave it on constant pause so that it simmers below the surface?

What happens if you keep blowing into a balloon without releasing any air? It bursts.

Image from Google
I have to admit here, that this is something that I used to have a lot of problems with. I used to get really annoyed, refuse to confront the issue in fear that it would trigger an argument I wasn't willing to face, figuratively explode and lose my temper with those closest to me and then start the process all over again.

I was once compared to a full copper kettle on the stove. The temperature was getting hotter and hotter yet no liquid was being released from the container and so the pressure would end up causing a massive reaction.

It wasn't until fairly recently that I realised how much stress this was causing and that I needed to deal with it or else the cycle would just keep on repeating itself.

The thing is, when you don't deal with what you're feeling- when you just stuff it deep down into your gut and refuse it to face it again- it will bite you on the arse.

It's not going to go away. Emotions need an outlet and, sooner or later, they're going to find a way to get out of you whether you like it or not, the choice is how you release it.

Whatever you do, don't internalise your feelings.

While some of us are more private than others, it is still majorly important that we find a safe, positive outlet for our build up feelings so that they don't fester and poison our relationships with the people around us. The last thing anyone wants is to find themselves getting really frustrated (say with their job) and taking out that pent up frustration on their family. It's not fair on the family and it makes the person who lost their temper feel even worse as they've upset the people that they love.

It isn't always easy when we're trying to juggle how we're feeling with what's going on in our lives but there are a few ways we can give ourselves an outlet so that we can think more clearly.

1) Beat the hell out of your bed/ pillow.

I'm not kidding. Throw yourself at it and pummel it like crazy. Scream into a pillow until your voice cuts off and them scream some more. Not only will this help to get rid of any frustration but it will help to tire yourself out enough for your mind to quieten. Just a piece of advice, though: make sure that the door is shut before you do. It can be difficult to explain to people what the hell you're doing!

2) Wrap your comforter around your shoulders and pull it tight so it gives you a 'hug'.

I'm telling you, when you feel down yet you don't really want to share what's on your mind with those close to you or you just want some time to gather your thoughts, giving yourself a hug with the duvet is great. Once again, you may want to shut the door...

3) Write it down.

Whether it's in a journal, diary or maybe just on a scrap piece of paper or a word document on your computer. Get down everything you're feeling- no matter how childish or silly it may seem. Release it all onto that paper- trust me, you'll feel a lot better for it afterwards.

4) Have a long soak in the bath.

This is a great way to get rid of some stress as well as give you some time to clear your head and think things over, after all, no one should really be trying to talk to you when you're in the bathroom.

5) Walk it/ shake it/ run it off

Exercise is good for you anyway but when it also produces those lovely endorphins it can help you to blow off some steam and begin to process your emotions. It clears your head and helps you to rationalise why you were feeling that way in the first place so that you can work out whether it was justified, how to go about solving the situation/ problem that made you feel that way and how you can avoid feeling that way again.

Emotions, while they can hinder us, are ultimately there to help us. They allow us to process things as well as to enjoy fantastic moments in our lives and find real joy in being around the people we love or getting a sense of excitement when we experience something new. They help us to enjoy life to the fullest.

So, next time you feel like your head might explode, let it out and then get back to savouring the good things in life- don't waste it by letting negativity brew inside- feeling the need to store up all that chaos really isn't worth your health or your happiness.

Have you been bottling anything up lately? How did you deal with it? Let me know!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

So tell me, why ARE you 'putting up with it'?

Meet Fred. Fred is in his thirties and is an accountant at a law firm. He doesn't really like his job, his boss is overbearing, his work colleagues constantly slack off leaving him to deal with everything but he gets on with it.

After work, he goes home and spends some time with his partner and his kids before going out for a drink with some of the guys. His friend Paul, after having several beers and spending the night embarrassing Fred, has realised that he's forgotten his wallet again and nags Fred to pay for him. Fred does, mumbling under his breath, before going back home feeling fed up after the day he's had.

Image from Google

Why is Fred putting up with this?

Maybe it's because Fred feels as though he has no other option. Maybe it's because Fred feels as though this is his life now and he has to 'put up with it', take a stiff upper lip and just get on with things.

But what if Fred is wrong? What if Fred doesn't have to 'put up with it'?

What if things could change?

We tend to carry on with how things are without trying to alter them for various reasons. Sometimes we can't imagine things any other way- we become so used to how things are that we can't see any alternative and so become stuck in that mind-set. Sometimes we feel as though making a change might cause harm to ourselves or those around us or that the decision to do something might blow up in our face and cause a lot of damage to our lives. Sometimes the problem is that we just accept the love or the respect that we think we deserve.

Change is scary. No matter what the change is you will always get that flutter of nerves in the pit of your stomach. Yet, if you do nothing, no matter how much you wish for things to change they're not going to.

Whenever you find yourself wondering if you should do something, it's important to ask yourself the simple question of why you are putting up with the problem and come up with three good reasons.

Let's get back to Fred. Why is he putting up with his job? He may feel as though he has to put up with his job to pay the bills, he may feel as though he has to put up with his job as he doesn't have anything else to go to and he may feel as though he has to put up with his job because his family are relying on him to provide an income.

All three are very good, very legitimate reasons but notice that not one of them give a reason as to why he has to put up with it forever but rather for now.

Let's look at the other problem in Fred's life. His friend Paul, after giving him grief all night, has gotten Fred to pay his bill for him again- something which seems to be a reoccurring problem. Why is he putting up with his friend's behaviour? It could be because he's a friend... but why else would he put up with it? It may cause an argument with his friend if he doesn't approach the problem carefully but apart from that there is nothing to gain from staying quiet.

So, what do we do when we try to come up with three reasons and can't? What's next?

You take the time to work out your next step.

You start to look for other jobs whilst carrying on with the one you have. You think of how to talk to your friend and explain how their behaviour isn't acceptable. You accept that you have a problem and try to work out how to tackle it from there. Step by step.

Where are you having issues in your life? Do you really have to put up with it or can you make a change for the better?

Think about it.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Tell me, are you living in the present? Or are you too busy with your head in the future?

When was the last time that you just did something? When you didn't think, you didn't sit and look at all of the angles and try and work out what could happen? Hell, as I write this I am letting the words just flow- I have no idea where it's headed but I'm going for it. Why? Because how many times have you stopped yourself from doing something because you were overthinking it?

Evidence of my spontaneity (please excuse the scruffy handwriting)

I admit, I am awful when it comes to overthinking yet it hit me the other day, inspiring me to grab the nearest sticky note and get it down.

When we are spending so much time (and energy) focussing on the future, what does that mean for our present?

What are we missing when we are trying to meticulously plan the right course of action or what we should do in the future? We're missing time with our family. We are missing time with our friends. Instead of being in that moment there with them, ours minds are elsewhere thinking of what we should be doing.

Precious time that could be spent with those dear to us, who at any time could leave our lives, is wasted and all because we're too preoccupied with making sure that a moment or a decision that we have yet to experience is perfect.

We spend so much time focussing on planning the future to perfection- too scared to make a mistake- that we miss out on the fleeting moments that come into our lives.

Now, I'm not saying not to plan for the future at all! It is important to think things through sometimes but when overanalysing each little thing means missing out on the here and now it really isn't worth it, especially when more often than not those plans that we try to make for the future don't go the way we plan.

Sometimes, the best way to make the most of your future and avoid any mistakes or regrets is to make the most of the present. Why? Because it is the memories that you make in the present, it is the memories that you make when you just go for things- when you just give it a go and see what happens- that you tend to look back on fondly or with a lesson learnt.

These moments aren't made from overthinking or calculating each move before it's made.

They're made by just willing to be there and taking it all in.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

So, you think that you're being an imposter...

Have you ever been in that situation where you feel like you don't deserve to be in the position you're in and you're just waiting for someone to realise and take that position away? Maybe when starting a new job or being given a big new responsibility?

It's not very nice, is it? Kind of feels like that dream you get where you're on a stage in front of a tonne of people but you don't know your lines.

You feel like a fraud.

Image from Google
I'm about to let you into a little secret though, you ready for this? You can't tell anyone else.

You're not the only one who's ever felt like that.

That sinking feeling you get in your stomach when your boss asks you to do something unfamiliar a couple of days into a new job... totally normal.

The irrepressible fear that you get when you friend/ sibling asks you to be their best man and write a speech... totally normal/

Having a book/ poem/ piece of writing that you've published be well received, leaving you wondering what they could have seen... yep, you guessed it, totally normal.

In fact, chances are that the people around you- whether that be in an office, a shop etc- have felt, or are feeling, the exact same way.

Why is it that we feel this way, then? Why are so many people are waiting to be 'caught out'?

It's a natural reaction to feel insecure in these situations but partly I think it's our minds way of keeping us in check, like it's the brains way of saying, "OK, stop now before you get too cocky.". While we do need a reality check every now and then to keep us in line, sometimes it can be more of a hindrance than a help but when we've earned or proven ourselves to be given that chance, that job, that responsibility, we should revel in it.

Next time you find yourself suffering from 'Imposter Syndrome' think of this: someone clearly thought that you deserved that recognition or that position. Someone- whether that's your boss, your friend or your audience- thought you should have that place.

You're not an imposter, you're exactly where you're meant to be.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

On Quitting

Every now and then we're presented with challenges that we feel as though we can't handle. They overwhelm us as we try to deal with them and, whether we've chosen to take the task upon ourselves or have had it thrust upon us, we find ourselves tempted to throw everything to the ground and walk away.

Sometimes this is the right thing to do- especially if the task/ situation is proving hazardous to your health but occasionally quitting is the worst thing that we can do.

A few years ago, someone shared a poem with me that I want to share with you now.

Fate handed the quitter a bump, and he dropped;

The road seemed to rough to go, so he stopped.

He thought of his hurt, and there came to his mind

The easier path he was leaving behind.

"Oh, it's all much too hard," said the quitter right then;

"I'll stop where I am and not try again."


He sat by the road and he made up his tale

To tell when men asked why he happened to fail.

A thousand excuses flew up to his tongue,

And these on the thread of his story he strung,

But the truth of the matter he didn't admit;

He never once said, "I was afraid and quit."


Whenever the quitter sits down by the road

And drops from the struggle to lighten his load,

He can always recall to his own peace of mind

A string of excuses for falling behind;

But somehow or other he can't think of one

Good reason for battling and going right on.


Oh, when the bump comes and fate hands you a jar,

Don't baby yourself, boy wherever you are;

Don't pity yourself and talk over your woes;

Don't think up excuses for dodging the blows.

But stick to the battle and see things through.

And don't be a quitter, whatever you do.

I know it isn't always easy to carry on. I know that it isn't always possible to keep your head held high and smiling through the struggle. Yet if you want something, and I mean really really want something, sometimes you have to just fight for it and not give up.

At the end of the day no one can do this or you but you.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

20 Things I've Learnt In 20 Years

Yesterday, the 20th September, was my twentieth birthday. It really had me thinking of all the lessons I have had to go through along the way to reach the point I'm at now and so thought that I'd share them with you.
Image from Bing

1) No matter what you do, there will always be someone who disapproves or criticises and so you may as well do it anyway.

This may not always be easy, especially when it can feel as though you have people breathing down your neck telling you that you're wrong or that you should be doing something else but at the end of the day it needs to be your decision and your decision alone- after all, you're the one who has to live with it.

2) Just because you're a grown-up doesn't mean that you have to have all of the answers.

This is something that I really believed in as a kid. When I would mess up or say something silly, I used to take comfort in the belief that when I was 'all grown up' I'd know everything that I would need to know, I would always be sure of what I was meant to be doing and everything would be easy. Boy, was I wrong- if anything being 'grown-up' means that you are more likely to make more with the opportunities and decisions that you are presented with.

3) Life very rarely goes the way that you expect it to.

It sounds like an awful cliché so please forgive me for this one but it is so very true. We change our minds, the paths that we thought we were on take a drastic turn in the road or we discover something new. More often then not we end up in a place in our lives that we never imagined.

4) Friends may come and go out of your life but the ones that are true will stay.

During our time various people come in and out of our lives with some staying longer than others. While we may gain and lose these people it is important to savour the good times we have with them and to always appreciate the friends that stay with us and put up with our idiosyncrasies.

5) Some of the best moments in life are the ones that you don't plan for.

They usually catch us unaware- it might be a case of finding a hidden treasure in the middle of the countryside or having a fantastic time when you were expecting to have an awful one.

6) Life is incredibly short.

This is a lesson that I learnt last year. It's something that we often take for granted when we're growing up and it isn't until we get older and life begins to pass us by that we realise how easily time can slip through our fingers.

7) Some of the best opportunities you have will come completely out of the blue.

These tend to be the things that we did on a whim or something that we may have mentioned to someone and forgotten completely about. An example of this was when I sent in a random piece of flash fiction to Shout Out UK and they got in touch with me to let me know that they liked it. I'd done it as a passing thought but it opened up a whole new experience.

8) Dreams are just dreams, it is when you act on them that they become a reality.

You can dream of being a rock star, or a supermodel or even an astronaut but if you don't tae any steps towards achieving that vision the fantasy will stay exactly that: a fantasy.

9) You will make mistakes or screw up...

This will happen and chances are that there will be times where it will be big and ugly, occasionally this will happen publically and in front of an audience...

10) But you will learn from them (at least if you have any sense)

You will be better prepared for that test. That big performance? Under control. The thing is when you do mess up you want to do everything in your power to avoid making that mistake again and so go that extra length to learn from it.

11) There's nothing as funny as folk!

People can surprise you (both in a good or a bad way) and, while you may never get the chance to speak to everyone in the world, when you do get the chance to speak to that person who passes you on the street or who's stood next to you at the bus stop, they may just turn out to be one of the most interesting people that you ever meet.

12) Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Have you ever been in that situation where everyone is laughing and there is that one person with that really loud, really unique laugh that makes you crack up more? There is no feeling in the world quite like that one and it is moments like that where you can truly savour the moment.

13) No one is perfect, no matter how much you may think they are

Yeah, you know that person who you think has everything they ever wanted and have a brilliant, easy life? Chances are that they don't. In fact, it's more likely they have the same kinds of insecurities that you have and that they are struggling with their own problems... something which we all need to remember when the green eyed monster comes along...

14) You are the only one that can hurt you.

Wait, what? That can't be true, can it? The truth is, when someone says something to you and it hurts you, it is because you are taking that comment personally- you are allowing yourself to take it to heart and giving those who are trying to do damage to you permission to hurt you.

15) There isn't always an answer to problems.

Sometimes you have to go out and find your own solutions, people won't always hand the answer.

16) The only limitations in life are the ones you set yourself.

If you want something badly enough and work hard for it, you will get there eventually.

17) Self-respect is invaluable and is something to take pride in.

Enough said. Words cannot express how important it is to respect yourself because if you don't respect yourself and demand that other people appreciate your boundaries, who's going to give you the respect you deserve?

18) Make sure that the people in your life know that they are loved.

The hard truth is that you don't know how long they will are going to be there so make sure to let them know how much they mean to you while you can.

19) Change is inevitable.

While some people are better at dealing with change than others, it is inevitable and although we may struggle we do eventually adapt- no matter how much we may think we can't.

20) Keep your eyes open and taking everything in.

Life is full of wonderful things, don't ever stop observing it and savouring every moment.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

How To Take The Right Advice

Image from Google
We've all had a time in our lives where we've been in a hard situation and have had to turn to others for support and guidance. This can be in a variety of ways (most noticeably a good hug or talk) but more often than not, it comes in the form of advice. The tricky part is knowing what advice to take.

So how do we know what advice is right to follow? It's not easy but there are a few tips that may help.

1) Follow your gut feeling!
I don't have enough words to express how much I believe in this. Before you do anything, before you go and ask anyone for advice, listen to your gut feeling. More often than not it will be the right call and gives you a clear idea of what to do before messy emotions or feelings cloud up the issue.

2) Only ask for advice from a handful of people- if that!
If you ask too many people all you will manage to achieve is more stress and confusion. You will be filled with so much conflicting advice you'll struggle to deal with the situation at all!

3) Think carefully if the people you are asking may have an ulterior motive.
I know, it sounds very suspicious and paranoid but it's something that needs to be considered. An example of this was when I was in sixth form and unsure of whether I should go to university. I asked a few teachers for help at the time but came across problems when some I had approached wouldn't give me constructive advice due to pressure from their 'higher ups' to get as many students as possible to go to uni to boost numbers.

4) Remember that sometimes the advice that we don't like can be the best advice for us.
Sometimes when we ask for advice it's because we want someone to reassure us that we should do something that we may wish to do. Yet, sometimes- only sometimes, that piece of advice (which we know makes sense but don't want to accept) is the one that we should be listening to. How do you know it's right? Listen to your gut.

5) Finally, imagine that you are giving advice to a friend who was in your situation.
Imagine that your friend was explaining to you the problem they were having and why they were struggling to solve it. What would you say to them? You may just solve your problem!

 I hope this helps the next time that you're struggling to find a solution. What's the best piece of advice you've given? How do you solve problems? Let me know!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Power of the Word "Can't"

When I did drama in school there was one clear rule we were given by the teacher. 'The word 'can't' was banned. That and its friend 'cannot' were not to make an appearance or else you were in for it.'

Naturally as eleven year olds we complained about it, every lesson you could guarantee that at least one person would try and find a way around it, yet no matter how much we grumbled he stuck with it- 'can't' didn't exist in his classroom.

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."                -Henry Ford

The funny thing with the word 'can't' I that we use it so often that we've stopped appreciating what it really means. By saying that you cannot do something you are saying that you either physically, mentally or emotionally are unable of completing it.

So say, for example, the sentence: 'I can't read or write Latin.' is accurate as I am unable to physically or mentally do this but here's the kicker...

I can if I wish to.

If I wanted to learn Latin I could take the time to do so and be able to say, 'I can read or write Latin.'
The truth is that the majority of the time we do have the ability to do these things yet we feel as though we are unable to. Very few things are impossible yet we seem to think they are.

So next time you go to tell someone that you can't do something take a moment and think.

Is it really impossible for you to do or do you just think it is?

Still sure that you can't do it?

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Funny Thing About Regret

This week has proved to be rather interesting to say the least. While I often speak of the necessity of pushing the boundaries of your comfort and taking that leap, I was forced to put my money where my mouth was.

It started with a little thing known as the 'Ice Bucket Challenge'- you've probably heard of it, it's this little known fundraising trend where you pour freezing cold water over your head (whilst being filmed, of course) and donate to charity. So anyway, it turns out that this challenge which had been circulated around me had finally arrived. I'd been nominated.

Naturally, I wasn't thrilled with the idea. The idea of having to be half drowned for the pleasure of social media didn't exactly give me a warm tingly feeling and, I confess, my initial reaction was nothing short of no.

No, there was no way I was going to do it. Nope, not happening. I was coming up with all of these different excuses that I could use to get out of it- everything to not having the time to being unable to film it (complete lies of course).

The decision was resolute in my mind right up until the time when it came to go to sleep. The only thing was that... I couldn't. My mind was churning over this challenge and all of the people who'd already done it- of all of the money that had been raised by these people who had willingly (or maybe not so willingly) taken part. I felt guilty. No, more than that- I felt awful. I was wussing out of the challenge because I was scared how it would make me look.

Why? Because it was out of my comfort zone.

Ah. Well, damn.

The funny thing about giving advice means that you have to take it yourself or be faced with the label of 'hypocrite'. So, keeping that hard realisation in mind, I did it. I did the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was bloody freezing, admittedly, and having to waddle around after with soggy trousers sticking to my legs was highly unpleasant but I was filled with a great sense of achievement . That night, after sharing the video on my Facebook and settling down for sleep, I knew that I'd done the right thing and that I would have totally regretted it if I hadn't gone through with it.

The second thing that happened this week was to do with driving. Earlier this year, around April if I remember correctly, I started lessons and recently my Dad has been taking me out in my Mum's (good old reliable) Fiat Punto. It is freaking terrifying.

Now, let me add here that this has nothing to do with my Dad. He is more than capable of going out with me and making sure that I'm not a danger to other road users- nor pedestrians- but I just lack the faith in myself yet. So, when the inevitable time came for me to have another lesson with him, I felt pretty sick.

I'd been putting if off more and more, the very thought of me, me, being responsible for this moving vehicle without another set of handy peddles to take over if necessary made my stomach churn and my legs turn to jelly.

In case you hadn't gathered, I really really didn't want this lesson.

My parents could see how anxious I was to the point they gave me the option to leave it. I wanted to (oh, how I wanted to) but I refused to let myself shrink away from the opportunity and stop myself from being able to drive in the future. So, I did it. I went on that lesson and, you know what, I'm glad I did. I fairly enjoyed it...

...Right up until the point it came to driving home. My Dad was encouraging me to do it- he had complete faith I could but I didn't. I was too worried that I would mess up or cause an accident that he had to step in and take us home, driving the way I would have gone to show me what I would have been doing.

I'm not going to lie to you, I knew as we made that journey that I could have done it. I was kicking myself. What's worse is that I knew how amazing I would have felt completing that journey back- I knew how much my confidence would have grown and how elated I would have felt.

The point is this: The funny thing about regret is that once the situation has passed, there is nothing we can do about it yet, once the situation presents itself we can take that chance, give that challenge a go, and hopefully save ourselves that regret.

It sounds like an old cliché yet it's something in my previous experiences I can attest to: you tend to regret the things that you didn't do more than the things that you did.

No one can predict regret- no one can predict how the future will unfurl or how things will go, how many regrets you have will ultimately fall to you and your actions. No one wants to be that person who spends their time wondering what could have been, so next time you're faced with a situation think of this:

What do you think you will regret more? Giving it a shot with the chance that it might go wrong or not trying at all?

Think about it.

Monday, 25 August 2014

How To Be Respected

A lot of people believe that to be respected you need to be feared. They believe that you have to have this overwhelming, overbearing presence so that people have no choice but to allow you to have a voice.

The truth is, you don't need to take such drastic action.

To be respected, first you need to respect yourself.

Image from Google
It sounds like a given, I know, but you would be amazed at the difference it can make.

Many of you may already feel as though you have respect for yourself. Some of you may feel as though you have the respect of others, which is obviously fantastic, but let me ask you this:

  • Do you have that one person in your life that you are always making excuses for?

  • Do you have someone in your life who is constantly letting you down but you are constantly forgiving them?
  • Do you have a situation that you have happening in your life that you are begrudgingly putting up with?
Still sure that you are respecting yourself?

The funny thing about the way that we socialise with others is that we train them how to treat us.

That person who you keep on making excuses for? You're teaching them that, no matter what they do to you, they're covered.

That person you keep on forgiving? You're teaching them that they don't need to give a sincere apology- and you can sure as hell bet that the situation you're putting up with isn't going to go away.

Maybe this is why people feel the need to be aggressive to get respect. Maybe they feel the need to act that way so that people won't dare to take advantage of them and give them the illusion of respect.

You have to earn respect and the first step of that is to respect yourself.

So put your foot down once in a while, yet don't be rude and purposefully abrupt, and make sure that people treat you in the way that you deserve to be treated.

To earn people's respect, first you need to respect yourself and once people see that you do, then they will respect you for it.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Why You Are Ultimately Responsible For Your Own Happiness

OK, so I can imagine what you're probably thinking. Mary, what the blazes are you going on about this time? How my happiness be down solely to me?

Well, dear reader, it is. The funny thing about happiness is that it is a state of mind rather than a result of circumstances.

Think of the last time that you were happy. You were most likely smiling, feeling as light as a feather, maybe even doing the cha cha inside of your head. You felt good. The world was bright and everything was looking spectacular. Think back on that feeling, try to remember the elation that you felt and then answer me this.

Why not allow yourself that feeling more often?

But surely it can't be that simple can it? Well, why not? Why can't it be that simple? If happiness is a state of mind then why not allow ourselves to indulge in it?

Why not allow ourselves to be happy?

Now, I know what you're thinking: yeah, how's that going to happen? Well, it's pretty simple if you thing of it in a certain way.

Every decision that you have ever made has brought you to this point in your life.

So, in effect, every decision has led you to your current state of mind and, as such, every future decision can influence how you see the world.

Take this as an example, if you make the decision to make a change in your life- to get rid of the negativity and stress that you suffer with, then you are making a decision to have a much happier outlook on your future. However, if you decide to 'put up' with how things are, you are allowing yourself to be deprived of the happiness that is out there for the taking.

Do you see where I am going with this?

You choose to be happy by actively making the effort to adapt how you see the world. You are the one who is solely responsible for how you see the world.

You can be happy. You can get rid of the negativity and upset in your life.

All you need to do is try.

I'm not saying that it is going to be easy- far from it in fact- but if you adopt a positive attitude and stick with it, if you work hard towards what you really want instead of 'making do', then you will get there.

So go on, take responsibility of your own wellbeing. Allow yourself the be happy- you deserve it.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Stuck in a runt? Shake off the shackles and move forward.

On Wednesday, I ended up having a rather interesting conversation on the way to Chester with a co-worker. We were driving along, just talking, when she said something that really stuck with me and it's something that I really want to share with you all today.

"It doesn't matter what you do with your life as long as you keep on moving forward- I don't necessarily mean with education but as long as you keep moving forward in life, that's all that matters. You are driving your own destiny, no one else."

Keep moving forward. It's amazing how such a simple statement can have such a powerful effect on you.

It got me thinking. How can I keep moving forward? How can I actively take steps to keep my life aiming in the right direction than just staying in a stand still as the world passes me by? Then I realised. It was down to lack of action.

How many of us dream up things that we would like to do but never actually put the plan into motion? How many of us aspire for our professional or personal lives to go a certain way but never make the physical effort to even try?

So I've decided to create a bucket list. A set of actual goals to work towards of all of the things that I want to have achieved before my time is up and on this list I am going to have all of the things that I was too scared to imagine to do, too worried about, that I am determined to achieve.

If you're stuck in a runt, I ask you this: are you really unable to move forward, are you really unable to make a change or have you allowed yourself to stay motionless? Have you voluntarily allowed yourself to be stuck in the exact moment that you're in now because you've been unwilling or unable to admit that you are no longer progressing?

You are no longer moving forward?

Forget the excuses. Forget the 'It may not work' or 'I might fail'. Forget the 'It might be a mistake' or 'I may regret it' because you won't know unless you try in the first place.

Make a bucket list, aim for something better- even if it's just that holiday that you always wanted to go on.

The best way to get motivated to get something done is to go ahead and do it. So start today! Make that list, enrol on that course, take that step towards where you want to be.

If life's a journey and you want to make the most of it, you've got to start walking.

Image from Google

Image from Google

What would be on your bucket list or do you already have one? Let me know what it is- whether on Google + or in the comments!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

How To Deal With Exhaustion

There are various kinds of exhaustion ranging from physical, mental and emotional but they all have one common factor: if not dealt with quickly, they can have a real toll on your health and cause more problems.

While we can't always change the circumstance that causes us to feel the strain, we can take certain measures to help ourselves and to make things a lot easier.

Firstly, it is important to identify what kind of exhaustion you are feeling and it is important that if you have been feeling exhausted for a long period of time and it is causing problems with your health, that you should speak to your doctor.

So, without further ado, here are my top tips to dealing with exhaustion...
  1. Identify what kind of exhaustion you are having problems with
    Is it physical, mental or emotional? This may seem pretty obvious but the quickest way to tackle the problem is to identify what it actually is. The way to do this is by taking the time to work how it is you are tired. Do you ache? Do you find it difficult to focus? Or are you teary and feel in a constant state of chaos? Once you have worked out what the issue is, you can begin to resolve it.
  2. Make sure that you get plenty of sleep
    No matter the kind of exhaustion that you are having problems with, making sure that you have enough sleep is vital. It gives you the chance to be fully aware to deal with the problems around you and make sure that you are in top form. Yet, on the other side of the coin...
  3. Don't get TOO much sleep
    Having too much sleep can make you lethargic and mess with your sleeping pattern. What's more by having too much sleep, you may miss out on the opportunity to get things done which causes more strain on the body with the pressure to catch up on all that you've missed.
  4. Take a break
    From the office, from your work, from your chores- go and take a break. Whether that is a holiday, a day away or maybe just trying something new. Your brain needs rest and by stepping away from things for a while or giving your brain something else to dwell on, it gives you the chance to recuperate.
  5. Finally, come up with a plan
    Work out if there is any way to make your situation easier, whether that is by speaking to your boss at work and trying to come up with a solution, find a way to escape for a while (a bubble bath is always good!) and take step by step actions to come out the other end. Remember to RIPAS (Recognise the problem, Identify that it needs to be solved, Plan a solution, Act out the solution, Solve the issue.)
What are your top tips for getting rid of exhaustion? Let me know!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

How To Handle Unexpected Circumstances

We've all been through times where we've been faced with challenges that we weren't prepared for, whether that be personally, professionally or financially.

Unfortunately, life doesn't come with a warranty- we can't hand it over and ask for an exchange when it goes wrong- but we can come up with ways of managing the problem and working towards a solution using a certain set of steps. So, following on from that, here is a method for tackling whatever challenge comes your way:

Image from Google

  1. Write the situation itself down in a factual concise way.
    Let me guess, "Wait, what? How is that going to solve anything?" If you write down the problem as unemotionally as possible you can see it at face value and look at it more objectively without the chaos of emotions and other people influencing you. Here's an example: you are concerned that you won't have enough money to pay the rent and you're worried that the landlord won't be understanding. You are making yourself sick with worry and other things that wouldn't faze you before are building up on top of the problem. I recommend that you list it like this:

    -May not have enough money for rent

    -Don't know how to deal with landlord if I can't pay

    You would then tackle each point separately. Firstly, deal with ways to find money for the rent (budgeting, cutting down on areas, asking for help) and then how you would deal with the landlord (speaking to them, trying to come to some sort of compromise).
  2. Flowcharts
    If you are unsure of what to do as a next step, break it down into separate questions. Say that you are unsure if you want to move in with a partner, break it down into more manageable chunks.

    Eg. Am I ready to move out of my parent's house/ where I am now? (Yes/No)
    Am I ready in this relationship to take this step? (Yes/No)
    Am I alright with the thought of living with this person? (Yes/No)
    This should help to put your thoughts into more manageable chunks so that you can properly process them.
  3. Come up with a planThis one is the biggie. When faced with a curveball, take the time to plan your next step. Use the two steps mentioned above and then come up with, whether you write them down or keep them in your mind, a clear path to a solution. The best way to handle a situation is to use the following route.
    Identify the problem- Whether that is being told the situation, realising that something is wrong or knowing that you have to do something about it.
    Accept the problem- Accept that action needs to be taken and that a plan of action needs to be made.
    Come up with a solution- This doesn't have to be an immediate fix but it does have to have a realistic set of actions that can be taken.
    Act out the plan- This may take a long time but by acting it out you are on the right path to sorting things out.
    Reach the solution and resolve the problem- Enough said.
    Learn where you can- Take in the lessons that you've learnt along the way, they've made you a better person.
  4. And, most importantly, don't forget that it's OK to ask for help.None of us are invincible, we all need some help every now and then and that's OK, just remember to make sure to let the person know that you're thankful and that you're there when they will inevitably need help.
How do you cope with unexpected circumstances? Let me know!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

How To Feel Good About Yourself When Others Put You Down

It isn't always easy to keep our chin up. Pressure from society, other people and even ourselves can make us question our confidence and can make us feel inferior.

So what is it that causes us to feel 'less than'? What is it that causes us to feel as though we are not as good as others? There may be various reasons, and while each person will have their own feelings of insecurities, we are constantly looking for validation from society. It's a natural response to want to be accepted by others and this desire to be a part of society can make us agonise over comparisons and feel shame when we 'do not come up to par'.

So, keeping this in mind, how do we continue to feel good about ourselves and be secure in who we are?
  1. Set your own standardsInstead of striving to meet invisible targets that you feel are there- make them tangible to you. Say you and your friend are each writing a book and you find out that your friend has nearly finished. Instantly you feel ashamed- you are only half way and it won't be nearly as good as theirs! Instead of going down this line of thought, set your own target of writing to the highest standard that you can and that by the end of each week to have a chapter complete.
  2. Try to identify why you feel inferiorMore often than not you may be the one creating an issue when there isn't even an one there. If you can, try to identify why you feel that way. Say that you feel insecure about your dancing at a party compared to a friend. Is it your friend that is making you feel anxious or is it your own perception of your dancing? Do you feel conscious of your dancing because you're conscious of your body or do you feel awkward being at the party itself? How can you change that?
  3. If someone is trying to make you feel inferior, try to understand whyDo they themselves feel inferior and are trying to drag you down with them? Have they had a fall out with someone and feel the need to take it out on someone? Or are they a toxic person who just wants to cause harm? If the criticism isn't constructive, imagine a wall (or a shield) protecting you from that person and their words. The words that the person is saying belong to them, it is there anger- you only allow those things to become yours if you take them in and accept them.
It isn't always easy to stop yourself from succumbing to these pressures but to allow yourself to be swept away by your insecurities is damaging to both how you see yourself and how you see others. Try to remember your strengths rather than just your weaknesses because although you may have issues with some areas, you will be amazing in others.

How do you deal with anxieties and feeling of inferiority? Let me know!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

How To Make Your Work Space Work For You

If you're anything like me, you are easily influenced by your environment. Being surrounded by chaos or noise can really bring you down and send your stress levels through the roof.

While we may not be able to completely control our working environment, we can influence our immediate area and make sure that we help ourselves as much as we can to have a happier and more productive day.

Here are my top tips for giving yourself a much more calming and more satisfying work space:

1) Buy yourself a plant.OK, what? How does introducing a garden to my desk help me? Well, by adding a bright, easy to manage plant to your working space, you add a splash of colour as well as a bit of outdoors to your cooped up area. What's more, having a plant on your desk gives you something to look after and can offer a welcome break from staring at you monitor when it requires the occasional bit of watering.
Image from Google. A yellow Kalanchoe is what I have- an easy to manage plant which I recommend highly!

2) Make sure that you have plenty of lightSitting in a dark or dimly lit environment will do your eyesight no favours and will make you feel groggy and unwilling to work. Try and make sure that any lights around your desks are working or that you are near a window. If you're struggling, try to get a lamp for your desk and go outside to get some sunshine on your break.
3) Make sure that you have a comfortable desk chairI cannot stress this enough! There is nothing worse than sitting with bad posture and giving yourself a bad back. Your feet should both be on the floor and your back should be straight with the lower part supported. If you have problems with your chair, try to speak to your manager/ boss about exchanging it, buy yourself a new one (if you are self employed or in a position to) or see if anyone else in the office is willing to do a swap- you never know, they may be having the same problem!
4) Have a clear out!
I know that when you're busy you don't have the time to keep organised. You shove documents to one side as you're trying to keep a grip on the phone. You rummage around for a pen only to find that none work and your drawers become cluttered with things that you've thrown in there for later. The problem is, these things don't sort out themselves- it's down to you to get rid of the junk.
It doesn't have to be a massive clear out- maybe just throw those pens away or put things in their proper place but, I promise you, when you have free desk space, you'll feel a lot better.
5) Make your desk work for you
If you're in an open plan office with a bunch of understanding co-workers and a nice boss, see if you can move your desk. Now, don't get me wrong- I'm not talking about relocating to an entirely new part of the office but if you are a metre away from the window then why not see if you can budge your desk over to it? Alternatively, if you have a book self or filing cabinet next to you that blocks your vision or is clogging up your space, why not see if you can have it moved to the opposite wall?
6) Bring in photos.
Photos of family, friends, pets etc can help to put a smile on your face during days that are difficult and help to remind you of who are waiting to hear from you when you finish work. Warning: Make sure to avoid photos taken of holiday destinations. This can make you feel worse and cause all of your energy to be directed to booking your next holiday and wishing that you were there rather than focussing on the work that you're meant to be doing.

7) Have a spare cardigan, or jumper/sweater, and a pair of comfortable shoes
This point is only marginally related to your work space but its important all the same. Having an extra layer can help to keep you warm and focussed when you're getting through your to do list while having a comfortable pair of shoes (or slippers!) means maximum comfort and stops aching feet!

8) If you can, change your email background and your desktop background to pictures that you likeThis can be done on Gmail, which have an array of gorgeous backgrounds. In regards to your desktop, if you can't find one you like, search for one in your break and upload it. I have a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson and both  backgrounds really pick up my mood.

Any more suggestions? Let me know!