Anthem – Sadness and Regret

Anthem – Sadness and Regret

A friend of mine in her fifties wrote to me with sadness about how she felt she had not reached her potential nor achieved the life she had imagined for herself when she felt so powerful at the age of 22. She said, “I think I was really smart!!! My life has been a mess! Never turned out the way I imagined it!” I think she is not alone in her experience, and so I would like to share in this Blog my reply to her, in case you may find something helpful if you too are feeling this way: One of the wisest things I ever learnt was at the age of 21. In my HDE year at university I had a Psychology of Education lecturer called Dr Gordon Bauer who made us date all of our submissions and add the word AMPLOS next to the date. It stood for, At My Present Level Of Sophistication. Just so we needn’t be held accountable in 5 years time for the rubbish we wrote today. There is a quote, which regrettably I can’t locate right now – by I think Marilyn Monroe – who was a sensitive and conscious human being despite the alternate hype, which goes something along the lines of, No-one consciously makes a bad decision. We all make choices based on what feels wise at the time. That with hindsight some choices work out to have been not the best, is the curve ball that life throws at us, and I think we need to deal compassionately with ourselves. We are human and not infallible. We do the best we can. There must be those people, but I have yet to meet someone who isn’t trying their best within their situation and their emotional, intellectual, psychological and physical resources. My instincts are, if things have not turned out the way you imagined it, make peace with that. Certainly don’t waste energy on regret and self-recrimination. That’s counter productive – punishing yourself, but not serving any generative purpose. Feeling bad actually reduces our ability to be powerful in our lives. Breathe. Love yourself. Honour the wonderful human being that you are – right now – because it is important to see the wonder in yourself. Take stock. Scan the landscape. See what dreams you can dream for yourself going forward. And start a new page. What is it that can be meaningful for you from this point onwards? What does it need in order to action it? What do you need to harness in service of it? And after breathing and taking stock, go for it! You still have within you your 22-year-old potential. I know you feel...

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Part 5 of a series on weight loss – The worst kind of eating: don’t let yourself do this!

Part 5 of a series on weight loss – The worst kind of eating: don’t let yourself do this!

I’m not speaking about people who have genuine and deeply psychological eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia. I’m referring to people who have a mildly dysfunctional relationship with food caused by the diet industry and the messages we get from the media about the shoulds and musts of eating. If you were to ask most of these people what the worst kind of eating is, they would probably speak about binge eating – you know, the classic Hollywood scene of the girl who gets dumped by her boyfriend: cut to a week later, and the apartment is littered with pizza boxes, ice-cream containers and chocolate wrappers as she soothes her misery with food. We’ve all been there and done that. Be gentle with yourself.. This is not the most iniquitous form of eating. If you find yourself here, take note of the storm you are in, notice what you’re doing, and treat yourself compassionately. Once the storm is over, your equilibrium will return and those kilograms you picked up will drop off once more. No. The most iniquitous form of eating, the form that packs on kilograms silently over the years, is unconscious eating. When you sit in front of the TV with that jumbo packet of crisps on your lap, and when you next look, the bag is empty and you don’t even remember what they tasted like, because you were so engrossed in the movie. The eating on automatic pilot. It has traumatised your body yet not nourished your soul. By all means eat crisps. But tune in while you eat them. Taste and enjoy every bite. Truly feed your emotions while you eat. Tune into your body and your soul. Be curious: at what point are your body and soul satisfied? At what point don’t you need any more? Then...

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Part 3 of a series on parenting – Yes, you will tidy your room!

Part 3 of a series on parenting – Yes, you will tidy your room!

Parenting can often be a battle of wills – a standoff between adversaries that can degenerate into aggression and negative feelings, which if repeated often enough, can tarnish a very important life-long relationship. So how does one constructively handle these difficult situations? I first learnt about this technique when my first baby was a year old, and it has been one of the most powerful lessons I have ever learnt – with profoundly positive long term benefits for my relationship with both my children! The first thing to watch is your language! How dripping in judgment is it? Keeping the example of tidying the bedroom in mind, are you using words like “pigsty”, “cesspit” or anything of that ilk??? Shaming your child in this way is very destructive to their self-esteem and your long-term relationship. Try to keep your words neutral by simply sticking to the facts. Rather talk about the clothes and books on the floor. Avoid blame by owning the problem yourself. Talk about your own response to it. “I don’t like your clothes and books on the floor. I feel much happier when the place is tidy,” is better than saying “You always leave your clothes and books on the floor.” Ask for what you want respectfully but firmly. “I want you to put the books on the shelf and your clothes in the laundry basket now please. What are you going to start with?” Reward good behavior like crazy, with lots of praise as well as perks if appropriate. “If your bedroom is nice and tidy you can watch TV / have pudding tonight / go to movies on Saturday.” But don’t underrate how powerful a motivator simple praise is. So make sure you acknowledge to your child how beautiful you think the tidied room looks. A great rule of thumb: focus on the good and downplay the bad. Try to catch your children out doing things right rather than on their mistakes. To follow: Part 4 of a series on parenting Stop being...

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Duchesses and Flower Girls

Duchesses and Flower Girls

Do you find that your relationships at work or in your family are less than ideal? Perhaps characterized by conflict, or worse – distant and cut off – as though people have stopped trying to bridge the gap with you, they’ve just given up? We can never change other people, only ourselves, so it may be a good idea to quickly do a personal check-in with regard to how we are relating to other people. Basically, it’s in our attitude to others, which shows up very, very strongly in the quality of our listening. There are two kinds of listening, one of which alienates others, and the other, which deepens our bonds of co-operation and understanding. The first is competitive listening. We pretend to pay attention while we wait for an opening to promote our own point of view, without really caring about the view of the other person. We listen for weak points in their argument where we can shoot them down, or formulate our points of rebuttal even while they are speaking. Sometimes we even plan that crushing comeback. We are in it to win it. The second is active listening. Here, we genuinely want to understand what the other person is thinking, feeling and wanting. We check that we have understood both the meaning of their words but, importantly, also the feelings and any meaning below the words. We check out that we have correctly understood them, by reflecting back to them what we understood them to say. Perhaps we didn’t understand accurately and they can then correct us and we can recalibrate our understanding. When people feel genuinely heard, this deepens the quality of their relationship with us, and builds bridges. It comes down to whether we view the other as our adversary, our inferior, or someone equally worthy of respect. When people feel respected by us, they become our allies. We should treat all people well, irrespective of their status relative to ours. Here is a beautiful illustration of the value of respectful human interaction from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, made into the famous film, My Fair Lady. LIZA [stopping her work for a moment] Your calling me Miss Doolittle that day when I first came to Wimpole Street. That was the beginning of self-respect for me. [She resumes her stitching]. And there were a hundred little things you never noticed, because they came naturally to you. Things about standing up and taking off your hat and opening door— PICKERING. Oh, that was nothing. LIZA. Yes: things that shewed you thought and felt about me as if I were something better than a scullery-maid; though of course I know you would have been just...

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