(c) Isobel Phillips
Once I’d learned that I could choose to be happy whatever was happening around me, it made me feel so much more powerful instead of a rather pathetic victim of whatever life happened to throw my way. My new-found strength didn’t last long though – the next “negative” event knocked me back. Not quite as far as before, but I realized that I hadn’t fully developed a habit of happiness. So that’s what I set out to do – to make happiness an inevitable result of actions I chose to take every day.
A positive, happy attitude doesn’t “just happen”. It’s something we choose or not, consciously or not. At some point today you decided just how happy you were going to be – maybe when you dragged yourself out of bed this morning or when you were singing in the shower. Unless you consciously choose to be happy first, to feel good and look for things during your day that uplift you, you’re leaving your happiness to chance. And even worse, you’re leaving it in someone or something else’s power.
I think you’re worth more than that – don’t you? I know I am!
My day starts with the decision I make when I wake up, that this is going to be a great day. I run through the day in my mind, visualizing myself at my desk, out shopping, with friends – whatever I have planned. And I see myself smiling, relaxed, happy.
I’m not saying I never get knocked off course – but I aim to go back to the morning’s vision that this can be a good day and it’s up to me to make it so.
Not “gratitude” – that smacks of subservience to me. But an open-hearted, true appreciation of everything in my life. Yes, even the things I don’t like so much – they all serve a purpose. Every morning I sit with my first cup of coffee, if possible outside under the olive tree, and write as long a list as I can come up with of things to be thankful for. Some things repeat from day to day, others are one-offs or I suddenly become aware of them.
My list includes obvious things like my health, friends and relationships, the glorious blue sky I see almost every day and slightly less obviously, the stray cats who snooze contentedly in the sun even though they have no idea where their next meal is coming from. I count my blessings and I also count the things that I’m happy not to have in my life 🙂
I get extra points for actually telling people I care about that I appreciate and value them.
This probably seems odd coming from someone who almost has an anxiety attack at the thought of making an appointment! I hate being confined or tied down to a time and place but I’ve found that having a simple structure to my day helps me be more creative and focused. And thanks to a brilliant article by Catherine Cain on The Intelligent Use of Constraints I now kind of understand why.
I have a spreadsheet with a list of items I want to do every day in the first column and 28 – 31 little boxes next to each one (one for each day of the month). The game is to put an X in every box. I don’t manage to fill all the boxes, but some do get the magic X every single day (writing is one of them) and I get a sense of purpose and a record of how I spend my time.
I used to be a hermit. I lived almost entirely on-line and barely interacted with real people face-to-face. I’m still a happy loner but I’ve also learned the value of friends. All kinds of friends. Elderly ex-pats at a social club I help to run, friends I go out drinking and socializing with, friends I have deep, meaningful conversations with and friends I can sit with on the beach in a totally relaxed silence. And sometimes they’re all the same person!
My daily action is to make a point of speaking to at least one friend every day, even for a few minutes. It gets me out of my own head and reconnects me with the rest of the world.
Something else I was never that good at. I had many days of internet burnout where I dozed in my office chair, played games all night and lived on burgers and sticky buns. My total lack of self care almost drove me to a nervous break-down and it was a major reason behind the “how I destroyed my business” collapse of my business.
Now self care is built into my day and my week. I have one full day off every week, when I do no work at all and get away from the computer as much as possible. Daily – I make sure I have my first cup of coffee in peace and quiet and in the garden if possible. I eat three times a day; not at fixed times but not at my desk either. In the summer (which means temperatures of up to 50C here) I get up very early, around 5:30, and take a nap in the middle of the day. I drink a lot of water – because it makes me more alert. And at least once an hour I get up and move around – usually the amount of water I drink makes that a necessity anyway 🙂
We all have them – the things we “know” are true about ourselves like “I’m no good at sports”, “I can’t spell”, “I’m no good at making friends”, “I’m a night owl”, “I’m always late”. They go on and on and on .. and they’re all lies!
We are whatever we choose to be. If we want to play a sport, we can practise and improve; if spelling is difficult, we can read more and make sure we have spell-check available. I used to say I was a night owl until I had to catch the 6:30am bus to London every day, or be hauled over the coals by the CEO who lived a 10 minute walk away.
It was part of my personality and a bit of a joke, I thought, that I was always late – until I started teaching. If I didn’t get to college 15 minutes before the start of my first class, I was totally unprepared to take the lesson – and when you teach teenagers, that’s not something you can afford to be. If I was late getting to a class, I walked into a riot. So I learned to get up early and be on time.
Beliefs are just stories we tell ourselves over and over again, until we believe them. The only power they have over us is that we believe them – they’re not “real”.
One of my daily rituals is to choose a belief or a story and deliberate “destroy” (or destory) it in my mind. Sometimes even physically, by writing it on a piece of paper and burning it. The “night owl” and the “always late” stories died a long time ago, but I still have a few hanging around.
Other times I might use affirmations that are the opposite of the unwanted story I’m telling and that’s what I’ve been doing with one of the more enduring ones: “I’m not good with money” became “I love money and it serves me well”. So far in the last 6 months I’ve paid for a trip back to the UK for my nephew’s wedding and bought a new laptop, so the old story has taken a bit of a beating 🙂
How do you create the kind of day that you want? I’m always looking for new ways to support my choice to be happy 🙂
Isobel used to have a 4-hour daily commute to a high-powered job she hated and come home to an empty life. Now she lives in a beautiful villa overlooking the Red Sea, has a social life she can barely keep up with, works as and when she wants and is in a wonderful relationship with the love of her life. At age 50, she created a vision for her life and then she became it. She would love you to join her in stepping into the vision you have for your life. She also believes that life should be fun. With humor and understanding she shows you how, by combining small changes in your daily routine with a little secret sauce, your dream life is much, much closer than you think!