Many of you will be looking at 2020 as a year of cancelled plans. Some of you may have benefited from staying indoors, especially if like me, the world around you has a tendency to give you panic attacks on a day to day basis! I’ve certainly found a blessing in being able to slow down and not contend with the world at large so much, and it’s ok to recognise and appreciate things like that.
For some people, it has been hard or inconvenient. People have had to cancel weddings, travel plans, children’s birthdays, postpone graduations or do things online. I’ve missed seeing friends, and for four months of total isolation missed being with my family.
Perhaps surprisingly, 2020 has been a year of celebration for some people too. I have friends who have had new additions to their family, some friends have had babies, others are pregnant with their first or second children and there are yet other people I know of who have also got married this year, or embarked upon a new relationship. Some people have done well in their careers or in some kind of personal project.
Maybe for most of us we’ve either been ‘hanging on’ or persevering and trying our best to ‘keep the faith’, stay positive and help and encourage other people.
So for the most of us who have had our ‘plans on hold’ (at the start of the year, I thought, pre-Brexit, let me travel to as many European countries as I can that I haven’t yet visited – ha! what did I know!), do we dare to dream, to plan?
While our lives may all look very different from one another, I feel like it is important for me to set goals. These may not be ‘new’ goals, but I really feel it is important to have something to work towards. I will have all sorts of tasks to do when I resume ‘work work’ in January, new projects to do, new deadlines to meet. Yet, I also feel that it is important to plan and set incremental goals of continuous improvement and development for myself that aren’t specifically work related.
Some of these relate to my faith and relationship with God, and my consistency in doing my bit, in prayer and handling Scripture better, and in keeping in touch with other Christians. Others may relate to being accountable in terms of staying in touch with friends and family.
I have goals and plans to do with writing consistently with my blog, my novel and other creative pursuits, musical interests and hobbies, health and fitness.
And something else I feel is important is progressing with my mental health journey and part of that I guess is working out a ‘structure’ or plan for myself for moving forwards and being able to tackle the challenges of life and of my mind.
There is so much I can’t plan for right now, so much you can’t either. We don’t know all the ‘ins and outs’ of how this pandemic will pan out (no pun intended!) especially as there have been recent reports of a new strain of the virus. In January 2020 I couldn’t have predicted how ludicrous my plans to see more of Europe would turn out to be, so who knows what we will or won’t be able to do going forwards. Yet, life doesn’t stop, and to stay mentally healthy, we need to keep a forward focus.
Maybe you are planning for an online wedding. (Congrats!). Maybe you are planning for a new arrival. Maybe you, like me, are planning to persevere with your own personal goals.
There are many unknowns, but we can still have faith and vision. We can rise up and meet the challenges of each new day with hope. We can choose faith over fear, and while we don’t know the plan we can set a small goal, and then another, and another, and see where that might take us….
I’ve often written about how breaking down a task into its component parts can make it more manageable. This became an absolute necessity for me at a difficult time of my life where various health struggles meant that the smallest task was overwhelming to me and I couldn’t see a way out of the situation as my body and mind were at a point of burn out, exhaustion and in desperate need of repair and recovery.
However, I persevered with the small steps, and I can tell you it has been life changing to approach each day in this way.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now in this rather unexpected year of 2020, but perhaps now that we are in the final third of the year you may be feeling a little weary and wondering ‘what next?’.
No matter where you are at, don’t underestimate the power of small steps, for these can add up to be transformative. Whether the steps you take are in relation to your mental health and emotional wellbeing, physical health, recovery, creating a beautiful home environment, writing a book, accomplishing a task or persevering with your blog, small steps can cumulatively have a life changing effect.
When what you are facing seems insurmountable, and the bigger picture unachievable, create goals and forward steps that are small and manageable and focus on that one thing at a time, and seek enjoyment in it. Little by little, day by day, you will see the improvements.
How do you feel at this point of the year? It’s often a reflective time as the seasons begin to change, as I have written about before, however perhaps all the more so this year with having lived through a pandemic. Are there changes you need to make, or things you need to slow down and take the time to appreciate more or people you need to connect or reconnect with? Have you taken a resigned attitude to the rest of this year or are you willing to take the next small step of setting a new goal for yourself, of giving yourself the permission to take it one small step at a time and enjoy the process and the journey that it takes you on?
Setting a goal is in a way an expression of hope, and perhaps for some of us even of Faith. It means we have more to live for, more to aspire towards, and more to appreciate and give thanks for as we choose to live rather than merely exist.
Maybe today is the day for you to look around you, at your life, and however big or modest your vision is, take that next one small step, keep going, and see where the journey leads as you keep moving forwards. x
With it being the year 2020, there have been various adverts and slogans around the idea of ‘2020’ vision. From promotions by eye-care specialists, to ads by holiday companies promoting the ‘vision’ of a year filled with travel and adventure. The idea of 2020 vision tugs at those ‘goal-setting, achievement oriented’ heart strings as we think of the ideal vision of ourselves in various aspects of our lives from health, weight, fitness, career, travel, personal goals and of course, eye-care! : – )
There’s a verse in the Bible that says: “Without vision, the people perish”. Proverbs 29:18. For me it’s important to ask God what His vision is for my life, to ask the One Who sees perfectly and knows completely, without error. From the vision for a nation to that of a single life, we recognise the importance of looking above ourselves for direction to safeguard us from wandering aimlessly. I’d need to study more into what this verse really means, but I thought it was a helpful starting point for some of the ideas I’m ‘mulling over’ in my own mind.
You might have started the year with the sense of what you want to do, be or accomplish: many people do. But after a while, the ‘ordinary’ day-to-day things of life begin to occupy your focus such that you tend to just carry on doing what you’ve been doing.
Changing an aspect of our lives or ourselves generally requires us to be intentional in the pursuit of change. I’m not talking about changes in our lives that ‘just happen’ and that are out of our control, but those which we have a responsibility over. Things such as changing our daily habits, eating more healthily, gaining new skills, exercising, helping other people, investing time in our relationships and pursuing new goals, opportunities and long held dreams.
Sometimes, despite our initial enthusiasm, we end up merely ‘trundling along’ in life. We need to refresh our vision. And we need to remind ourselves that we don’t have to stay the same. Life involves growth, change, development. Without it we stagnate. And change doesn’t have to happen over night. It can begin by taking time to think about what you really consider important, discovering your vision in various aspects of your life and then making small changes little by little, day by day.
Personally, I have come up with the idea of writing daily vision pages, and it is really helping me to live each day with purpose. Instead of having a daily ‘to-do’ list, I write vision pages in which I focus on aspects or qualities that I want to live out and pair these with a corresponding activity or activities.
Transformation is possible, but we need to decide which areas of our lives require change, and then we need to begin, and continue one step at a time…moving closer each step, towards that vision.
When was the last time you lifted your eyes and watched the clouds drift lazily across the sky? Shadows, darkness and wisps of wonder traverse the skyline, slowly, heavily, lightly, fleeting mists.
When was the last time you looked up, and allowed the gentle pace of the clouds to calm your breathing, and softly nudge your mind to rest?
Have you ever watched the clouds move? Have you ever let them invite you in to a lazy, carefree space within yourself?
I watch the clouds move, and my heart grows calm. The noise of the world seems to dissipate, and all there is is what is in front of me, the moment that I am resting within, swaddled by these wispy, whimsical, gently floating dreams. I don’t see where they go when they move past the corner of my window….where do dreams go as they drift along?
In this vast universe there is a little window of time, of opportunity, of life, your life, and mine….will you slow your heart and mind for a moment to hear it, to experience and to live it, to allow it to deepen the wonder within you?
This is more of a ‘life as it happens to be’ learning as I go type of post, rather than an article of helpful advice (although I’ll try to include helpful tips where I can), quite simply because this is an area of on-going learning and development for me.
The different spheres in which we move, and live:
Some of you out there may have particularly unique or fascinating jobs that don’t quite fit a predictable ‘pattern’ of set hours or locations. Maybe your work involves traveling across the world, through different time zones and maybe some of you could get called to work at any time of the day or the night. However, I imagine that most of us who are working adults tend to have a set number of hours for which we are paid to work each week, and in set locations. Even if you work from home and / or run your own business/s, you tend to wake up on a Monday morning (if Monday is a working day for you) knowing where you are meant to be and what you are supposed to do (although, first thing on a Monday morning thoughts about the latter might be a little foggy! : – ) ).
It’s important to have that delineation between work and leisure time, and this may be a particular challenge for people who work for themselves and / or work from home for the most part because the physical and psychological space between home and work will tend to be less defined.
Why is it important to have this distinction? Obviously our lives involve elements of ‘cross-over’ in many respects, however, we need a basic degree of separation in order to protect our own mental and emotional well-being, in order to know when to stop, when to rest, and when to work.
‘After work’ time:
Once we have ‘downed tools’ for the day, we move from one sphere of living into another. For me this involves completing work tasks, ‘powering down’, physically leaving one building to make a short commute to get home. That is quite a clear demarcation for me, as it will be for many of you, with the travel time in between allowing us to mentally process the sphere from one part of our day and life into the next.
Making the most of my time is an on-going lesson for me, and perhaps for many of you. I have quite clear ideas of what my life priorities are, and how I would like to spend my time. I set goals not only at the start of the year, but also try to do this for each new month throughout the year, and on the whole I manage to spend valuable time on each of the areas of life that are most important to me, and that are within my grasp to be able to do so.
However, isn’t it often the case that we can feel ‘rushed’ in our lives and unable to fully give as much time and attention to what we want to do? Do you ‘wait for the weekend’, for your next holiday, or even for retirement? I personally don’t think that’s a way that I want to be living my life, when each day is packed full of opportunity. It’s just that sometimes we aren’t able to make the most of each of our days. Why?
What considerations to we need to take into account that might be hindrances to fully living the life we want to lead?
At work, I’m getting more opportunities to use my project management skills, and to work with others as part of a team to be involved in the implementation and progress of new initiatives. I do like a good plan, and when it comes to successful planning and project implementation at work this can be particularly satisfying. Often projects can fall by the wayside because of poor planning and a lack of comprehensive discussion and brainstorming between the right people. At the moment it seems that I am involved with a good team on a particular project, who have introduced a new project planning tool which is particularly good for assessing progress and making people aware of tasks and relevant deadlines.
When it comes to work, and my work has been quite varied over the years, I am always either ahead of time or on schedule with work tasks and projects.
However, when it comes to all the things I want to do, enjoy and achieve before or after work, I tend to be far more lenient on myself. Does this also ring true for you?
For starters, we are but human, and our bodies and minds need rest and refreshing. We also need to eat and sleep, and preparing a meal takes time, and the window of time between getting home, doing what is needed to sustain us, and then going to bed is relatively small.
Learning through different approaches:
I used to have an idea in mind of the different things I would want to do after work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly do them all, so at one point I would try to set aside specific days for different things such as exercise, playing my violin, going to my prayer and study group, writing, art and creative pursuits, photography, reading, devotional time and so on.
I then tried the approach of ‘going with the flow’, since I already have a very clear idea of the different things I want to spend my time on, and ideas of new things I want to learn and do and people to spend time with.
Yet, the reality of things meant that ‘going with the flow’ of how I felt often resulted in me whiling away an evening eating dinner and watching TV or getting distracted by the online world of YouTube, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending time doing this to wind down, it’s just that I would feel a little disappointed when I knew that I wanted to be more productive and spend at least a little time doing other things.
I also tried the idea of doing things for a small amount of time and then doing something else. This tends to work quite well for me especially at the weekends, but not always so much on a week night.
Sometimes I think that I’ll do certain things in a week without having any set time or day, and at times this works out for me.
I’ve been working on writing a novel for 12 years, and I’ve been making good progress, however, even with writing being so important to me and a real passion of mine, I sometimes get a bit ‘lazy’ about it, feeling that I need to have longer stretches of ‘set aside’ time to really get going. If you are interested in this aspect of my life, take a look through my posts from last year and the year before when I had my own personal writing retreats, taking time off to just work on my novel and my writing, which was hugely satisfying but also took me out of the ‘real world’ for a time.
One year I marked in my diary set aside writing time every evening – even if it was just a few minutes a day. Suffice to say, this didn’t work for me, and perhaps I didn’t like the self imposed constraints. It is nice to do things spontaneously, but at the same time, we don’t approach work goals that way, so similarly personal goals and dreams need to be worked towards, and time and effort needs to be put in. I don’t want to reach the end of a day, a month or a year, or my lifetime and feel that I ‘frittered’ away my time being distracted by what’s on the TV or the internet, when I have so many dreams to fulfil.
Yet in order to do all these wonderful things, to live the lives we want to, we also need to factor in those practicalities I mentioned earlier of eating well, getting the right amount of sleep, exercising to stay healthy and having time to wind down, relax and do nothing, or just enjoy a good TV programme!
Lately I’ve been aware of the beauty in life of being present in the moment, and enjoying the process of my life, of ‘being’. Enjoying the colours, and aromas of cooking, enjoying staring into space and daydreaming, of not getting stressed if everything I want to do isn’t done, and trying to do some of the important things to me each week.
It can be hard for all of us to keep on top of things at times. We need to do all the practical things from day to day, to maintain our homes, and possibly for many to look after other people as well. I’m all too aware of not letting myself get ‘burnt out’ precisely because I have been in the past, which might be partly why I realise the importance of also spending time doing things that are important to me and life enriching rather than only doing things for other people, while also knowing that helping others thrive is an important part of life too.
A learning curve….and I’m still learning….
As I said at the start, I’m still learning. Being mindful of what is important to me, however, and giving myself the opportunity to take time for these things (even if it is just five minutes at a time) has helped me to make far better use of my time than if I hadn’t spent time reflecting and thinking about things.
I find blogging very satisfying, and life enhancing, and I am glad that I have managed to sustain a regular writing ‘habit’ if you could call it that (although I personally don’t see it at all as a habit, so much so as simply pursuing something that I enjoy doing and hopefully encourages other people). If I didn’t put in the time to do this, maybe I’d just have whiled away my time mindlessly on things that don’t really come up in my priorities in life, such as watching TV, although that’s ok as long as it isn’t the only thing we do with our non-working time.
I’ve found that it has also benefited other people who have told me that my words have brought encouragement to me, which means so much to me. Do you realise that your own gifts and talents have an impact not only in your own life but the lives of others too. You are making a difference in the world.
When we know what is important to us that is perhaps the first step towards making the most of our time. We will find a way and we will keep learning along the way.
Over to you:
Can you relate to any of the thoughts I’ve expressed in terms of your own life and learning? Do you have any ‘pearls of wisdom’ to share with me, and other readers? What are you blessed to be able to spend your time doing, and how would you like to make better use of your time? Do you have any ideas of how you can do things better?
Thank you so much for taking your time to read this and hopefully it has also been time well spent for you. Be blessed. x
We all need vision for our lives. We all need to dream, to have meaning, goals and purpose.
Yet those dreams need to be united with the practical and sometimes ‘mundane’ steps of living them out.
At the start of this new year and new decade, 2020, you may have big dreams for your life. You may already be working towards life long goals and dreams. But the dreams will not sustain themselves and need to be coupled with both faith and action.
At the beginning of this year, I was gearing up to be ‘ready to go’. However, ‘IRL’ the morning of new year’s day I spent playing my violin, shortly after which I ended up coughing, sneezing and huddled up with the cold. I had to leave my parents’ home that evening and they dropped me back at my own flat, so after one day of rest I was back at work on Friday, and this weekend, I’ve been unable to do very much because of this unwanted cold.
I’ve spent the weekend so far sipping ginger tea, sleeping, eating, praying, doing some Bible study, and blogging a little when I’m able to sit up. I’ve been somewhat at the mercy of my body and unable to ‘get up and go’ or be prepared as I would like to for the start of a brand new year. I’m coughing and have a sore throat, and just need to take it easy so that I can recover. So, that is ‘life as it happens to be’ right now.
And perhaps you have dreams, plans and goals you wish to achieve, yet without a doubt daily life will at times get in the way, but the key is not to get side-tracked or waylaid by these inconveniences or challenges. You may not be able to press full steam ahead with your plans, but little by little day by day, keep persevering towards your goals, don’t lose focus or vision and don’t let yourself get discouraged by the inevitable distractions of day to day life.
What is your vision for this year, or for yourself generally? A healthier you? There will be things to trip you up along the way, but keep that vision and that focus, and do a little at a time, day by day, get into patterns of healthier living and thinking and don’t give up. Some days you might not be able to live just as you want, but keep moving in that healthy direction for your life and watch the small and steady steps all add up to a better journey through life.
Do you want to work on all sorts of personal projects, keep your home neat and tidy, and write or study new things on a regular basis, but like me today you find yourself sick and unable to do very much? Maybe like me in the past you’ve also had longstanding health problems, maybe you have more serious health problems to deal with as we speak. Don’t give up. Is recovery your goal? Keep that vision, the positive attitude, and keep ‘chipping away’ at things bit by bit, day by day. No one said there would never be challenges, hard days or disappointment on your journey, but find the faith and strength to overcome and to persevere, just a little at a time, day by day.
Maybe, like me today, you just have the inconvenience of a cold. I’ve come through a lot of tough battles and struggles in my life, so I’m quite thankful that this day is blessed with only a little inconvenience. It’s a matter of perspective. We can do what we can to heal, be thankful that it’s the weekend, and even when we feel tired, worn out, have dishes piled high that we don’t have the energy to wash, have suitcases to unpack and want to but don’t have the energy to get back into an exercise routine, when we want to achieve things and be our best, but we can barely get ourselves ready, even then we can do a little at a time.
Take some rest. Look after yourself. Remind yourself of what is important. And don’t feel discouraged if you can’t do the ‘big things’ today. One of my dreams is to complete my novel, and to use my blog to make an impact on other people’s lives for the better, and most of all to glorify God. Ok, so I’ve written a lot of my novel, but I also want to take it a lot further, and there isn’t going to be much novel writing at the moment with me being unwell. I’d like to inspire, uplift and encourage people through my blog, and I don’t know if this is all too ‘mundane’ to do that right now, but at least I can do this little by little, bit by bit, and these few blog posts can help move me in the right direction as I persevere.
So, whatever it is you are facing today, whether it is a common cold, or a crisis, don’t let these things push you off course from the purpose, dreams and visions for your life. Keep focused, and even when it is tough, just keep putting that one step in front of another. In time to come, you’ll be so glad you did, and so will the people that you end up encouraging! x
If you work, whether full time, part time or freelance, life can get busy. Whether you travel the world with you work, or are in an office or a depot or work from home, you might find yourself from time to time dreaming of the things you’d like to do when you retire. If you work from home, you probably have more flexibility, but still I’m sure you also have times when you daydream of doing something when you have more ‘free time’.
My challenge to you today, for this ‘lunch bite’ is to do something during your lunchtime that you dream about doing when you retire. Obviously, you’ll need to work within the parameters of your situation here, and keep it fairly reasonable. If you dream of skydiving in your retirement, or traveling around the world, or lying on a beach, well, you’re going to probably have to just leave that for another day. But if you see yourself also doing more simple yet enjoyable things such as reading more, exercising, taking a walk, writing poetry, going to coffee shops, writing a book, making model planes, drawing, learning a language, or whatever it may be, then use your lunchtimes as an opportunity to invest in yourself and your enjoyment of life now, rather than waiting until you retire.
‘But I don’t have the time!’ I hear you say. Are you sure about that? What if you were to keep a book you’ve wanted to read for a long time, on your desk at work. Pick it up during your lunch breaks and soon you will find the rewards of giving yourself that little bit more time to enjoy reading if that’s something you like to do but feel too rushed for. Or why not keep a sketch pad to practice a bit of drawing when you have ten minutes spare, build it up over time. Or you could have a notepad with you where you can scribble down thoughts, ideas, stories, characters, insights from your day to day life, for that novel you want to write…..”someday”.
Or if you dream of relaxing days sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, I’m sure this is something you can factor in at least once a month into your working life – can you take a longer lunch break once in a while? Go out for a walk, listen to podcasts, listen to immersive language teaching and learn what you’ve always wanted to.
Or if you’re sporty, why not go for a run during your lunch break? It’s become quite a trend among my colleagues, and many people bring in their kit to work to go jogging or running during their break. Others might take a stroll down to the park. If you don’t have those options, but still want to keep fit, why not climb up and down the stairs or do some simple stretches.
There are so many things you can do now, that you dream of doing later, “when you have the time”. But the thing is, the time is now. You don’t know whether you’ll be able to do the things you enjoy later, so why not invest in yourself even for ten minutes every lunchtime, and add that little bit extra to your life today. If you keep waiting for ‘tomorrow’ or the ‘golden years’ of your retirement, you may just miss your chance. So carpe diem, friends….seize the day! 🙂
Well, it’s the 1st of August already, friends. At this time of the year, having well and truly crossed the half-way point, someone is bound to say “I can’t believe it’s August already! Where has the time gone?” Can anyone relate? Maybe you’ve been the one to say it to others.
I often find that as the year draws on, as summer reaches its height and then begin to fade, and we face the inevitability of the approach of autumn and winter and the end of the year, that a subtle negativity can creep up on some people (or perhaps not so subtle!), and with it an underlying current of anxiety, stress and maybe a little fear.
The passing of the seasons reminds us of the passing of time, and inevitably life. And even if we are in the bloom of youth, and have much ahead of us to look forward to, there can be a tendency having reached the mid-point of the year to lament the things we haven’t done that we wanted to do, to feel directionless or that we have wasted time or drifted along, or to have a fear of the future, the passing of time and the need to ‘wake up’ a bit in our lives especially with regards to how we spend our time.
It can be easy to overlook our accomplishments, the fact that we have got up and shown up everyday (or most days), and have made it this far. Some people are naturally positive and don’t feel this way so much. However, if you are someone who struggles with having passed the mid-year point and need some encouragement, then read on my friend.
A simple shift in perspective can really help our outlooks for the better. Instead of seeing half the year as ‘gone’, look at this as the brand new start to a new month and new opportunities, and the chance to put your all into your life this month. We all approach life differently. I was chatting with a friend the other day who doesn’t like to plan things too much, but prefers spontaneity. We were talking in particular about using our time after work. I like to be ‘free’ within the structure of a plan. It helps me not to fritter away my time, and to focus and having spent time reflecting upon what is important to me in life, and aligns to my core values, then it’s a helpful way for me to ensure I do the things that are of most value to me. Eventually, this becomes part and parcel of the fabric of my life (such as the things I do in morning or evening ‘routines’), but for the things I find harder to ‘fit in’, I find that being intentional about them, even with a loosely structured plan, helps me. But perhaps you are more like my friend, and would find that constraining. However you approach things, use the 1st day of this brand new month to reflect on all the potentials and possibilities ahead of you, and strive to live deeply and more fully without dwelling anxiously on what you haven’t yet done.
Look out to the horizon, and dream big, then set sail and let your dreams take you there. Be blessed and stay hopeful. x
Think of the time you have to pursue your own interests and goals that you probably wouldn’t if you had a partner, spouse and / or children. Don’t lose today wishing for tomorrow, but instead embrace this season as one of opportunities for self development, personal growth and discovery and really putting your mind to getting to know yourself, and building up your skills, talents and abilities without so many competing demands on your time, for who knows if or when those demands and commitments may come and you may not have as much freedom to pursue your personal dreams and goals.