Saturday, 31 July 2010

Count your blessings

I remember when I was growing up being dragged kicking and screaming to my mum’s church. It tended to be quite a colourful affair. Lots of singing, plenty of animation and a fair bit of drama, if you ask me. There was a song at church that we used to sing once in a while entitled "Count Your Blessings". It was all about being grateful for what you had and what God had given you. I hadn't really thought about the song (or those Sundays for that matter) for some time, until I received a 'Thought for Today' in my inbox at work. Having signed up for the pleasure, these daily pick-me-ups come from those lovely people at Yesterday's went as follows:

"Even when you feel as though things aren't going well in your life, you have reasons to be grateful. Today, take time to appreciate the gift of life and all its wonders. Count your blessings and cherish what you have."

To the point and a powerful message.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Good vibrations

Over the weekend I went for a coffee with an old friend of mine that had just left our firm. He'd sent an "au revoir, see you somewhere, sometime" email to the main distribution list and then was kindly escorted off the premises so didn't get the chance to say proper farewells.

Fortunately, I completely randomly bumped into him (which given that we were based in two different countries was actually a surprise indeed). Anyway, over coffee he told me that he'd finally found the cajones to do something really exciting by going into a business partnership with two friends of his. It was brave, it was scary but it was all very exhilirating for him. I say "scary" but actually that was more the way I saw it than him. He was at complete peace and, as he put it, held no fear "for the first time in my life."

It was a very bold move and it's not the sort of thing that most of us could or would do. But one thing that did interest me was when he said it all started as an idea. "It only became a 'good' idea when I did something about it - otherwise it's just another plain old idea in my head. And we all have loads of those." His thinking kind of tied in with a blog entry I made fairly recently, which was all about giving legs to those internal reflections. I was once told that any new insight that doesn't lead to action to help the quality of your life is just a waste. My friend clearly went further along the line with his new concept but it does give me food for thought on so many levels.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


It's sometimes easy to forget how effective the "little and often" approach to change can be. It's the "marathon and not a sprint" way of thinking; the "get rich slowly" as opposed to trying to quickly. I'd like to think I'm instilling the approach across my existence - admittedly, with varying levels of success.

Now, I'm not saying sartorial elegance is the be all and end all of the process but I was walking down the street the other day when I past a chap wearing the exact same polo shirt that I used to own some time ago. I think it was from H&M and I used to absolutely love wearing it. Too much I'd say in hindsight. By the time I peeled it off my back that final time it was way past its best days. But one day I consciously decided that it and a few other tatty garments had to go. It was time to upgrade everything around me. Seeing that guy in my top did give me a bit of a jolt but, at the same time, it did in some small way show me that I haven't been going round and round in circles making no effort to improve myself. Silly, perhaps, and hardly a goal-defining moment but it still brought a bit of a smile to my face.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Don't look back in anger

A former colleague of mine passed away last week. It was a heart attack and all very sudden. One minute he was seeing off his wife and children as they went to visit family abroad, the next thing a few days later he was making a final taxi journey where he failed to reach his destination. We weren’t majorly close but we did sit opposite each other for a couple of years prior to him leaving the firm a year ago and I got to know him and his world. He may not have had the healthiest of lifestyles, smoking quite a lot and being a bit overweight, but he still was only in his mid-to-late forties. He even used to joke about my twice a year detox and salad lunches – “you’re going to live a very long and boring life. What’s the point?” he’d laugh. Whether or not there was any irony in it, in a perverse kind of way there was something to be said for his comment. He saw certain acts as depriving yourself of enjoyment, and regardless whether that should apply to living a healthier lifesty;e he certainly seemed to love life. A few years back he took a couple of years out and him and his family moved to New Zealand simply to experience a different reality.

Whenever these kind of events spring themselves I do tend to get a bit more reflective – “why?” and “what’s it all about?”, kind of stuff. It’s only natural to do so, or maybe more so in cultures and environments that focus more heavily on the earthly rewards over the heavenly. I read in a book once that one reason why individuals fear death is because they are not living a life that’s true to them – not living their “dream”, compromising too much, living falsely, living in the never-never and so on.

Whatever the raft of fix-it books might suggest, not everyone can take the big step to achieve some crazy long-held dream. Real-world conditioning tends to bite. And even if they do jump there really is no guarantee of success. We always hear about the success stories but, as they say, history is written by winners and not every attempt will be 'successful' in the way they originally perceived it. Some people just swap one type of unhappiness for another kind of misery. There's absolutely nothing wrong with chasing dreams (and in reality it's definitely desirable to have something to shoot for), but sometimes we really musn't forget about the many joyous things right in front of our noses.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Eye of the tiger

There's a new instructor at the kung fu club I go to. Very laid back and every bit the identikit hippy. He speaks in a very soft but focused manner - you know when he speaks he's often got something worth listening to.

Today we were going through a bodily movement sequence, something which over the last couple of years I've done dozens upon dozens of times. As I came to a particular moment in the routine he noticed that I was not quite flowing as much as I should have been. He came over and said, "Now just get aware of everything around you. You're still in your head." I was so heavily focused on the internal workings of Wing Chun that I was getting a bit lost in my head. Overthinking, overanalysing and becoming detached from the reality around me.

On the way home from the class it got me thinking about a couple of previous blog entries, one that talked about "zooming out" and the other that discussed finding a balance between the internal and external realities. I realise now that I have a bit of a habit of getting lost in the fog of my thinking, analysis paralysis or simply drowning in the details of what's right in front of me. By doing all that I tend to lose sight of the need for a better connection and balance with the bigger picture. If I can get used to being more fully aware and live less in my head, I think I could be onto something very interesting indeed.