NAWE Conference: Stratford-Upon-Avon (Come say Hello)

 

I will be attending the National Association of Writers in Education Conference from November 11-13 in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of the bard!

Check out the full, exciting programme here. 

On Saturday November 12th, I’m presenting a paper titled “Hand-written journaling in the digital age.” 

This is the programme blurb: 

Digital technology has become a norm in our lives. A study by the American Press Institute in 2015 found that 88% of Millennials get news from Facebook. Social media has become a primary form of acquiring information, and people are increasingly shifting from the tactile experience of reading a physical book or writing by hand. In this paper, I investigate how the amalgamation of digital tools and technology can indeed aid, enhance, and even encourage the tactile experience of writing by hand, and impact the art and practice of journaling for personal development.

If you are attending the conference, do be sure to say hi. I look forward to meeting you.

 

My Year, or How Change in One Area of My Life Led to a Better, Healthier, More Empowered Me!

 

So, this particular year started on September 21st, 2015. But in all honesty, the journey – or rather the struggle to get to that stage – started years before.

On 21/09/15 I joined my new gym – and where I’m today and who I’m today is very different from who I was then. Bear with me a little, because this post is not just about fitness, or losing weight. It’s about overcoming your limits, your fears, and it’s about being the best you can be. In ANYTHING you choose. No matter how shit you think you are at it.

This is a long post, because I’m trying to share how something that holds you back for years can still be changed. If you want. So stick with me :-)

First time Bouldering

 First time Bouldering

Backstory:

I was NEVER a sporty person. Not even as a kid. My mom tried to get to me to learn swimming, which I learned only under duress, promptly to forget it as soon as the course was finished. She tried to get me to learn to skate, and for the entire summer, I never let go of the rails, while my younger sister won medals in skating competitions. I did not participate in school sports days, beyond mandatory requirements. I got good grades in gym classes for turning up on time, being polite, and participating. I did not excel at anything physical. EVER. So I’d long since accepted that I just wasn’t a physical person. I was cerebral. As proven by my interests, my studious personality, and the fact that I love to do things that require you to sit down – like read books, write, and be hunched over my laptop. And I was perfectly fine with that. After all, who doesn’t want to be smart? 

Fast forward into mid-twenties. The sedentary lifestyle, not-so-good eating habits started catching up. I started putting on weight. Every time I got to a certain weight level that made me cringe, I would sign up for a gym membership, or use Wii Fit at home, workout for a few months, three times a week, bog standard workouts. This usually happened before going away on a holiday. I would get back to relatively non-hideous level (in my opinion of my self), and then forget about the gym, the exercise, until the next time it happened.

And so the cycle continued for years. But I think at least for the last five years, I was never happy with my weight, or the way I looked. I went through phases when I would set fitness goals, keep fitness journals, and be super motivated, but then – usually during travel periods or Christmas break – I would fall off the wagon.

Moving to London and the Changes:

In autumn 2014, I started my MA in English Literature and joined the university gym because I’d returned from seven months abroad where my family had lovingly fed me, and I was the heaviest I’d ever been. I started working out 2-3 times a week, but only if I was on campus. Again, classic stationery bike for a bit, or elliptical (I was too lazy to actually use treadmill and hated cardio). But for the first time, I also used some weight machines and did free weight, and found that I actually enjoyed those. But then classes finished, I had no reason to go to the campus, and therefore to the gym. So another 3 months of break, and it looked like I was about to repeat the cycle all over again. My intention had been to start running outside, rather than pay for the gym. But I never managed. I didn’t have the will or the discipline. It was always too cold, too hot, too dark, too something. And as I couldn’t run a mile without huffing and puffing, I was too embarrassed to do it on the streets. I was 31 years old, and very unfit. But I wasn’t even thinking about fitness or health. I just didn’t like the way I looked.

Andrew - He's pretty good at his job!

Andrew – He’s pretty good at his job!

Days before going away on a week-long holiday to Prague, I popped into my local Fitness First, just to ask for details. Andrew, one of the consultants there, sweet-talked his way into a sales pitch and I ended up buying membership then there, to start upon my return from Prague.

September 21, 2015 – The Journey Begins

This time, I decided to do things differently. I started going to the classes, and try new things. I started with Yoga on my first day, because I’d always liked Yoga, and at least I wasn’t shit at it, because I’d better flexibility than cardio capacity or strength. I have never been the one to diet, and I’d no intention of doing so. So I just focused on going to the gym, and in the beginning I usually did 4 classes a week, two of which were always Yoga and Zumba. For the most part, only 1 of these 4 classes was an intense cardio session.

However, after a month of that, something weird happened. I automatically wanted to eat a bit better because I didn’t want to waste all the hard work I was doing. Keep in mind that my sole motivation was still weight loss and looking good.

I was medically overweight. Not obese, but certainly not healthy. I was 24 pounds / 11 kg heavier than I’m now. That’s A LOT when you consider that I am 5″3. So I started keeping a food diary. Again, not a diet, but simply an awareness of what I was eating. And I learned a lot about food. About portions, about things I thought were healthy but weren’t. Out of that, again, I improved some eating habits, such as not ordering takeaways at home because I couldn’t be bothered to cook – except for emergencies, such as being sick. I still ate out a lot, and continue to do that because most of my social life happens over food. But takeaways at home are mostly eliminated.

Change Your Mind and Change Your Life 

Meanwhile, I was really enjoying my gym classes because I was learning things. Instead of thinking about exercise, I was now beginning to focus on how I wanted to learn to dance (I’d always wanted to learn to dance, and for the first time I’d a chance), and how I wanted to be good at Yoga. So it became a mission to improve at certain skills, rather than exercise. It’s amazing how much difference word choices make. When your mind perceives something as pleasure, it is very keen to support you.

I was also being very social in the gym, talking to all the trainers, and the people. As I started to become more of a regular, more people were recognizing me, and nodding. In my second month, I was doing 6 classes a week, because there were so many things I wanted to learn. For example, I didn’t want to miss out on Yoga or Zumba, but I equally wanted to learn Street Dance and kick ass in Body Combat. So I went to the gym for 6 classes, because it was FUN! And because I was consistent, I became better. While not a good dancer by any means, I was now bit more coordinated, and could remember the routines.

Ryan is an ex-MMA fighter and Boxer. He's just brilliant.

Ryan is an ex-MMA fighter and Boxer. He’s just brilliant.

 

And as I progressed, my focus slowly began to shift from just looking good to feeling good. For all these years I absolutely resented all those people who talked about exercise high and endorphin rush, because I’d NEVER felt that. I figured they were just the lucky ones. But my consistency was paying off. I was now feeling that rush. I also understood what it felt like to actually feel fit and healthy from the inside. Don’t get me wrong, I still care about looking good, but I care more about feeling good whereas before that consideration hadn’t even occurred to me.

What changed for me was changing my mindset. I decided at some point in this process to ENJOY exercise. I told myself to focus on the skills I was learning, and things I wanted to be able to do. I motivated the hell out of myself by spending ages on Pinterest looking at fitness related pins. I bought nice gym clothes. I created a spreadsheet to keep track of all my workouts so that I could remain consistent and not break my habit.

Adrian giving me some hardcore (for me) pad workout.

Adrian giving me some hardcore (for me) pad workout.

So What’s Changed in One Year:

Besides the actual weight loss of 24 pounds / 11 kg (which by the way happened within first 6 months, without giving up Pizza or Chocolate or indeed any food, which if you are on my Facebook or Instagram you would be well aware of) these are the things that have happened in one year:

I’m 33 and I’m the fittest I’ve EVER been

I can dance (still not well, grant you, but I can dance and I love it)

I am better at Yoga

I found that I love Boxing

I got into hiking and outdoors – which I’d never enjoyed before. As a result of this I’ve seen more parts of England this summer than in my previous 10 years put together. 

I started doing indoor bouldering (rockclimbing without harness)

I ran my first 5k, and have signed up for a 10K and half-marathon

I learned how to swim (again, and willingly, and I can now swim)

I feel healthier, and I find it easier to adopt healthier habits

And yes, I do feel happy with the way I look

But most of all, what’s been very surprising and amazing and astonishing is the realization that I can achieve physical things. That I wasn’t destined to be rubbish at it. That if I put in the work, I can be good, and have fun, and enjoy it as much as I enjoy my cerebral endeavors.

It's official! I can swim.

It’s official! I can swim.

This one year, pushing myself physically, therefore, opened up my mental boundaries. It allowed me to see that I’d kept myself boxed in, telling myself that I wasn’t capable of doing certain things. It taught me that in order to be really limitless, you’ve to free yourself of the limits you think you have. You have to take chances, and try things. You have to push yourself. And most importantly you have to be true to yourself.

It also allowed me to really broaden my horizons by trying new things, meeting new people, learning new skills. It enabled me to take that one crucial step towards creating my Kaizen Life where I’m not held back by my lack of physical fitness. 

Dealing with Other People’s Opinions and Expectations

Any significant change is never easy. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, there will always be obstacles, and you can bet that 9 times of 10, other people will be one of them. 

Other people can be supportive, but they can also be hindrance – often through good intentions. When I first started exercising, people were supportive, saying oh yeah, good, lose some weight. But then as I got heavily into fitness, more and more of my “normal” family and friends started saying I was doing too much, unable to understand that it was no longer about weight loss. That in fact, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but rather to up my fitness levels.

People were concerned I was going to be too skinny. For the record, I’m not. I’m in fact medically at a very healthy range of weight and cholesterol levels. I also have more muscle mass. Some people told me I was pushing myself too hard. What it comes down to is this: people often respond based on their experience, their issues, and even their inner demons. When someone tell you what you should do, consider that it may actually be about them, rather than you. Each person is different, our bodies are different. What’s healthy for one person may not be the same for another. So use your judgement. Get medical advice where appropriate rather than listening to everyone and anyone. 

Hear what your well-wishers have to say, but don’t necessarily do what they say. You know what’s good for you, and you know what you want to achieve and what your goals are – so stick to them. Other people haven’t been in your shoes, they won’t always understand  your journey. But if they care about you, they will come around to understanding it eventually, or at the very least support you.

Diana (in black at front) is one of the trainers. Voted the most popular by clients, because she always has a smile on her face, and is very good at her job!

Diana (in black at the front) is one of the trainers. Voted the most popular by clients, because she always has a smile on her face, and is very good at her job!

 

There is also an issue of time. Making fitness a priority in my life meant other things had to take a back seat. So I’ve to often turn to my friends and say no to social plans because I’ve to go to the gym. Everything has a price, and you need to decide your priorities and figure out what works for you. But for me, my good friends all understand. And in fact, sometimes I end up doing certain activities with them. I’ve also made new friends based on my new interests with whom I go on hikes, bouldering etc.  Trainers in my gym have been fantastic – which is why they’ve been featured in this article! If you need a personal trainer, I would heartily recommend any of them. I’ve also been inspired by my fellow gym-goers, and just random people I see on the street, doing what I want to be doing – whether it’s running, or bouldering, or doing cool ninja-kicks!

Always keep your inner compass tuned, because you will need it. Do not let peer pressure dictate your priorities. 

September 21, 2016

I’m currently in Granada on what is a working vacation. It’s past 11 pm, and just a little while ago, I returned from a celebratory run to commemorate this fitness journey. It was a short run – I’d no distance goals, or speed goals; I just had a route in mind, finishing at an ice-cream shop, from where I got a Mango Sorbet cone, because what’s celebration without ice-cream!! 

The fact that I went out for a run while on vacation, and that at night, amazes me beyond words. It also thrills me, makes me proud of how far I’ve come. Now, when I am doing all these workouts, one of the feelings always at the forefront of my mind is GRATITUDE. Because now, I truly appreciate what a good fortune it is to be healthy, to have a body that is capable of movement. Now, when I am exercising and it’s hard and sometimes I want to quit, I remind myself that I’m lucky to be here, that I’m lucky to be capable of doing this, and I thank God, Universe, My Parents (for the genes) and smile, and keep going…

To paraphrase Robert Frost…I have miles to go before I sleep, and I intend to make the best of those miles. Because now, finally, I’ve come to appreciate that both your body and mind work better when they are kept well-oiled and healthy. So for me to be the best version of me, I need to continue pushing myself on both mental and physical front! I’ve learned a very important lesson: that I need not to be caged, even by own limiting beliefs. If I’m willing to show up consistently and work hard, then I can smash my limits to smithereens. SO CAN YOU!

 

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Ben is one of my favourite trainers. He’s just the right kind of pushes-you-hard-but-is-not-an-asshole attitude that works for me.

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Think about my journey in the context of your life, and journal about the following questions. What limits have you set for your self? What limiting beliefs hold you back? What transformations would you like to have in your life? 

 

 

 

Journaling to Discover and Defy Your Limits

 

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Do you ever stop to think about your limits? How often do you say, “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not smart enough for that”, or “I’m not fit enough for that,” or “I’m not disciplined enough for that” or other similar phrases? 

Do a 24 hour experiment. 

For one day, make a simple mark on a notebook, or your smartphone, or a post-it for every time a phrase such as above comes out of your mouth or even in your mind. Pay attention and be honest. Are you unconsciously setting limits for yourself? What makes you think you are not smart enough / fit enough / capable enough to do something? And if you aren’t, can’t you learn?

Last month I’d never run 5K. Yesterday, I ran 9k. Three years ago, I could have barely run for a bus. It wasn’t a miracle. I worked for this change. Three years ago, I would have said, “I can’t run”. Now I ask, why not? I’m fortunate enough to have two healthy, working legs. My body is relatively healthy. So why not? 

No reason, except for the limits I set for myself. Mostly mental limits.

This applies to anything and everything you want to do. If your mind believes you can do it, you probably can. It’s convincing your mind, truly deeply convincing yourself that’s the hard part. 

So as you journal, start paying attention to all your personal limits. Then start asking yourself, why am I limiting myself? Why can’t I do it? What’s stopping me?

Once you know that…then you can start defying those limits. 

If you choose not to do something, that’s fine. But don’t tell yourself you aren’t doing it, because you can’t. The more you limit yourself, the more limited you will become as a person. Break those boundaries, and become limitless.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

Grab your journal and start a 24 hour experiment to find your personal limits. 

 

 

Limited Journaling for Those Who Can’t Journal

 

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I often hear from people who say they have tried keeping a journal, but just can’t keep up the habit consistently. Others face the fear of the blank page…they don’t know what to write. Yet others feel that their life isn’t exciting enough, fun enough, or in any way worthy of recording.

One of the common complaints I’ve heard from readers and my friends who like the idea of keeping a journal runs along the lines of “I live a dull routine of work and home. Weekends are full of chores, an occasional outing, or obligatory family visits. It’s boring to even write about it.”

I get it. It’s difficult to motivate yourself to journal in your already busy schedule when journaling itself feels like a chore. So this article is for all of you, who would like to keep a journal, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to. But if you are already keeping a journal, then good news is, you can use these exercises too, to add another dimension or a creative layer to  your journaling. 

The idea is to make it less scary, and easy. Therefore, instead of the blank canvas, you can limit your journaling. Before I go deeper into the many ways through which you can do limited journaling, I want you to pay attention to the tools you are using. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is make the process appealing, by buying a nice journal and a pen. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be something that you find pleasant. The notebook needs to be welcoming, appealing…if you use the same notepad for journaling that you do to dish out chores for your household, it’s unlikely to feel special. This makes even the anticipation of journaling a more happier prospect. A pretty notebook, a classic leatherbound journal, an understated moleskine….depending on your taste, any of these are more likely to encourage you to write than that ratty notebook you’ve got lying around the house. Same goes for a pen. Make sure it’s comfortable and works well on the notebook you have chosen. If you need convincing, read this article: Why you should always use quality journals

Got it?

Cool. Now let’s move onto how you can keep a limited journal:

1. Keep a list journal

No need to write paragraphs. Or complete sentence. Just make a list. Doesn’t matter what kind of list it is. You can either do it thematically, such as, Things I Ate, What I Did, People I Saw, or you can simply use a list full of words/phrases that describes your day, emotions, reflections etc.

Remember, the only rule of journaling is that there are no rules. So do whatever works for  you. If you are not sure, experiment.

2. Keep one sentence journal

If lists aren’t your thing, or you want to branch out a bit, simply commit to writing one sentence daily in your journal. At the end of the year, you will have 365 sentences. And chances are, there will be days when you write more simply because you couldn’t stop yourself. It will also force you to learn to be succinct or to pick out things from your day that matter to you the most.

3. Keep three words journal

Forget sentences and lists. For a more restrictive approach, just use three words. They can be absolutely anything. 

4. Journal for 5 Minutes a Day

If word count doesn’t work you, try time restriction. Set a timer and journal for 5 minutes. Do a free write, so that you write whatever comes into your mind without stopping. It can be about your day, or it can be just whatever is going on in your mind. There are no restrictions. You can do the same for 10 minutes a Day if you want. 

5. Keep a doodle/drawing journal

If you are a more visual person, or more artistically inclined, then you can draw or doodle an image a day in your journal. 

6. Line from a song/movie/book

Each day, you can write a line from a song/movie/book etc. that represents your day. 

 

As you can see from above, journaling isn’t just about writing paragraph after paragraph of reflections, or about describing your day. It can be anything. Try these ideas out. Try to be consistent, and do it daily. Because keeping a regular journal is about forming a habit rather than how much you write. Once the habit is formed, it becomes a second nature, even if you skip a day or a week. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

Grab that pretty notebook, and get started with one of these exercises! 

 

 

Journaling Exercise: What Is Your Relationship With Your Body…Beyond the Surface

 

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For today’s exercise, I want you to think about your relationship with your body. 

Let’s start with the surface answer first: Do you hate your body, love your body, are indifferent, or neutral? 

Don’t give up if you have never thought about this. Keep exploring how you feel to arrive at your conclusion. Journal your thoughts about your body. You can write about its physical beauty (or lack of), how it makes you feel, how you think others perceive you because of it, things you would like to change about it etc. Based on your answers, how do you think you feel about your body? Were your answers mostly positive or negative? Were you answers emotional or factual? 

Remember, there is no wrong answer here. You need to honestly explore your feelings, and your fears. 

Once you have answered that, let’s go deeper. 

Do you value your body? Do you realise that it’s your vehicle for life? How much do you appreciate its usefulness? Do you accept that a healthy body allows you to do much more than just look or feel good? That it makes it easier to all the other things you want to do? I’m awed, constantly, by people with severe disabilities who overcome their physical limitations and achieve extra-ordinary thing. However, those of us who have been used to a relatively healthy body are not used to that type of adversity. A flu, a broken leg, back pain….common ailments messup our plans, and have us moaning and whining. And appreciating how useful the body is. 

Do you only appreciate your body’s important when it can’t do something…or do you remember it daily?

Do you look after your body? Do you give it proper TLC on a regular basis? If you don’t, why not? Do you not think that your body and you deserve that? If not, why not?

Keep digging deeper into this. Most of us don’t appreciate what important role our bodies play in the quality of our life. Now and again, it’s good to reevaluate this relationship. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

No more procrastination. Even if you hate looking at yourself in the mirror, do it…make your words your mirror, and really try to understand the relationship between your mind and your body. Create action steps to take care of your body on a regular basis.

 

 

Journaling Exercise: What does Independence Mean to You?

 

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The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness.

Virginia Woolf

 

Happy 4th of July to all American peeps! The world seems topsy-turvey, but the American heroes have at least once again saved us from the aliens. Gotta be happy about that :-) I hope you are enjoying a lovely long weekend. 

Every year, around the world, many nations celebrate their independence day. There are nations, who are still waiting for that status. Then there are others, like England, who has never been ruled by someone else and therefore does not have an independence day. I think the further we get from the fight from independence, the easier it is to see it as merely a holiday, to lose touch with the reality of what our forefathers fought for. 

But independence, like any important value, is rarely black and white. I grew up in India. People fought for independence from England, yet it can’t be denied that the British Raaj brought with it a multitude of benefits. Is that a reason enough to be ruled by someone? In my opinion, no….but perhaps in someone else’s opinion,  yes.

Let’s take that to individual level. I am sure you know people who are in unhappy relationships, but they remain there, because it makes financial sense, or because they don’t want to lose the lovely house or the lifestyle they are in. Or perhaps someone who is reliant on their parents though in their adult life. Perhaps you know a woman or a man, who is emotionally dependent on their spouse. Perhaps you know someone who can’t eat alone in a restaurant, or can’t go to cinema or theatre by themselves. 

There are many ways to look at independence. It is also possible to be independence in one or more ways, while being dependent in one or more ways. 

So today, in your journal, I would like you to ponder this question: What does independence mean to you? You can write about it in any sense you like: national, political, financial, individual, marital…or mix it up. Go with the flow. Write about however it comes to you. 

Remember, just keep writing as fast as you can. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling mistakes. Just go with the flow. Let your mind connect your notions of independence. It may surprise you. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Get that journal out, and celebrate Independence Day with more self-awareness by doing the above exercise! 

 

 

 

The Three Rs: Relax, Recharge, Regroup

 

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We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

I’m writing this from the terrace of my beach side hotel in Gran Canaria. Hard life, you say! Yes, there are certainly worse places, and worse conditions to be in. Last week, I was ill, in rainy London. On Thursday, I started feeling the signs. On Friday, I had to leave work early. On Saturday and Sunday, my energy levels kept depleting within two hours of waking up / getting up (even if all I was doing was eating), then I would have to lie down. I basically spent the whole weekend eating and resting. (It may sound idyllic, but when you have my personality, it’s quite probably one of the most irritating ways to spend a weekend – also I live alone, so that means I have to sort out my own food, not great, when you are ill.)

So this article is a timely reminder today, from one workaholic to another: I understand you!

Let’s recap. Over the last couple of weeks, I was consistently tired. I knew that. But I kept pushing myself, because I knew I’d this vacation coming up, and so I thought, well, I will just rest then. That one more session in the gym. One more project. That social plan. It doesn’t matter that I don’t drink alcohol or go partying…those are not the only things that take their toll. Even the “good” things, when done to excess, are not good for you. Of course my brain knows that. And yet, I usually want to do that one more thing.

My body, sensibly, decided enough was enough. So from last Thursday, when the body started sending signals, I had to listen. Fortunately, I do listen when it gets to that point, mostly because then I don’t want to be bed-ridden for any longer than necessary. But it’s a good reminder of one’s physical limits. Yes, you can push past your limits. Yes, you can train yourself to be stronger, more resilient. But there is a limit. Nothing is without cost.

It is important to give yourself time to relax, recharge, and regroup – whether physically or mentally. As it turned out I spent the weekend recovering like I was on a mission, which I kind of was, because I did not want to be ill on this vacation, which I had planned since January (anticipating I would need to relax). Of course, a seaside vacation isn’t always going to be at our disposal whenever we need to relax, so here are a few thoughts to keep in mind, and of course your journal can aid you in that:

Relax

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You have been feeling the signs. Mental or physical fatigue, irritability, stress, little warning signs where your mind and body are telling you that you need to slow down, or even perhaps stop. Perhaps you are as much of an idiot as I am, and try ignoring those signs. Or perhaps you are more sensible, and you stop. Whatever the case, there comes a point when you have to accept (or face dire consequences) that you need some down time. You absolutely need to relax.

If you are in a position to actually get away, then do. Being in beautiful natural surroundings is ideal, particularly by a body of water. There is definitely something relaxing about that. Of course your geographical location may have a lot to do with your relaxation needs, but for those of us in rainy, cloudy UK, sunshine does work miracles.

If you can’t get away to a different location, then plan a local day/weekend/week to relax, depending on the levels of exhaustion you have pushed yourself into. In your journal, make a list of 10 things you find relaxing. This could be things like, taking a walk, reading, just scribbling in your journal, watching movies, watching reruns of your favourite shows,  cooking, knitting….whatever floats your boat.

If you are an obsessive scheduler like I am, also try living by the moment. As in, give yourself permission to do what you feel like. That’s what I am trying to do this week here in Gran Canaria. Exactly what I feel like. So if I feel like doing some work, I do it. But then when I want to read, I read. If I want to workout, I do that, and if I want to walk on the beach, I do that. I am letting my mind and body dictate my schedule. It doesn’t mean that  you must sleep half the day, or just sit on the beach (that for me would be far from relaxing, and utterly boring), but rather that you do the activities that you enjoy, only for as long as you enjoy them, and don’t push yourself to do more because you feel that you need to or that you should.

While you are having your relaxing day/weekend/week – as much as humanly and practically possible, let go of the phrase, “I should do that…” and just accept, “I feel like doing …”

That is the quick, and more enjoyable way to relax, if relaxing isn’t really your thing. (I’m aware that I’m looking for efficiency in relaxing….these are the downsides of being productivity obsessed)

Recharge

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image credit (my holiday reads)

Once you’ve allowed the tiredness and stress to seep away from your mind and body, then you are ready for the next step, which is to recharge your batteries. 

For this, feed your mind and body with nutritious and enjoyable diet. (It’s not that kind of diet. You can eat chocolates and ice-creams!)

For your mind, read things that inspire you. It could be old favourites, or new things you are discovering. You could perhaps read biographies of the leaders in your field, or you could read about people you admire, who have accomplished amazing things. I personally find writer’s diaries inspirational, or something like the Alchemist which is a perennial favourite. Of course, you are not limited to books. You can also read blogs, magazines, listen to podcasts. Just try and stick to positive, motivational sources. When trying to recharge your batteries, look for sources that fill you with a renewed sense of purpose and determination. Remember to keep using your journal to improve your learning agility. 

Don’t neglect your body. Slowly, build up the strength. Mind and body work in tandem. When one is unhealthy, the other tends to suffer too. You don’t need to have athletic level of fitness, but try to maintain a healthy body as much as possible. Go for gentle walks, or sprints, go to the gym or head to the park. It all depends on your preferences, your physical state, as well as the opportunities available to you. But just move a little. 

For this recharging, I think it is important to spend some time in solitude. Just quietly replenishing your energy levels. Journal about it. Clear your mind. And then if and when you feel up to it, talk to positive, motivated people. Avoid negative, energy-sucking people as much as possible.

Regroup

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You are relaxed, and you are re-charged, rearing to go! Fantabulous. Now it’s time to regroup. Get that journal out, and start jotting. Just do a freewrite for 10 minutes or so. Let thoughts and ideas pour. How do you feel? Mention positive effects you may be feeling from previous two stages. This will help you remember it for the next time you push yourself too much (hopefully). Then start writing about the things you want to do, projects you have in mind, that never-ending to-do list. This freewrite, kind of a brainstorm, will allow you to refocus. Get everything out of your mind, then decide on priorities. 

What are the things you are doing to focus on? Try to have as narrow focus as possible. Remember, just because you are rearing to go, doesn’t mean you can or should go back into your exhausting schedule all at once. It may actually be helpful to pick a project or two, and finish it, so that it will feel like more of an accomplishment, and therefore fill you with further positivity.

 

There they are, the three Rs. Though this article was particularly written with my fellow workaholics, it is actually useful for most people who either by choice or necessity, end up running themselves in the ground. Even if you don’t remember to do it all the time, perhaps try to focus on the three Rs periodically, at least once a quarter. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Each of the steps below are things you can journal about to gain further awareness, and solutions for where you stand with Relaxing, Recharging and Regrouping. Keep a list of things that you  find relaxing, so that when you need to do that, you can just go do that. Equally, keep a list of things that inspire you, that feel you with a renewed sense of purpose, that motivate you when you are feeling demotivated. These will be the things you can use to recharge your batteries. And finally, keep that journal going with your thoughts to gain clarity on your  goals and plans, so that you can regroup and restart as quickly as possible. 

 

 

Journaling Exercise: List of Things You Love & Things You Would Like to Change

 

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Lists are great. No fancy writing skills required, which also mean they make for great journaling exercises. You don’t need to worry about what to write, or how to write it. You just jot down bullet points, and make a list, as you no doubt often do in your life.

It’s important to mix positives and negatives. Especially when you are talking about negatives, because the last thing you want is your mind to keep dwelling on everything that’s depressing, or not-quite-right, or things that make you unhappy. A large part of sustaining positive mindset is about teaching your mind on how to focus on the good stuff.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take some work, particularly if your natural/habitual inclination is to focus on the negatives. So for today’s exercise, I would like you to make a list.

Make a list of things you love

These can be anything from big things like loving your home, your relationship, being a mother, God….to other things like when you have seen particularly bright side of humanity, or the kindness of your neighbour, or technology, or the colour red, or your football team, or travelling, or spending a Sunday morning having a leisurely breakfast with your journal.

You get the gist. Don’t limit yourself by scope. All things you love – big and small are allowed. Spend at least 10 minutes on this list, and as much as possible, keep writing, and keep writing fast.

This is about finding positivity in everything that’s good in your life, in your mind, and in your surroundings. So don’t be stingy.

Make a list of things you would like to change

There is absolutely no point just whining about things you don’t like and can’t/won’t do anything about. Instead, I want you to spend time thinking about things you would like to change.

Again, make a quick list. Perhaps you would change the government of your country, or perhaps you would change how the public transport is run. Perhaps you would change something about your child’s personality, or perhaps about your own. Perhaps you would change how you look, or perhaps you would change where you live. Don’t limit the scope. Everything that you would like to change, should be included, regardless of how big or small it is. If it matters to you, it should be on the list.

If you have a quick answer as to WHY you would like to change any particular thing, add it on, but don’t spend ages thinking about it.

The key here is to keep writing, and keep the flow going.

24 Hours After Writing the Lists

Once you’ve completed both lists, leave them alone for a day. Let it sink in. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t read them. Just ignore them, and go about your business. 

Then the following day, first go through the list of things you would like to change. Now pay some attention to it. Try to write down WHY you would like to change them. And then, HOW. Actionable steps, as much as possible. You don’t need to have answers for everything, but at least make an effort to justify your reasoning. 

Once you have been through the “Things You Would Like To Change” list, then go through the “Things You Love List” – and simply take a moment to appreciate it. To be happy. To be pleased that you have those things. Those are the things to dwell on! 

Keep journaling. 

 

 

 

33 Inspirational Thoughts for My Birthday

 

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I’m 33 today. No complaints. I love being in my 30s – which are definitely a far sight more fulfilling and exciting than my 20s :-) Each day, I am aware that I want to keep pushing and striving to be my best self, and to live my Kaizen Life. So today, I want to share with you 33 thoughts. They are a mixture – some are just my thoughts, others are quotes I find inspirational, and some are things I think everyone should do. But these are the things that you sometimes need when you need that boost of positivity, or just a kick in the ass, or just some inspiration. This is one of my longer articles here, at almost 1900 words, but still a fairly quick read. After all, 33  years of lessons under 2000 words is not a bad thing. I hope they will help you.

33 Thoughts: 

  1. Don’t ignore mortality 
    Bit heavy start, right? But no, I assure you I’m not being morbid, thinking about death on my birthday. It’s important to remember that we are mortal, and that we don’t know how long we have left on this earth because then we can appreciate the time we have. Live your life fully, now. Don’t postpone your dreams, your wishes, your goals for the future – because you have no idea how much future you have left. Live the life that leaves you feeling, “I did all I could” rather than thinking, “I wish I’d done that.” Death is not to be feared. Life is to be lived. And celebrated.
  2.  

  3. Smile. A lot.
    Smiling seriously makes your day better, and it makes you a better person to be around. It brightens the atmosphere. It brightens the world. It costs nothing. So just let the smile out.
  4.  

  5. Make a bucket list
    If you don’t have things to strive for, you will either end up with accidental achievements or spend decades just drifting. Make a bucket list. Figure out what matters to you (however big or small). Once it’s there in writing, you can think about making them a reality.
  6.  

  7. Believe in possibilities – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto (Which you can also buy as an inspirational poster, a journal, or note cards)
    Believe that there are more possibilities for you. Believe that you have choices. If you don’t believe, then nothing is going to happen. Have faith.
  8.  

  9. Don’t settle for mediocre achievements – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto
    This happens. A lot. You get a decent job, are able to buy a house, afford a vacation a year, and you think it’s all good. You are comfortable, luckier than many people you know. It’s good enough. Good enough is NOT enough. If you are truly content, great. Enjoy your life. But if you are not, then don’t just settle because you think you are doing better than others, or because you are meeting the society’s expectations of what success looks like. Achievements are not about money. They are not about status or prestige. Achievements are what gives you a true sense of accomplishment from the inside. It could be running your first marathon, or getting that top level job, or travelling somewhere on your own, or learning to swim, or drive a car. Whatever it is judge it based on how you feel about it, not by the importance the society gives it.
    So, don’t settle for mediocre achievements. Aim for things that feel like genuine achievements to you.
  10.  

  11. Be ambitious. Be audacious. Be authentic. – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto
    Without ambition, what are you aiming for? Without audacity, where is the courage and the fun? Without authenticty, what’s the point?
  12.  

  13. Be brutally honest with yourself
    I get it – you can’t always speak the truth. We live in the type of world where there are times when we have to lie, or at least avoid telling the truth. Even if it’s for a good cause. We all do it. As much as I advocate honesty, I know there are moments when not telling the truth seems to be the right option. 
    But it is NEVER the right option when you are speaking to yourself. Don’t ever lie to yourself. Depending on your circumstances, the society you live in, your life – yes, you may have to lie to other people. But lying to yourself is foolish. It holds you back from being your true self. It prevents you from facing reality. It prevents you from truly moving forward towards your Kaizen Life because you are stuck in a lie.
  14.  

  15. Look after your body, mind, and soul
    Neglecting any of these three means neglecting yourself. Healthy body, mind and soul nourishes you, and allows you to pursue your Kaizen Life.
  16.  

  17. Surround yourself with people who make you want to be better than you are
    People are important. Even if you are not a people person, even if you are a complete introvert, you are still affected by the people you surround yourself with. So pick the good ones. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who push you to be a better version of you. The kind of people who motivate you just by being who they are.
  18.  

  19. Get rid of (or spend less time with) negative people in your life
    You have to make choices in life. To have one thing, you often have to let go of something else. To surround yourself with positive people, you may have to let go of negative ones. Remember, you are affected by the people around you. So if you spend most of your time with negative, pessimistic people then that’s going to rub off on you. It may sound cruel, but it’s necessary. You can’t fix other people’s outlook towards life. They have to do it themselves. Yes, you can help and support them, but until they are willing to make the change, no change will happen. So cut your losses. Don’t let them drag you down.
  20.  

  21. Make new friends
    You are never too old to make friends. Regularly make an effort to meet new people, engage in conversations, because you never know when you may meet interesting people who may end up being new close friends.
  22.  

  23. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results. – Wade Boggs
  24.  

  25. Care for the friendships and relationships you have
    Don’t take people in your life for granted. Value them. Cherish them. And not just through words, but through action. Everyone needs to feel loved and appreciated. Their love for you is not a given, nor absolute. It is a privilege. Respect it.
  26.  

  27. Appreciate solitude, and cultivate your relationship with yourself
    If  you can’t handle your own company, there is a problem. Take time to get to know yourself. Spend some time alone. Give your mind a chance to speak to you. Cultivate your relationship with yourself so that you have a better understanding of who you are.
  28.  

  29. Keep your glass half full. Always.
    Because that’s better than a glass half empty.
  30.  

  31. Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth. – Bradley Whitford
  32.  

  33. If you are not moving forward, you are going backwards
  34.  

  35. It takes courage to grow up, and become who you really are. – E. E. Cummings
  36.  

  37. Take pleasure in little things
    Because life is made up of little moments. Big joys or sorrows come now and again, but every single day, there are little things to be enjoyed.
  38.  

  39. Read Books
    Seriously. Read for pleasure. Read for knowledge. Read books because there are worlds there waiting to be discovered, and more friends and companions who you can relate to. If you feel like reading a collection of fantasy short-stories by kick-ass women about kick-ass women, then you can read Fight Like A Girl (my short-story The Runaway Warrior is published in it).
  40.  

  41. Cultivate confidence that comes from within, and is not reliant on others’ opinion of you
    True self-confidence comes from inside you. If your confidence, and in turn, your sense of who you are, is reliant on others than they hold the power to tell you how you feel. Why would you give that power to someone else? Also, why should they take that responsibility? Take charge of yourself. Be who you want to be. And be confident about it.
  42.  

  43. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt
  44.  

  45. Don’t settle for a hand-me down personality – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto

  46. Take risks for things that matter to you
    There are no rewards without risks. You can’t move forward to a new destination if you aren’t willing to leave your current place. So don’t be afraid of risks. Yes, you may fail. Yes, things may go horribly wrong. But things can also work out better than you imagined. And even if you fail, you will learn. You will grow. So take risks for your dreams and goals.
  47.  

  48. Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. – Joel Osteen
  49.  

  50. Don’t go too easy on yourself
    This is certainly not a statement you hear often. Usually people say, “Don’t be too hard on yourself.” I think we need to hold ourselves accountable for our lives. If you go too easy on yourself, you can become complacent. You may say, “Oh that’s okay I will do it tomorrow.” And tomorrow never comes. 
    So use some self-discipline. Hold yourself accountable to yourself. Hold  yourself up to high standards. 
  51.  

  52. Don’t berate yourself for what’s done
    It sounds like a contradiction from the previous statement, but it isn’t. Not going easy in yourself is about NOW. The present. But if you find that something has gone wrong, you made a mistake, or you have been lazy, or whatever…don’t waste time berating yourself. What’s done is done. You can’t change it. Just learn from it, and move on. Stewing in negativity and regret is pointless.
  53.  

  54. Don’t do things to prove anything to others. Do them because they matter to you.
  55.  

  56. Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best. – St. Jerome
  57.  

  58. Love Life
    You have this one life. Live it. Yes, you can always find people who are better off than you. People who seem to have it all, or people who just seem so together – that’s not it. Everyone has problems. Regardless of their socioeconomic status. But everyone handles them differently, and also you are not in the position to know what’s actually going on in those privileged people’s life. So stop comparing. Stop envying. Focus on the life you have, and focus on making that better. Try making your life a Kaizen life.
  59.  

  60. You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – C. S. Lewis
  61.  

  62. Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory. – George S. Patton
  63.  

  64. Journal
    Well, duh!! Of course I was going to say that. Journal. Daily if you can, or as regularly as possible. It will change your life.

 

My Thanks To You:

Thank you, Kaizen Warriors, for being here. For being my readers. For being a part of this community. I’m grateful to have each of you in my life. Particular thanks to those who leave comments, and email me. Your input and your thoughts are much appreciated. 

 

 

4 Truths from 4 Years of Kaizen Journaling

 

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Kaizen Journaling is 4 today. Like most birthdays and anniversaries…on the one hand it feels like I have been doing this forever, but on the other hand these four years have flown by.

Let me first begin with two things I’m thankful for:

First: I’m thankful that I can do this, that Kaizen Journaling has continued to grow over the years. It’s a privilege.

Second: I’m thankful to all of you, Kaizen Warriors. Without your presence, without your support, this journey would not be what it is. So thank you for being here, for being my fellows on this personal development journey where we are all trying and aiming for a Kaizen life.

Now, I would like to share four truths I’ve confirmed from four years of Kaizen Journaling:

It is about the journey

My journey to Kaizen Journaling began long before this website itself. But even in this four years, it has been a literal and metaphorical journey. Just by the nature of this project – personal development and journaling – it affects and is affected by my life. It would not be an overstatement to say that my life is drastically different from what it was on 17th April 2012. And fortunately, that change has been for the better. I’m pursuing my Kaizen Life with more passion and more dedication than ever before. 

For every moaner, there is one smiley person.

The world is full of whiny, negative people. You will find them everywhere. But for every one of them, there is also one positive person. Someone who smiles a lot, and brings smiles on everyone else’s face. You just need to look around more, and return smiles more often. Like does attract like. So if you find yourself surrounded by miserable people, keep walking, until you find someone who enhances your life by being in it. Don’t settle.

People are pretty damn impressive.

Over these four years, I have had the privilege to hear from many of you. You have shared your stories, opened your life and your heart. I’m amazed at what some of you have been through, and yet you continue to strive forward positively. It’s just another confirmation for me that none of us are alone in wanting to make the best of our lives, that we find the strength somehow to get up and keep going regardless of what life throws at us. It’s a confirmation of hope…that for all its faults, we – the humans – live in hope. 

You, and you alone, hold the key to your happiness. 

I come across many many negative and pessimistic people. I come across many people who seem to blame their situations in life, the government, or other people for their unhappiness. The hard truth is this: you and you alone are responsible for your happiness or your misery. Yes, other people, external circumstances can impact it, it can throw you off course and cause you hardships, but it’s up to you to decide how you respond to it. No one, and I mean no one, has a life without problems. What separates the happy people from miserable ones are the choices they make. Read this article to take control of your daily happiness and simple pleasures.

 

So that’s it. As I take this step into the 5th year of Kaizen Journaling, I hope you will stick with me. I have many plans for Kaizen Journaling though right now not much time to implement them, but I will get there, slowly but surely.  However, Kaizen Journaling still stands for the same thing. If you have forgotten, check out the manifesto. If you want more support on your journaling journey, check out Kaizen Journaling Academy

As always, feel free to contact me with any thoughts, stories you want to share. 

Thank you for being here!