Begin with the end in mind


I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity. ~Hazel Lee

Beginning with the end in mind is a concept I encourage teachers to use regularly. Consider the assessment, what is it you want young people to demonstrate that they know and can do? Backward map from this to identify the facts you’ll teach and the processes or skills you will unpack for them. Then, identify the thinking processes involved; do they need to compare, analyse, deduct? From there develop learning goals and the sequence of delivery. This process ensures our young people are prepared and equipped to demonstrate their knowledge in the given task or piece of assessment. It’s also an opportunity for teachers to be clear about learning intentions and focuses their teaching.

I was recently presented with a sobering assignment of my own. I was challenged to write my own obituary (It’s a long story but it was part of an ongoing spiritual development process, that I’m really enjoying). Did I say this was sobering? As I was writing I became aware of the similarities to the above process.  Writing my obituary; how I’d like to be remembered, the qualities I’d like to stand out, the kind of person I wanted to be, the achievements I’d reached and so forth, made me realise the power in the process.

I don’t necessarily want, nor do I need, a gushing obituary (I certainly won’t be around to hear it at any rate) and I doubt there will be a huge crowd gathered around my grave to bid me farewell but what this task did for me was to shine a very strong spot light on my current behaviours, attitudes and perceptions. It made me realise how special life is, how relatively short it is, yet also, how many opportunities I have to make a difference, to change the way I do things for better results and how I can grow each day. I realised, not for the first time, the wonderful gift I have been given. We don’t just live once. We die once, we have a chance to live everyday.

Starting with the end in mind brings a focus to the now. Each action, thought and choice has power. Each moment we are presented with opportunity. Each day we get to create our lives anew; to be more, do more, love more, laugh more, help more.

Starting from the end in mind is confronting and it’s also a beautiful reminder of the preciousness of life. This task, writing my own obituary, might just be something I incorporate each year into my New Year’s Day ritual.

If you started with the end in mind, how would it shape your life?

Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending. ~Author Unknown



Making change happen


It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.  Scott Belsky

Where are you heading: professionally, personally, spiritually?  Are you chasing your tail? Running in circles? Stuck in a rut, not getting anywhere fast?

Stop! Take a breath and consider the following five behaviours that might help move you forward.


Stay committed to your ideas but stay flexible in your approach.
Tony Robbins

Are you nimble and agile; prepared to veer off course, move in different directions and in different ways? Life is like an obstacle course. At times we can mosey along the straight path on other occasions  we’ll be required to climb or pull ourselves over the high walls. Sometimes we will have to scramble under low hanging obstacles and get messy and dirty.  Of course, it’s not all hard work, all the time, there will be great stretches ahead that allow you to skip, walk or run free. Practice being nimble and agile in your thinking and your approach to life, to reaching your goals and to discovering and fulfilling your purpose.


Creativity takes courage.  Henri Matisse

Are you thinking creatively?  If we always do things the same way, how can we expect different outcomes? Being open to approaching life in creative ways can get us out of the mire, our stuckness and sameness.  Doing things differently opens doors for us and gives us a change of perspective. It brings us into contact with new thoughts, new people, new situations.  So, consider a different approach, choose a different attitude, behave differently. Try something new.


Some people want  it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.  Michael Jordan

Do the heavy lifting.  Hoping someone will knock on the door and offer you your dream, hand you your perfect life, job, relationship, sadly isn’t going to happen. It’s up to you to do the heavy lifting to get to where you want to be. Sometimes it’s only a short burst of heavy duty work and at others there will be some serious, consistent strength training required to shape your world.  Are you prepared to sweat for your dream?


You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.  Christopher Columbus

To make real and long term change we must take risks. How can we hope to move, grow, change if we stay safely in our comfort zone? Responsible risk taking, along with agility, creativity and heavy lifting and even independent of these preciously discussed behaviours can move us forward leaps and bounds. Be courageous. Step outside your comfort zone for what you want you’ll be surprised where it will take you.


We rise by lifting others. Robert Ingersoll

Help others. We are not alone. We may all be on different paths but we are all heading somewhere. Help others along the way. Give someone a leg up where needed. Lend a helping hand when and where you can so someone else can move forward on their journey. Be generous with your time, your skills and talents. When we help others, we help ourselves in unknown ways.

Do your current modes of behaviour, your current attitudes and approaches best support your desired outcome? Be it a career change, personal development, spiritual fulfilment, if you are not seeing results consider what you might start doing, stop doing and keep doing to propel you forward.

Are you nimble and agile, creative, doing the heavy lifting, taking responsible risks, helping others?

Food for thought (and action!)



Six reassurances for living with a disproportionately large shadow

Vincent Mars

A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow.”
Djuna Barnes

The shadow escapes from the body like an animal we had been sheltering.”
― Gilles Deleuze

“When we are aware of our weaknesses or negative tendencies, we open the opportunity to work on them.”
― Allan Lokos

I fell off my perch recently. I didn’t just slip or stumble, nor was it a little hiccough. I fell from grace in a spectacular fashion.  While it wasn’t a public shaming, it was ugly and vicious and intense.  I felt I’d let myself down.

It was sparked by an incident. Well, a series of ongoing incidents really. You see, few things get me as riled up as injustice. I can’t stand by and see someone, particularly someone I love and care for, treated poorly and unfairly.

Nothing annoys me more than people hiding behind the cloak of dogma, proclaiming how we must all adhere to said dogma, yet behave in anything but the same fashion they expect of others. Hypocrites annoy me. Weakness annoys me. Ignorance and stupidity annoy me.

I’m cranky. Can you tell?

I witnessed what I believe to be an injustice. A debasing of someone who is loving, giving and so very generous. I’ve seen this person’s love thrown back in their face. Their feelings ignored and trampled on. I have seen this incredible person devalued by the people who should love and support them the most.

This constant undermining attack on this loved one has been delivered by people who hide behind the veil of Christian virtue. Their behaviour has been anything but christian or virtuous. Their actions have been coloured and influenced by ill meaning advisors.  I loathe to see people manipulated, used as puppets for other people’s end game but I loathe even more the idiocy of those who are so weak-minded that they cannot rationally approach a situation and see what is clearly happening, as those looking in surely do.

You know those movies where the protagonist becomes so enraged they morph into some unrecognisable fire-breathing monster? Well, that’s what I became last week.  I literally felt like a red-eyed, raging, stampeding beast. The anger, the vile loathing, the deep-seated hankering for vengeance boiled inside me. I thought I would explode with it. I felt I would go mad with it.

I was tainted by and shocked by the venom within me.

image: shadow self sourced from lackofa

I then felt like a hypocrite, proclaiming peace and love yet feeling this ugliness. I decided to share my ugliness with friends so there would be witnesses to my darkness. Why? I wanted to ensured I maintained my integrity by being truthful about who I am. I didn’t want to hide this disgraceful behaviour.

My wise women friends offered some interesting insights and revealed the lessons in the situation for me. I share with you some of what they shared with me, not to justify my behaviour but because it might help you too, if you find yourself in a similar situation.

One wise friend told me that this was my truth. She thought my courage and honesty at sharing the ugliness was amazing. She assured me I wasn’t alone. That other people too have  really tough and intense dark sides. She had, herself, been ‘surfing the inland sea’ for several weeks. I wasn’t alone in my quest for vengeance. That hers had also thrown her into shame and despair.

Without justifying my behaviour or supporting my view-point I was tutored that life is prickly and sticky at times.

What startled me most, and bore into my brain slowly over the days to come, was that this incident, this turbulent inner battle, was progress on my path and a testament to how much work I had done, to not only feel but name what I was experiencing. I was encouraged not to judge my feelings, to just feel them intensely and release them.  I was encouraged to take care of myself and forgive myself.

Despite my despicable thoughts, the tempest, the rage and rantings, my wise women’s circle told me that I needed to know that I truly deserve kindness and love. But also, a parting lesson, that I am only responsible for my own happiness.

So, dear reader, please know, that if you are on a spiritual  path or simply trying to be more present and grateful and loving in life that:

1. it’s human to be angry, to be messy, prickly and sticky. LIfe happens and over time we get better at dealing with it. Ignoring your anger and emotions doesn’t help nor does wrapping yourself in bubble wrap to avoid life.

2. if you feel like you’ve slipped off your perch, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally, you won’t be the only one. Climb back up.

3. we have to forgive ourselves. How can we ever move forward with the weight of self loathing dragging us down? Easier said than done. I know.   I also acknowledge that we must forgive others too. That might, in this situation, take me a little time to work through. But yes. There is huge relief and release in forgiveness, and it will come, in time.

4. as awkward as it might be, part of forgiving yourself and climbing back on your perch is deliberate self-care. Walking in nature, digging in the garden, floating, swimming, massage. Whatever nurtures you, heals you.

5. letting go isn’t condoning a situation or other people’s behaviour. Letting go and adjusting your attitude directly benefits your inner peace.  You can find peace amid the chaos, it’s a matter of choice.

6. you are only responsible for your own happiness. While we can be discouraged, enraged and moved by injustice; taking on issues for others, carrying around unresolved and destructive emotion isn’t helping anyone reach their happiness, nor does it help you with your own quest. I’m not saying don’t take meaningful and purposeful action where you can, just be aware of bottled up emotion and how it affects you and resolves nothing.

We all have a shadow side. Mine feels disproportionately huge. It’s ugly and misshapen. It fumes and steams and flares red hot. But, I’ve realised, it’s human to feel the darkness and to be in the darkness just as much as it is to revel in the light and bask in the warmth life has to offer.

Be gentle with your dear hearts. Remember, self-development and spiritual development are not events, but processes. Ongoing processes.

I send you love wherever you may be on your personal journey.



The tortoise and the hare both finished the race but…


Image courtesy of cumberlainincubator

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” ― Eddie Cantor

“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.”

Viggo Mortensen

The tale of the tortoise and the hare, where slow and steady wins the race doesn’t seem to sit well in modern western life.  We wake up, race off to the gym, or work, fit in back to back meetings, gulp down lunch at our desks, collect a handful of groceries on the way home from work, cook dinner while a load of washing is on, make lunches for the following day, complete some unfinished work correspondence or projects. Then, if we are still awake, squeeze in a little reading or television viewing before lopping off to bed to do it all over again the next day.  Faster is better, more is approved of and fitting in as much as possible, in our already busy lives, is seen to be normal, or at least the norm.

On a trek, in Nepal, I realised things can be different.  “Slow, slow” is the mantra. Plodding is accepted and encouraged. There is no hurry. Basically, one’s body does not function well at a fast pace when dealing with altitude.  Mentally this is challenging at first. Slow is so unfamiliar, so strange that the mind does not settle into slow comfortably.

The Nepalese people are a gentle and slow-moving people. Life is hard in the remote villages we visited. They carry massive loads over great distances and food is prepared from scratch. Rice is hand ground in stone mortars for making Momos and bread. Milk is not bought from a local store but milked from yaks and goats. Vegetables and herbs are grown in patches around homes and yak dung is  collected, rolled into balls and flattened to dry in the sun for later use as fuel for fires.

Days are filled with hand washing clothes, preparing food, farming, herding animals long distances and surviving the harsh elements. Nothing is wasted. Resources are respected and utilised to the full. The throw away mentality doesn’t seem to be prevalent. The fast pace I’d left behind was also nowhere to be seen.

Despite the harshness and seemingly difficult lifestyle, compared to my own, the Nepalese are extremely generous, they find joy in the simple things. They value family and relationships weigh in strongly. Time is taken to watch children play, there is much laughter and many ready smiles. Attention is given to the task at hand, without concern for the next.

Once I got my head wrapped around what my body knew was the value of “slow, slow”, the benefits revealed themselves. Each day, we stopped for a tea break. For an hour. Yes. An hour. It was such a terrible waste of time to my pre-programmed run, run, run mode.  Lunch was a leisurely two-hour break.  Hard to fathom when I’ve not taken a lunch break in over ten years.  These opportunities to pause were strange to me. Physically I needed them but mentally I was totally challenged by the down time, at first.  When you stop, you take in the surroundings. When you stop, you talk to people. When you stop, you can meditate and be grateful and breathe deeply. When you stop you get a better perspective of where you are and from where you have come. Making decisions on how to proceed become easier.

Slow and steady has benefits.

One very cold morning, walking up a steep hill, I moved aside to allow an elderly couple to pass. While waiting I rubbed my hands together for warmth. After exchanging namastes  the elderly woman reached up with her right hand and covered both of mine. She made an exclamation which conveyed “cold”. I responded that hers was warm. She rubbed my cold, reddened hands with her strong, broad, warm hand and my heart soared as I stared into her wizened face. We’d connected in that moment on a mountainside far from my daily grind and rapid routine. Had I been focused on racing to my end point, I’d have missed this beautiful exchange.

At morning tea another day having stopped at a tea house I was resting; head reclined and wrapped against the cool breeze, when  I heard a woman’s reproach, one another mother easily discerns. Before I could open my eyes I felt a small hand on my back. When I turned, a small red-cheeked child was beaming at me from under her yak hair beanie, delighted at having surprised and roused me from my slumber.  We two were caught in a moment of mutual fascination and joy.

The long afternoons and  evenings were filled with conversation, laughter, card playing and story telling. The lack of distractions, the forced pause, enabled us to connect with others around us. We could take quiet moments for introspection,  for journaling, for just being.

These moments are not restricted to treks in Nepal. They can be experienced anywhere, if only we make the time to slow down, just a little, to take in all around us, to observe and to consider others. Being more deliberate, slowing down and taking time to pause gives us an opportunity to connect with ourselves, our journey and those around us.

“Yes. but …” I hear you say, “that’s all well and good on holiday.”  I admit, I haven’t exactly taken an hour lunch break since returning but nor have I missed a deadline by slowing down. Each day I consciously take the time to appreciate my world. At lunch, I have taken a moment to look at my food, to notice the colours and the textures before digging in. I’ve enjoyed the smells and savoured that first mouthful. I chew rather than gulp. When my colleagues arrive each day, instead of calling a half-interested greeting over my shoulder, I stop, turn, look at them. Notice them. Then wish them a good morning and inquire about their evening, their health, comment on their outfit or some idea we shared the day before. It’s just a short exchange but it’s a lovely way to begin the day.  On waking, instead of jumping out of bed and racing off to the first task I take a moment to wiggle my fingers and toes. To stretch, to smile and be grateful for a new day. Instead of taking and making calls in the car as I’m travelling to work, I enjoy the time to gather my thoughts and to notice the little things happening in each neighbourhood I pass through. My phone calls are taken later, when I can devote my undivided attention to my caller.

I’ve not become ineffective. If anything my head is clearer, my heart is happier and I feel more connected to my life. My advice would be, in the words of my Nepalese friends, “Slow, slow”. Plod occasionally. Stop briefly. Look and listen often. Breathe deeply and enjoy life.

The tortoise and the hare both finished the race but who enjoyed the journey more?