Everything old is new again

A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it.
Job 4:12

I faltered as I wandered through a vintage retro store. I didn’t trip, though I did stumble; on a message, a soft whispery message. A message that fluttered so delicately on the surface of my mind that I wasn’t sure I’d caught it. It intrigued me. I grappled to hold it, teetering between understanding and ignorance.

The message, a slogan almost, comprised just five little words: Everything Old is New Again.  Now that’s not so odd, given where I was. Vintage, retro and antique items are hugely popular again.  Inflated prices and crowds in store attest to that. But this message wasn’t about the items I was browsing. It was a message to reflect upon, one to shine a light on life and to learn from.

My short inner struggle lead me to realise that at this time of year in particular, when people are looking to make change and improvements, that we should look within rather than outward.  This was a prompt to look back and remember the strategies, the habits, the tools, the rituals and routines that helped us reach our goals in the past and to reinstate those that can help us achieve the curent changes we long to make?

From observation, and acknowledging my own behaviour, we too often seek the answers elsewhere when in fact, we so very often hold the key to unlocking the casket of treasures we are seeking. What routines did you have in place in the past that supported a better work life balance?  What habits did you formerly employ to stay fit? What rituals have you previously used to address overwhelm? How did you deal with difficult people successfully before? We let go of successful strategies for all sorts of reasons; they were no longer necessary, we tried a different way, we got neglectful.  It’s okay. Life happens.

If you find yourself looking for a quick fix, an off the shelf no fail plan or someone to help ‘fix’ things, take a moment to reflect. You might find you have a wealth of knowledge and actions you can revive to make your current goal a success.  Everything old could be new again — only the best bits of course.

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Walking the landscape of life

Be a hill seeker
Most of us try to avoid hills but what’s good about flat? Think about flat tires, flat hair, flat returns (what about flat cakes) and the ultimate flat – flatlining.  Life happens on the hills.  They’re opportunities to prove to yourself that you are stronger than you ever imagined.  If you never attempt the ascent you’ll never know the thrill of swooshing down the other side.

Have you read this quote before? What’s its relevance for you? As a hiker I love it but it’s also a nice analogy for life.

I’m not a thrill seeker,  I’m fairly conservative and non spontaneous and I baulk at hills, more so the physical hills but also the figurative hills in life.  I pretty much seek the easy path while wanting the ultimate outcome, prize or goal. It simply isn’t going to happen. Is it? Einstein said we can’t expect a different result if we do things the same way. It’s crazy behaviour as well as making for a mundane existence.

I’ve examined this behaviour of mine and realise the root of the issue is that I constantly underestimate my ability to tackle hills or mountains; and I’ve trekked a few in my time. You know what usually happens though? Once I begin, the apprehension lessens, the fear rolls away, a little excitement creeps in and a decent sense of achievement blooms. Oh, yes, there’s sweat along the way and some discomfort too (there might even be some cursing when the path gets extremely steep and narrow and rocky), though the more I face up to the hills and mountains the less uncomfortable it gets. Of course all hills are different and they all have their own topography to navigate, so no two are the same. Once at the top I wonder why I ever doubted myself. The satisfaction, the triumph and the joy are just rewards for a little time and perspiration.

A little fun fact that has helped me no end when setting out to climb a hill, and I realise this can help too with those figurative hills in life, is that most humans overestimate the steepness ahead of by at least 15 and in some cases 30 percent. So next time you have the option of the flat or the high road, seek out the hill because the rise ahead isn’t as savage as it appears at first glance. There’s a great satisfaction that comes from challenging yourself and doing something different. Gaining a different perspective can change the map you were previously following. Sometimes you just want to go a different way once you get that bird’s eye view. It really does just begin with putting one foot in front of the other and committing.

I agree with the above quote in that we never really know what we can achieve until we set out to conquer something, be it a physical challenge or some other goal in life. My opinion differs from the wisdom above too.  It’s all life. Life occurs on the hills, on the swoosh down and in the flat places in between.  The thrills might occur when we take a risk and veer off the flat path but the key, I believe, is to make sure we experience the range of landscapes available to us, because variety adds spice to life.

Transforming the meaning of struggle

Image courtesy of Tribesport

Image courtesy of Tribesport

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Albert Einstein

I am excited. My skin is tingling. I feel like all the neurons and synapses in my brain are firing all at once. I feel like there are hundreds of tiny catherine wheels exploding all over my body. I have that ‘just stepped off a roller coaster rush’ (not that I do that too often).

I had the opportunity to hear Dr Carol Dweck speak this morning. Dr Dweck is a leading researcher in the field of personality, social and developmental psychologies. She is a professor at Stanford University and is well-known for her work on mindset.

In a nutshell, a very small nutshell, Dr Dweck’s work looks at two types of mindset, growth and fixed mindset. When we utilise a growth mindset we believe skill and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice. With a fixed mindset we believe intelligence or skill can’t be changed.

Today Dweck said something that really got me thinking. She challenged us to transform our meaning of effort and struggle. Our current value system associates making mistakes and errors as something negative, something to hide and shrink from. Whereas obtaining new skills and knowledge with ease is praised and respected. There is a widespread belief that if you are smart things should come naturally.

How often have you heard comments like “You did that quickly and easily. That’s impressive.” or ” Well done, you got them all right. You must be really smart”?

What if we changed our value system and easy meant boring? What if we thought that anything we could do with ease was really a waste of our time? What would that sound like?  We’d hear things like “You did that quickly and easily. You must not have been challenged. Would you like to work on something that helps you learn and grow?”

What if we changed our value system and struggling with something, making and then processing our mistakes meant we were working on something worthwhile? What would that look like?

What if we changed our value system to reflect that struggle means we are working hard on something we value?  How would that feel?

I believe this would change everything. We wouldn’t bemoan our areas of growth. We’d share them with enthusiasm, in a collegial way, to gain understanding, insight and momentum for change and improvement. Instead of deficit thinking we’d approach our life lessons with innovation. We’d start to love ourselves a little more. We’d become more confident that we could face any new challenge with effort and the right strategy.

This concept has so many implications, for all of us. It’s got me wanting to race outside and turn cartwheels. It’s also got me wanting to process it more and work out ways to enact it in my life.

What messages have you heard recently that resonated with you?

Shannyn

 

In training, with purpose and passion

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Purpose is the reason you journey, passion is the fire that lights your way.
Author unknown

I went for a walk yesterday.  No big deal, yet a few things surprised me about this.  You see, it was a pretty long walk. I’d decided to head off for a 23 k stroll and, as Mother Nature would have it, it was blowing a gale with winter westerly winds reaching 41 kilometres throughout the day (pretty wild and woolly for an urban area). The wind chill made the already low temperatures of about 7-10 feel at least a couple of degrees cooler, and that’s pretty low for this normally tropical neck of the woods.

I concede,  these temps  and wind speeds  are pretty moderate, almost nothing in comparison to other places in the world. When I consider my husband sat atop Mt Cook in 169 km winds, I’m almost embarrassed.  Anyway, why am I proud of myself in light of this information? Well, to walk twenty-three kilometres  in a day is a serious undertaking for me and I usually balk at roaming about in weather, preferring instead to rug up, sip tea and read in a quiet, sheltered nook inside.  I can usually find, without much trouble, any small excuse to delay such an undertaking.

But yesterday was different. I was excited about heading off on this walk. I was focused on it and  determined. I’d packed, I had decided what to wear to minimise bulk and excess (should it warm up) yet stay warm. I had  transportable food for lunch, water for hydration. I was set. Not even the remote possibility of a coffee and a chat with my son, who was visiting, stopped me from stepping out the door and heading off into the wild blue morning.

So what was different about yesterday?  (I questioned this myself as I was on my home stretch.)

I had purpose and I had passion.  Two key ingredients to making anything possible.

Since returning from a life changing trip to Nepal I’ve had a hunger. A gnawing need to do something of value and I’ve had an itch to challenge myself physically, in ways I’ve not yet explored ( a crazy thing for someone who hasn’t been a sporting type and nearing, okay, past but just past, middle age). I am temporarily satisfying these burning desires by supporting research for Mitochondrial Disease by joining The Bloody Long Walk.  It’s a  35 kilometre one day walk across my fair city. I’m walking on my own, though I won’t be alone by any means and while I haven’t found anyone willing to join me for the outing I have had many wonderful people support my quest with donations and playful promises to cheer me on from their armchairs while sipping tea. I am heartily warmed by their faith in me, their goodwill and their kindness in donating to this great cause.

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So, I stepped outside, into a blustery day, to continue my training for this event. During a few days at the beach last week I extended my usual five kilometre walk to a few 12 and 14 k efforts before breakfast. It’s not to hard when you get to see the sun come up over the ocean. Look, I know it’s only a walk, it’s not like I’m running a marathon or doing a triathlon but 35 kilometres in a day takes some planning. With a 5 am shuttle bus ride to the starting line and a 7 o’clock kick off I wanted to get a sense of how long it might take me. Yesterday was a good gauge. I had some questions answered about equipment, supplies etc, which was handy. But most of all I really enjoyed myself. I packed my iPod, something I rarely use, thinking I might get bored. It stayed in the bottom of my pack.  Instead, I simply enjoyed just being. I was in the moment. There were no thoughts of what else had to be done, where else I could be. I was purposefully engaged and I was enlivened by it, as well as by the wind and the crisp air.

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Having this small challenge ahead of me is providing a focus and a purpose that is shaping my thoughts and actions in ways I am quietly amazed by. There is a saying that ‘the purpose of life is a life with purpose’ and boy does it make a difference.

What is driving you forward at the moment?

If you are interested in finding out more about Mitochondrial Disease and how you too can help, click here.

Shannyn

 

Pilates. A pushover? Think again!

If it doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t change you.

Fred DeVito

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

I attended my first ever Pilates class this week thinking it would be a walk in the park compared to an Ashtanga yoga class. Wasn’t I in for a shock!

I have a regular yoga practice and while I attend a weekly two hour class my home practice isn’t as conscientiously consistent as I’d like it to be. I rarely practice for two hours at home, instead carving out between thirty minutes and an hour most days. So I’m not exactly a yoga master but all things considered I thought a Pilates class would not be as demanding as my yoga practice. Well, I was wrong about that!

Talk about being floored. Almost immediately my bravado and smugness were shattered. I was surprised by how intense some moves were and how strong one’s core had to be to hold others. I was confused by the breathing, which appeared to be opposite to what I’m used to in yoga, and I wasn’t prepared for the weird sensation and lack of coordination when, lying face down, I was asked to move my leg in a circle. My brain and limb seemed disconnected.

Not wanting to admit defeat I soldiered on and my ‘grin and bear it don’t let anyone know how hard you are finding this’ attitude dissolved into a pleasant challenge. Once I settled into being out of my comfort zone I began to really enjoy the demands of the class as well as the mental and physical hurdles being presented. Before I knew it the class was over, I was walking out the door, thanking the instructor and telling her I’d see her next week.

Yes, I’m going back for more.

My greatest hope is that Fred DeVito is right, I expect to see some fantastic changes in my resilience, my resolve and my abs as a result of this new Pilates challenge I’ve undertaken.

What small challenge are you willing to undertake to see changes in your life?

Shannyn