As we get older we tend to become fixed in our routines and habits. In many ways we need routine and habit to be able to function in society however it can also limit how we experience life. Routine and familiarity means that we revert to living on autopilot. Getting up at the same time, going through our day following the same steps we took the day before and probably everyday, it means we don’t really have to be fully aware. This is precisely why it is important to take a break from routine.
Taking a Break from Routine
Taking a break doesn’t have to be a big deal, it doesn’t have to be expensive or even take you too far out of your comfort zone. To be able to start break your routines a little you have to give up some control, you have to be able to start living more in the moment, in the flow of life. It takes time to do that, especially if you are not used to doing things that you are not comfortable with.
Why is it Important to Break from Routine?
To fully experience life, to be in the moment, in the flow allows us to experience life in a much more authentic way. When we are being more than just spectators we awaken our senses and bring life into our life.
How many times have you looked back at your life and wondered where all the years went? It can be pretty scary to see just how fast life passes. But we can slow life down by paying attention to it, to being present in our experiences and to sometimes kick it up a bit. Do something different, do something uncomfortable, take chances and yes let it flow without actually knowing what might or might not happen.
When I worked in London, I’d try to change things even in the smallest way. Take a different route to work, try a different cafe for breakfast and anything small that allowed me to carry on fulfilling my daily responsibilities but still changed things up a little.
I wanted to share a short video of photos taken this weekend. I like to just do random things, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. For me it is a vital part of feeling life, of expanding my experiences and taking in whatever may come without any preconceived expectations. So here’s a little snapshot of a short trip to Lille in France.
I want to inspire people. I love it when someone says to me “Because of you I didn’t give up” or “Because of you I made that change!” – Anna Zannides
So perhaps I can help you see that life is more than routines, habits and comfort zones. Of course in the end, we all have to make our own choices, I just hope to help you make better decisions for you.
Yes be proud of your mistakes, they made you who you are today. Can you accept that your mistakes are something to be proud of? It goes completely against everything we are taught as we are growing up. We do something wrong as a child and we are told off, then we get to school and punished for our mistakes.
Life is About Evolving
The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be – Oprah Winfrey
Without making mistakes we can not evolve. I remember when I was studying for my computer science degree, those endless hours spent trying to write computer code. The only way I could ever get the code to work was by making mistake after mistake, until finally it worked.
So why is it that we think we can get through life without making a mistake? And when we do why are we so hard on ourselves?
Surely we should be proud of our mistakes because ultimately what they lead to are our successes.
Life Begins Outside of Your Comfort Zone
The thing is in life we avoid making mistakes by sticking to the things we know. We live life on auto pilot, do things without really noticing and just go from day to day repeating the same thing. Because we think anything outside of our familiar world is somehow dangerous or risky.
But in reality to really taste life we have to come out of this comfort zone, we have to take risks and feel life at it’s core.
Does that somehow make you feel uncomfortable?
I speak to people all the time about getting out of their comfort zone, about pursuing their dreams because life is not going to last forever. This sometimes sparks a self protective reaction, like it’s a personal attack. It’s almost like they just don’t want to be pushed to see how they are limiting their life out of the fear of making a mistake. Unfortunately these people are usually the first ones to complain about life or to criticize people who don’t just settle.
Better an “Ooops” than a “What if”
So what exactly do we fear when we hold ourselves back, is it the actual mistake or something else? Personally I think we fear other peoples opinions of us. Our greatest fear is not being liked by others, not fitting in, not being part of the group and not belonging. After all we strive for a sense of belonging from childhood.
Perhaps we also want to be the good girl or boy, we grow up being told what is good and what is bad that by the time we reach adulthood it’s not questioned. We tow the line, behave as we are told and anything outside of that is deviant or worse criminal.
But really successful people don’t follow the rules, if they did they certainly wouldn’t have made it. That doesn’t mean you have to be a criminal or break laws, it just means learning to play the game, the game of life. And that requires a little risk taking, sometimes a lot, that depends on what you want out of your life.
Time is like a river. You can not touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of your life.
Living Life According to Others
Living your life according to what others expect will guarantee you fit in, that you are part of the group but over the years it can build up into deep resentment. If you never connect with your true desires, keep them bottled up and cover them up thinking they will pass, then one day you may look back on your life with regret.
Problem with regret is, it can become soul destroying.
If you fear making a mistake because you may disappoint someone, then perhaps you need to reassess your relationships. Real love means unconditional acceptance.If they love you they will want to see you happy. And they will be there for you even if it doesn’t work, even if you make a mistake.
Stop letting other people define you – Be yourself and Be Proud of It
Be Proud of You – Be Proud of Your Mistakes
I guess I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always had a sense of self worth and self confidence that’s been difficult for anyone to break. Even after my marriage ended I didn’t lose sight of who I am, it’s a sense of self belief that I developed as a child and having to rely on myself for most things.
I’m proud of who I am, I’m not too worried if others like me or not because I enjoy, no I love being alone. And that’s why it is important to first be comfortable with who you are, comfortable with your own company and enjoy just being you. Then you live according to you.
My mistakes have been the most important teachings I’ve ever received. Don’t ever regret your mistakes but do make sure you learn from them.
I was watching this video interview where Oprah Winfrey discusses why you shouldn’t be looking for Mr Right or for that matter Mrs Right.
This longing to feel complete by somehow finding this one Mr Right or Mrs Right is the cause for so many relationships ending. Just imagine the already unrealistic expectations you put on another person when you are looking for them to make you feel whole again?
Oprah mentions the statement by Tom Cruise in the film Jerry Macguire where he says “you complete me” to his new love. In the video the discussion focuses on how we can only complete ourselves. Too look outside of ourselves to feel complete is a recipe for disaster. It breeds clingy, needy relationships which often turn into toxic relationships.
How long will it take for someone to not meet your exceptions? How perfect can anyone be? And I guess how can anyone make you feel complete if you don’t feel it alone?
For any relationship to be healthy, fulfilling and happy the people in them must be whole and happy in their own skin.
Linda Frances gives an example of a failed relationship and states
“When you are broken you will attract the wrong people”
It could not be said any better than this
“Instead of looking for the right person, work on making yourself the right person for you, then the right person will be drawn to you” – Oprah Winfrey
Why You Should Stop Looking for Mr Right or Mrs Right?
I feel a little cruel to say this but I feel compelled to. Over romanticising has led to so many relationships breaking down. We get into new relationships with unrealistic expectations and dreams, and this is fine for a while but it’s not long before you start to see the other person in their true colours. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that when we take off those tinted glasses and look through clear eyes, we see a real person. And real people are not perfect!
So without breaking your bubble about the Hollywood illusion, perhaps it’s time to stop looking for Mr Right (or Mrs Right of course) and start getting real.
Do The Work On Yourself
For many people it’s far easier to be in denial about themselves than it is to look outside of themselves to be complete. In the video Linda Frances talks about being in a toxic relationship as a consequence of not dealing with the feeling of betrayal from a previous relationship. It wasn’t until she allowed herself to feel the pain that she was able to let go. She the was able to work on herself. She became the person she wanted to be, created the life she wanted for herself and attracted the right person into her life.
However not everyone is self aware and not everyone is willing to put the work in. I see so many people all to ready to blame their partners or blame society for the state of their life, yet they fail to make any changes. Safer to stay as I am right?
Complete Yourself – Then Your Whole World is Complete
Your View Of Relationships May Need Updating
We are in 2016 yet our view of relationships are based on the 1950’s (actually earlier). We still dream of some prince marrying us and taking us to this magic palace where we will be happy ever after. Men on the other hand dream of these beautiful women, made of glass, who look just as beautiful twenty years later as they did when they were mere children! Ok I’m over exaggerating but you get my drift.
Here’s the thing though, men and women are now equal (in principle anyway) Many women are ambitious, independent and love their freedom. Most of us are fully accepting of same sex and inter-racial relationships. There are more and more nontraditional ways of living and open relationships not based on exclusiveness,. Yet we are trying to keep relationships traditional.
There is online dating, online virtual worlds, globalisation and the world is a much smaller place. We taste other foods, see other cultures and religions. Yet we are chasing this traditional long term, exclusive and yet elusive relationship.
What’s the right relationship? – I say it’s the one that best fits you. Perhaps you need to change your criteria? Perhaps you need to open your mind?
Staying is No Longer The Norm
And this brings me to discussing why people stay in relationships even if it doesn’t give them what they need. I think most people just don’t like shaking up the status quo. It’s so much easier to moan, to blame the other person than it is to let it go, walk away and start over, right?
When a relationship ends it’s seen as a failure, personally I think it takes great courage to say “it served it’s purpose, it was what I needed and wanted at the time but now it’s time to move on!”
If we walk away, let it go, we are getting out of our comfort zone, we are perhaps putting ourselves into a challenging new unknown life. But surely that’s what being alive means, taking responsibility for your own life and not accepting a life less ordinary.
I also think some people thrive on the drama of a toxic relationship. It makes them somehow feel more important because either they are a martyr or they are a victim or worse they are a powerful bully! They become so sucked into the story “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”
Personally I think to be in an unhappy toxic relationship is death, no need to wait for it to happen it’s already happened.
Does that mean I don’t believe in relationships? Not at all, just not in the traditional sense.
I had an interesting conversation in my group session this week. We talked about the struggle of letting go of past relationships, especially when you believe that it was “The One”. The special one that you’ve been waiting for, that one who will be there for you forever, the one that will have your back, who will share your sadness, joys and pain.
However there is no such thing as forever, if there is anything certain in this world it is that change is constant. Look around you, what has stayed the same? If things change then people change, that is the nature of life.
If things didn’t change there would be no butterflies”
Fighting Change is What Causes so Much Pain.
Isn’t it a strange life we live? We know forever doesn’t exist, life itself doesn’t last forever yet we spend all our lives clinging to keep things the same. It’s that constant struggle to keep things from changing that makes us so unhappy yet we persist.
Life is a String of Moments
When we start to live mindfully and become aware of life in the moment, then we have a profound understanding of change. Life isn’t a long straight line, it is a bumpy road made up of good, bad and ugly moments. Once we can accept that we can learn to make peace with life.
Fear of Change is Just a Fear of the Unknown
If change is happening all the time why do we resist it so much? Sometimes we even resist change if our current situation is not exactly perfect (and I use perfect very loosely). The reason we do this is because we fear the unknown. You know the saying “better the devil you know” well that’s exactly how we play our life. Stuck in the known in case the unknown is not what we want.
Then we never experience the amazing because we stay in the safe place we know. Life passes us by, with few amazing moments.
Relationships Change Too
And whether we like it or not, people change, relationships change and clinging onto the story we have told ourselves about this relationship just prolongs the pain.
Can we learn to live our relationships moment to moment?
Just imagine if we could really live our relationships in the moment, without this unrealistic expectation that it will somehow never change and last forever. How would that change how we relate to others, especially in our close and intimate relationships?
I asked these questions in my session, a lot of silence followed because it goes against everything we grow up believing.
It’s uncomfortable to imagine being in any kind of relationship without having a dream of it lasting forever. Even friends are meant to be forever right?
Perhaps it’s time to accept that change is inevitable, learn to live more in the moment without too many expectations about the next moment. Trusting that it will unfold exactly as it should be.
Learning to let go of people when they need to move on, when you need to move on and make room for new people, new things and experiences. Sometimes the unknown turns out to be much more than you ever imagined.
I spent this weekend in Brighton, love the place. It has such a vibe about it, you have life by the sea in the day time and in the evening a vibrant nightlife.
I added some excitement to the weekend by having my first jet skiing experience. Not something I would have seen myself doing a few years ago but here I was celebrating another birthday by riding the waves in Brighton.
When a friend asked me to go with him jet skiing my first reaction was “no way!!” After all I’m too old for that sort of thing and what about all the dangers? A couple of weeks later, I suddenly thought “too old for what?”. When does age have to stop you from living a little dangerously? So I changed my mind and went ahead with it. Felt the fear and did it anyway.
This is me after the ride, happy to be alive. Yes I know not looking so glamorous but who cares, it was too much fun to have to think about appearance.
Play it safe? Then safe is what you get.
I’ve always believed that every experience is given to us so we can learn and grow. Often the most challenging ones are the ones that teach us the most. Sometimes though we have to push ourselves into the unknown, into the face of fear so we can know what we are capable of. Why, I hear you say?
You can not possibly live a life in comfort and expect to have a life full of wonder, you get what you put in.That’s how life works.
There is no better way to learn to let go and trust in the process than when you are in the middle of the sea with waves nearing 4 feet coming straight at you. As a complete beginner that is daunting, I can verify that one. When I saw those waves coming towards me I had to throw the throttle and go for it. I could feel my heart beating faster than normal and felt very nervous about being able to stay on the jetski.
I had to make a choice, either I stay at safe speed and hope that the wave didn’t take me along with it and possibly knock me of the jetski. Or follow the instructors advice and go faster so that the jetski would be more stable. Although I was scared I did just that, I revved up the engine and went straight over the top of the waves. That was a rare moment in life. Life should be made up of more exhilarating moments like this.
And this is the point of it all, fear is the most powerful deterrent to living life to the full. It’s crippling. When I feel fear taking over I ask myself this one question:
“How many minutes of my life am I willing to give to fear?” and the answer is always “not one single minute!” because every minute of life is precious. And the truth is the reality is never as bad as the stories we tell ourselves because of fear.
I’ve made a conscious decision to stop ignoring my inner voice, now I’m paying attention. This has sometimes taken me into unfamiliar territory and often out of my comfort zone.
I recently signed up to a memoir writing course in London, following my inner voice. It’s been challenging, pushing myself to open up and to share my story a bit more than I am used to.
This short story is my latest piece. Time to let go of any fear of being judged and just get it out. Hope you enjoy.
The boy in the photo
I don’t know his name; these visits to children’s homes are impersonal. I guess it’s a way of staying on track with the work that has to be done.
I look at this photograph from time to time and remember the day I met this little boy. We were told not to get too close to the children at the home, they were likely to be carrying lice, flees and whatever else is out there when you live in these conditions. We were warned that the conditions here were worse than the other homes we had visited.
It was my intention to just go with the group; stay focused on the plan and then move onto the next visit. I’m in Nepal dealing with the turmoil in my life and none of what is happening now was in the plan. One thing I have learnt recently is that not much in life goes according to plan and sometimes this is a gift in disguise. So here I am thousands of miles away from home, with a group of people I’ve just met going to another children’s home.
Today we are there to check the quality of the water and to check the overall health of the children. We are also here to teach the children about personal hygiene and to give them each a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.
As we get closer to the home, I notice it has no windows, no doors, no lights and nothing but concrete floors and walls. The most memorable moment was the smell, it hit me as I walked in and then I realised that this time the home maybe just a little more shocking.
We walk up the stairs to be greeted by the “staff”. Same story, they are really happy to see us and willing to impress. But it’s important to not be distracted by the story they present and stay focused on the children because their eyes tell the real story.
The children are even more excited to see us. They spend their lives going unnoticed, who are they anyway? Most don’t even know their own name, let alone their date of birth. They have been prepped that’s for sure, I instantly noticed their uneasiness.
Then I see this beautiful little boy his hair shining from the dirt and grease. His clothes stained and in need of a wash. I can but see how perfect he is, those big dark eyes and smile showing his innocence. Although I don’t speak his language I approach him to give him his toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. I demonstrate how he should use them to wash, hoping he won’t try to eat the soap and toothpaste. We spend a few minutes in some kind of communication, I think he is happy that someone has given him some attention and probably even more excited about the free gifts he has been given.
I’m almost certain that this little boy has not been cuddled for a long time, if ever. The only thing I can give him is my attention to make him feel he is worthy of human affection. So I ignore the warnings and I cuddle him, hold him close like a mother should and give him just a little of what our children take for granted. He doesn’t pull back, he just accepts the cuddle as any child would and his eyes light up.
Right there and then I thought, “if I could take him home, give him a bath, some good food, clean clothes and a warm, safe bed to sleep in, that would change his life” and for a while I contemplated doing just that. But it’s never so straightforward.
As our day comes to an end I feel sad at leaving him behind, no idea what his life will turn out like, no idea if he will end up back on the streets.
What this little boy doesn’t know is that he gave me far more than I could have given him. My own problems seemed so insignificant. My struggles are so much easier to overcome now I see real suffering.
Yet when I look into his eyes all I see is the joy he got from the simple things he experienced on that day, in that moment. In the context of his life that’s the only way he can live, moment to moment. Perhaps that the lesson we should all learn.
Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory
Last weekend I visited Stockholm in Sweden. I made a commitment to myself that I would visit new places as often as I could over the year, even if only for a few days. Sweden seemed a good place for a short trip, close by, relatively cheap to fly to and I’d always wanted to visit Scandinavia.
When I visit somewhere new I tend to have preconceived ideas of the place and people. I guess I went expecting everything to run smoothly, the Swedish have a reputation for being very efficient and that’s what I had anticipated.
Once a Year Go Someplace You’ve Never Been Before – The Dalai Lama
I’ve been to a few places in the last year or so, some new and some not so new. I find traveling exciting, even if just for a few days. I learn something new each time I go away, there is nothing more educating than seeing new places. It opens your eyes and opens your mind.
Of course my preconceived ideas were proved wrong, not everything went smoothly and guess what the Swedish make mistakes too. Things don’t run perfectly in Sweden, just like everywhere else in the world.
The more I see of the world, the more I see how small it really is
And I guess this is the most important lesson I learn from traveling. I see just how we are all the same, we may differ in how we look or how we dress, what we eat and other characteristics. But ultimately we are all the same.
And looking out of the window onto this amazing world we live in, makes me realise just how small it really is. Flying also makes me work on trusting the process and understanding that in life we have no control. In an airplane you are trusting your life to so much more than you could ever control and such is life.
The one thing everyone in the world is searching for – to be happy.
Wherever you go, into the deepest jungles in the Amazon, all people really want is to be happy. How we measure happiness or define it maybe different but in the end we are united by our desire to be happy.
Oh and a little bit about Stockholm:
Overall I loved the place, the people are lovely, maybe it helps that they speak such good English. Bad on my part to even expect that.
Stockholm is built on lot’s of small islands all connected by bridges, very interesting. They are very good at investing in improving the environment, like cleaning their waterways.
It was extremely cold, even though it was supposed to be mild. If I go back it will definitely be in Spring or Summer.
Another new experience. Now I know a little about life in Sweden.
When you look back at your life it is clear that not everything went according to plan.
In my case that is definitely true. I used to have lots of plans for my life but not many worked out that way. In the end though I know that things usually worked out better than I had planned, or perhaps it’s just my ability to adapt to the changes that made it better?
In the last couple of years, following my redundancy and divorce I’ve tried to put a plan in place for my new life. The problem has been that because so much of my life had changed it was difficult to see a clear way forward. I would jump from one idea to another, it was all about experimenting, eliminating and testing out. To a certain extent it’s still like this and I guess that’s what life is about.
The one thing that I have learnt is that having the courage to change course is what it takes to create a life on your terms. At times it can be extremely difficult because you think once you’ve made a commitment you must stick to it. But who says that? Who’s voice are you listening to?
The beauty of living a single life is that there is nobody else to consider, your life, your choices.
Why do we stick to a course in our life, even though we know it doesn’t feel right?
I think that the first thing that keeps us stuck on a course in our life that we know deep inside is not right for us is that it’s just easier. We stick to what is familiar because changing will take us to places that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
One that is particularly close for me is that I feel that once I’ve said I will do something then I must do it. I’ve struggled with this lately but now made a commitment to myself that I will do as I please, even if that completely contradicts what I may have said yesterday, last week or last year.
And a big one for me is admitting that I was wrong. It hurts the ego that’s for sure. But being wrong is probably not the right way to see it. And letting go of ego is one step in the right direction in anycase.
Accept that what was right for you yesterday may not be right for you today and that is perfectly fine.
Fear – it keeps us paralised, avoiding change, avoiding getting out of our comfort zone and to an extent avoiding life. I have become familiar with fear. I don’t avoid it because I know it will present itself to me every time I have to make a choice and make a change. Sometimes it will stall me for a while but in the end I go on blind faith and jump through it. Once that first step is made, the rest comes naturally.
In the end we don’t have all the answers, we don’t know if we are on the right course all the time and accepting this can be the first step to living life in this moment. With no attachment to an outcome because we always get what is right for us, when we are ready to accept it.
This year I decided to do something different on New Year’s Eve seeing as my life is such a contrast to what it was. I have friends in Somerset so decided to visit them and to also have some quality time for myself. So I booked into a lovely remote bed and breakfast.
And this is where my three days of getting out of my comfort zone began.
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone is Part of Growing
I push myself to get out of my comfort zone because after a while of being comfortable things stop feeling good or right. It feels like things become stagnant and I am no longer learning or growing. For me changing things up, putting myself through new experiences that are a little scary is vital.
Even on this short road trip I was able to learn so much about myself, just the fact that I was away from the familiar, the comfortable and the safe was enough to make me re-examine myself.
I think when you allow yourself to just be in that moment, a little insecure and a little scared then you reinforce your self belief.
Every time you work through a tricky situation alone, you get stronger as a person.
On one of the days I took a drive up to Cheddar, determined I would see the caves even if it was pouring down with rain and even if I was alone. Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you have to hide, there’s no shame in being alone. Actually quite the opposite. I find it so freeing to just get up, go where I want without having to consider someone else.
After my cave tour I went to get some lunch in a really cute little tea room. I’ve got used to going out to eat alone now, it doesn’t bother me at all. And the great thing about doing this is I always end up having great conversations with complete strangers.
I got talking to a couple sitting next to me. The man lived near me as a child, grew up pretty locally and was born in Cyprus where my family originate from. I am over 150 miles away from home and sitting next to someone I most probably passed on the street as a child. That is how small the world really is and that is just how connected to each other we really are.
How can you ever be alone when we are all so connected? We only think we are alone because we live in this closed off world of the people and things we are familiar with. Once you let go of that and open up to the reality of how we are all so connected, there is no such thing as being alone.
My drive home!
Oh I could go on forever about the small things that I learnt about myself in those three days. But the one I want to share the most is my long drive home. It was meant to be a 3 hour drive but turned out to be nearly 5. It was raining so hard at times I couldn’t see the road in front, so I had to stop a few times just to rest my eyes.
Stonehenge from my car
There’s something magical about being stuck in a car for hours on your own. You know the only one you have to rely on is yourself. Here you are, it’s down to you to get home safe and in one piece. And like my experience in Nepal, I did it. What’s more you can’t run either, here is a place where you have to sit with you and here is where you learn so much about yourself.