HIGHLIGHTS: How to Avoid Living by Default and Design Your Ideal Life Part Two

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we explored the process of conducting a life audit and its resultant benefits. This week we explore the areas of work, finances and time and productivity.

 

1) Work

 

When I did my first life audit at twenty nine, I was an out of work housewife who was entering into a divorce. Nearing thirty I was increasingly career driven and even although I knew I needed a job, in truth I wanted to build a career. Like anyone conducting a life audit, I had to realise the incongruity between where I was and where I wanted to be. I therefore scored my work life at a zero out of ten.

 

I set about brainstorming possible career paths and came up with several options. I would later choose the most engaging option from my list, and begin moulding my career aspirations into a tangible, step by step goal.

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HIGHLIGHTS: How to Avoid Living by Default and Design Your Ideal Life Part One

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

For many years I lived by default. I tended to neither plan ahead nor set goals. I was directed by the winds of change and whichever direction the wind blew was where I ended up, completely by chance. When I was twenty nine that all changed. Anxious about turning thirty, I decided to face my fear of failure and be brutally honest about how far away I was from realising my dreams.

 

Although it was a difficult process, this wasn’t by any means a morbid endeavour – quite the contrary – it was inspired by my desire to fulfil my dreams. I knew that in order to achieve what I wanted I first needed to be honest about where I was, so I could navigate myself to where I wanted to be. I then brainstormed what I might want to accomplish, acquiring as many different ideas as possible.

 

I soon called how I took stock of my achievements and imagined my possible future accomplishments, a life audit. This process has served me so well that I now conduct one at the beginning of every New Year, to help me evaluate where I am, and consciously think about what I might want to unfold in the year ahead.

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HIGHLIGHTS: ‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part Three

 

Last week we looked at decreasing our demands. This week we focus on the fun bit – how we can increase our resources. This is just as essential when tackling stress, as it helps us to gain a more objective and balanced perspective. When our resources are high we are more likely to see the situation for what it is and this can reduce our tendency to enter into a heightened fight, flight or freeze response. There are many positive ways we can actively increase our resources. For instance, if I am stressed at work an early nights sleep will greatly increase my resistance to stress the following day. Unsurprisingly, lack of sleep can significantly increase our stress levels and so it is vital that we make sleep a priority when we are stressed. An early night or a lay in over the weekend can make a vast difference and improve our resources tenfold.

 

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HIGHLIGHTS: ‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part Two

 

The first and most important step is admitting to ourselves when we are stressed, hopefully last week’s exercises will have helped you to see more easily whether you are stressed. Admitting we are stressed can often be difficult in our society which promotes a busy lifestyle. How many programmes on TV have you seen featuring ‘essential’ festive events and activities we simply cannot, and should not, miss? When being busy is the norm, admitting we are stressed can seem like announcing we cannot cope with the demands of daily life, but this is not entirely the case. Usually those of us that suffer from stress have chosen to take on what others would not and, consequently, have been burdened with demands that are unmanageable given the resources available to us.

 

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HIGHLIGHTS: ‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part One

 

It’s December and the festive season is upon us once again. Ahead of us lay hours of rushing through shops trying to mark off items from our seemingly endless shopping lists, barging through the crowds on our way. And then there are the party invites flooding into our inbox, several of these falling on the same night and all – without fail – impossible to decline less our friendships be strained forevermore. Add to this the torrent of cookery shows impressing upon us the urgent need to be a Michelin Star chef come Christmas day and no wonder the season fills us with an overwhelming sense of stress.

 

Recalling last Christmas it was clear I was stressed, I had just finished planning my parents honeymoon and was completely burnt out. At the time I was aware I wasn’t myself but, in the depths of my stress, I just saw a seemingly endless to do list which absolutely had to be done – whether I was up to it or not. It’s often so easy to recognise when we have been stressed in the past, but what do we do when we are in the midst of it? How can we learn to recognise what to look out for and react accordingly to reduce it?

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HIGHLIGHTS: How to Avoid a Negative Downward Spiral by Using the Power of Positivity Part Four

 

This week is the grand finale where we see what practical steps we can take to adopt a more positive outlook!

 

Steps to foster a positive outlook:

 

I have outlined what actions I took to eradicate my negative mindset and create a positive outlook, so that you too can increase your positivity and happiness.

 

 

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HIGHLIGHTS: How to Avoid a Negative Downward Spiral by Using the Power of Positivity Part Three

 

This week we continue to explore the 8 key gains of adopting a positive outlook.

 

The 8 gains of a positive outlook:

 

5.       Positivity sees failure as opportunities to learn and grow. Any possible failures are seen as learning curves which can help us to see where we went wrong and enable us to adjust our future approach to goals, situations or problems accordingly.

 

6.      Critically, positive people focus on finding solutions to problems rather than negative people who can be more myopic and focus on the problem itself without a wider, outcome focussed approach.

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HIGHLIGHTS: How to Avoid a Negative Downward Spiral by Using the Power of Positivity Part Two

 

Last week we saw how others negativity and our own can cause us to enter into a negative downward spiral, this week we explore the 8 key gains of adopting a positive outlook.

 

The 8 gains of a positive outlook:

 

Beyond the scientific evidence which supports the many benefits of being positive, positivity leads to a happier, more fulfilling life. Below are the nine key psychological advantages of fostering a positive mental attitude:

 

  1. Positivity enables us to see the best possible outcomes and leads us to feel inspired. When I was positive at my job in London I remember feeling excited for the future and being inspired to be creative and try new things. The more I visualised my future being happy and successful, the more inspired l became. Inspiration leads to an increased capacity for creativity. I often say creativity is self-expression in its truest form. Once we are inspired to express ourselves creatively, we naturally feel more at peace with our own individuality – what a wonderful by-product of inspiration and creative self-expression!

 

  1. Positive people also anticipate success rather than failure which feeds into our motivation and consequently reduces the likelihood that we will give up. When we envisage positive outcomes of challenging problems or situations, we automatically increase our resolve to persist until a positive outcome is reached, in line with our expectations.

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HIGHLIGHTS: How to Avoid a Negative Downward Spiral by Using the Power of Positivity Part One

Recently I was working as a receptionist in an ongoing temporary placement. I couldn’t have been happier – I found the work easy and enjoyable, the people were really welcoming and friendly and the pay was good.

 

As I progressed in my placement and became closer to my colleagues I was told nightmare stories about the boss who allegedly intimidated his workers and ruled with an iron fist. At no point whilst working there did I see any behaviour of his that I would class as out of the ordinary however the stories inevitably coloured my experience of how I perceived the workplace.

 

About a month into the placement my colleagues began to gossip to me about nearly all of their  in turn. At first I felt awkward and then before long I felt as if I were expected to agree with the comments, thereby joining in on the gossip myself. This process happened so subtly that I was soon privy to all manner of gossip, from how one new employee was too negative to how needy another was.

 

It wasn’t long before I started to become more negative, focussing on the flaws in people as opposed to my more typical empathetic and positive attitude towards others. It was as if the negativity I was surrounded by was breeding negativity in me, like a virus spreading through my body.

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HIGHLIGHTS: Assertiveness; A journey worth taking; Part Four

 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Although being assertive may seem quite challenging at first, the benefits of open, honest communication are enormous and well worth the effort. When we learn to behave and communicate in an assertive way we immediately feel empowered and more in control. Most importantly we safeguard ourselves against the aggressive and passive aggressive games others play. After we have practiced assertiveness for a while our self-worth and self-respect improves, leading to greater levels of self-esteem and confidence.

 

Practicing assertiveness then becomes more natural as it reflects the higher value we have placed on ourselves. Eventually this leads to a greater sense of personal freedom. Like anything, the more we practice, the easier it gets.

 

For most of us assertiveness does not come readily. Becoming assertive involves changing the way we normally react to people and this is a new experience for both us and those around us. When I first set out to be assertive I did not get it right all the time, in fact I got it wrong more than I got it right! I knew that if I wanted to become an assertive person I needed to be patient with myself. When we feel like we have tripped up it is important not to give up, after all we are undergoing what can be a massive adjustment.

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